- Eric Rücker Eddison
Eric Rücker Eddison (
November 24, 1882– August 18, 1945) was an English civil servant and author, writing under the name "E.R. Eddison."
Adel, Leeds, Eddison's early education came from a series of private tutors, which he shared with the young Arthur Ransome. Ransome recalls Eddison's daring and machiavellian methods of getting rid of unpopular teachers in his autobiography. [Arthur Ransome, "The Autobiography of Arthur Ransome", ed. R. Hart-Davis (London: Jonathan Cape, 1976), 37-40.] Afterwards Eddison was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge and joined the Board of Trade in 1906, retiring in 1938 in order to work full time on his fiction. During a distinguished career he was awarded the CMG Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George in 1924 and the CB Companion of the Order of the Bathin 1929 for public service with the Board of Trade.
He is best known for his early romance "
The Worm Ouroboros" (1922) and his three volumes set in the imaginary world Zimiamvia, known as the Zimiamvian Trilogy: " Mistress of Mistresses" (1935), " A Fish Dinner in Memison" (1941), and " The Mezentian Gate" (1958).
These early works of
high fantasydrew strong praise from J. R. R. Tolkien(see especially Letter 199 in the collected letters), C. S. Lewis(see the Tribute to E. R. Eddison in "On Stories and Other Essays on Literature"), and Ursula Le Guin(see the essay "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie" in "The Language of the Night"). Privately Tolkien found the underlying philosophy rebarbative, and clashed with Eddison at their sole meeting, who in return thought Tolkien's views "soft". They are written in a meticulously recreated Jacobean prose style, seeded throughout with fragments, often acknowledged but often frankly stolen, from his favorite authors and genres: Homerand Sappho, Shakespeare and Webster, Norse Sagaand French medieval lyric.
They exhibit a thoroughly aristocratic sensibility; heroes and villains alike maintain an Olympian indifference to convention. Fellow fantasy author
Michael Moorcockwrote that his characters, particularly villains, are more vivid than Tolkien's. [ Michael Moorcock, "Wizardry & Wild Romance: A Study of Epic Fantasy" p 47 ISBN 1-932265-07-4] Others have observed that while it is historically accurate to depict the great of the world trampling on the lower classes, his characters often treat their subjects with arrogance and insolence, and this is depicted as part of their greatness. [ L. Sprague de Camp, " Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers: The Makers of Heroic Fantasy", p 132-3 ISBN 0-87054-076-9] Indeed, at the end of " The Worm Ouroboros", the heroes, finding peace dull, pray for and get the revival of their enemies, so that they may go and fight them again, regardless of the casualties that such a war would have. [L. Sprague de Camp, "Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers: The Makers of Heroic Fantasy", p 116 ISBN 0-87054-076-9]
The Zimiamvia books were not conceived as a trilogy but as part of a larger work left incomplete by Eddison's death. In fact, "The Mezentian Gate" itself is unfinished, though Eddison provided summaries of the missing chapters shortly before his death. Some additional material from this book was published for the first time in the volume "Zimiamvia: a Trilogy" (1992).
Eddison wrote three other books: "Poems, Letters, and Memories of Philip Sidney Nairn" (1916), "
Styrbiorn the Strong" (1926) and "Egil's Saga" (1930). The first was his tribute to a Trinity College friend who died in his youth. The other two relate to the saga literature; the first is a retelling of " Styrbjarnar þáttr Svíakappa" (alluded to in e.g. " Eyrbyggja Saga" and " Heimskringla"), while the second is a direct translation from the Icelandic " Egil's saga", supplemented with extensive notes.
The Worm Ouroboros" (1922). London: Jonathan Cape
Mistress of Mistresses" (1935). London: Faber and Faber.
A Fish Dinner in Memison" (1941). New York: E. P. Dutton & Co.
The Mezentian Gate" (1958). London: Curwen Press.
*"Zimiamvia: a Trilogy" (1992). New York: Dell Publishing. ISBN 0-440-50300-0.
*"Poems, Letters, and Memories of Philip Sidney Nairn" (1916). London: Printed for Private Circulation.
*"Egil's Saga" (1930). London: Cambridge University Press.
Styrbiorn the Strong" (1926). London: Jonathan Cape.
* [http://mysite.verizon.net/quuxa/Eddison/ The Works of E. R. Eddison] -- A comprehensive site devoted to the man and his works (currently incomplete).
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