Recommended Reading: Phantasmion, A Beleaguered City, more 19th C suggestions
- Responding to Dale Nelson's question, quoted below:I certainly read _Phantasmion_, quite a few years ago. I don't even remember the poems/songs apparently inset in the text. I've always thought it rather unfairly overlooked in discussions of 19th Century fantasy, though it's certainly known and mentioned by most critics who discuss the applicable period. I liked it fairly well. It's just about the earliest extended prose romance of its kind in English, and it's quite long. There are better stories from earlier by the German romantics, and of course, there are some Gothic stories which are extended prose romances in a different vein, like _The Castle of Otranto_, which I think is quite a bit shorter. I'd say both of these are well-worth reading for someone interested in roots of fantasy.I'd also recommend Margaret Oliphant's _A Beleaguered City_ for anyone who likes the Inklings and is prepared for 19th C prose. To me, that's one of the most criminally overlooked texts. And it's pretty short. Her other short stories "of the Seen and Unseen" are also well-worth reading, and also much better remembered by critics. One story is such a close analogue to one of CSL's stories that one has to wonder if he'd read it in some old magazine as a child or young man. But it's also hard to imagine that if he'd read all of her stories that he wouldn't have found occasion to comment on her fantasy writing. She is best remembered as a realistic or Scottish novelist, of course.Another poet who wrote a classic fantasy was Jean Ingelow, who wrote _Mopsa the Fairy_. And Christina Rossetti not only wrote poetry like "Goblin Market" and her children's book in the Alice vein (but almost comically didactic), _Speaking Likenesses_, but also some fantasy short stories (along with realistic stories) in her collection _Commonplace_. If you start listing important short stories, you'd want to include George Eliot's "The LIfted Veil," and Disraeli's "Ixion in Heaven." (The latter of which came up for mention at the Rivendell discussion, yesterday). Don't overlook some of W.S. Gilbert's plays, especially _Iolanthe, or the Peer and the Peri_ and _Thespis, or the Gods Grown Old_. Along the lines of Disraeli's story are the Richard Garnett stories in _The Twilight of the Gods_ (which has nothing to do with Norse mythology), a couple of which Lin Carter anthologized. There are also the fantasy "novels" (I'm not sure that they're really novels, but extended prose romances might cover them as well) of Thomas Love Peacock, especially _Maid Marian_ and _The Misfortunes of Elphin_, and the one about the orangutan in Parliament (which I've never read--it might be _Headlong Hall_)--there might be a ghost in _Nightmare Abbey_, too--I did read that but can't remember. Mrs. Molesworth wrote classic children's fantasies that almost certainly influenced E. Nesbit, _The Cuckoo Clock_, _The Tapestry Room_ and _Four Winds Farm_ are the titles most often cited, but I think I've only read the first of these. Mrs. Ewing also wrote some children's fantasy that was still read in the mid-20th C. I once wrote a 45 page paper about _The Brownies_.
Sat Feb 27, 2010 3:28 pm (PST)Does anyone know Sara Coleridge's Phantasmion? This Wikipedia entry says: "The songs in Phantasmion were much admired at the time by Leigh Hunt and other critics. Some of them, such as Sylvan Stay and One Face Alone, are extremely graceful and musical, and the whole fairy tale is noticeable for the beauty of the story and the richness of its language."I've never read Phantasmion or even seen a physical copy, but it's available as a Google book.Dale Nelson
- Thanks, David, for these leads! You probably know Lucy Lane Clifford's "The New Mother." Not very Inklings-y, but brought to mind by your list.Dale