Edward Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany

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Edward Plunkett, Lord Dunsany

Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany (July 24, 1878 – October 25, 1957) was an Anglo-Irish writer and dramatist, best known for his works of fantasy.


  • It was quite dark when he went by the towers of Tor, where archers shoot ivory arrows at strangers lest any foreigner should alter their laws, which are bad, but not to be altered by mere aliens.
  • I imagine that as one penetrated out from some enormous forest of the tropics, the wild beasts would become fewer, the gloom would lighten, and the horror of the place would slowly lift. Yet as one emerges nearer to the edge of London, and nearer to the beautiful influence of the hills, the houses become uglier, the streets viler, the gloom deepens, the errors of civilisation stand bare to the scorn of the fields.

Where ugliness reaches the height of its luxuriance, in the dense misery of the place, where one imagines the builder saying, "Here I culminate. Let us give thanks to Satan," there is a bridge of yellow brick, and through it, as through some gate of filigree silver opening on fairyland, one passes into the country.
  • It is many a year ago, they say, when the vintage was last gathered in from the vineyards that I knew, where it is all desert now. It was a radiant day, and the people of the city were dancing by the vineyards, while here and there one played upon the kalipac. The purple flowering shrubs were all in bloom, and the snow shone upon the Hills of Hap. Outside the copper gates they crushed the grapes in vats to make the syrabub. It had been a goodly vintage. In the little gardens at the desert's edge men beat the tambang and the tittibuk, and blew melodiously the zootibar.
  • Indeed when we trace it all back to its origin we find at the beginning of this unhappy story a man who was only an emperor and wished to be something more. He would have ruled the world but has only meddled with it; and his folly has brought misery to millions, and there lies his broken dream on the broken earth.
  • Once, as Mung went his way athwart the Earth and up and down its cities and across its plains, Mung came upon a man who was afraid when Mung said: “I am Mung!”
And Mung said: “Were the forty million years before thy coming intolerable to thee?”
And Mung said: “Not less tolerable to thee shall be the forty million years to come!”
  • Then said the people to the prophet: “Shall not black hills draw round in some forsaken land, to make a vale-wide cauldron wherein the molten rock shall seethe and roar, and where the crags of mountains shall be hurled upward to the surface and bubble and go down again, that there our enemies may boil for ever?”
And the prophet answered: “It is writ large about the bases of Pegāna’s mountains, upon which sit the gods: ‘Thine Enemies Are Forgiven.’”
  • And cities arose and shed their houses in dust, and ever the desert returned again to its own, and covered over and hid the last of all that had troubled its repose.
And still men slew men.
And I came at last to a time when men set their yoke no longer upon beasts but made them beasts of iron.
And after that did men slay men with mists.
Then, because the slaying exceeded their desire, there came peace upon the world that was brought by the hand of the slayer, and men slew men no more.
  • "How much do you know?" she said. "Do you know that dreams are illusion?"
"Of course I do," I said. "Every one knows that."
"Oh no they don't," she said, "the mad don't know it."
"That is true," I said.
"And do you know," she said, "that Life is illusion?"
  • I hope that when London is clean passed away and the defeated fields come back again, like an exiled people returning after a war, they may find some beautiful thing to remind them of it all; because we have loved a little that swart old city.
  • All we who write put me in mind of sailors hastily making rafts upon doomed ships.

When we break up under the heavy years and go down into eternity with all that is ours our thoughts like small lost rafts float on awhile upon Oblivion's sea. They will not carry much over those tides, our names and a phrase or two and little else.
  • What should a man do with the sword of Welleran?
  • The source of all imagination is here in our fields, and Creation is beautiful enough for the furthest flights of the poets. What is called realism only falls far from these flights because it is too meticulously concerned with the detail of material; mere inventories of rocks are not poetry; but all the memories of crags and hills and meadows and woods and sky that lie in a sensitive spirit are materials for poetry, only waiting to be taken out, and to be laid before the eyes of such as care to perceive them.
  • I saw a workman fall with his scaffolding right from the summit of some vast hotel. And as he came down I saw him holding a knife and trying to cut his name on the scaffolding. He had time to try and do this for he must have had nearly three hundred feet to fall. And I could think of nothing but his folly in doing this futile thing, for not only would the man be unrecognizably dead in three seconds, but the very pole on which he tried to scratch whatever of his name he had time for was certain to be burnt in a few weeks for firewood.
  • Once I found out the secret of the universe. I have forgotten what it was, but I know that the Creator does not take Creation seriously, for I remember that He sat in Space with all His work in front of Him and laughed.
  • I know of the boons that machinery has conferred on men, all tyrants have boons to confer, but service to the dynasty of steam and steel is a hard service and gives little leisure to fancy to flit from field to field.
  • Romance of Modern Stage; National Review of London; 1911


  • Many authors, when one meets them for the first time, are comparatively unimpressive compared with their books. But Lord Dunsany, who died last week, never disappointed. He was every inch a poet, playwright, storyteller, Irish peer, big-game hunter, painter, modeller in clay, Conservative politician, soldier and country gentleman, all of which occupations he followed In the busiest and most-enjoyed life I have seen. He was a tall, splendid-looking man with a young voice, decided opinions and boundless energy. He was very happily married and had the good manners of an Edwardian autocrat.
  • John Betjeman, "City and Suburban", The Spectator Magazine." 1 November 1957, (Pg. 13).
  • One of the greatest writers of [the 20th] century.
  • Arthur C. Clarke, quoted on the backcover of Time and the Gods, the second volume of the Fantasy Masterworks series
  • I am reminded of a comment Lord Dunsany made. He saw a script which had a gorgeous description of a sun setting over a landscape, and this had to be crossed out, and it said, "Sun sets, left." This is what I mean by the visuals being supplied by someone else, in that case the stage designer and the director.
  • ...by the time I came along (I was the fourth kid), there was a lot of mythology around, mostly in kids' versions, but what's the difference. Beautiful big books with lots of illustrations. I plunged around in those books and in everything else; the Norse myths were my favorite. Sometime in here I also came across Dunsany's Dreamer's Tales, which proved to be another revelation. Dunsany was important to me because he was the first writer I had come across who wrote what I would call "pure fantasy." Today his works probably seem old-fashioned-I know my kids didn't take to him at all. He wrote in a Biblical-grand-Irish-Romantic language, a very mannered style. But as a kid in the 1930s, I wasn't so far from that early-twentieth-century mannerism. What I saw in Dunsany were these absolutely pure invented fantasies: a mythology that one person had made up. The idea that people could invent their own myths, use their imagination to the limit was a wonderful discovery.
  • Inventor of a new mythology and weaver of surprising folklore, Lord Dunsany stands dedicated to a strange world of fantastic beauty . . . unexcelled in the sorcery of crystalline singing prose, and supreme in the creation of a gorgeous and languorous world of incandescently exotic vision. No amount of mere description can convey more than a fraction of Lord Dunsany's pervasive charm.
  • No one can imitate Dunsany, and probably everyone who's ever read him has tried.
  • The King of Elfland’ s Daughter is the most purely beautiful thing Lord Dunsany has written. There may be better or more exciting things in some of the short tales, but nowhere else has he had such a long run on that Pegasus of his that carries him east of the East and west of the West — not curving round the world, as he once said to me, but going on straight into regions that the makers of the Arabian tales of enchantment knew, or which lay in neighbouring kingdoms of romance.
  • These plays and stories have for their continual theme the passing away of gods and men and cities before the mysterious power which is sometimes called by some great god's name but more often 'Time.' His travellers, who travel by so many rivers and deserts and listen to sounding names none heard before, come back with no tale that does not tell of vague rebellion against that power, and all the beautiful things they have seen get something of their charm from the pathos of fragility. This poet who has imagined colours, ceremonies and incredible processions that never passed before the eyes of Edgar Allen Poe or of De Quincey, and remembered as much fabulous beauty as Sir John Mandeville, has yet never wearied of the most universal of emotions and the one most constantly associated with the sense of beauty; and when we come to examine those astonishments that seemed so alien we find that he has but transfigured with beauty the common sights of the world.

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