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First edition of 1904 English novel on Korea revealed

Posted May. 30, 2014 00:53,   


The first edition of a 1904 English novel on an adventure by a Western man and a woman in the Korean Empire has been revealed. The existence of the novel "A Chicago Princess" has been known to the Korean people for the first time. The author, Robert Barr (1849-1912), is known as a pioneer of Sherlock Holmes parodies.

Yoon Hyung-won, CEO of Artbank that collects foreign books on Korea, said Wednesday that the company had purchased two first-edition copies of "A Chicago Princess" through an overseas auction of antique books. The 306-page novel was published in 1904 by a New York-based publishing company Frederick A. Stokes.

From Koreans` point of view, the novel has some absurdities. A daughter of a U.S. millionaire who has deep interest in Asian imperial families visits Japan and Korea with the help from a former British diplomat. After arriving in Jemulpo (today`s Incheon) on ship, they successfully have an audience with the Korean emperor. Things get twisted, however, as the emperor is attracted by the Western woman and wants to marry her. After going through hell and high water, they escape Korea to return home. Of course, the novel is a 100 percent fiction.

"The author wrote the novel completely based on his imagination without concrete information about Korea at that time," Yoon said. "Considering such expressions as the `Emperor of Corea,` it seems that the author was accurately aware of the existence of the Korean Empire."

The author with Canadian nationality worked as a journalist in the U.S. until moving to Britain in 1881 to become a novelist. He started "The Idler," a literary magazine, in 1892 in which his friends such as Conan Doyle and Mark Twain participated. Barr had a particularly close friendship with Conan Doyle. "The Great Pegram Mystery," which Barr wrote under his penname Luke Sharp is famous as the world`s first parody of Sherlock Holmes.

"The author who mainly wrote cload-and-dagger novels authored an adventure story full of romance against the backdrop of an unknown country called Korea," Yoon said.