The Lost World chronicles the
adventures of four men who travel to the jungles
of South America. There
they discover a plateau inhabited by dinosaurs and ape-men.
It was Conan
Doyle's ambition to write a popular "boy's book", a tale
of suspense and adventure. While The Lost World is that, it's also
considered an early work of science fiction
The book was
published as a serial starting in March of 1912 and first
appeared in book form during October of that year. Conan Doyle was enthusiastic about The Lost World
and even dressed as one of the main characters, Professor
Challenger, for some publicity photos. Conan Doyle was so pleased with the costume that he went to his
brother-in-law's house dressed as Challenger and
pretended to be a German doctor. Conan Doyle's brother-in-law, Willie Hornung, was
initially pleased to receive the visitor. However once he realized he'd be duped, he angrily
showed Conan Doyle to the door.
professors in the novel were inspired by two professors from
Conan Doyle's days at the University of Edinburgh. Professor Challenger was
based on William Rutherford. Professor Summerlee shared many characteristics with Sir Robert
Edward Malone and Lord John Roxton
were based on Edmund Dene Morel and Roger
Casement. Morel and Casement were the founders of the Congo
Reform Association. They helped bring the plight on the people of the Belgian
Congo to Conan Doyle's attention. As a result Conan Doyle wrote
The Crime of the Congo. In
an ironic twist of fate, both
men were charged with treason during World War One.
Edmund Morel was the inspiration
for the character of Edward Malone. Conan Doyle thought highly of Morel as he was working on The
Crime of the Congo and The Lost World however he later changed his
mind. During World War One Morel helped to form a pacifist
movement, the Union of Democratic Control.
Some pamphlets that Morel published in 1917 lead to charges of
treason. He was convicted and spent six months in jail.
Conan Doyle stated that Morel's beliefs about the war
"destroyed the feelings which I had for him."
The character of Lord John Roxton
was based on Roger Casement. In addition to helping form
the Congo Reform Association he was a British
Casement did spend many years working for the British government
he was also a believer in the Irish independence movement.
When World War One broke out he saw an opportunity.
Casement met with German officials and gave them an interesting
proposal. He suggested that Irishmen in the German
prisoner of war camps be given the opportunity to fight for
Germany. In return for this Irish brigade, Germany
would give military aid to the Irish independence movement and
guarantee that Ireland would be given its freedom after the war.
officials were very interested in the arrangement. However Casement was caught making his return to Ireland
from Germany. He
was arrested and put on trial for treason.
Conan Doyle quickly rose to Casement's defense. Conan Doyle knew Casement as a British diplomat, as a
supporter of human rights and as a friend. There could only be one explanation for his
conduct. Conan Doyle argued that living and working in tropical
places had exposed Casement to diseases and extreme climatic
conditions that affected his health. In short, he thought Casement was mad.
Conan Doyle tried to have
Casement's sentence reduced because of his what he considered to
be Casement's illness. He also argued that Casement could
become a martyr for the Irish independence movement. Despite Conan Doyle's efforts
Casement was found guilty of treason in 1916 and hanged.
Conan Doyle lived long enough to
see The Lost World released as a silent movie in
1925. The special effects were done by Willis O'Brian who
later went on to work on the 1933 version of King Kong.