Tuesday, April 12, 2016

T.H. White on Fox Hunters at the End of the World

T.H. White with Brownie
T.H. White's first two books were "sporting decamerons," which is to say they were collections of short stories based around the idea of a fox hunting party "going to ground" to avoid the bombing at the start of a new World War.  The first book, published in 1934, was "Earth Stopped."  The second "Gone to Ground," was published in 1935.  Both books are assembled short stories that are not all that good, which is why White's first two books survive only as First Editions, his estate never having allowing them to be reprinted.

From the opening of "Gone to Ground":

The end of the world came quickly. The Communists went for the fascist tooth and nail; the liberal anarchists joined in; The British Israelites proclaimed a pogrom of the Scottish nationalists and pulled down Stirling Castle whilst the latter were burning the Great Pyramid; somebody had the amusing idea of assassinating all the European sovereigns and dictators simultaneously, which was fortunately successful; the protestant church had a meeting on the subject of divorce; lynch law was repealed in America; Lord Beaverbrook, in full armor, led a crusade against the Paynims, but was drowned in the channel after decisive engagement with lady Houston's yacht, Britannia; The Ogpu, the storm troops, and Sir Oswald Mosley's bodyguard committed hari-kari; the franc dropped to 124.21 amidst the shrieks of the populist and scenes which had not been witnessed since the massacre of Saint Bartholomew; all the civil aeroplanes of all the nations opened convenient slits in the underside of the fuselage and took to the air with loads of little bomb; the regular fighting aircraft deposited their explosives with fatal precision, doing their step-dives from 10,000 feet so beautifully that you were quite enraptured for a moment before you were definitely dead. In fact, everything went like clock-work; even the clockwork bombs.

Within a week the world was over. It came as a surprise to some of the older-fashioned people: and particularly to a party that was following the Flat Hat Hounds on the last day of the year. There were six of them, and they had enjoyed remarkable run. They were breaking up their fox on the outskirts of an industrial town called Beding when the aeroplanes arrived.

The inside cover of my edition (without dust jacket, above), and the same (with dust jacket) for sale on an antique book site, below.

Don't be fooled:  both books can be had for about $100 each, minus a dust cover, but in otherwise decent condition.  I would like to get Earth Stopped just to have the pair.  Might have to spring for it...

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