CabellChronological Checklist
of the Biography of Manuel
or the Chronicles of Poictesme
According to James Branch Cabell [1879-1958]
incorporating Ammendments proposed by later commentators.

Annotated by Jessica Amanda Salmonson

   

#1. BEYOND LIFE, Dizain des Demiurges. 1919. Cabell in Lineage of Lichfield stated that this was intended to serve as a preface to the entire Poictesme series, the unifying factor being Cabell's quest for the Ideal. It is a collection of semi-nonfictions on what Guy Holt (in his Introduction to Beyond Life) called "fancies, conceits, quaint bits of erudition, of comments on man, religion, the universe, & almost every other conceivable thing -- the whole masquerading as a discussion of literary canons, & put into the mouth of that very John Charteris who had earlier been known as Mr. Cabell's favorite if not most reputable character."

#2. FIGURES OF EARTH, A Comedy of Appearances. 1921. This provides the foundation for all the Biography of Manuel episodes; how he learned to give life to clay figures, how his glorious plans were sent awry by Grandfather Death; & how for all his limitations & failures he was remembered as a God in Poictesme. Really one of Cabell's best books.

#3. THE SILVER STALLION, A Comedy of Redemption. 1926. Very weird heroic fantasy novelettes, one of the best books in the series.

Cabell#4. THE MUSIC FROM BEHIND THE MOON, An Epitome.1926. High fantasy, first an an interior trilogy about Manuel's daughter Ettare.

#5. THE WAY OF ECBEN, A Comedietta Involving a Gentleman. 1929. High Fantasy. Second of the trilogy about Manuel's daughter Ettare, the most deadly serious & best of the tales.

#6. THE WHITE ROBE, A Saint's Summary. 1928. Third of the Ettare trilogy. Cabell had actually planned ten tales in this series but stopped at three, & they were reissued in an omnibus:

#4,5,6. THE WITCH-WOMAN. 1948. Adds a long preface about the cycle.

#7. THE SOUL OF MILICENT. 1913; revised as DOMNEI, A Comedy of Woman-Worship. 1920. Cabell placed this episode in the life of Emanuel between the events of The Silver Stallion and The Music From Behind the Moon, though it is now generally accepted that the story takes place later. Milicent, noble daughter of Emanuel, falls in love with a rogue outlaw, & begins her adventure by proposing marriage to him. But she is snatched away by the powerful & evil Demetrios, & harrassed by the Wandering Jew. Charles Hanson Towne in an article for the Cincinnati Enquirer said of it, "Each sentence is a picture. It is a charming book, a passionate romance that should have an abiding place upon one's shelves."

#8. CHIVALRY, Dizain des Reines. 1909; revised 1921. Not fantasy, but historical romance, though Cabell himself gave it the position of volume 8 in his Poictesme fantasy series, his having apparently developed the sentiment that the historical France & fantastic Poictesme are the same.

Cabell#9. JURGEN, A Comedy of Justice. 1919. Joseph Hergesheimer in The New York Sun began his high praise for this classic of fantasy: "All the fabulous loveliness that has drugged men with rapture & death returns in the magic of Jurgen." With such characters as the ghostly beauty Queen Sylvia who vanishes at dawn; Anaitis the personification of desire who projects the image of Helen of Troy & baits would-be lovers into useless heroic action; Sereda, the Goddess of Time; Lilith-like Florimel who dwells in a quiet cleft by the Sea of Blood; Phyllis the wife of Satan; well-famed Guenevere of Cameliard. The story must be appreciated incident-by-incident as it never adds up to much in terms of plot, but it is a great novel of episodes which Ev Bleiler called "much Cabell's finest work, & perhaps his only work that will survive" [Guide]. Most editions after 1920 include an additional, stand-alone short story about Jurgen's journey to Hell that first saw separate publication as a 13 page booklet, THE JUDGING OF JURGEN (Bookfellows: Chicago, 1920).

#10. THE LINE OF LOVE, Dizain des Mariages. 1909; revised 1921. Short historical romances of the Troubadores which Cabell regarded as set in his alternate-world of Poictesme & placed #10 in those chronicles, but less fantastic than Poictesme should be, hence really the stories are set mainly in France.

#11. THE HIGH PLACE, A Comedy of Disenchantment. 1923. Dream-quest, wildly fantastical, one the key examples showing the root of modern heroic fantasy at its best. Henry Seidel Canby in The Literary Review said of its central character, "Florian, conceited, self-confident, consistently licentious, is nevertheless, whether in fairy land or at the court of Louis XV, the only true idealist, the only human in the story with honor, which means more to him than safety or happiness."

#12. GALLANTRY, Dizain des FÍtes Galantes. 1907. The definitive text is probably the 1922 edition, Gallantry: An Eighteenth Century Dizain in Ten Comedies with an Afterpiece. Eighteenth Century historical romances of France & England, though Cabell declared it was volume 12 his Poictesme series.

#13. SOMETHING ABOUT EVE, A Comedy of Fig-leaves. 1927. This is Cabell's order; Ev Bleiler & others would have it occur more or less contemporary to The White Robe and before The High Place, some of the events overlapping such that chronology is open to debate. Dream-quest; one of the best Emanuel novels.

#14. THE CERTAIN HOUR, Dizain des Poetes. 1916. Ten poets are the subject of these short stories. One tale, "Balthazar's Daughter," was the basis for Cabell's one published play, THE JEWEL MERCHANTS. Once again, the relationship to Poictesme is dubious, yet Cabell maintained that the historical tales were not to be distinguished from the alternate-world fantasies & so placed this in the chronology of Poictesme.

#15. THE JEWEL MERCHANTS. 1921. A play related to "Balthazar's Daughter" in THE CERTAIN HOUR, but not fantasy.

#16. THE CORDS OF VANITY, A Comedy of Shirking. 1909; revised 1920. Placed by Cabell in the Chronicles of Poictesme series between The Certain Hour and From the Hidden Way. California poet Edwin Markham, in The New York American, defined this as "a brilliantly written story of a hero who degenerates progressively."

#17. FROM THE HIDDEN WAY, Dizain des Echos. 1916. Poetry collection, much of old France & Italy, recapturing a bygone mood of troubadorism, & which Cabell regarded as part of the Poictesme series.

#18. THE RIVET IN GRANDFATHER'S NECK, A Comedy of Limitations. 1904. Not fantasy, but an acid comedy. William Marion Reedy in Reedy's Mirror said Cabell is here "A romanticist exposing romanticism's hollowness & sham," with a hero ridiculous & selfish in his idealism.

#19. THE EAGLE'S SHADOW, A Comedy of Purse-Strings. 1904; revised 1923. Not fantasy but regarded by Cabell as part of the Chronicles of Poictesme.

#20. THE CREAM OF THE JEST, A Comedy of Evasions. Absurdist, aesthetic heroic fantasy, one of the finest & central works of heroic fantasy as a distinct genre.

#21. THE LINEAGE OF LICHFIELD, An Essay on Eugenics. 1922. 46 pages.

#20-21. THE CREAM OF THE JEST, THE LINEAGE OF LICHFIELD, Two Comedies of Evasion. 1930.

#22. STRAWS AND PRAYER-BOOKS, Dizain des Diversions. 1924. Mainly a collection of essays; Cabell said it was meant to serve as an afterword to the whole Manuel series. It does include one fantasy short story.

#23. TOWNSEND OF LICHFIELD. 1930. Cabell regarded this is an epilog to the whole series.

#24. PREFACE TO THE PAST. 1936. Nonfiction; this collects the prefaces & notes from the Storisende editions of the Biography of Manuel.

#25. SONNETS OF ANTAN. 1930. Poetry. Some of the poems Cabell at one point regarded as related to Poictesme but not necessarily to Manuel.

#26. THE KING WAS IN HIS COUNTING HOUSE. 1938. This is not a Manuel novel, but is set in the world of Poictesme. Cabell regarded it as #2 in the three-book "Heirs & Assigns" set, which in total consisted of Hamlet Had an Uncle, The King Was in His Counting House, and The First Gentleman of America, although the relationship of these books to one another is pretty hard to see.

#27. BETWEEN DAWN AND SUNRISE. 1930. Selected works with running commentaries by John Macy. These fragments are not possible to place chronologically because they're drawn from here & there. The commentaries by Macy are of value.

   

CabellThe "It Happened in Florida" trilogy:

#1. THE ST. JOHNS. 1943. Nonfiction.

#2. THERE WERE TWO PIRATES, A Comedy of Division. 1946. Supernatural pirate fantasy.

#3. THE DEVIL'S OWN DEAR SON, A Comedy of the Fatted Calf. 1949. Dream-land fantasy.

   

"The Nightmare Has Triplets" saga:

#1. SMIRT, An Urbane Nightmare. 1934. Includes a long introduction of considerable interest though a bit puzzling, as he attempts to explain why he shortened his byline to "Branch Cabell" for this trilogy, & I for one can't make hide nor hair of his reasoning. Fantasy set in a dream-world reminiscent of Dunsany but more sophisticated.

#2. SMITH, A Sylvan Interlude. 1935. The dream-quest continues.

#3. SMIRE, An Acceptance in the Third Person. 1937. The dream-quest concluded. This little series is not the equal of the best Manuel books, but shares many of the same sensual obsessions & striking language.

#1,2,3. THE NIGHTMARE HAS TRIPLETS: Smirt, Smith, & Smire. 1972. 1st omnibus.

Auxillary: THE NIGHTMARE HAS TRIPLETS, An Author's Note on Smire. 1937. Pamphlet; nonfiction commentary.





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