James DeMille
A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder
1888
A common device used to bridge the mundane and fantasy worlds in early imaginative literature was the lost narrative discovered in the opening chapters. DeMille's anonymous novel is typical of the lot. A manuscript is found floating in a copper cylinder by sailors, and is read aloud by its discoverers. The story tells of one Adam More, shipwrecked in southern latitudes in 1843, and left to drift in an open boat with his companion Agnew. Their first stop is an island inhabited by black cannibals, who entice the men on shore, and dine on Agnew. More barely escapes, and is drawn by currents southward across the sea towards a vast mountain range. The boat plunges through a dark tunnel beneath the peaks, and emerges in a calm inland sea surrounded by green, fertile lands, although this area should be, by More's best calculations, in the Polar region. Upon landing, he finds a strange race very much resembling Arabs. They take him to their underground city, where he is taught a language similar to Arabic by the beautiful Almah, and discovers that the cultural and moral values of this peculiar race are weirdly inverted. The pseudo-Arabs see better in the dark than in daylight. They seek poverty, giving their possessions to whomever will take them; they long for death as the highest blessing of their lives; and, although peaceful, they practice human sacrifice and cannibalism on hundreds of willing victims. Adam and Almah fall in love, and find that they are destined to be given the honor of dying for her people. At the last moment, More kills several of the populace with his rifle, and the multitudes, awe-striken, fall down and worship him as a god who can bring the greatest good-death-instantly. The Arctic and Antarctic regions were frequently employed as settings for lost race novels during the last half of the nineteenth century.