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Hartley, L P

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1895-1972) UK author, in active service during World War One; known mainly for his works outside the sf field, especially for the trilogy comprising The Shrimp and the Anemone (1944), The Sixth Heaven (1946), which has some slight fantasy content, and Eustace and Hilda (1947); and The Go-Between (1953), whose famous opening sentence, "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.", can be taken metaphorically, but also as a more literal iteration of the strangeness of the world and its stories (see Fantastika). His ghost stories – some of the finest of the twentieth century – were variously collected in Night Fears and Other Stories (coll 1924), The Killing Bottle (coll 1932), The Travelling Grave and Other Stories (coll 1948), The White Wand (coll 1954), Two for the River (coll 1961) and Miss Carteret Receives and Other Stories (coll 1971); most of these stories were assembled in The Complete Short Stories of L.P. Hartley (coll 1973), though The Collected Macabre Stories of L P Hartley (coll 2001) is more thorough within its stated remit. Neither of these latter volumes, however, retrieves anything (especially from the early years) not already collected.

Hartley's sf novel, Facial Justice (1960), deals sourly but sensitively with personal dilemmas after humanity has re-emerged from Underground after a nuclear Disaster. Many of the precepts of the subsequent Dystopia satirize the welfare state and English socialism. For women, true equality involves a literal equality of physical appearance, with poignant effects. It has been argued that, when the female protagonist unmasks the dictator responsible, showing her to be an ancient and envious hag, the author reveals a fundamental misogyny; the point is moot, as Hartley's overall misanthropy seems sufficient.

It has been suggested that Leslie Hartley Reid – whose surname might play on "pole" and who was also born in 1895 – is a pseudonym of Hartley's. There is no evidence for this. [JC]

see also: History of SF; Politics.

Leslie Poles Hartley

born Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire: 30 December 1895

died London: 13 December 1972

works (highly selected)



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