Sunday, March 31, 2019

Dunsany's "Episodes from The Second Book of Wonder"

Twelve tales from Dunsany's The Book of Wonder first appeared in The Sketch between December 1910 and March 1911.  Two further tales were added when the book appeared from William Heinemann in November 1912.

In May and June 1914, six more tales appeared in The Sketch under the header "Episodes from The Second Book of Wonder." These tales, plus thirteen more, were collected in book form as Tales of Wonder, published by Elkin Mathews in October 1916.  An American edition (with the stories slightly rearranged and a new Preface dated August 16th, 1916, added) appeared in November 1916 from John W. Luce & Company, retitled The Last Book of Wonder.

The retitling indicates that Dunsany, his outlook certainly darkened by the War,  would no longer write in the fabulist and wonderful style he had perfected over the course of his first seven short story collections.  One further collection of such material would appear after the War as Tales from Three Hemisphere (1919), but this book was not a gathering of newly written tales but of previously uncollected ones.  Dunsany's next two books (after Tales of Wonder / The Last Book of Wonder), Tales of War (1918) and Unhappy Far-Off Things (1919), are rather dire reading, being as the tales were written as war-time propaganda.

It's sad that in Dunsany's oeuvre there are no volumes comprising The Second Book of Wonder, The Third Book of Wonder, etc.  Dunsany's movement away from such tales of wonder is a sad loss of literature that might have been.

Here is the banner heading that prefaced "Episodes from The Second Book of Wonder" when they began appearing in The Sketch on 13 May 1914. It's nice to hear Dunsany's early voice again, even as he hawks his own wares.

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