Notes on League of Extraordinary Gentlemen hardcover edition

by Jess Nevins and divers hands

(The text here, except where otherwise credited, is © copyright 2000 Jess Nevins, and may not be duplicated, in part or in whole, without my permission.)

(Additions and corrections are of course appreciated; post here or send them to me at

(Most recent updates: June 22nd. Updates in blue.)

Page 2. Simplicissimus was a satirical German magazine, similar to Punch, founded in 1896 and which ran for almost 40 years. It was graphic-heavy and liberal in tone, so presumably this sort of illustration might have appeared there. You can find out more about Simplicissimus at this web site.

The Bloomsbury Group, in real life, was a collection of writers and critics, including Clive Bell, Vanessa Bell, E.M. Forster, Roger Fry, Duncan Grant, John Maynard Keynes, Desmond MacCarthy, Thoby Stephen, Adrian Stephen, Lytton Strachey, Saxon Sydney-Turner, Leonard Woolf, and Virginia Woolf. They were (and remain) notable for their efforts to challenge the social and artistic norms of the Victorian era. Although none of the League would be at ease in their company, I think, the League members are all social outcasts of one kind or another and are in their own way a Bloomsbury Group of their own–hence the title the Bloomsbury Quintet.

First page after the end of issue #6. The Boys' First-Rate Pocket Library was an actual British boys’ magazine, published by Aldine and beginning publication in 1890. They published stories very much like “Allan and the Sundered Veil.”

Second page. I assume that The Rival, Henry T. Johnson, and “Found Guilty” were all real–the advertisement certainly looks legitimate to me–but I’ve been unable to confirm the existence of any of them.

Basil Hallward’s Painting by Numbers. This is a reference to Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Grey (1890) and to Basil Hallward, the character in the novel who painted Grey’s portrait and who was eventually murdered by him.

Ian points out that

there was a real Basil Hallward, who was imprisoned in the famous London mental asylum Bedlam for the murder of his father. Whilst there he painted "The Fairy Feller's Masterstroke", which depicts a fairy in a wood attempting to crack a hazelnut with an axe, surrounded by other strange looking creatures.  It currently hangs in the Tate and is a work of genius well worth checking out.
Basil Hallward’s Painting by Numbers, later version. The differing condition of the painting here is a reference to what Dorian Grey’s portrait looked like after his years of depravity and decadence. “The American Richard Pickman” is a reference to H.P. Lovecraft’s story, “Pickman’s Model” (1926), and its subject, Richard Upton Pickman, the most brilliant and disturbed of Boston’s painters and a man whose portraits of ghouls are a little too close to reality for comfort. “Unorthodox Churchyard Picnic Scene-by-numbers” is a reference to Pickman’s most horrible painting, of a corpse-gnawing ghoul. The “Caligari Self-Assembly Cabinet” is a reference to the classic German Expressionist film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), about a murderous somnambulist and the man controlling him.

Allan has mislaid his Taduki. The locations shown on the maze are as follows, moving left to right and top to bottom:

Utopia, from Thomas More’s Utopia (1516), the imaginary island in which society is perfect and there are no woes.

King Solomon’s Mines, from H. Rider Haggard’s 1885 book of the same name. The mines are where King Solomon hid his treasure.

Limehouse, based on the London borough of the same name and appearing in (among other places) Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu novels and Thomas Burke’s Limehouse stories. (As an aside, Jessica Amanda Salmonson has published The Golden Gong & Other Night-Pieces & Unpleasantries, the complete collection of Thomas Burke’s weird tales of Limehouse. You can buy it from her wonderful antiquarian bookstore Violet Books, and these stories are splendid and have been out of print for decades, so y’all need to go out and buy this book as soon as it’s available)

Zenda, from Anthony Hope’s The Prisoner of Zenda (1894). Zenda is the name of the castle in Ruritania, an imaginary European kingdom where Rudolf Rassendyll is forced to impersonate King Rudolf in order to win the King’s freedom.

Lilliput, from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver's Travels (1726). Lilliput is a country of very small people.

Morlocks, from H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine (1895). The Morlocks are the troglodytic natives of a dystopic future.

Flatland, from E.A. Abbott’s Flatland (1884). Flatland is a two-dimensional (literally) kingdom, a place with only length and width, but no height.

Vrilya, from Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s The Coming Race (1871). Vrilya (or “Vril-ya,” both spellings appear in the novel) is the name of both an advanced race and the underground kingdom (located beneath Newcastle) which they inhabit.

Hollow Earth, from...well, many sources. Hollow Earth stories were quite popular during the Victorian era following Captain John Cleve Symmes’ appeal to Congress, in 1823, for funds to explore the center of the Earth and Edgar Allen Poe’s story, “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym” (1838).

Curupuri, from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World (1912). Curupuri is, to quote Doyle, “the spirit of the woods, something terrible, something malevolent, something to be avoided. None can describe its shape or nature, but it is a word of terror along the Amazon.”

Caves of Kor, from H. Rider Haggard’s She (1886). The caves of Kor are where Ayesha, She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed, live, Kor being the capital of a long-dead civilization and the caves beneath it where the Flame of Immortality burns.

Wonderland, from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland (1865). (I surely don’t need to describe Wonderland, do I?)

Back Cover:

The mechanical elephant may be the Steam House. It first appeared in Jules Verne's The Steam House (1881). It was a steam-powered vehicle in the shape of an elephant that Banks the Engineer built so that he and his friend Colonel Edward Munro could travel around India in safety and comfort. (For more information on the Steam House see its entry on my Victoriana site)

"Sapathwa" is better known as the penny dreadful villain The Blue Dwarf. The Dwarf was a penny dreadful character who first appeared in 1861 and was the companion-in-arms (and crime) of Dick Turpin, the archetypal heroic bandit and highwayman of the penny dreadfuls. The Dwarf was a nobleman in disguise whose portrayal varied from being an evil influence over Dick to a faithful friend to him.

Jack Harkaway was the staggeringly popular creation of Bracebridge Hemyng and first appeared in Jack Harkaway's Schooldays (1871, not coincidentally the date shown in the portrait here). Harkaway is perhaps the archetypal heroic British schoolboy, resolute, two-fisted, given to adventuring around the world and always fighting for truth, justice, and the way of Empire. His adventures (and those of his children) appeared for over 30 years. (For somewhat more information on Harkaway see his entry on my Victoriana site)

I don't know who the portrait in the upper right hand corner is supposed to be of, although I've seen a photo of H.G. Wells that somewhat resembles this painting. Jarrod Schuster says this:

The portrait in the upper right hand corner, to the right of young master Jack Harkaway, is in fact that of Mr. Phileas Fogg from Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days. I have found in a collection of old novels buriedin the back of my bookcase one of the 1956 copies of Dodd, Mead and Company, Inc. Great Illustrated Classics version of Around the World in Eighty Days, as
translated by Geo M. Trowle and introduced by Anthony Boucher. in this work are a collection of photographs and illustrations of the author, his characters, and certain scenes of note from the story.  the first of these is a piece facing page eighteen that depicts Mr. Phileas Fogg himself.
Sir Francis Varney is the subject of James Malcolm Rymer's Varney the Vampyre; or, The Feast of Blood, first published in the mid-1840s and both the first vampire novel in English and the most famous pre-Dracula novel of vampires. You can read the e-text here if you like, although it's hard slogging. Sir Francis Varney had originally been a supporter of the Crown during Cromwell's era but had struck his son in a moment of passion, leading to (literally) heavenly retribution and his transformation into a vampire.

I don't know who the portrait next to Varney's is meant to represent, but this gentleman's profile somewhat matches that of Jules Verne. It might also be H. Rider Haggard--the hair, head and facial, are cut in a very Victorian way. Henry Sorensen wonders if this portrait, and the one I hesitantly identified as H.G. Wells', might be of Kevin O'Neill and Alan Moore, instead.

The silhouette to the upper right of (perhaps) Jules Verne's portrait, and above the Question Mark Man, is (as Kieran Cowan's girlfriend points out) that of Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Baron von Münchhausen (1720-1797). Baron Münchhausen is best known for his extraordinarily tall tales. A collection of his tales first appeared in 1781-3, under the title Vademecum fur Lustige Leute  (Manual for Merry People), but Münchhausen was made into the epitome of the European tall tale teller with the 1785 Baron Munchhausen's Narrative of His Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia.

Basil Hallward, who signed the painting of the Nautilus, is covered above.

Dorian Grey is the young dandy of Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Grey whose decadence and depravity are reflected in Hallward's painting, rather than on Grey's body.

"unt Allamistakeo" is actually the mummified body of Count Allamistakeo, from Edgar Allan Poe's "Some Words With A Mummy" (1845). Count Allamistakeo is revived via electricity (he was only in a coma) and shows a remarkable vitality, sophistication, and loquacity.

"Ayesha," on the headless and handless statue, is a reference to She Who Must Be Obeyed, the immortal goddess of H. Rider Haggard's She books.

The skull is that of one of the giant Yahoos from Gulliver's Travels.

I've been convinced by my sweetie Alicia and by Kieran Cowan and Heather Kamp that the person in the mirror is not a boy but is in fact Alice, of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1871). In the latter novel Alice enters Wonderland through a mirror.

Widgett notes the presence of a horse from Lilliput (from Gulliver's Travels) at the feet of Mina. Henry Sorensen, among others, notes that the black cat at Mina's feet may be a reference to the Edgar Allan Poe story, "The Black Cat" (1843).

Thanks to: Alicia, who makes everything worthwhile; Kieran Cowan & Heather Kamp; the folks on the Alan Moore mailing list; Richard Flanagan; Gabriel Neeb; Widgett; Henry Sorensen; David Parr; Jarrod Schuster; Ian.

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