Dreams of Adventure, Deeds of Empire

By Martin Green | Go to book overview

I
Modern Empire, Caste,
and Adventure

MY argument will be that the adventure tales that formed the light reading of Englishmen for two hundred years and more after Robinson Crusoe were, in fact, the energizing myth of English imperialism. They were, collectively, the story England told itself as it went to sleep at night; and, in the form of its dreams, they charged England's will with the energy to go out into the world and explore, conquer, and rule.

I shall describe some of the best known of those tales, in terms of both their forms and their themes, and trace the tradition of their development which connects them to each other across the decades. I shall discuss their authors, defining their place in literary history, and the relation of each to the "serious" writing of his times. (What I mean by serious will emerge; the books I discuss are to be taken seriously, and according to literary criteria of seriousness, but the criteria are unconventional.) And I shall put the tales into the appropriate imaginative contexts, from the history of imperialism; especially important being the historical heroes of empire, who were both like and unlike the heroes of adventure fiction.

By empire I mean primarily a country possessing colonies; but

-3-

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Dreams of Adventure, Deeds of Empire
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Dreams of Adventure, Deeds of Empire *
  • Contents vii
  • Prefatory Notes xi
  • I - Modern Empire, Caste, and Adventure 3
  • II - Narrative, Other Forms, and Literature-As-A-System 37
  • III - Defoe 66
  • IV - Scott 97
  • V - Cooper 129
  • VI - Tolstoy 164
  • VII - Popular Literature and Children's Literature 203
  • VIII - Twain 235
  • IX - Kipling 264
  • X - Conrad 297
  • XI - In the Trough of the Wave of Imperialism: Adventure Images after 1918 320
  • Conclusion 338
  • Notes 345
  • Bibliography 405
  • Index 411
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