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Treece, Henry

Entry updated 11 December 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1911-1966) UK editor, poet and author, active from the early 1930s; a founder in 1939, under the influence of Herbert Read, of the New Apocalypse group of writers loosely committed to abstractly sacramental takes on the Matter of Britain, in terms of a mythopoetics which might be described as emotionally holistic, but muggy. His own nonfiction take on the movement, published soon after it dissolved, How I See Apocalypse (1946), was moderately assertive. Treece's early poems, beginning with many of those assembled as Invitation and Warning (coll 1942 chap), were duly Celtic in tone but with considerable bite, including The Magic Wood (in The Black Seasons coll 1945 chap; 1992 chap); the posthumous version was released with a set of illuminating illustrations by Barry Moser (1940-    ) in which the poem's Time in Faerie implications are made explicit. "Princes of the Twilight" (in The Haunted Garden coll 1947 chap) and The Tragedy of Tristram (broadcast 1950; in The Exiles coll 1952 coll), are Arthurian [variously, for Arthur, Celtic Fantasy, Euhemerism, Green Man, Matter, Oak and Time in Faerie see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below].

Within a few years, however, as signalled by I Cannot Go Hunting Tomorrow: Short Stories (coll 1946), Treece had begun to shift into prose, and it was with stories, novels and plays – some for children – that he came into his own. His range was considerable, and many of his historical novels [a selection is listed below] invoke a fantasy glamour of presentation and significance without exactly departing the mundane. The Golden Strangers (1956; vt The Invaders 1957) is a prehistoric fantasy (see Prehistoric SF), though once again with a severely restricted fantasy palette. Legions of the Eagle (1954), The Eagles Have Flown (1954), The Great Captains (1956) and The Green Man (1966) all take place within versions of the Arthurian world, though they clearly represent Euhemerist versions of the mythos: at one point, for instance, the immensely powerful Artos the Bear thrusts a sword into an Oak log and, being the only one capable of freeing it, is acclaimed the ruler of Britain. The king who is protagonist of The Green Man (1966) may only re-enact the seasonal myth of the Green Man, but in doing so he seems preternaturally rooted in the tale. The Harald Sigurdson trilogy beginning with Viking's Dawn (1955) is listed below for convenience; though essentially nonfantastic, Sigurdson's travels, culminating in semi-mythical Vinland, comprise a version of the Fantastic Voyage. The Greek TrilogyJason (1961), Electra (1963) and Oedipus (1964) – is suffused with a mythological, mythopoeic glow, but short-changes the presence (in the original myths) of the gods.

Treece was not instinctively an author of sf, though the Near Future Desperate Journey (1954) does involve saving Britain through its protagonist's discovery of a McGuffin secret Weapon. And The Dream-Time (1967 chap) involves a dream-like Fantastic Voyage across prehistoric landscapes, during which the traveler, outcast because his ability to draw pictures seems magical, encounters various exemplary folk, including a Neanderthal (see Prehistoric SF). Treece's clear pessimism about human virtue could be icy, but was expressed in increasingly powerful tales; his sudden death (of a heart attack at 54) abruptly ended a deepening career. [JC]

Henry William Treece

born Wednesbury, Staffordshire: 22 December 1911

died Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire: 10 June 1966

works (selected)


Harald Sigurdson

  • Viking's Dawn (London: The Bodley Head, 1955) [Harald Sigurdson: illus/hb/Christine Price]
  • The Road to Miklagard (London: The Bodley Head, 1957) [Harald Sigurdson: illus/hb/Christine Price]
  • Viking's Sunset (London: The Bodley Head, 1960) [Harald Sigurdson: illus/hb/Christine Price]

Greek Trilogy

  • Jason (London: The Bodley Head, 1961) [Greek Trilogy: hb/Heather Copley]
  • Electra (London: The Bodley Head, 1963) [Greek Trilogy: hb/Charles Raymond]
    • Amber Princess (New York: Random House, 1963) [vt of the above: Greek Trilogy: hb/]
  • Oedipus (London: The Bodley Head, 1964) [Greek Trilogy: hb/Charles Raymond]
    • The Eagle King (New York: Random House, 1965) [vt of the above: Greek Trilogy: hb/]

individual titles

collections and stories, including poetry

  • Invitation and Warning (London: Faber and Faber, 1942) [poetry: coll: chap: hb/nonpictorial]
  • The Black Seasons (London: Faber and Faber, 1945) [poetry: coll: chap: hb/nonpictorial]
  • I Cannot Go Hunting Tomorrow: Short Stories (London: The Grey Walls Press, 1946) [coll: hb/H L A]
  • The Haunted Garden (London: Faber and Faber, 1947) [poetry: coll: chap: hb/nonpictorial]
  • The Exiles (London: Faber and Faber, 1952) [poetry: coll: chap: includes The Tragedy of Tristram (broadcast 1950 BBC Wales): hb/nonpictorial]
  • The Magic Wood (New York: HarperCollins/Willa Perlman Books, 1992) [poem: chap: first appeared in The Black Seasons (coll 1945): illus/hb/Barry Moser]


works as editor

further reading:


previous versions of this entry

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