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Hargrave, John

Entry updated 18 September 2023. Tagged: Author, Artist.

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(1894-1982) UK illustrator, youth leader and author who at the age of seventeen became the chief cartoonist for the London Evening News, having already begun a career as illustrator with a 1909 edition of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726; rev 1735); he later illustrated Black Tales for White Children (coll 1914) by C H Stigland. His work was all in black-and-white, with effects that ran from the forceful to the jagged. He became involved in the Boy Scout movement before serving for two years in World War One with the Royal Army Medical Corps, an experience which motivated his 1920 decision to resign from the Boy Scouts, which in his view had, under its founder Lord Baden Powell (1857-1941), become stridently militaristic; he immediately founded a rival organization, the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift, whose arts-and-craft costumes he designed and whose principles he advocated in a quasi-Utopian novel, Young Winkle (1925), about the formation of a secret society which will save the world, and in the nonfiction The Confessions of the Kibbo Kift: A Declaration and General Exposition of the Work of the Kindred (1927). Though the group's philosophy was resolutely pacifist and ideologically antipathetic to an England transformed by the industrial revolution, an underlying drift toward assuming that the future lay in Eugenics darkens, at least in hindsight, the name of Kibbo Kift, on whose board H G Wells served, though not actively. The group was renamed (and re-costumed) in 1931, and as the para-military Green Shirts survived for a few years; despite the similar name, Hargrave's organization did not much resemble the Nazi Black Shirts, and probably inspired the equally high-minded naively quasi-authoritarian Greenshirts featured in John Buchan's Ruritania, The House of the Four Winds (1935). Hargrave later became involved in Clifford Hugh Douglas's Social Credit, a theory and movement that advocated the redistribution of resources – effectively the printing of money – to increase purchasing power. He also invented an automatic aircraft navigator.

Hargrave's fiction includes The Adventures of Raven Trail [for full title see Checklist below] (coll 1920) anonymous, assembling short fantasies; Harbottle: A Modern Pilgrim's Progress from This World to That Which is to Come (1924), which slides from excoriations of the Aftermath world of the 1920s into a tentative glimpse of a better future; and The Imitation Man (1931), an sf novel in which an experimental scientist successfully follows Paracelsus's recipe for a homunculus. This creature – physically magnificent but mindless – soon proves capable of a kind of Telepathy, picking up the thoughts of those around it; when enough minds have joined together, Charles Homunculus Chapman becomes the housing of a sort of Hive Mind which briefly owns the world. But his/its marriage to the sister of the scientist who created him proves fatal: the act of Sex burns him to ash. Unlike many authors of the Scientific Romance, Hargrave had little faith in any social trickle-down effect of Evolution to better the world. Of his nonfiction, The Life and Soul of Paracelsus (1951), is a knowledgable study of the alchemist whose real name was Theophrastus von Hohenheim (circa 1493-1541). [JC/BA]

see also: Superman.

John Gordon Hargrave

born Midhurst, Sussex: 6 June 1894

died London: 21 November 1982

works (selected)

collections and stories



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