This sophisticated self-consciousness is clearly demonstrated by I the writer’s protestations of truth, which are meant to ensure a superficial verisimilitude as well as a deeper ironical effect. The writer confesses that he has to relate a most extraordinary tale, but that the events nevertheless really did happen. This is the first and oldest device of fantastic realism. It achieved such an early popularity that it afforded a subject of sufficient importance for Lucian’s satirical attack in the True History:

‘Many other writers have adopted the same plan, professing to relate their own travels, and describing monstrous beasts, savages, and strange ways of life…. When I come across a writer of this sort, I do not so much mind his lying;… I am only surprised at his expecting to escape detection.’ 176

The method had some effect on the more naive kind of reader, and it has been employed again and again.

‘Therefore since my Acquaintances were pleased to think my poor Endeavours might not be unacceptable to my Country, I imposed on myself as a Maxim never to be swerved from, that I would strictly adhere to Truth.’ 177

‘My chief consolation lies in the fact that truth bears its own impress, and that my story will carry conviction by reason of the internal evidences for its accuracy. No one who is himself honest will doubt my being so.’ 178

Similar protestations have been used by More in even subtler ways, especially in the attached Letter to Peter Giles. There the truth of the account is not blatantly announced, but emerges unobtrusively in a discussion of style. New twists and turns of this age-old technique are always being invented; sometimes a minor author may hit on a most effective and comical version. Such is the case in Eimar O’Duffy’s Spacious Adventures of the Man in the Street (1928). The unfortunate Dubliner whose astral body has been conjured out of his earthly body, travels to foreign stars, much against his will. On his return to earth he discovers that he has lost his job, through no fault of his own. He indites a letter of justification to his manager, protesting that he could not help what had happened to him. It is with this letter that the story begins: ‘Honestly, Mr. Gallagher!’ This is one of the most amusing utopian introductions, but unfortunately, as in so many other cases, the invention is not sustained and flags when the traveller gets to utopia.