Women’s destiny in the year 2000 (as seen from 1889)

Sir Julius Vogel (1835 – 1899) was a politician, journalist and newspaper editor who also wrote a novel, called Anno Domini 2000, or Woman’s Destiny (published in 1889), to expound some of his ideas. As a novel it is bad – I can do no better than to quote from some of the reviews of the time:

DSC00818 “In ‘Anno Domini 2000’ it is easy to detect the hand of a beginner. The plot, if plot it can be called, is not very ingenious, the dialogue is not very brilliant and the characterisation is decidedly poor. The whole story is moreover ridiculously improbable, not to say that it wears an air of caricature…. The whole thing is rather vapid…. There is a great want of anything like imagination and it must be confessed that Sir Julius Vogel’s world of 2000 is not a particularly interesting one.”[1]

“Sir Julius Vogel’s novel ‘Anno Domini 2000’ has met with much unfavourable criticism. It is cumbrous from the number of characters introduced, and sketchy from the number of occurrences only half described…”[2]

“There can, however, I imagine, be little doubt in the mind of anyone who has read the book through – and happily this is not a difficult task, the volume being one of very moderate proportions – that the general dullness of the dialogues and homilies will hardly be atoned for by the novelty of the guesses the author makes regarding the future…” [3] Not surprisingly, the book was a financial failure.[4]

Its only interest now is in the “prophecies” or how he thought society in 2000 might look.

DSC00819Despite the subtitle (‘Woman’s Destiny’) – and women do hold important political positions (e.g. American President; Prime Minister of a federal British Empire) – it is a society in which titles, wealth, old family connections and marriage are still centrally important.

At the end of the book Vogel set out the three ‘leading features’ that were in his mind when he wrote the book – 1. Equality between the sexes; 2. Great Britain and the Dominions could form a powerful empire; 3. To raise the question “as to whether it is not possible to relieve the misery under which a large portion of mankind languishes on account of extreme poverty and destitution” (p. 329) You might think from this third feature that Vogel’s year 2000 might look socialist, but it is extremely conservative. There is only one poor character and having served his purpose he disappears by about page three! There is no destitution in Vogel’s empire, but it isn’t very clear how that is achieved, and wealth is certainly still highly valued.

DSC00820

Portrait of Vogel from the frontispiece

The young (age 23) heroine is just too good to be true – it is not credible all the things she supposedly has done by that age. (Spoiler alert!) After being made Duchess of New Zealand and acquiring a vast fortune she can achieve her destiny and marry the Emperor. And why is everyone so young in this book? The oldest is barely in her forties – oh, I must qualify that – the British Emperor begins at age 27, but the epilogue jumps 20 years and – good heavens – the emperor is ‘nearly fifty’.

So what exactly is the position of women – or ‘woman’s destiny’? Certainly they hold high political positions – the Prime Minister of the federal British Empire is “Mrs Hardinge” (no Mr is mentioned as far as I recall) and the American President is a 35 year old woman with a 17 year old daughter – but as she later (after disgrace and fall) marries a British captain, her marital status when she’s president is unclear. Hilda Fitzgerald – the heroine – has a younger sister who is her secretary, but she leaves the position when she marries. Men hold important military positions – and that is important in this book, and the emperor appears to make the decision on his own to go to war.

One of Vogel’s ‘prophecies’ that almost came true was finding gold in the Clutha River. In 1897 the Evening Post reported: “THE WEALTH OF THE CLUTHA RIVER. SIR JULIUS VOGEL’S DREAM BEING FULFILLED.”[5]

Anno Domini 2000

Vogel also writes of ‘air cruisers’ that have reduced the time it takes to get between the far flung places of the British Empire. This was no doubt necessary to his story as he has the federal parliament meet in different places each year – Melbourne in 2000 (Canberra didn’t exist in 1889 and Vogel hasn’t foreseen it!) and London in 2001 – “the Londoners were luxurious to the verge of effeminacy” (p. 235) – equality of the sexes? I don’t think so. (This reminds me of the trope of the vigorous young New Zealander observing the ruins of old-empire London – see my post on the subject). An air cruiser could make the journey from Melbourne to Dunedin in 16 hours or a little less – flying 50 feet above the sea at 100 miles per hour – so Vogel was a bit conservative in that prophecy.

One of the important questions in his novel concerns the royal succession – it is proposed to change the male primogeniture rule to the eldest child (male or female) succeeding. The emperor in 2000 opposes this on the grounds that a woman couldn’t lead an army (I said military was important in this book! – when did a British monarch last lead an army into battle? Googling it, I find it was George II in 1743 at the Battle of Dettingen.[6]) However, the emperor has changed his mind 20 years later when he finds his daughter more suited for the role than his unworldly son. The measure is passed that year (2020) – so that is something Vogel wasn’t too wrong about (the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, changing the male primogeniture rule, came into force in 2015).[7]

He was also reasonably on the mark with “vast areas of pumice-stone land” being made productive – and vastly profitable – if he was thinking of the Central North Island. But he was quite wrong in his ideas of a federated British Empire – but in light of the recent ‘Brexit’ vote, some of this was quite amusing – for example, Vogel made it treasonable to even discuss leaving the Empire.

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Dedication in the novel

Imperial federation was one of his main hopes – as Raewyn Dalziel says in the Te Ara biography of Vogel:

“Vogel never really became a New Zealander although he said that he ‘lived the best years’ of his life in New Zealand. His primary affiliation was neither to England nor to New Zealand but to the British Empire. He was a frequent advocate of imperial federation, hoping that Great Britain and its colonies would form an indissoluble union with a federal parliament, collective responsibility and control, and predicting that if this did not happen the Empire would disintegrate. He opposed federation with Australia because he believed that New Zealand would be dominated by the Australians and that it would make imperial federation more difficult to achieve. He believed that New Zealand’s destiny lay in the Pacific, foreseeing a time when New Zealand would be the centre of a great Pacific empire, controlling the trade and defence of the region.”[8]

His health hadn’t been good for years and “after many years of suffering, Julius Vogel died at East Molesey (England) on 12 March 1899, and was buried in the Willesden Jewish cemetery”.[9]

Footnotes:

[1] Review. Southland Times, Issue 10164, 23 May 1889

[2] Bruce Herald, Volume XX, Issue 2056, 19 April 1889

[3] SIR JULIUS VOGEL’S NOVEL. Star, Issue 6511, 2 April 1889

[4] Raewyn Dalziel. ‘Vogel, Julius’, from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 19-Mar-2014 URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/biographies/1v4/vogel-julius

[5] Evening Post, Volume LIV, Issue 18, 21 July 1897

[6] See: http://www.hrp.org.uk/discover-the-palaces/monarchs/george-ii/

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Succession_to_the_Crown_Act_2013

[8] Dalziel

[9] Dalziel

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