Richard Garnett was not primarily known in his own time as a writer of fantasy literature. The stories collected in The Twilight of the Gods are his only contribution to the genre. He was famous among his contemporaries for his vast knowledge and reading. He supervised the reading room at the British Museum from 1875 to 1884 and directed the project to create the library’s first printed catalog. He wrote a number of biographies, histories, and translations, and he edited the works of a number of other writers. He associated with a number of other English writers and critics, including Arthur Symons, Edmund Gosse, and T. E. Lawrence, the famous “Lawrence of Arabia.”
In his preface to Garnett’s stories, Lawrence wrote that although a reader can enjoy these tales without great learning, even greater enjoyment comes to those readers who know something of the historical events from which the stories derive. There is a pagan spirit to these stories similar to the spirit of the Celtic tales and romances written by William Sharp under the name of Fiona Macleod. Sharp wrote Pharais (1894), The Mountain Lovers (1895), and The Sin-Eater and Other Tales (1896).
Garnett’s ability to make familiar historical contexts seem strange and other-worldly may remind readers of the allegorical Christian fantasies of Garnett’s contemporary George MacDonald, author of Phantastes (1858) and Lilith...
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