Sunday, 11 April 2010

Snake on a Plain

I've just got an attractive copy of volume 20 of The Strand (Jul-Dec 1900) to plug one of the gaps in my collection. It's notable for including the first two instalments of H G Wells's classic The First Men in the Moon. I thought, though, that you might enjoy the frontispiece to the December edition.

It's an illustration (by the Holmes artist Sidney Paget) for a bizarre story called simply Followed, in which a well-to-do young lady finds herself pursued across Salisbury Plain by nothing less than a huge cobra - a trained assassin set upon her by a sinister foreign gent (devious foreigners feature strongly in these magazines). The showdown, as you can see, is in Stonehenge.

The story is by L T Meade and Robert Eustace. Meade had been a prolific writer of stories for girls but branched out with great success into sensation and detective fiction with the advent of The Strand and its rivals. Eustace was a medical man whom Meade teamed up with to write two series of equally bizarre adventures under the name The Diary of a Doctor: macabre and/or crime-fighting yarns with a medical theme. Later Meade joined force with a scientist Clifford Halifax to write the equally sensational The Adventures of a Man of Science.

Preposterous yarns like this are the main reason I spend my moolah on these magazines.

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