The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana
by Jess Nevins
The Triumphs of Woman (1848)
copyright © Jess Nevins 2022
The Triumphs of Woman. A Christmas Story was written by Charles Rowcroft. Rowcroft (c. 1800-1856) was a magistrate in Australia and a consul in America as well as a novelist.
In his telescope the Bavarian astronomer Professor Doctor Asterscop sees a light coming from the recently discovered Le Verrier's Planet (Neptune). The light draws nearer and nearer to Earth and eventually lands in Asterscop's garden. The source of the light is a handsome young man with glowing eyes, wearing a fur-like robe. The stranger approaches Asterscop and probes it “like a phrenologist,” placing his fingers on specific parts of Asterscop’s head. This allows the stranger to speak German like a native, and he introduces himself as “Zarah of the Zoé.” Zarah creates a sensation when he changes metals to gold, but the lover of Asterscop’s cook steals a talisman from Zarah, and without talisman, a metal rod, Zarah cannot return to Neptune. Zarah accepts Asterscop’s invitation to stay with him, and while at the Professor Doctor's house Zarah falls in love with the Professor’s daughter, Angela Asterscop. She loves him as well, but she wants to marry him only after he regains his talisman and returns to Neptune. Zarah goes in search of the talisman. He visits the countries of Europe and sees the various iniquities caused by women in each country. Back in England he regains his talisman and returns to Neptune, but by the following Christmas he has returned to Angela and married her. In doing so he sacrificed his powers, privileges, and status and been transformed into a mere human, but “I found my own world a blank, and existence worthless, without her whom I had learnt to love and prize so dearly.”
The Triumphs of Woman is interesting as a relatively early aliens-visiting-Earth story–it has the same plot dynamic of the highly moral alien teaching immoral humans how to behave as Lach-Szyrma’s later A Voice From Another World, and incorporates Neptune, only discovered two years before Triumphs was published–but is tedious and distasteful as a novel. Rowcroft repeatedly attempts to express irony and wit through his dialogue, but fails each time. His attempts at humor are lumbering; one of the characters is named “Baron von Blunderbuster.” Rowcroft is a long time developing the plot, and the misogyny of the novel grows increasingly hard to stomach with each passing page. The Triumphs of Woman was published the same year as Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, but is several orders of magnitude cruder.
Print: Charles Rowcroft, The Triumphs of Woman. A Christmas Story. London: Parry & Co., 1848.