Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Austin, William

(1788-1841) US attorney and writer, remembered almost exclusively for one story, Peter Rugg, the Missing Man (1824 New England Galaxy; exp 1882 chap). Years before the narrator of the tale begins to speak of his experiences with the eponymous Accursed Wanderer, Rugg forswears friendship and hubristically defies the elements by declaring that "I will see home to-night, in spite of the last tempest, or may I never see home!" Half a century later (as the narrator records in the complex web of letters which makes up the text) Peter Rugg is still trying to reach Boston, in vain. When finally allowed to reach his destination, he discovers how the years have passed as though he had been enchanted (see Time in Faerie), and that he is cursed to wander forever. As a presentation of the sense of Belatedness so characteristic of US fiction in general, and the American Gothic strand in particular, the tale is exemplary. WA wrote other short stories – all assembled in Literary Papers of William Austin (coll 1890) – of which "The Man with the Cloaks: A Vermont Legend" (1836 American Monthly Magazine) is of interest for its Tall-Tale portrayal of a miser forced, because of a lack of charity, to put an extra cloak on every day to fight the supernatural chill. Finally, he is allowed to begin to remove them, constraining spirits evaporate from Bondage, and the miser becomes truly human at last. [JC]

William Austin


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.