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A voyage to Cacklogallinia, with a…

A voyage to Cacklogallinia, with a description of the religion, policy,… (1727)

by Captain Samuel Brunt

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Published in 1727 by an unknown author under the pseudonym of Captain Samuel Brunt. This proto science fiction novel in my opinion has claims to be the first book of its type to have that all important sense of wonder, which is an essential element to most books of that genre. The book builds on a few earlier attempts at fantasy writing, but in its final section that tells of a trip to the moon it has one of those killer ideas that rockets the book up to another level.

Gullivers Travels by Jonathan Swift was published a year earlier in 1726 and was widely read. Speculation was rife at the time that The voyage to Cacklogallinia was also written by Swift, but this is not thought to be the case today. The larger second section of Brunt’s tale describing the politics and society of Cacklogallinia with its pointed satire does seem like a more racy version of Swifts book. It is certainly easier reading.

The book starts out as a pirate adventure story written in the first person, but after the second shipwreck our hero finds himself in an undiscovered land. Cacklogallinia is ruled by a race of large hens, whose civilisation mirrors that which would have been current in much of Europe in the 18th century. However the greed and corruption that was apparent in politics and society of that era is endemic in Cacklogallinia. Brunt’s description of the policy customs and manners of the society is a satire on England, bringing into play the reckless capitalism that fuelled the South Sea Bubble in the 1720’s

“When I have seen the Fowl of Honour thrust out to make Place for a Sycophant, Court paid to Pandars and lewd Hens, and no Posts disposed of, but thro' the Interest of Lust; how often, Britain, have I congratulated thy Happiness, where Virtue is rewarded, Vice discountenanc'd and punish'd; where the Man of Merit is provided for, and not oblig'd to pay a Levee to the kept Mistress of a Statesman; and where the Ignorant, Pusillanimous, and Vicious, however distinguish'd by Birth and Fortune, are held in Contempt, and never admitted to publick Employment!”

Captain Brunt is seen as an object of wonder in Cacklogallinia as there are no humans in the land, and soon finds himself as one of the sycophants around the Emperor in his court. The satire is obvious and it strikes at two key areas of corruption: the system of patronage that allows for everything to have its price and the granting of sexual favours for advancement. The second of these is most surprising with Brunt describing how he often found himself locked in a room with a hen/wife of a man seeking favours at court.

The need for more gold to fuel the economy precipitates a trip to the moon, where there are rumours of mountains made of gold. Brunt is chosen to go on the expedition, which is publicised as an opportunity to buy shares in the expedition. A period of adjustment on one of the earths highest mountains in Cacklogallinia is fervently reported in the press and fuels speculation in the enterprise. Brunt and his team must get used to thin atmosphere and conditions of intense cold for their flight to the moon. Knowledge of science especially in cosmology has moved on since Francis Godwin’s The Man in the Moone written a hundred years earlier and that is reflected in the preparations for the flight. The actual method of transportation however is quite similar with powerful flying hens providing the thrust to leave the earths atmosphere. Rumours of success and then failures in the preparation send share prices soaring and then falling in a tailspin, those in the know at court make their fortunes. Meanwhile Brunt and his team succeed in leaving the earths atmosphere and after a months journey enter into the moon’s atmosphere. They narrowly avoid burning up and land on a planet that looks like paradise.

Exploration of the moon is told in best fantasy tradition with wonders and surprises round every corner. Fantastic buildings are seen and then human figures from history appear to menace the party: they are revealed as phantoms or shades and the explanation is provided by one of the venerable moon men. They are the souls of earth people still fighting for their salvation. Brunt cannot stay on the moon, as harm will come to him and his party, they are not yet ready for this stage of the journey of their souls. Brunt tricks his fellow Cacklogallinians in retuning him to the part of the earth that he knows.

A novel that combines a pirate adventure, a satire on 18th century Britain through discovery of an unknown civilisation and then a greed fuelled expedition to the moon is told in a style that is easy to read. The author does not get bogged down and keeps the pages turning. The final section describing the expedition to the moon provides a suitable climax to the story. A four star read and free on the internet. ( )
1 vote baswood | Jan 10, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Captain Samuel Bruntprimary authorall editionscalculated
Nicolson, Marjorie HopeIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Swift, Jonathanattributed authorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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