Most people know that Christopher Plover was, along with C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, one of the founders of the modern English fantasy tradition. But many readers are surprised to learn that Plover wasn’t English at all: he was actually born in Chicago in 1885, the only child of a draper. Though not an educated man, Plover’s father was a lover of books, and the family home — which is now preserved as a museum — was full of them. He may have been disappointed when his son, having won a place at Harvard, was asked to leave the school in his second year (for what was called, at the time, “moral turpitude”) and returned to join the family business.
If so, his disappointment cannot have lasted. Christopher Plover turned out to have a solid head for numbers and seemingly boundless determination, and he built his father’s draper’s shop into a chain so large and profitable that by 1931, in the teeth of the Great Depression, he was able to retire from business entirely. Plover bought Darras House in Cornwall and adopted the manners of a grand English country gentleman. He never returned to Chicago.
Until then Plover had shown little interest in writing. But now, as a retired bachelor sequestered deep in the Cornish countryside, he began to produce the books that would become Fillory and Further. He didn’t have to look far for his main characters: every summer the Chatwin family, which included five children, took a cottage not far from Plover’s home. Their adventures, real and imagined, became the books that have delighted generations since then.
Plover’s later years were colored by the mysterious disappearance of Martin Chatwin, the eldest of the Chatwin Children, in 1935. (Plover removed him from the later books in the series.) Plover himself died suddenly in 1939, under circumstances that have never been adequately explained. Rumors of the existence of a final, sixth volume of the Fillory series have never been substantiated.
Plover did not live to see the world embrace his vision. But the dream of Fillory lives on in the hearts and minds of children everywhere. And even a few grown-ups.