The Believer has a profile of Ignatius Donnelly in its new issue. I’ve run across him many times before as the primary culprit of resurrecting Atlantis as a historical fact, but more recently as a 19th century science fiction writer, under the name Edmund Boisgilbert, MD, as part of the mammoth Early Science Fiction tome compiled by Everett F. Bleiler. Here’s the entry for one of his works of fiction, published in 1890, Caesar’s Column: A Story of the Twentieth Century:
Ideal societies of the future, and a romance. One of the more influential political novels of the day, written from the point of view of splinter populism, it sees our civilization as ready to collapse from internal misdevelopment. Apart from certain ethnic prejudices of the author, the book is much more realistic than the euphoric Looking Backwards. The world, as of 1990 or so, is a plutocracy, where a small cabal of greedy, ruthless, irresponsible, self-indulgent billionaires rule, despite nominal elections and figurehead politicians.
Remarkably prescient! Unfortunately, it turns out that Donnelly’s billionaries happen to be Jewish, and it winds up having as much in common with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as Jules Verne (Donnelly predicts the internet!) or George Orwell.
Towards the end of the Believer article, there’s an interesting comparison with Donnelly’s vision of man versus Walt Whitman, who was well aware of Donnelly’s antics, but it doesn’t quite pay off, as unfinished as a blog entry.