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The Mind's Isle

Imaginary Islands in English Fiction

Adrian Kempton

Taking as its point of departure The Odyssey, Plato’s account of Atlantis and The Voyages of Sindbad the Sailor, this book examines the profound influence of these works on the development of island fiction as a genre specific to English literature. Close readings of island fictions from the past four centuries reveal the many ways in which they adapt, rewrite and refer back to these foundational texts, forming an important and intriguing literary tradition. Examples of the genre include such universal classics as Utopia, The Tempest, Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels, Treasure Island and Lord of the Flies.

Islands have always attracted travellers, writers and dreamers. This book leads the reader on a voyage of exploration to understand exactly what lies behind the island’s powerful appeal to the literary imagination. Along the way, it explores the cultural and historical background to Britain’s island status and its legacy of colonialism and imperialism.

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Chapter 12: Marryat, Ballantyne and Lord of the Flies


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Marryat, Ballantyne and Lord of the Flies

With some of the great classics of nineteenth-century island literature, we enter the world of literature specifically intended for younger readers. Such works scarcely existed before the middle of the eighteenth century, when John Newbery set up the first publishing house to specialize in books for children. Until then, what youngsters read, or had read to them, were works that had not been written with them specifically in mind. Of course, on one level some great early classics of English literature had, and still have, an obvious appeal for children. The Pilgrim’s Progress, for example, as a dual quest story about the heroic Christian valorously fighting against giants and fiends in Part I (1678) and about his wife Christiana and her adventures as she traces his footsteps in the sequel (1684), can still be enjoyed by both boys and girls.1

Of the seminal works discussed earlier in this study, stories from The Odyssey were for a long time available to children in easily assimilable chapbook form. The Arabian Nights would not be accessible to younger readers until Richard Johnson’s bowdlerized and much-adapted version was published in 1790 under the respectable pen-name of the Reverend J. Cooper. Charles and Mary Lamb, with their 1807 Tales from Shakespear (sic) – and, in the following year, Charles Lamb with his The Adventures of Ulysses, based on George Chapman’s 1619 translation of The Odyssey – did much...

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