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The British Barbarians

Grant Allen

Book Overview: 

After Civil Servant Philip Christy crosses paths with the mysterious Bertram Ingledew in the respectable suburb of Brackenhurst, Philip and his sister Frida, married to the wealthy Scot Robert Monteith, become friends with the stranger. Bertram has some unconventional concepts about society, and as the story unfolds, his beliefs and actions cause much disruption in the family and the neighbourhood.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .aware of the slight he was putting upon the respectability of Brackenhurst by appearing on Sunday in his grey tweed suit; so he only held out his hand as to an ordinary friend, with the simple words, "You were so extremely kind to me last night, Mr. Christy, that as I happen to know nobody here in England, I ventured to come round and ask your advice in unexpected circumstances that have since arisen."

When Bertram Ingledew looked at him, Philip once more relented. The man's eye was so captivating. To say the truth, there was something taking about the mysterious stranger—a curious air of unconscious superiority—so that, the moment he came near, Philip felt himself fascinated. He only answered, therefore, in as polite a tone as he could easily muster, "Why, how did you get to know my name, or to trace me to my sister's?"

"Oh, Miss Blake told me who you were and where you lived," Bertram replied most innocently: his tone was pure candour;. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Pros - Good points on how stupid some customs are. Humorous when the man from the future gets one over on someone, or if the uptight brother is made fun of.

Cons - Author doesn't seem to like Scottish people, is a bit odd or old fashioned himself about women.

For about three-quarters of this book I thought I might be reading some lost classic -- a time travel novel that fell into obscurity simply because it came out a couple months after Welles' The Time Machine, a social satire forgotten because it was too far ahead of its time -- but then the author...more

Amusing at first, but eventually I got tired of the digs at social norms that the author doesn't like, ones that aren't as horrible as the author paints them. The author falls into the regular trap of discounting and making fun of anything not "rational," "reasonable," or that can be proven with...more

Whereas Allen at times offers social commentary of astonishing subtlety, the opinions expounded in The British Barbarians are about as subtle as a train wreck. This is essentially a two-hundred page sermon on the evils of a society in which the author apparently found little worthy of praise. Whi...more

There is no doubt that Wells was first with “The Time Machine”, but it is interesting that Grant Allen’s “The British Barbarians” was published the same year, and also deals with time travel. Both novels make a comment on society, though Allen reverses the direction of the time travel, by having...more