Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Asquith, [Lady] Cynthia

(1887-1960) UK socialite and, from 1918 to 1937, private secretary to J M Barrie. She developed a flair as an essayist and anthologist; her own fiction is fluid and graceful. This Mortal Coil (coll 1947 US; vt with 2 stories omitted and 1 added What Dreams May Come 1951 UK) features mostly Ghost Stories of Possession, with the Spirits seeking retribution. But CA's major contribution to Supernatural Fiction was as an anthologist. The Ghost Book (anth 1926) was the first serious 20th-century attempt to produce an anthology of modern ghost stories written unsensationally and by the literary establishment (see The Ghost Book). CA produced two further anthologies of equal value: Shudders (anth 1929) and When Churchyards Yawn (anth 1931) – these two assembled with The Black Cap (anth 1927), a volume of murder stories, as A Century of Creepy Stories (cut omni 1934). She later returned to the Ghost Book series with The Second Ghost Book (anth 1952; vt A Book of Modern Ghosts 1953 US) and The Third Ghost Book (anth 1955). In all of these volumes the Hauntings remain equivocal: they might be either physical or mental manifestations (see Perception). The books established a standard for ghost-story Anthologies that few have bettered. CA applied the same exacting standards to her anthologies for children, which contain many magical fantasies. [MA]

other works: various children's books, including Everything Easy (coll 1926).

as editor for children: The Flying Carpet (anth 1925), The Treasure Ship (anth 1926), Sails of Gold (anth 1927), The Treasure Cave (anth 1928), The Funny Bone (anth 1928), The Children's Cargo (anth 1930), The Silver Ship (anth 1932), The Children's Ship (anth 1950). My Grimmest Nightmare (anth 1935) is often attributed to CA but was in fact ed anon Cecil Madden (1902-1987). The Cynthia Asquith Book (anth 1948) is largely associational, although it includes work by authors like Eleanor Farjeon and some late poems by Geoffrey Dearmer (1893-1996).

further reading: Cynthia Asquith (1984) by Nicola Beauman.

[Lady] Cynthia Mary Evelyn Asquith


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.