RogerBW's Blog

The Mummy and Miss Nitocris, George Griffith 09 December 2020

1906 SF. Professor Marmion has, by an excess of abstract thought, accidentally conquered the Fourth Dimension. And the tragedies of ancient Egypt shall be tragedies again.

Because the fourth dimension is time, except when it isn't; and it provides godlike power, except when it doesn't. One can feel Griffith sidling towards the idea of the superhero with a secret identity: after all, if one has all this power of the Higher Knowledge, one really should do something with it, but it would be difficult to lead a normal life once it was known. And of course there's also reincarnation – which in turn means that forgiveness of sin is impossible and pointless, because it'll be paid for in the next life anyway…

As she said this, Miss Nitocris Marmion, the golden-haired, black-eyed daughter of one of the most celebrated mathematicians and physicists in Europe, stood herself up beside the mummy-case which her father had received that morning from Memphis.

The slight potential awkwardness that Marmion was Ma-Rimōn in ancient Egypt, and his daughter Nitocris was Ma-Rimōn's beloved, is dealt with by being studiously ignored. She has her own fiancée, after all:

A glance at his face and another one at him generally would, in spite of the costume, have convinced any one who knows the genus that Mark Merrill was a naval officer. He had that quiet air of restrained strength, of the instinctive habit of command which somehow or other does not distinguish any other fighting man in the world in quite the same degree.

But part of the problem is that this is too many stories in a single shortish book. It's the story of the discovery of the Higher Knowledge; and of the echoes of events in agent Egypt; and of adventure with dubious foreign cultists in London; and… a current-affairs thriller?

The Revolutionary leaders had been sounded on the subject, and were found strongly in favour of the scheme. It meant a return to the ancient principle of elected monarchy, and Prince Zastrow, though now a German ruling prince, represented the union of two of the oldest and noblest families in Russia and Poland. Moreover, he had pledged himself to a Constitution which, without going to Radical or Socialistic extremes, embodied all that the moderate and responsible adherents of the Revolutionary cause desired or considered suitable for the people in their present stage of political development — which, of course, meant everything that Oscar Oscarovitch did not want.

Naturally, Prince Zastrow is missing. Naturally, the villain is keeping him alive in captivity rather than simply shooting him in the head and dumping him at sea. Naturally there's plenty of time for little polemics.

Phadrig went to the secretaire and took a common, cheap revolver, identical with thousands of others which our criminally careless Government allows to be bought every day without the production of a licence—just a hooligan's weapon, in fact—went back and put it into the Jew's hand.

and a rather longer one on how everybody has their destined partner whom they will know at first meeting, and if they selfishly marry for position or to please anyone except themselves they are DOOMED, DOOMED I tell you…

But it's quite fun. It's a bit Mary Sue (only one of the villains even appreciates the implications of the Higher Knowledge, the other being a thorough sceptic, and so Marmion and Nitocris can basically get away with doing whatever they like, though fortunately they're Good People so that's all right) but that's hardly unique for Griffith. Marmion casually trisects the angle, squares the circle and doubles the cube just to show what a superb thinker his fourth-dimensional knowledge has made him. It's all a bit strange, and distinctly crowded, but I've enjoyed Griffith before and I enjoyed this piece of escapism in spite of its faults.

The yacht came to a standstill in a few minutes, and the gig was waiting at the foot of the gangway ladder. They spent a very pleasant hour ashore, and what they saw, you may read of in your Murray and Baedeker, wherefore there is no need to set it down here.

I was pointed at this by BigJackBrass ("recommended" would not be fair to him). Freely available from Project Gutenberg

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