Older Than Radio
Tropes first documented after the invention of the steam engine (1698) and before the invention of the radio (1890).
This is the classic age of English literature, and of the penny dreadful: Sir Walter Scott
, Jane Austen
and Charles Dickens
, but also Frankenstein
, Varney the Vampire
, the first Sherlock Holmes
novel, Alice in Wonderland
, and the earliest Science Fiction
—to say nothing of the maudlin numbers that funded Benjamin Disraeli
's political career. It is also the last time when books dominated popular entertainment, although many of these "books" were originally serialised in magazines, such as The Strand, Blackwood's etc.
This is also when many compilations of legends and fairy tales were collected and recorded, such as 19th-century Finnish work The Kalevala
, the Child Ballads
, The Brothers Grimm
books, and most European Fairy Tale
- Acid Reflux Nightmare: A Christmas Carol, 1843
- Advanced Ancient Acropolis: Apoikis by Kurd Laßwitz, 1882
- Adventurer Archaeologist: 19th-century gothic horror
- All Love Is Unrequited: Gilbert and Sullivan
- Alone with the Psycho: Great Expectations, Charles Dickens, 1860-1861
- The Alternet: Jules Verne's Paris in the Twentieth Century (written in 1863, though not published until 1994), banks communicate via a linked network of fax-style document machines.
- And There Was Much Rejoicing: A Christmas Carol, 1843
- Beautiful All Along: "The Ugly Duckling" (1843) and "The Rough Faced Girl" (at least 1884).
- Become a Real Boy: The Adventures of Pinocchio, early 1880s
- Black Best Friend: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, 1876
- Blind and the Beast: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
- Boxing Kangaroo: An actual practice of the 1800s.
- Brain Fever: Happens to the doctor in Frankenstein. Accidentally invoked in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
- Brand Name Takeover: Kerosene, 1854
- Briar Patching: West African Anansi stories, known in North America as Uncle Remus.
- Car Meets House: The first car accident in history was one of these. In 1771 a prototype steam-powered car crashed through the wall of a French military building. The accident wrecked its inventor's reputation.
- Casts No Shadow: The protagonist of Peter Schlemihl's Miraculous Tale (1814) by Adelbert von Chamisso sells his shadow to a mysterious stranger in exchange for a purse that never gets empty.
- Catapult Nightmare: Treasure Island, 1881
- Cat Scare: God's Judgment on a Wicked Bishop by Robert Southey, 1799
- Chained to a Railway: "Captain Tom's Fright," 1867
- Colonel Badass: Max Piccolomini from Wallenstein, 1799.
- Color Me Black: The Inky Boys from Der Struwwelpeter, 1845.
- Cosmic Horror Story: The early precedents of this genre (of which H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos is the Trope Codifier) originated around the 1880s, with early weird-fiction authors such as Ambrose Bierce (An Inhabitant of Carcosa, 1886, source of the Carcosa place-name in Robert W. Chambers' The King in Yellow, 1895, itself published in the first decade of successful applied radio experiments). Going even farther back, we have Edgar Allan Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838), featuring a bizarre trip to Mysterious Antarctica that makes the continent feel like an Eldritch Location.
- Delivery Stork: Victorian English folklore
- Depth Deception: "The Sphinx," short story by Edgar Allan Poe, 1850
- Domed Hometown: Three Hundred Years Hence by William Delisle Hay, 1881
- Doom It Yourself: Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome, 1889
- Down to the Last Play: "Casey at the Bat," Ernest Thayer, 1888
- Dramatic Spotlight: Started with the use of 'limelight' (created by directing an oxygen-hydrogen flame at calcium oxide—i.e. lime—causing the lime to incandesce bright white) at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden in 1837.
- Engrish: English as She Is Spoke, an attempted 1883 guide to learning English written by a Portuguese schoolteacher who relied on a French phrasebook and a French/English dictionary.
- Evil Hand: Fairy tale about three surgeons recorded by The Brothers Grimm.
- Evil Laugh: Faust, Charles Gounod, 1859
- Explosive Overclocking: The steam engine, bringing this to the brink of Older Than Steam without actually crossing the line.
- Fairytale Wedding Dress: Queen Vicky wore a white dress in 1840 — before, a wedding dress was otherwise indistinguishable from a regular Pimped-Out Dress.
- Fantastic Legal Weirdness: In one of his articles, Thomas Paine (1737-1809) briefly wonders about the risen saints mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew: did they try to reclaim their property and spouses, or just go back into their graves after walking around Jerusalem? The Gospel doesn't say.
- Fantasy Conflict Counterpart: The Begum's Millions, Jules Verne, 1879, with two fictional cities standing in for France and Germany.
- Fictional United Nations: "Locksley Hall" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson predicts "the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world".
- Film Noir: The literary forbears that inspired the genre began to coalesce in the 19th century, evolving out of disparate elements such as Gothic Horror and gritty realist fiction, which became more relevant in an age of accelerating urban growth, and with it, urban poverty and crime. Sensation novels with labyrinthine plots set in Victorian Britain (and especially Victorian London) appeared in the mid-1800s (e.g. Lady Audley's Secret, by M.E. Braddon, or works like The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins), but they had equivalents elsewhere, like the works of Paul Féval, which depicted the seediness of early 19th-century Paris. Meanwhile, the developing field of psychology provided closer and deeper looks into human minds, including those of criminals, with novels like Crime and Punishment examining its characters' minds more minutely.
- Fire Keeps It Dead: Vampires in Gothic Horror literature (the Ur-Example being Varney the Vampire, c. 1845) had to be burned to keep them from coming back to life after being staked and beheaded.
- Fish out of Temporal Water: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Mark Twain, 1889
- Four-Temperament Ensemble: The Three Musketeers, 1844
- Fowl-Mouthed Parrot: In real life one of the earliest documented instances was President Andrew Jackson's pet parrot, which had to be removed from his funeral because it wouldn't stop swearing (in two languages, no less).
- Frankenstein's Monster: The Trope Namer
- "Freaky Friday" Flip: F. Anstey's Vice Versa: A Lesson to Fathers 1882
- Freaky Is Cool: Frankenstein
- Giving Radio to the Romans: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Mark Twain, 1889
- Going Down with the Ship: The trope is derived from Age of Sail maritime salvage laws, which said that if a ship was abandoned by all crew but didn't sink, it was first come, first serve on the ship and its cargo.
- Gothic Horror: Officially begins with the publication of Trope Maker The Castle of Otranto (Horace Walpole, 1764)
- Great White Hunter: Ned Land in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1869).
- Has Two Mommies: The Guangxu Emperor of China (1871-1908) was raised by two mothers, Ci'an and Cixi, both widows of a previous emperor.
- Haunted Castle: The Castle of Otranto, 1764
- Have You Tried Not Being a Monster?: "The Little Mermaid" (1837) has been interpreted to represent Hans Christian Andersen's inability to be with the man he loved.
- Heart Trauma: "The Snow Queen" by Hans Christian Andersen, 1845
- Hero Antagonist: Porfiry Petrovich in Crime and Punishment
- Hikikomori: Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov, 1859
- Historical In-Joke: The Three Musketeers, 1844; possibly its source material in 1700.
- I Do Not Own: Lord Byron's Don Juan, 1824
- Ill Girl: Jane Fairfax in Literature/Emma, 1815
- I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, 1869
- I'm Going to Hell for This: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) is the Trope Namer.
- Inspector Javert: Les Misérables, 1862 is the Trope Namer.
- Interrupted Suicide: Twice in Die Zauberflöte by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1791
- Jungle Opera: King Solomon's Mines, 1885
- Leitmotif: Term coined by a critic describing Carl Maria von Weber's classical compositions, 1871, but Weber died in 1826.
- Lemony Narrator: Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne (1759-1767) and Jacques The Fatalist by Denis Diderot (1765-1780).
- Lesbian Vampire: In Carmilla (1872) by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, the vampire Carmilla only feeds off young women she falls in love with. Some already see a lesbian subtext in the unfinished poem "Christabel" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (c. 1797–1801), in which the adolescent, eponymous heroine meets a mysterious girl, named Geraldine, who possibly is a vampire, or in the character of Miss Clara Crofton in Varney the Vampire by James Malcolm Rymer (c. 1845–47), whose only confirmed victim is a girl.
- Literary Allusion Title: Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy (1874) and "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came" by Robert Browning (1855).
- Living Toys: The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E. T. A. Hoffmann, 1816.
- Lyrical Dissonance: The song "My Grandfather's Clock," written in 1876.
- Mad Scientist: In "The Sandman" (1816), the alchemist Coppelius and the physicist Professor Spalanzani are concerned with creating an artifical human. In the same year, Mary Shelley started to work on Frankenstein (1818), in which Victor Frankenstein succeeds in the same endeavour.
- Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Olimpia in The Sandman (although she is a subversion), 1816.
- Madwoman in the Attic: Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë, 1847.
- Man-Eating Plant: Early examples include a giant flytrap in Arthur Conan Doyle's short story "The American's Tale" (1879) and the "man-eating tree of Madagascar," a newspaper hoax born in 1881.
- Man in a Kilt: The earliest depictions of men in kilts◊ as Fanservice date back to The Napoleonic Wars.
- Maybe Ever After: Great Expectations, 1861
- Message in a Bottle: Chunosuke Matsuyama wrote one in 1784 after a shipwreck in the Pacific.
- Mile-High Club: Rumours of people having sex in airborne vessels first circulated in 1785, after the allegedly first female balloonist, a certain Mrs Sage, had completed a flight in a hot air balloon together with a certain Mr Biggin. The idea of it being a kind of sexual goal for men also dates from the period, at least according to a certain eighteenth-century wager book quoted on QI:
Stephen Fry: "Lord Cholmondely has given two guineas to Lord Derby, to receive 500 guineas whenever his lordship 'plays hospitals' with a woman in a balloon 1,000 yards from the Earth." For "plays hospitals with" I think you can insert your own—word.
- Miraculous Malfunction: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, 1886
- Mistaken for Special Guest: The Inspector General by Nikolai Gogol, 1836, although a similar plot-twist already was used in Die deutschen Kleinstädter ("The German Small-Towners", 1802) by German-Russian author August von Kotzebue.
- Mon: The Japanese card game Obake Karuta, which was first invented in the Edo period.
- Must Have Caffeine: Johann Sebastian Bach's "Coffee Cantata," Schweigt Stille, Plaudert Nicht, BWV 211, 1732-1734, a miniature opera dedicated to caffeine addiction.
- Naughty Tentacles: 1820 woodcut by Hokusai
- Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight: Tchaikovsky's opera Mazeppa, 1884, at least for the modern codified trope.
- No Ontological Inertia: The stepmother's poisons have none in The Brothers Grimm fairy tale "Snowdrop" (a.k.a. Snow White).
- Not the Nessie: Early attacks by the Nautilus in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1869) were blamed on a giant narwhal.
- "Not Wearing Pants" Dream: The Dream of Councillor Popov, Alexey Tolstoy, 1873
- The Noun and the Noun: Many of Jane Austen's novels.
- Now It's My Turn: Henry Fielding's Joseph Andrews, 1742
- Occult Detective: Dr. Martin Hesselius from Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's In A Glass Darkly, 1872.
- Oh Wait, This Is My Grocery List: Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, 1817. Catherine, having read way too many Gothic novels, mistakes a laundry list it's too dark to read for something lurid such as a suicide note.
- The Old Convict: The Count of Monte Cristo, 1844
- Open Sesame: Literal words in "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves", added to The Arabian Nights in the 18th century.
- Pensieve Flashback: A Christmas Carol, 1843
- Personal Raincloud: "The Devotee to Whom Allah Gave a Cloud for Service and the Devout King" from The Arabian Nights, 19th century
- Pirate Parrot: Treasure Island, 1881
- Playing Drunk: The Barber of Seville, 1816
- Post-Apocalyptic Dog: Lord Byron's poem "Darkness," 1816.
- The Pratfall: Shows up in vaudeville and music hall theater.
- Princess Classic: Supposedly Victorian, and already deconstructed by Mark Twain in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889).
- Race Against the Clock: Around the World in 80 Days, 1872
- Rambling Old Man Monologue: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1798
- "Rashomon"-Style: The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, by James Hogg, 1824
- Rear Window Investigation: Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey.
- Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Mark Twain said similar words when he was mistakenly declared dead in the 1880s. He also wrote such a situation into The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
- Right on the Tick: A Christmas Carol, 1843
- River of Insanity: "Doctor Livingston, I presume?"
- Robotic Reveal: The Sandman by E.T.A. Hoffmann, 1816
- Ruins of the Modern Age: "Ozymandias" by Horace Smith, 1818
- Salvage Pirates: Robinson Crusoe, 1719
- Save the Villain: The Woman in White Wilkie Collins, 1859
- Science Is Useless: The legend of John Henry from the mid-19th century: man with sledgehammers digs a tunnel faster than a steam-powered drilling rig and dies.
- Scrapbook Story: Goes back at least to Tomcat Murr by E. T. A. Hoffmann (1819); as the Epistolary Novel it is Older Than Steam.
- Seadog Peg Leg: See the pirates trope above.
- The Shut-In: GreatExpectations by Charles Dickens, 1860-1861
- So Much for Stealth: The Leatherstocking Tales by James Fenimore Cooper, 1820s, possibly older.
- Split Personality: In The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) by Robert Louis Stevenson, the reputable Dr Jekyll creates a potion that transforms him into the criminal brute Edward Hyde, a manifestation of the bad side of Jekyll's character. Also a possible interpretation of The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824) by James Hogg, in which the protagonist is encouraged to commit crimes by the mysterious Gil-Martin, who may or may not be a figment of his own imagination.
- Stock "Yuck!" (Inedible Christmas Fruitcakes): "Miss Fogarty's Christmas Cake," 1883
- Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl: "The Ghost of Oyuki," c. 1750
- Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids: Frankenstein, 1816
- Sympathetic Murderer: The monster in Frankenstein when killing his creator.
- Textbook Humor: Johnson's Dictionary (1755) has entries such as "Lexicographer: a writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge that busies himself in tracing the original and detailing the signification of words."
- Tomato in the Mirror: "William Wilson" by Edgar Allan Poe, 1839
- Tomboyish Name: Josephine "Jo" March of Little Women, 1868, by Louisa May Alcott
- Town with a Dark Secret: Germelshausen, 1800s, by Friedrich Gerstäcker, source for Brigadoon.
- Trapped in the Past: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, 1889
- True Love's Kiss: The Brothers Grimm version of "The True Bride" — but not the original versions of "Snow White," "Sleeping Beauty," or "Frog Prince."
- Übermensch: Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky, 1866
- Unconventional Formatting: Tristram Shandy, 1767
- Vampires Are Sex Gods: "The Vampyre'', J. William Polidori, 1819
- Victoria's Secret Compartment: The opera Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss II, 1871
- Wacky Cravings: This happens in the European fairy tales "Rapunzel" and "Petrosinella," both first recorded during the early 19th century.
- Walk the Plank: Francis Grose's Dictionary Of The Vulgar Tongue, 1788
- The Walls Are Closing In: "The Pit and the Pendulum" by Edgar Allan Poe, 1842
- The Watson: Watson's portrayal as this goes back to A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle, 1887
- With This Herring: "The Brave Little Tailor," a European folktale collected by The Brothers Grimm.
- When I Was Your Age...: Typical in societies when a culture changes as a result of new technology, enough to result in a Generation Gap like the one from the First Industrial Revolution, in contrast with the gradually shifting Generation Xeroxs that came before.
- Working on the Chain Gang: Les Misérables, 1862
- Wrong Guy First: Jane Austen's writing, or earlier.
- Year X: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, 1818. Later Treasure Island by Robert Lewis Stevenson, 1883. Incidentally, both are set in "17—".
- Your Costume Needs Work: "Masque of the Red Death" by Edgar Allan Poe, 1842
- Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, by James Hogg, 1824
- Zillion-Dollar Bill: The Sampo in The Kalevala.