Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Sterling, John

(1806-1844) UK writer, an early co-proprietor of Atheneum, for which he wrote a number of remarkably vivid fantasies, including "Zamor" (1828), which describes a sobering Vision experienced by Alexander the Great, and "Cydon" (1829), an Allegory about a youth driven to seek out the cave of Prometheus. Eight more tales are embedded in the text of the otherwise naturalistic novel Arthur Coningsby (1833 anon), five of which are reprinted, with other material, in Volume II of Essays and Tales by John Sterling (coll 1848 2 vols) ed Julius Charles Hare. The other fantasy material includes a series which appeared in Blackwood's Magazine as Legendary Lore, whose last item was the serial novel "The Onyx Ring" (1838-1839); it is an earnest and deeply felt philosophical fantasy in which an unhappy man undergoes a series of Identity Exchanges in search of the secret of happiness. The series began with the delicate prose poem "The Palace of Morgana" (1837); it also included "Land and Sea" (1838), a weird tale about a sea-sprite, and "A Chronicle of England" (1840), a fine allegorical Fairytale. Volume I of Essays and Tales includes a memoir of the author by Hare, whose concentration on JS's brief flirtation with religious faith (when he served as Hare's curate) so offended Thomas Carlyle – the model for the most sympathetic character featured in "The Onyx Ring" – that Carlyle wrote his own biography, The Life of John Sterling (1851). It was to no avail: although JS was certainly the most significant UK pioneer of fantasy he was soon forgotten. [BS]

John Sterling


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.