Death cults in Gothic ‘Lost World’ fiction
in The Gothic and death
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This chapter examines the ‘Lost World’ genre, a staple of late-Victorian popular fiction, exemplified by H. Rider Haggard’s stories featuring Allan Quatermain, and Ayesha, known as She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed. These fin-de-siècle tales, while ostensibly celebrating British Imperialism and the continuation of colonial power, reveal layers of anxiety concerning degeneration, the collapse of civilisation, the rise of the Victorian ‘new woman’, and perhaps most potently the fear of death. Canadian writer James De Mille, in his book A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder, inverted Victorian values to satirise the capitalist economy, and the glorification of war, by creating the Lost World of the Kosekin where wealth is a burden and death worshipped. The presentation of the Lost World as a Gothic Space allows for a critical examination of the way that Victorian cultural certainties were challenged, by divergent belief systems, and the mystery and terror of death.

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