image image H.G. Wells didn’t have time travel lit all to himself in 1895 when he published The Time Machine. A prolific Canadian-born writer named Grant Allen, also known for his mysteries, came out with The British Barbarians.

Copycat? No. Allen’s work is in some ways even the opposite of Wells’. Instead of the time traveler coming from the late 19th century, he goes to it. The focus is on satire rather than science, with Brits carved up over matters such as land ownership, sex, marriage and the general Victorian treatment of women. This time traveler is more anthropologist and activist than gearhead. Allen’s mindset reminds me in some ways of Edward Bellamy’s in Looking Backwards.

Would I recommend The British Barbarians, which you can find in ePub, Kindle/Mobi and other formats at Project Gutenberg and Read this one only if you’re you’re like me and, among other things, enjoy oddball novels that are political tracts in disguise. Most of the book is glacially slow. Still, the pace of the plot picks up later on, complete with a rather physical showdown between the time traveler and a jealous husband. Meanwhile here’s most of a contemporary review:

“Grant Allen has begun a series of stories in which he will criticize the world as he sees it from the hill-top of experience and study. A wonderfully handsome man suddenly arrives in England and studies British subjects as he has already studied the barbarians in other lands. He is writing a book on ‘taboos’ and ‘fetishes,’ and finds wonderful specimens to describe in the daily life of contemporary Englishmen.”


  1. I have this in a first edition; it’s seriously odd & awfully didactic ! What a time warp ! I bought a copy in a charity shop when it called to me…a great find, as I paid $NZ2 for it & a copy on Abe Books would be $US150-350. It’s a wonderful thing to have, with the conceited introduction and list of books at the end, inc. The Yellow Book.

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