A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder

by James De Mille | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 0771091680 Global Overview for this book
Registered by winggypsysmomwing of Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada on 2/8/2009
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3 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by winggypsysmomwing from Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada on Sunday, February 08, 2009
I'm supposed to be trying to whittle down my TBR pile and just when I've made a dent in it, I walked into Aqua books. Next thing I knew I was walking out with 2 books (plus Greek salad and fries with chipotle mayo dipping sauce from Eat Bistro). How did that happen?

Oh well, this is a New Canadian Library edition and it's a book I've never even heard of. Plus it was only $2.

Journal Entry 2 by winggypsysmomwing at Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada on Saturday, January 29, 2011
This is my eighth book for John Mutford's Canadian Book Challenge 4 . My personal challenge was to read 13 books from Canadian writers that I had never read before. Technically, I suppose that James De Mille wasn't Canadian when he was born in Saint John, N.B. in 1833 since the Confederation of Canada didn't take place until 1867. But the edition of this book that I read is from the "New Canadian Library" so I take that as license to call him Canadian.

The title really tells us a lot about the book. Four English gentlemen found a copper cylinder floating in the sea. When they opened it up they found a document purporting to be from an English sailor by the name of Adam More. More tells of becoming separated from his ship and his little boat being carried along a current in the sea near the Antarctic Circle. Eventually he ends up in a strange land which is the antithesis in all things to the society he is used to.

The four gentlemen read the document aloud and discuss it when they take breaks. This gives the reader a chance to think about the story and about the philosophy of the society in which More found himself. At times the writing is heavy-handed but probably did not seem so in 1888 when this book was first published (8 years after De Mille's death).

I found myself thinking of the novels of Jules Verne while reading the book and thinking that De Mille was probably influenced by those stories. Then, when I read the introduction after finishing the book (I try never to read introductions before reading a book because they invariably spoil the story) I found that Verne's novels were not translated into English until the 1880's after De Mille's death. The other book I was reminded of was Gulliver's Travels. Here I was probably closer to the mark according to the author of the introduction:
The antecedents to which De Mille was possibly indebted...were such satirical masterworks as Swift's Gulliver's Travels and Samuel Butler's Erewhon...

This book is meant to make you think and it does that. It is also entertaining.

I'm going to send this to GoryDetails who expressed interest in it when I described it in a "What are you reading this date" thread. Hope you enjoy it Gory.

Journal Entry 3 by wingGoryDetailswing at Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Wednesday, February 23, 2011
The book arrived today; many thanks! This is just the sort of book that I pounce on when I come across one in a secondhand bookstore, and I'm looking forward to reading it!

Journal Entry 4 by wingGoryDetailswing at Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Saturday, March 24, 2012
I enjoyed this very much, with its mix of early SF, social commentary, and general snarkiness (usually by the characters who are reading and discussing the manuscript while becalmed during a yacht race: "'Read? Why, it'll take a month to read all this,' said Melick. 'All the better,' said Featherstone; 'this calm will probably last a month, and we shall have nothing to interest us.'").

The drama starts early, as the manuscript describes how its author and one companion wound up separated from their ship and drifting in the Antarctic. No sooner have they reached land than they find a dessicated corpse of another stranded soul... Not long after that they encounter a group of "wretched aborigines", looking like animated mummies and clearly barely subsisting in this part of the world, but who offer hospitality - of a sort...

Our hero escapes a difficult situation by taking a boat into an underground river, and finds himself in a lost world, much different from the savage frozen wilderness he'd just left. And here's where it gets weird, as this society is topsy-turvy, with things valued in the outside world being worthless here and vice versa. [Unfortunately, attempting to invert *everything* gets a bit tricky, and there seemed to be some inconsistencies, but for the purpose of satire - and for driving the main character bonkers at every turn - it worked pretty well!] The apparently-richest person is actually of the lowest status, you see, as having lots of possessions and plenty of food is a mark of shame. And valor in battle has a twist as well, with there being more credit to those who throw their lives away than to those who fight successfully. [At this point one wonders how the society has survived at all; there's some attempt to explain this, but it does stretch the credibility a bit {grin}.]

I'd have thought that, by the time he figures these things out, our hero would be on his guard, but he consistently misjudges the situation, especially regarding love; in this place, unrequited love is the ideal, and if two people happen to love each other the only way they can maintain the necessary pain is to keep away from each other entirely! But does our hero get the hint, and avoid romantic complications? Of course not, and the resulting mess is both tragic and, at times, very funny.

I loved the breaks-for-commentary by the finders of the manuscript; they debate whether this is a hoax, some kind of publicity stunt, or a genuine article, or the ravings of a madman, and they exert some effort to determining whether the geographical and cultural references in the manuscript might be true. [As they didn't have Google, they have to rely on reference books that they have with them, or their own memories; those were the days!]

Journal Entry 5 by wingGoryDetailswing at Benson Park in Hudson, New Hampshire USA on Saturday, March 24, 2012

Released 7 yrs ago (3/24/2012 UTC) at Benson Park in Hudson, New Hampshire USA

WILD RELEASE NOTES:

I left this book in an empty pamphlet slot at the map-and-intro kiosk of Benson Park at about 3:45. Hope the finder enjoys it!

*** Released for the March '4 elements' release challenge. ***

Journal Entry 6 by LeonardHenrick at Meredith, New Hampshire USA on Saturday, January 05, 2013
I found this today in the Meredith dump!

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