Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Garnett, David

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(1892-1981) UK writer, member of a literary family whose members include his grandfather, Richard Garnett, and his parents, Constance Garnett and Edward Garnett. He is best-known for his first novel under his own name, Lady into Fox (1922 chap), which depicts the Transformation of a newly wed Victorian into a vixen. Her Bondage, which can end only with her violent death, unavoidably generates a sense of powerful Wrongness. This wrongness can be understood as an Allegory of the position of women in a patriarchal world, for whom indentured marriage is a kind of immurement. After giving birth to a litter of pups, Silvia is eventually killed by hounds: as hounds are to foxes – one is bound to conclude, despite the distancing "wit"-laden 18th-century tone of the tale – so patriarchal society is to women.

Lady into Fox, famously parodied by Christopher Ward as Gentleman into Goose ... (1924 chap), remains a central 20th-century text; but it is unfair to DG to think of him as a one-book author. He published about 35 further books, many of them fiction. A Man in the Zoo (1924) and The Grasshoppers Come (1931), while fantastical, are not actually fantasies. Some of DG's late novels, however, are of direct genre interest. Two by Two: A Story of Survival (1963) tells of the Flood and of the part played by Noah in terms distinctly unfriendly to the Old Testament God who drowns his people; Noah himself is almost certainly based on T H White; a later volume of letters between DG and White, The White/Garnett Letters (1968) ed DG, illuminates both figures. Ulterior Motives (1966) flirts in a gingerly manner with matter transmission, treating the phenomenon, uninterestingly, in terms reducible to sf or fantasy, or both.

DG's last novel of interest is a Beast Fable of some power. The first half of The Master Cat: The True and Unexpurgated Story of Puss in Boots (in A Chatto & Windus Almanack anth 1926 as "From 'Puss in Boots'"; much exp 1974) is a Revisionist Fantasy version of the Charles Perrault fable of 1697, set in a Land-of-Fable Northumberland about 1000 years ago and treating the miller's son with some reserve. In the second half, the son – whom Puss-In-Boots has given high birth, wealth and a king's daughter – denounces Puss to a visiting delegation of Christians from Ireland. Puss eventually escapes, after torture and an attempted auto-da-fé, and resolves never to speak again to a human being. He travels the world as the King of the Cats, spreading his message of distrust. He is heeded. By virtue of this sequel, DG transforms the old Fairytale into an extremely pointed lesson in Thinning, for the triumph of the Christians (DG's estimate of Christianity was always scathing), who loathe and fear beings such as Puss, leaches the richness of the world. The Master Cat is another example of the subversive impulses tappable in fantasy. [JC]

other works: A Terrible Day (1932 chap); Purl and Plain, and Other Stories (coll 1973).

David Garnett


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.