Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Housman, Laurence

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(1865-1959) UK poet, dramatist and writer; his elder brother was the poet A E Housman (1859-1936) and his sister was Clemence Housman. LH was a prolific writer from the early 1890s until the 1950s; his Feminism, along with his ironical treatment of Religion and the English royal family, ensured that many of his plays were banned by the Lord Chamberlain. His later work became less energetic; it has been speculated that his brother's slowly increasing fame sapped LH's confidence in his own work, which was never more than highly competent.

Many of his early stories are Fairytales, ostensibly for children, in the mode of Oscar Wilde. Early titles include A Farm in Fairyland (coll 1894), The House of Joy (Fairy Tales) (coll 1895), The Field of Clover (coll 1898) illustrated by Clemence Housman and The Blue Moon (coll 1904); these four volumes were resorted as Moonshine and Clover (coll 1922) and A Doorway in Fairyland (coll 1922), and later examples were assembled as What-O'Clock Tales (coll 1932). After LH's death a further sorting produced The Rat-Catcher's Daughter: A Collection of Stories (coll 1974 US). Compared to much that was published at the end of the 19th century, these tales are notable for their lack of cant, the occasionally prominent role given to female protagonists and an underlying sense of rather laid-back decency.

LH's short fiction for adults is various. All-Fellows: Seven Legends of Lower Redemption, with Insets in Verse (coll 1896) and The Cloak of Friendship (coll 1905) – assembled without the verse and adding "Inside Out" (1917), as All-Fellows, and The Cloak of Friendship (omni 1923) – comprise a set of Christian Fantasies which ironize the woeful lives of their protagonists, who tend to gain Redemption by supernatural means, but too late.

Later stories tend to dither somewhat, though his various volumes include Satires, Parodies and Fables of interest. These volumes include: Gods and their Makers and Other Stories (coll 1920), which contains a novel (see below); Odd Pairs (coll 1925), mostly associational; Ironical Tales (coll 1926); What Next? (coll 1938); Strange Ends and Discoveries: Tales of This World and the Next (coll 1948); and The Kind and the Foolish: Short Tales of Myth, Magic and Miracle (coll 1952).

Some of his novels are of sf interest. Gods and their Makers (1897) is a fairly complex fantasy set in a culture whose inhabitants create their own Gods; the protagonist finds himself on the Island where the created gods must live after their creators die, and becomes a focus for their need for worship. Among LH's plays is Prunella, or Love in a Dutch Garden (1904; rev 1930) with Harley Granville-Barker (1877-1946), a fantasy with Commedia dell'Arte elements. [JC]

other works: Many small volumes for younger children, including The Story of the Seven Young Goslings (1899 chap), The Open Door (1925 chap), Puss-in-Boots (1926 chap), A Thing to be Explained (1926 chap), "Wish to Goodness!" (1927 chap), Ethelrinda's Fairy (1928 chap dos), The Boiled Owl (1930 chap), Busybody Land (1930 chap), Cotton-Wooleena (1930 chap), A Gander and his Geese (1930 chap) and Little-And-Good (1930 chap), all but the first and Puss-in-Boots being included in Turn Again Tales (coll 1930); the John of Jingalo sequence of Ruritanian novels (> Ruritania), comprising John of Jingalo: The Story of a Monarch in Difficulties (1912; vt King John of Jingalo 1912 US) and The Royal Runaway, and Jingalo in Revolution (1914).

Selected plays: Bethlehem (in coll 1902); Alice in Ganderland (1911); The Wheel (coll 1910), containing several plays; The Return of Alcestis (1916); The Death of Orpheus: A Drama in Verse (1921); Possession: A Peep-Show in Paradise (1921).

Laurence Housman


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.