Whether by direct influence or osmosis the work of postcolonial studies has prompted the wider community of literary critics to recognize that signs of overseas empire, conspicuous or ghostly, were written across the body of both the canonical and popular British literature.1 This is an area more extensive than ‘the fictions of empire’, a subgenre for long regarded as the sole repository of colonialism’s imprint on the metropolitan novel. In the aftermath of decolonization these writings attracted a singular form of criticism offering retrospects on empire that were sometimes infected by apologetics and often permeated by nostalgia. Notably lacking in scepticism about representation, and in large indifferent to stylistic considerations, the studies assumed the fictions to be a form of apprehending and reproducing already existing realities.2 The move from a misconceived quest for the fictions’ truths to consideration of their invention, reiteration or estrangement of colonialist perceptions and misconceptions has since enabled the discussion of these writings as culturally constrained and ideologically inflected fabrications that were overwhelmingly received in the imperial homeland as authentic renderings of both distant geographical locations and social forms, and of the colonizer’s deportment.