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The Works of M.P. Shiel and related titles
JDS Books/Vainglory Press

Introduction Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3 Volume 4 Additional Material

The Works of M.P. Shiel
M.P. Shiel
Matthew Phipps Shiel (1865-1947), was born July 21, 1865, in Montserrat, West Indies. His father, a ship-owner, shopkeeper, and lay Methodist preacher had laid claim to the small rocky Leeward island of Redonda, of which his son was crowned king on his 15th birthday. Beginning to write at 11, Shiel was educated in Barbados, then London, England. Shiel spoke seven languages and served as an interpreter before trying his hand at medicine and teaching mathematics. Shiel was an active man, jogging six miles a day into his 70s and practicing mountaineering and yoga. Married twice, Shiel was "an eager womanizer" fathering several illegitimate children. Impressed at an early age by the works of Edgar Allen Poe, and given his knowledge of many languages, Shiel's poetic prose was idiosyncratically unique, being compared by some to improvisational jazz, by others to stylistic sound effects. Shiel has been accused by some of anti-Semitism, but others suggest he used the racist views of his time as a literary device to ultimately discredit racism an expound his own peculiar belief system. Towards the end of his life Shiel adopted an anti-Christian stance based on scientific knowledge over hope ("ignorance") and completed an analysis and retelling of the Gospel of Matthew. Several of his works toy with eugenics and the Nietzschean übermensch concept, though the latter under a communal rather than individualistic form, and not as something inherent in a race or creed, but rather a status achieved through learning. During his life Shiel wrote 25 novels and numerous short-stories, the best of which he produced between 1895 and 1905. These include Prince Zaleski (1895), Shapes of Fire (1896), Cold Steel (1899), Contraband of War (1899), The Purple Cloud (1901) and Lord of the Sea. Shiel died on February 17, 1947, at a hospital in Chichester.

ISFDB Bibliography
Kingdom of Redonda-1
Kingdom of Redonda-2
Bison Books ed. of The Purple Cloud
Shiel/Gawsworth related papers at the University of Iowa
JDS Books/Vainglory Press
A. Reynolds Morse Collection of M.P. Shiel
Shiel as a mystery writer
E-TEXT: 5 stories
E-TEXT: "Arthur Machen"
E-TEXT: "The Case of Euphemia Raphash", also here
E-TEXT: "A Torture by Hope" by Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, translated by M.P. Shiel
E-TEXT: "L'Abri" by Malcolm M. Ferguson
E-TEXT: "Dweller in the Tomb of Mausolus: The Return of Prince Zaleski" by Philip Lister
E-TEXT: "Two Kings of Redonda: M.P. Shiel and John Gawsworth" by Jon Wynne-Tyson
BOOK REVIEW: The Purple Cloud: 1, 2 (in Japanese), 3 (in Italian), 4, 5, 6 (in French), 7

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

Volume 1. The Empress of the Earth and The Purple Cloud plus some short stories
This first volume is mainly made up of several of Shiel's short stories and a pair of his early science fiction novels as they first appeared in the periodicals of the time. With the vast decline in the fiction published in magazines, genre or otherwise, compared to its heyday in the late 19th-early 20th century, it is rare nowadays that one reads a novel in magazine format, complete with extensive illustrations. Personally I enjoy basking in the aura of the era, and feel that reading material in this format presents certain enhancements over the book form, amongst which is the possibility to experience the material as closely as possible to the way its original readers did. One can of course argue that one's imagination is stifled by the illustrations, but Shiel writes rich enough material that there is plenty of other events and locales to picture in the mind's eye. Furthermore, in a short essay A. Reynolds Morse clears up the bibliographical ambiguity of Shiel's three East-West war novels: The Yellow Danger (1898), The Yellow Wave (1905), and The Dragon (1913), later reprinted as The Yellow Peril (1929).

The bulk of the material is made up by two of Shiel's early novels: The Empress of the Earth and The Purple Cloud. The first, a yellow peril novel capitalizing on the unrest in China just prior to the Boxer rebellion, while gratingly racist and jingoistic at times, tells of the ultimate defeat and extermination of the invading yellow hordes by the British. A very similar, if perhaps better written and less racist yellow peril novel is Capitaine Danrit's L'invasion Jaune (1905). The magazine version of The Empress of the Earth was severely pared down for the book version, and in keeping with Shiel's habit of finding multiple outlets for his works by editing them to fit the market, he later produced a novella length version of the same text. Interesting side by side comparisons of these three texts are provided, so one can see exactly how Shiel altered or intended to alter his text. Suffice it to say that while there is solid detail in the naval battles and political maneuverings, reflecting an excellent use of contemporary events to enhance the books relevancy to the readers of the time. Nonetheless, The Empress of the Earth is not one of Shiel's better efforts. In contrast to The Yellow Danger, the text of The Purple Cloud was much expanded from the magazine to the book version. This is Shiel's best and most easily approachable science fiction work and as much a delight to read in the shorter original as the expanded novel. A more in-depth review of a recent reissue of this novel can be found here.

The short stories included a wide range of material: stories of Gothic and modern horror, mysteries, (tawdry) tales of romance, humorous tales, etc. The excellent "Huguenin's Wife" and "The Case of Euphemia Raphash" are the highlights of this lot, though some others do provide some of Shiel's lovely idiosyncratic prose, if in a non-genre context. Overall, if you like Shiel to read him, and don't care so much about details of his life and works, this is the volume to purchase.

Table of Contents
Volume 1. The Empress of the Earth and The Purple Cloud plus Some Short Stories.
Title Author Details Pages
Preface. Some M.P. Shiel originalsA. Reynolds Morse no page #
The Empress of the Earth by M.P. Shiel - INTRODUCTIONA. Reynolds Morse I-X
A note on Serializations and the Three Future East-West War Novels of M.P. ShielA. Reynolds Morse XI-XVI
Side-by-side comparison of texts 
  • The Empress of the Earth, serialized Short Stories 12/03/1989
  • The Yellow Danger, novel published by Grant Richards, London, 1898
Side-by-side comparison of texts 
  • The Yellow Danger, novel published by Grant Richards, London, 1898
  • Version edited for republication in novella length, 8/3/1936
The Empress of the Earth. The Tale of the Yellow WarM.P. Shieloffset from Short Stories, Feb. 5-June 18, 18981-148
The Purple Cloud by M.P. Shiel - INTRODUCTIONA. Reynolds Morse I-VI
The Purple CloudM.P. Shieloffset from The Royal Magazine, Jan.-June 19011-60
Some Short Stories by M.P. Shiel - INTRODUCTION and INDEXA. Reynolds Morse I-IV
"Guy Harkaway's Substitute"M.P. Shieloffset from Strand Magazine, Oct. 1893, pp. 379-3871-9
"The Eagle's Crag"M.P. Shieloffset from Strand Magazine, Sept. 1894, pp. 308-31610-19
"A Puzzling Case"M.P. Shieloffset from The Argosy LIX: 634-639, Jan.-Jun. 189520-25
"Huguenin's Wife"M.P. Shieloffset from Pall Mall Magazine 5(24): 568-576, Apr. 189526-34
"The Case of Euphemia Raphash"M.P. Shieloffset from Chapman's Magazine of Fiction II: 427-436, Christmas 189535-51
"Wayward Love"M.P. Shieloffset from Cassell's Family Magazine 22: 355-362, Apr. 189652-60
"The Spectre Ship"M.P. Shieloffset from Cassell's Family Magazine Sept. 1896, pp. 755-76461-71
"The Secret Panel"M.P. Shieloffset from Strand Magazine Dec. 1896, pp. 265-27272-79
"A Night in Venice"M.P. Shieloffset from Cornhill Magazine Oct. 1897, pp. 321-32880-95
"The Battle of Waterloo"M.P. Shieloffset from Cassell's Magazine Dec. 1901-May 1902 (bound ed.), pp. 560-56696-102
"Ben"M.P. Shieloffset from The English Illustrated Magazine Jan. 1902, No. 220, pp. 321-328103-110
"The Bride"M.P. Shieloffset from The English Illustrated Magazine 27(224): 159-168, Apr.-Sept. 1902 (bound ed.)111-120
"Many a Tear"M.P. Shieloffset from Pearson's Magazine - American ed. Sept. 1908, pp. 283-290121-129
"Miche"M.P. Shieloffset from The Royal Magazine May 1910, pp. 86-91130-136
"A Good Thing"M.P. Shieloffset from The Red Magazine IX(50): 192-217, May 1911137-157

Introduction Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3 Volume 4 Additional Material

Copyright © 2002 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association and maintains a site reflecting his tastes in imaginative literature.

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