Verne, Haggard and the Mole Man of Hackney

I had forgotten I’d written this! I saw the film ‘Dune’ yesterday,, and remembered reading Frank Herbert’s book many many years ago when I had a passion for science fiction. This is what I wrote four years ago:

While I was doing the ironing this morning I was listening to a programme on the radio called ‘To the ends of the earth: lost worlds, new worlds’ ; it was an introduction to a series of programmes about exploration and the history of exploration, including a dramatisation of Jules Verne’s ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth.’ It was a fascinating programme which you can hear on the link below. It did not just discuss Verne and his other books (including ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ – and a visit to the submarine museum in Portsmouth) but also other ‘exploration’ books of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. I was an avid reader of all these sort of books, so it was particularly interesting to hear them discussed, the Victoria adventurer writers, H.G.Wells, Mary Shelley (who was earlier actual in fact) , Conan Doyle, and of course Rider Haggard, my particular favourite. The programme discusses the ‘lost world’ genre of writing, which is still popular today, especially in science fiction and movies like the Indiana Jones series and the Mummy series.

I was surprised at how early Verne was writing – I think I knew but had forgotten; he was born in 1828 and his books and stories were published from the 1860’s. Rider Haggard whose work is also explored in detail in the programme was born in a different generation, in 1856. To find out more I went on the programme page on the BBC site, and there was a little quiz about underworld and undersea exploration, and there was a mention of the Mole Man of Hackney. Intrigued by this I looked him up; not a fictional character but a real person, a somewhat eccentric person, William Lyttle, who took to excavating beneath his own house in Hackney and digging tunnels in all directions, much to the alarm of his neighbours. There seemed no purpose for his tunnels and he caused a huge amount of damage – but he did become a bit of a celebrity. He died in 2009 having spent forty years digging… Poor neighbours!

Here is a link to the Mole Man:

… and here are links to the BBC pages:

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