alternate englands: when?

Ian Riddell iwriddell at
Mon Feb 7 08:59:09 EST 2005

The other thing that makes me think that the Chrestomanci books are 
relatively "current" is the story "Warlock at the Wheel", which has an 
automobile at the center of its plot.


On Feb 7, 2005, at 5:12 AM, Aimee Smith wrote:

> I too thought Chrestomanci was set roughly in our time, since when he 
> was a boy Christopher went to a world that didn't have magic, and was 
> full of machines that sounded like they were trains or cars or such 
> and were going very fast. I was sure it was our world.
> Of course, just cause in our world (Series 9, was it?) we have this 
> technology at this date doesn't mean that they have to have the same 
> technology, cause they did after all have another course of history. 
> Perhaps I am stating the obvious? It has been a while since I have 
> read them...
> Aimee.
> On 07/02/2005, at 8:47 PM, Belben, Philip (Energy Wholesale) wrote:
>> Charlie, replying to Deborah:
>>>> -- Charmed Life is contemporary, right?
>>> Surely not - I had it down as Edwardian, with Lives of Christopher 
>>> Chant
>>> Victorian (say the 1880s). With scare-quotes around both those 
>>> periods,
>>> of course, but just going by general things such as technology, 
>>> social
>>> mores and dress - any or all of which might of course be 
>>> fundamentally
>>> different in Chrestomanci's world.
>>> Magicians of Caprona I also have down in Edwardian period, but one in
>>> which the Renaissance chopping up of Italy by foreign powers never
>>> happened (and neither did its unification at the time of Garibaldi).
>>> Only Witch Week seems to be definitely contemporary.
>>> Have I been 'seeing' these books very differently from everyone else?
>> Well, Charmed life is contemporary in the sense that Janet is brought 
>> in from a world that I think is meant to be ours, which is 
>> contemporary, and which split off from the Chrestomanci world some 
>> centuries before.
>> Magicians of Caprona gives us an additional clue: the year number is 
>> contemporary, although I think we're only told the last two digits.
>> My view has always been that the Chrestomanci world is intended to be 
>> contemporary, but with retarded technology, and different social and 
>> sartorial customs.  (Possibly Vicwardian values that didn't get 
>> shaken by the two World Wars and the rise of cheap technology - motor 
>> cars only just becoming common, for example)
>> Interesting technological point:  When Chrestomanci writes to his 
>> cousin Frank (in the background to Charmed Life), he writes two 
>> letters himself, but the third is dictated and "written by someone 
>> else".  OTOH in Lives of CC, there are typewriters in use at 
>> Chrestomanci Castle.
>> Also interesting: Carol Oneir's dreams strike me as a decidedly 
>> modern form of entertainment.  Janet in particular has no difficulty 
>> adjusting...
>> Philip.
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Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more 
uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is 
right and what is wrong. All human progress, even in morals, has been 
the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men 
who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them. The truly civilized 
man is always skeptical and tolerant, in this field as in all others. 
His culture is based on 'I am not too sure.'

Ian W. Riddell
iwriddell at
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