Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Gilbert, William

(1804-1890) UK writer, father of W S Gilbert; also one of the pioneers of psychiatric medicine. He drew upon his work in that field in two notable collections of hypothetical case-studies, Shirley Hall Asylum, or The Memoirs of a Monomaniac (coll of linked stories 1863; issued anon) and Doctor Austin's Guests (coll of linked stories 1866). Although not fantasy as such, the tales offer interesting early descriptions of the various kinds of Delusions to which people may fall victim: the first volume includes an imaginary Haunting and an account of religious mania; the second features a man who believes he is getting younger and a man who believes himself possessed (> Possession) by a Demon. Authentic fantasies can be found in The Magic Mirror: A Round of Tales for Young and Old (coll of linked stories 1866), a compendium of cautionary moral tales set in the 15th century; the eponymous Mirror grants Wishes, with either farcical or horrific consequences. The Wizard of the Mountain (coll of linked stories 1867) likewise mixes elements of Horror and comedy in its moralistic fantasies, in which various characters who seek the aid of its gifted protagonist are eventually served according to their deserts. The guilty perish but the innocent receive only modest assistance – an imbalance dutifully explained in "The Innominato's Confession", which proposes that Magic is essentially diabolical, tempting mortals to rebel against divine providence. [BS]

other works: The Washerwoman's Foundling (1867); The Seven-Leagued Boots (1869 chap).

William Gilbert

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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.