chapter  4
FICTION
Pages 39

Imagine you were born at the beginning of the eighteenth century in England. You’ve just heard of a book called Robinson Crusoe. Having received instruction in grammar and music until the age of fourteen, you take an interest, but almost every story you’ve heard about, or read, or memorised, has come from the Bible or, like Pilgrim’s Progress, has upheld a tradition, based on Christian principles, of preferring Truth and Virtue over Vice and Folly. You are also familiar with Greek and Roman mythology. You’ve heard of Helen of Troy, King Priam, Paris and Hector, Achilles and the Greeks. Your father, a local tradesman and cousin of a bookseller in London, has recently delivered a copy of a book of fairy-tales to the great country house whose parkland stretches beyond your market town, but these stories-The Arabian Nights-were not like Rumpelstiltskin or Cinderella, stories you’d heard from your grandmother as a child, or the story of the Patron Saint of England, St George. And even more terrifying than tales of dwarves and dragons was the story of a local witch, Agatha, who, fed up with being gossiped about in the town, caused a whole wedding party to be attacked by wolves.