From the North China Herald and the Supreme Court and Consular Gazette, 11 May 1889:
At Sié-fu a village about 30 li from Nanch'ang, the capital of Kiangsi, a white dragon was seen on 12th April. Dragons like water, and it had rained since about the middle of March straight on, ending on that day in a most tremendous hailstorm, which smashed in the roofs of a good many of the country people's huts about their ears. Suddenly a powerful fishy smell became perceptible, and people coming in from the fields reported the presence of a huge creature, extending about two mow, (about a third of an acre) disporting itself by wriggling and squirming in a pool of water. The next day a few people ventured out to see it; it was quite white, with scales two feet in size, with horned head, claws, and a long tail, just as represented in pictures. On 18th March fine weather returned, and the dragon was gone. Foreigners do not talk about dragons, but we Chinese do. Few, indeed, have seen them, but this instance seems too well-authenticated to allow us to doubt of the power of this supernatural being to make himself occasionally visible to man.
My only real hesitation is that the overwhelming flavors of Le Carre's Big Three novels are melancholy, sadness, and regret, while core of modern steampunk seems to be largely goshwow (in various forms). Not sure how those will mix.
Certainly gonna try, though.
I dunno. The virtual city/state of New Babbage in Second Life manages to absolutely REEK of melancholy, sadness and regret in their roleplay story arcs. And it still feels like steampunk to me.
Just gotta mix in a tablespoon of Lovecraft, unrequited love of your clockwork maid, and a BIG bottle of absinthe. Viola.