Evidence on the creation of The Lost World suggests that
wanted his narrative to establish the closest possible relationship to
truth. (1) As was his way, he responded
to the inspiration
immediate surroundings and companions offered and investigated various
details himself. With his ‘science fiction’- novel, he also integrated
the experiences of actual ‘Edwardian’ travellers he was aquatinted with
and made use of the latest related research results available.(2)
In this respect, his reception of research results deserve special attention.
This positioning implies a strong believe in this then still potentially revolutionary approach and speaks of a close connection to the intellectual culture of the time. It will also correspond to the authors’ views. Besides, it reveals a specific and conscientious style of work which is not readily associated with literary entertainment.
While one link to the external state of things is through the author
with his (intellectual) surroundings, the other is constituted by its
wider historical and local context.
A striking characteristic of The Lost World is its optimistic and reassured outlook outlasting all adventures. Indeed, in Victorian (and pre-war Edwardian) Britain there was a sense of security within transformation to rely on (4).
The background of the novel is that of a mostly prospering, expanded
world power, whose imperial aspirations had not yet been challenged. By
the end of the 19th century, more than one quarter of the
world’s population was under British rule. A firm believe in the
strength of the own way of live comes therefore quite natural, and
explains the urge to explore as well as the subduing attitude towards
what was found in the unknown. The racial undertones of the work are to
be interpreted within this context.
Granting that the significance of stereotypes and ‘short-hands’ of
the foreign (5) is special here, as the
plot is so close
to the imaginary,
and acknowledging even
the occasional instances of satirical distance, the narrative nevertheless has its share of what became urgent concerns in post-colonial discourse.
For better or worse, The Lost World carries the imprints of a special – and indeed vanished – historical moment.