- LANG, Andrew
- (1844-1912)Scottish man of letters well known for a wide range of literary activity, including novels, poetry, belles-lettres, anthropology, children's books and (perhaps most familiar to current readers) anthologies of traditional fables and tales retold for children, with some added hagiographical and historical material, much of the work being done by his wife; numerous volumes followed the first of these, The Blue Fairy Book (anth 1889). The rather delicate fantasy content of many of hischildren's tales gives them a nostalgic interest for some adults today; representative are: The Princess Nobody: a Tale of Fairy Land (1884 chap; rev vt In Fairyland 1979 chap US);The Gold of Fairnilee (1888); Prince Prigio (1889) and Prince Ricardo of Pantouflia: Being the Adventures ofPrince Prigio's Son (1893), which has a trip to the Moon on a flying horse, both titles being assembled as My Own Fairy Book (omni 1895); and Tales of a Fairy Court (coll 1906), which contains more Prince Prigiostories.Some of AL's adult fiction contains more bracing material, however, though Much Darker Days (1884; rev 1885) as by A. Huge Longway, which parodies Dark Days (1884) by Hugh Conway (1847-1885), does so without venturing into the sensational fantasies of its target, and That Very Mab (1885), written with May Kendall - the pseudonym of EmmaGoldworth (1861-?1931) - and published anon, is a rather feeble SATIRE involving the return of the fairy queen to a 19th-century England where (we discover incidentally) interplanetary travel exists. The title storyof In the Wrong Paradise and Other Stories (coll 1886) is less ineffectual in its dramatization of the dictum that one man's paradise is another man's hell. In the same volume, "The Romance of the First Radical" is an early example of anthropological sf (ANTHROPOLOGY; ORIGIN OF MAN), predating H.G. WELLS's "A Story of the Stone Age" (1897) by more than a decade. Why-Why, a revolutionary Ice Age citizen, falls in love with Verva, asks intolerable questions of his tribe, and comes to a sad end."The End of Phaeacia" (same volume) is a lost-race (LOST WORLDS) tale in which a missionary is shipwrecked on a South Sea ISLAND that turns out to be the Homeric Phaeacia. The Mark of Cain (1886) introduces, late in the action, a flying machine as deus ex machina to solve a court case. Some of the pieces collected in Old Friends: Essays in Epistolary Parody (coll 1890) represent a forerunner format for the writing of RECURSIVESF.Considerably more durable is AL's collaboration with his friend H. Rider HAGGARD, whose She (1887) he parodied in He (1887), written with Walter Herries Pollock (1850-1926) and published anon. After this, AL joined with Haggard to write The World's Desire (1890), a novel which combines Haggard's crude, sometimes haunting vigour and AL's chastely pastel classicism; despite occasional longueurs, the resulting tale of Odysseus's last journey to find Helen in Egypt is a moving, frequentlyeloquent romance, coming to a climax with Odysseus's discovery that Helen is the avatar of Ayesha (of Haggard's She) and his death at the hands of his son. The Disentanglers (coll of linked stories 1901 chap US; much exp 1902 UK), AL's last book of adult fiction, is fundamentallyuncategorizable, though its sections have some resemblance to the CLUB STORY; some of its episodes deal with submarines, occult sects, spectresand so forth, all used - as Roger Lancelyn GREEN noted in the best work on AL, Andrew Lang (1946) - to replace the traditional "magical devices ofthe fairy tale" with the latest scientific developments, though retaining the magical function. Copious, but flawed by a disheartening dilettantism, AL's work lies just the wrong side of major ranking in the sf/fantasyfield, just as in his other areas of concentration.JCOther works: Pictures at Play, or Dialogues of the Galleries (coll 1888) with W.E. Henley (1849-1903), as by Two Art-Critics; A Monk of Fife: A Romance of the Days of Jeanne d'Arc (1895); When it was Light: A Reply to "When it was Dark" (1906), an anon response to Guy THORNE's 1903 novel; Tales of Troy and Greece (coll 1907).
Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. Academic. 2011.