Category Archives: Nineteenth Century

The Time Machine and the Origins of Modern Fantasy

At a recent conference in Fudan University a Professor asked me about the difference between fantasy and science fiction, and I gave my usual somewhat glib reply. In a science fictional world, if you asked how something worked you would … Continue reading

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The Magic Books of C. S. Lewis and H. G. Wells

Reading a book is an act of conjuration. When we open books we raise the dead to new life, jump across spectacular gaps in space and time, release into the atmosphere concepts and ambitions long forgotten, experience the griefs and … Continue reading

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Change in William Morris’s The Wood Beyond the World

In her fine biography of William Morris Fiona McCarthy claims that his late romances are unlike anything else written in the nineteenth century.[1] One could just as easily say that they’re unlike anything else written at any time, including the … Continue reading

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Inward Exile in Frances Browne’s Granny’s Wonderful Chair (1856)

Frances Browne (1816-1879) is a writer I’d like to know much more about. Born the daughter of the Postmaster of Stranorlar in Donegal, known in her lifetime as the ‘Blind Poetess of Ulster’, she made herself a voyager of the … Continue reading

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William Morris, The Well at the World’s End

And now I’ve finished the epic journey from Upmeads to Utterbol, as recounted in The Well at the World’s End. For a long time this was a book I shunned because of its style. I didn’t like what I took … Continue reading

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George MacDonald, The Princess and the Goblin

If ever there was a taproot text – in John Clute’s terms, a fantasy that branches out into a thousand other fantasies – this is it. From the moment when the Princess Irene runs off into the uninhabited regions of … Continue reading

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George MacDonald’s Phantastes

George MacDonald’s Phantastes has always read to me like a journey into the heart of a Victorian house: the sort of journey experienced by the young heroine of his children’s book The Princess and the Goblin when she wanders through … Continue reading

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