What Not

From Radium Age

What Not

By Rose Macaulay

Introduction by Matthew De Abaitua

An early novel by Rose Macaulay about a government program of compulsory selective breeding in a dystopian future England.





An early novel by Rose Macaulay about a government program of compulsory selective breeding in a dystopian future England.

In a near-future England, a new government entity—the Ministry of Brains—attempts to stave off idiocracy through a program of compulsory selective breeding. Kitty Grammont, who shares the author's own ambivalent attitude to life, gets involved in the Ministry's propaganda efforts, which are detailed with an entertaining thoroughness. However, when Kitty falls in love with the Minister for Brains, a man whose genetic shortcomings make a union with her impossible, their illicit affair threatens to topple the government. Because it ridiculed wartime bureaucracy, the planned 1918 publication of What Not, whose alphabetical caste system would directly influence Aldous Huxley's 1932 dystopia Brave New World, was delayed until after the end of World War I.

Matthew De Abaitua is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Essex. His debut science fiction novel The Red Men (2007) was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award and adapted into a short film, Dr. Easy. His science fiction novels IF THEN (2015) and The Destructives (2016) complete the loose trilogy. His book Self & I: A Memoir of Literary Ambition (2018) was shortlisted for the New Angle Prize for Literature.

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$19.95 T ISBN: 9780262544306 248 pp. | 5.25 in x 7.875 in


Matthew De Abaitua.


  • "A satire of Britain after World War One, where mental improvement has its own powerful government department. A cross between Brave New World and Orwell's 'Ministry of Truth'--all delivered with a sly wit and arch tongue."

    Philippa Levine

    William Prescott Webb Chair in History and Ideas, University of Texas at Austin

  • “Miss Macaulay's 'prophetic comedy' is a joyous rag of Government office routine, flappery, Pelmania, Tribunals, State advertising, the Lower Journalism and 'What Not.' A very shrewd piece of observation, whimsicality and tempered malice.”

    Punch (1919)

  • “One of the wittiest, most ironical, and altogether funniest books that have appeared these many years.”

    The Daily Telegraph (1919)

  • “As a frankly frivolous, always humorous and often witty caricature of modern tendencies, the thing is a brilllant success.”

    The Observer (1919)

  • “An entertaining satire upon the current tendency to put us under Government regulations in everything, even getting married.”

    Globe (1919)

  • “Her serious story is impressive and affecting. But the chief delight of the book is in its gay and ridiculous wit.”

    New Statesman (1919)