Robert Paltock

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Robert Paltock (born October 16, 1697 in Little Hadham , Hertfordshire ; died March 20, 1767 in London ) was an English novelist and lawyer. He is known for the utopian novel The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins, a Cornish Man , published in 1750 , which is considered the forerunner of science fiction .


Paltock was the only son of Thomas Paltock (died 1701) and his wife Anne. When his mother died in 1712, Robert was only 14 years old. Robert Nightingale and John Green from Enfield were appointed as his guardians . From 1709 he attended the Charterhouse School and in 1714 began an apprenticeship as a paralegal at Clement's Inn , one of the London bar associations . After an inheritance he was admitted to the Middle Temple in 1719 and a lawyer at the Clement's Inn in 1722 . In 1729 he married the merchant's daughter Anna Skinner, with whom he had four sons and three daughters.

Paltock turned to writing around 1748, possibly due to financial difficulties. In 1749 he signed a publishing contract for the printing of The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins . In a framework plot, the novel tells the adventures of the title hero, who is shipwrecked near the South Pole and there finds himself in an underground world into which the inhabitants can fly with the help of mechanical wings. Wilkins marries one of the natives, starts a family, introduces the inhabitants of the underground world to the achievements of the British of the 18th century, and invents aerial warfare. Widowed there for several decades, he sets off on the flight home to England, is shot down off Cape Horn but rescued and tells a fellow passenger his life story on the journey to England. He dies with a view of the English coast. It has been suggested that the protagonist's name alludes to John Wilkins , Bishop of Chester , who in Mathematical Magick 1648 discussed the possibility that humans might one day fly.

The first edition of The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins is dated 1751, but was actually published anonymously in November 1750, with the dedication signed with the initials RP . In 1751 a pirated edition appeared in Dublin, a French translation appeared in 1763 and an abridged German edition in 1767. In 1783 a new English edition appeared. Still, the novel went relatively unnoticed for a long time, not gaining popularity and admiration from Coleridge , Southey , Shelley , Leigh Hunt , Charles Lamb and others until the 19th century . The novel was at times almost as well known as its two predecessors, Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels and Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe , to which he is indebted in some ways. It has been reprinted many times, in full or abridged, and adapted as a pantomime and a play. Today he is considered one of the forerunners of the science fiction novel.

The Story of Peter Wilkins probably remained Paltock's only published literary work. The novel Memoirs of the life of Parnese , published in 1751, has been ascribed to Paltock, but apart from the author's initials and the dedication to Frances Mitchell, wife of Commodore Matthew Mitchell and second cousin of Paltock, there is nothing to indicate his authorship.

In 1759, Paltock lived with his wife in Back Lane in the London borough of Lambeth , presumably in dire circumstances, although in 1764 his wife inherited a property in Ryme Intrinsica in Dorset , where Paltock was later buried, where his second oldest son was a surgeon and pharmacist. Paltock's wife died on January 14, 1767, and Paltock himself died on March 20 of the same year at the age of 69 in London.


  • First edition: The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins, a Cornish Man: Relating Particularly, His Shipwreck Near the South Pole; His Wonderful Passage Thro 'a Subterranean Cavern into a Kind of New World; His There Meeting with a Gawry or Flying Woman, whose life he Preserv'd, and Afterwards Married her; His Extraordinary Conveyance to the Country of Glums and Gawrys, or Men and Women That Fly. Likewise a Description of this Strange Country, with the Laws, Customs, and Manners of its Inhabitants, and the Author's Remarkable Transactions Among Them. Taken from his own Mouth, in his Passage to England, from off Cape Horn in America, in the Ship Hector. With an INTRODUCTION, Giving an Account of the Surprizing Manner of his Coming on Board that Vessel, and his Death on his Landing at Plymouth in the Year 1739. Illustrated with Several CUTS, Clearly and Distinctly Representing the Structure and Mechanism of the Wings of the Glums and Gawrys, and the Manner in Which They Use Them Either to Swim or Fly. By RS, a Passenger in the Hector. 2 vols. Jacob Robinson and Robert Dodsley, London 1750.
  • Current issue: The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins. Edited by Christopher Bentley. Oxford University Press, London 1973.
  • First German translation: The Flying People or Wonderful Incidents Peter Wilkins. Braunschweig 1767. Reprint: Antares Collection Vol. 6. Bleymehl, Fürth / Saarland 1964.
  • New translation: Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins from Cornwall. Translated by Hans J. Schütz. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1989, ISBN 3-608-95566-6 .


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Memoirs of the life of Parnese, a Spanish lady of vast fortune. Written by herself: Shewing the irresistable force of education: Interspersed with the story of Beaumont and Sarpeta, translated from the Spanish manuscript by RP, Gent. William Owen and William Clarke, London 1751.