Widely read in the age of British imperialism and still popular today, the five writers studied here have allowed millions to participate vicariously in the imperial project. Yet all of these writers, so instrumental in popularising the imperial agenda of power and dominance, bore deep emotional scars and as adults bolstered their fragile psychic states through fantasies of empire. While soldiers and politicians may know to bury or at least camouflage their fears and desires, inner fantasy is the necessary ingredient of literature, and popular fiction often offers the opportunity to probe the mind of an age. The connection between childhood loss and the desire for imperial escape, power and dominance is illuminated by De Quinceys mad screeds against the Chinese as both terrifyingly powerful and laughably weak, while Stevensons romances, though written from an invalids bed, are credited with 'selling' the idea of empire as manly adventure. Conan Doyles tales of a Britain menaced at home by imperial blowback are models of Great Power paranoia that resonate today, and Kiplings stories of imperial Britain grow increasingly grandiose as childhoods psychic wounds are re-opened.
Finally, Dinesen portrays plantation life in British East Africa as a gentle romance in which displaced African "squatters" serve as loyal and adoring retainers, providing the aristocratic aura for which the author yearns. It is sometimes said that, "Loves loss is empires gain", and for these writers, Simmons shows, empire presented a magnificent opportunity to compensate for childhood calamity.
Diane Simmons teaches at the City University of New York Borough of Manhattan Community College, where she is an associate professor of English. Research for this book has been vetted in journals such as Psychoanalytic Review, and the Journal for the Psychoanalytic Study of Culture and Society, and an excerpt from the book was awarded the Heinz Kohut prize. Dr Simmons has published two previous monographs, Jamaica Kincaid and Maxine Hong Kingston, and is the author of two novels.