Griffith, George (1857–1906)

A Visit to the Moon

Illustration from A Visit to the Moon.

George Griffith was a prolific author, traveler, and adventurer, described by Sam Moskowitz as 'undeniably the most popular science fiction writer in England between 1893 and 1895 ... it is entirely conceivable that Griffith's science fiction outsold that of Wells.' His work, however, was overshadowed by that of Wells and never influential in the United States because of the author's anti-American views.


George Chetwynd Griffith-Jones (his real name) portrayed a fully inhabited solar system in his Stories of Other Worlds, serialized in Pearson's Magazine from January to June 1900, and published in book-form as A Honeymoon in Space (1901). Like Wells, he set his extraterrestrial yarn explicitly in the context of Darwinian evolution. On their post-nuptial tour of the Moon and planets, the eccentric Earl of Redgrave and his young American wife discover that each world illustrates the effect of biological evolution according to the stage each has reached in its development. Jupiter is still primordial and volcanic, while Saturn, further along its life-cycle, harbors giant reptiles and humanoids living in caves and trees.


Following other Victorian writers of science fiction and romance, including Greg, Cromie, Pope, and Wells, Griffiths described, on some of his worlds, civilizations that have surpassed our own, technologically and intellectually, but then degenerated in one way or another. On the Moon, the Redgraves find a race that has passed its peak and fallen into barbarous decay, while on Mars there are "purely intellectual beings" who, having regressed culturally, are now merely "cold" and "calculating" (much as Wells describes his Martian invaders in The War of the Worlds). Yet not all is doom and gloom, and Griffiths offered other evolutionary end-points for intelligence. On Venus, life has matured spiritually rather than materially in an environment free from sin (a theological theme that would be taken up in more earnest by C. S. Lewis). On the other hand "superhuman intelligence" on Jupiter's moon Ganymede has managed to transcend the degrading, Darwinian struggle for survival, and attain a state in which high rationality and culture are combined.