Hope Mirrlees wrote a novel that has influenced many of the best writers of modern fantastic and speculative fiction, and one long poem that rightfully stands alongside classic examples of Modernist and experimental poetry of the early 20th century. She also wrote quite a bit of other stuff, collaborated with the most famous female classicist of all time on several literary projects, and was an all-around interesting person who responded in unusual and frequently beautiful ways to an especially traumatic period in the history of the Western world.
To date, Mirrlees remains all but unknown in the literary world. There are a few stray academic articles that deal with her work (only two of much substance, both by Woolf scholar Julia Briggs) floating around, along with a lot of informal appreciations written by fantasy writers and readers. There’s a slowly growing Wikipedia article and another article on the Feminist SF wiki — and, as of this month, there’s a slender book on Mirrlees’ “extraordinary career and mysterious life” written by SF novelist Michael Swanwick.
None of these texts, valuable as many of them are, present a sustained analysis of Mirrlees’ work or of her position within the literary and cultural circles in which she moved. Some of the essays on Lud-in-the-Mist are excellent, and Swanwick’s book provides a small though precious horde of biographical details from letters and other archival documents, but I think Mirrlees’ work deserves more.
Furthermore, although I’m working on my own Mirrlees project—a master’s thesis on the uses of art, history, and transcendence in Lud—I’m well aware that there’s far too much for any single person to do. One of the most promising things about the current version of the web is that it’s very easy to collect and interlink information—and the cost of publication is tiny. In the process of researching my thesis, I’ve learned far more about Mirrlees’ work and cultural milleu than I’ll ever be able to use in a single article or thesis, and I know there are others out there working, quietly, on similar projects.
My aim here is to build a central place in which information on Mirrlees can be collected, analyzed, and discussed. Not because centralization is intrinsically better, but without a central list of resources, I fear that the efforts of our small community of readers and enthusiasts will spread so thinly as to be invisible. If you’re interested in contributing, please do send in relevant links and leads, and stick around as our discussions begin to develop. (Eventually, I’d love to publish some guest posts as well.)
Here we go.