Besant, Walter

Tagged: Author

(1836-1901) UK author known primarily for his work outside the sf field; one of the main founders of the Society of Authors in 1884. His early novels were written in collaboration with James Rice (1843-1882); their The Case of Mr Lucraft and Other Tales (coll 1876 2vols) contains several fantasies, including the novella-length "The Case of Mr Lucraft" (27 October-10 November 1875 The World) about a man who leases out his appetite. The Revolt of Man (1882 anon) is an anti-suffragette novel depicting a female-dominated society of the future, where Religion has been abolished; it exemplifies the sexual attitudes and imagination of the Victorian gentleman in a fashion which modern readers might find unwittingly funny (see Feminism; Women in SF) especially perhaps in the climax of the tale, where one of these chaps leads a successful revolt against urban females and is crowned King.

The Inner House: Arrowsmith's Christmas Annual, 1888 (1888; exp vt as coll The Holy Rose, Etc 1890) is a significant early Dystopia in which the discovery of a technology of Immortality leads – after a savage purging of the elderly – to passionless social stagnation 500 years hence; the tale depicts a successful revolt against this tyranny. The Doubts of Dives: Arrowsmith's Christmas Annual, 1882 (1889; vt The Lament of Dives 1889; reprinted in Verbena Camellia Stephanotis, coll 1892; cut 1892) is an earnest Identity Exchange fantasy whose protagonist, unusually, seeks to solve the ennui attendant upon an inheritance. Uncle Jack, etc. (coll 1885) includes "Sir Jocelyn's Cap", an F Anstey-esque fantasy novella written in collaboration with Walter Herries Pollock. A Five Years' Tryst and Other Stories (coll 1902) includes the sf story "The Memory Cell" (in For Britain's Soldiers, anth 1900, ed C J Cutcliffe Hyne). Besant's abiding interests in social reform and abnormal Psychology bring a few of his other novels close to the sf borderline, most notably the dual-personality story The Ivory Gate (1892); his credulity concerning ESP is responsible for the introduction of (very minor) fantastic elements into several others. Besant was knighted in 1895. [BS]

see also: Anonymous SF Authors; Sociology.

Sir Walter Besant

born Portsea, Hampshire: 14 August 1836

died London: 9 June 1901

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