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Begbie, Harold

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1871-1929) UK journalist and author, active from the early 1890s, much of his later, nonfantastic work being published as by A Gentleman with a Duster; his first book publications, the Struwwelpeter sequence comprising The Political Struwwelpeter (coll 1899) and The Struwwelpeter Alphabet (coll 1900), are volumes of Satirical verse illustrated by F Carruthers Gould. Closer to sf are his further political Satires, beginning with the Clara in Blunderland sequence of Alice parodies comprising Clara in Blunderland (coll 1902) and Lost in Blunderland: The Further Adventures of Clara (coll 1903), both written with M H Temple and J Stafford Ransome (who may have only supplied the illustrations) under the collaborative pseudonym Caroline Lewis (see Lewis Carroll). The Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) and its consequences are the main targets; Winston Churchill, depicted as the Caterpillar, is among those satirized. This was followed by a Gulliver parody, Gulliver Joe (1903) with Cecil Eldred Hughes (1875-1941), both writing together as Jonathan Quick (see Jonathan Swift), in which various politicians – including as "Gulliver" Joseph Chamberlain (1836-1914) – are cast into the world of Gulliver's Travels (1726; rev 1735), and Rudyard Kipling is also mocked. Of fantasy interest were the Andrew Latter dream-detective stories assembled as The Amazing Dreams of Andrew Latter (June-November 1904 London Magazine; coll 2002 chap).

Begbie's subsequent work is infused with propaganda, Politics and Religion, as demonstrated in titles like The Day that Changed the World (1912) as by "The Man Who Was Warned", a religious fantasy in which humankind's spiritual development is sharply uplifted, perhaps by divine intervention. In response to Arthur Machen's inadvertently inflammatory "The Bowmen" (29 September 1914 London Evening News), Begbie also wrote On the Side of the Angels: A Reply to Arthur Machen (1915) which argues – credulously and insultingly – that when Machen claimed to have made up the tale as a piece of fiction, he had in fact, perhaps "unwittingly", received telepathic messages from a dying soldier. His changing attitudes toward World War One complement the evolving public judgements of an author like H G Wells: initially anti-conscription, for instance, he then wrote a famous poem, "Fall-In!" (1914), designed to humiliate conscientious objectors; but later, in Mr Sterling Sticks it Out (1919), which takes off from Wells's Mr Britling Sees it Through (1916), he depicts scathingly the treatment given objectors in prison (the UK government initially banned it, which may be seen as a confirmation of its accuracy). [JE/JC]

see also: Fantasy Entries.

Edward Harold Begbie

born Fornham St Martin, Suffolk: 24 June 1871

died Ringwood, Hampshire: 8 October 1929





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