DreamsPercival Pollard's "Romantic Nineties" Dream Fantasies

Jessica Amanda Salmonson


By now I suppose Percival Pollard's Dreams of To-day (Chicago: Way & Williams, 1897) should be retitled "dreams of yester-day."

I got this initially to resell but it's too cool, I'm keepin' it. It's a collection of arch, suburbanly decadent "dreams" mostly told by a husband to his wife before the fireplace late at night (as a lovely photogravure frontispiece depicts) though some are told under other circumstances & settings, & not all the tales are avowedly dreams. "The Crumbling of a Castle" is about a poet who learns his life isn't so special -- that's as much waking from a dream as he does. "A Dance in Dreamland" seems almost a meditation on Poe's "Dance of the Red Death."

All the tales strive toward the philosophical & I think they largely succeed. There are similar collections of this variety, indeed it is representative of a significant subgenre of fantasy. I would include such story collections as Emerson Hough's The Singing Mouse Stories (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1910) consisting of the reveries a man & his most talented companion mouse, attractively illustrated by Mayo Bunker; Nina Picton's The Panorama Of Sleep: Soul & Symbol (New York: The Philosophic Company, 1903) with splendidly symbolist illustration plates depicting the mysterious dreamscapes of the tales; Hamilton Wright Mabie's Parables of Life (New York: Macmillan, 1904) with its best edition in art nouveau binding & having eight photogravure plates by Wradyslaw Benda; or even some of Kahlil Gibran's collections such as Spirits Rebellious: Four Fictional Parables (New York: Knopf, 1948) with spectacular symbolist illustration plates by Gibran himself. Such books tend to be beautifully illustrated & elegantly bound to match the aesthetic intent of the observational fantasies.

Almost any example you can bring to mind of this type of reflective, spiritual, instructive, or allegorical book of dream-fantasies, it was left off the Bleiler Checklist of vintage weird fiction, either because he didn't know they existed or dismissed them as philosophical piffle rather than definitely fiction. But I quite like such books that play with fantasy & the supernatural as an integral part of daily (& nightly) confabulation. And Pollard's book is a grand reflection of the Romantic Nineties, stylishly reminiscent of Richard Le Gallienne.


copyright 2000 by Jessica Amanda Salmonson, all rights reserved


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