rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
[personal profile] rymenhild
While taking yet another break from the current project, I went looking for an online copy of George Eliot's Middlemarch.

In the course of my search, I encountered a massive work of panfandom crossover fanfiction. Yes, I encounter massive works of panfandom crossover fanfiction all the time. The one I found today is special because it was published in 1890. Andrew Lang, author/compiler of the Fairy Books, wrote a series of letters between fictional characters in Old Friends. Sadly, most of the letters are nearly incomprehensible for readers who, like me, lack a strong background in nineteenth-century popular fiction. (I do recommend the hilarious letter in which Catherine Morland of Austen's Northanger Abbey describes her experience at Mr Rochester's house party.)

The best part of Lang's book, especially for those of us who are otherwise interested in crossovers as genre, is his introduction:

Every fancy which dwells much with the unborn and immortal characters of Fiction must ask itself, Did the persons in contemporary novels never meet? In so little a world their paths must often have crossed, their orbits must have intersected, though we hear nothing about the adventure from the accredited narrators. In historical fiction authors make their people meet real men and women of history...[b]ut novelists, in spite of Mr. Thackeray's advice to Alexandre Dumas, and of his own example in "Rebecca and Rowena," have not introduced each other's characters....It is agreeable to wonder what all these very real people would have thought of their companions in the region of Romance, and to guess how their natures would have acted and reacted on each other. This was the idea which suggested the following little essays in parody....

Later, Lang writes,

It is not very safe, in literature as in life, to speak well of our friends or of their families. Other readers, other people, have theirs, whom we may not care much for, whom we may even chance never to have met. In the following Letters from Old Friends (mainly reprinted from the "St. James's Gazette"), a few of the writers may, to some who glance at the sketches, be unfamiliar. When Dugald Dalgetty's epistle on his duel with Aramis was written, a man of letters proposed to write a reply from Aramis in a certain journal. But his Editor had never heard of any of the gentlemen concerned in that affair of honour; had never heard of Dugald, of Athos, Porthos, Aramis, nor D'Artagnan. He had not been introduced to them. This little book will be fortunate far beyond its deserts if it tempts a few readers to extend the circle of their visionary acquaintances, of friends who, like Brahma, know not birth, nor decay, "sleep, waking, nor trance."

(That, of course, is why half my friendslist has seen Firefly and read Dark Tower.)
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rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)

January 2017


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