Algernon Blackwood


Algernon Blackwood

Infobox Writer
name = Algernon Blackwood


pseudonym =
birthdate = Birth date|1869|3|14|df=y
birthplace = Shooter's Hill, Kent
deathdate = Death date and age|1951|12|10|1869|3|14|df=y
deathplace = Bishopsteighton, Kent
occupation = Writer, broadcaster
nationality = British
period =
genre = Fantasy, Horror, Weird Fiction
notableworks= "The Centaur", "The Willows", "The Wendigo"
movement =
influences =
influenced = H. P. Lovecraft, Ramsey Campbell

Algernon Henry Blackwood, CBE (14 March 1869 – 10 December 1951) was an English writer of fiction dealing with the supernatural, who was also a journalist and a broadcasting narrator. S. T. Joshi has stated that "his work is more consistently meritorious than any weird writer's except Dunsany's" [S. T. Joshi, "The Weird Tale" (University of Texas Press, 1990), p.132.] and that his short story collection "Incredible Adventures" "may be the premier weird collection of this or any other century". [S. T. Joshi, "The Weird Tale" (University of Texas Press, 1990), p.131.]

Life and work

Blackwood was born in Shooter's Hill (today part of south-east London, but then part of northwest Kent) and educated at Wellington College. His father was a Post Office administrator who, according to Peter Penzoldt, "though not devoid of genuine good-heartedness, had appallingly narrow religious ideas". [Peter Penzoldt, "The Supernatural in Fiction" (1952), Part II, Chapter 7.] Blackwood had a varied career, farming in Canada, operating a hotel, as a newspaper reporter in New York City, and, throughout his adult life, an occasional essayist for various periodicals. In his late thirties, he moved back to England and started to write stories of the supernatural. He was very successful, writing at least ten original collections of short stories and eventually appearing on both radio and television to tell them. He also wrote fourteen novels, several children's books, and a number of plays, most of which were produced but not published. He was an avid lover of nature and the outdoors, and many of his stories reflect this.

His two best known stories are probably "The Willows" and "The Wendigo". He would also often write stories for newspapers at short notice, with the result that he was unsure exactly how many short stories he had written and there is no sure total. Though Blackwood wrote a number of horror stories, his most typical work seeks less to frighten than to induce a sense of awe. Good examples are the novels "The Centaur", which climaxes with a traveller's sight of a herd of the mythical creatures; and "Julius LeVallon" and its sequel "The Bright Messenger", which deal with reincarnation and the possibility of a new, mystical evolution in human consciousness. In correspondence with Peter Penzoldt, Blackwood wrote [Quoted in Peter Penzoldt, "The Supernatural in Fiction" (1952), Part II, Chapter 7.] :

My fundamental interest, I suppose, is signs and proofs of other powers that lie hidden in us all; the extension, in other words, of human faculty. So many of my stories, therefore, deal with extension of consciousness; speculative and imaginative treatment of possibilities outside our normal range of consciousness. ... Also, all that happens in our universe is "natural"; under Law; but an extension of our so limited normal consciousness can reveal new, extra-ordinary powers etc., and the word "supernatural" seems the best word for treating these in fiction. I believe it possible for our consciousness to change and grow, and that with this change we may become aware of a new universe. A "change" in consciousness, in its type, I mean, is something more than a mere extension of what we already possess and know.

It has been reportedFact|date=May 2008 that Algernon Blackwood was a member of one of the factions of the Cabalistic Order originally called the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, as was his contemporary Arthur Machen, and cabalistic themes are at the heart of his novel "The Human Chord".

Blackwood wrote an autobiography of his early years, "Episodes Before Thirty" (1923), and there is a biography by Mike Ashley (ISBN 0-7867-0928-6).

Critical responses and legacy

* H. P. Lovecraft included Blackwood as one of the "Modern Masters" in the chapter of that name in "Supernatural Horror in Literature".
* Peter Penzoldt devotes the final chapter of "The Supernatural in Fiction" (1952) to an analysis of Blackwood's work, and the book is dedicated "with deep admiration and gratitude, to Algernon Blackwood, the greatest of them all".
* There is an extensive critical analysis of Blackwood's work in Jack Sullivan's book "Elegant Nightmares: The English Ghost Story From Le Fanu to Blackwood" (1978).
* There is a critical essay on Blackwood's work in S. T. Joshi's "The Weird Tale" (1990).
* The plot of Caitlin R. Kiernan's novel "Threshold" (2001) draws upon Blackwood's "The Willows", which is quoted several times in the book. Kiernan has cited Blackwood as an important influence on her writing.Fact|date=May 2008

elected works

Novels

In sequence of first publication:
*"Jimbo" (1909)
*"The Education of Uncle Paul" (1909)
*"The Human Chord" (1910)
*"The Centaur" (1911)
*"A Prisoner in Fairyland" (1913; sequel to "The Education of Uncle Paul")
*"The Extra Day" (1915)
*"Julius LeVallon" (1916)
*"The Wave" (1916)
*"The Promise of Air" (1918)
*"The Garden of Survival" (1918)
*"The Bright Messenger" (1921; sequel to "Julius LeVallon")
*"Sambo and Snitch" (1927)
*"Dudley and Gilderoy" (1929)
*"The Fruit Stoners" (1934)

hort fiction collections

In sequence of first publication:
*"The Empty House and Other Ghost Stories" (1906; original collection)
*"The Listener and Other Stories" (1907; original collection)
*"John Silence" (1908; original collection; reprinted with added preface, 1942)
*"The Lost Valley and Other Stories" (1910; original collection)
*"Pan's Garden: a Volume of Nature Stories" (1912; original collection)
*"Incredible Adventures" (1914; original collection)
*"Ten Minute Stories" (1914; original collection)
*"Day and Night Stories" (1917; original collection)
*"Wolves of God, and Other Fey Stories" (1921; original collection; co-credited to Wilfred Wilson, though the consensus among Blackwood scholars is that Wilson contributed very little if anything to the actual writing)
*"Tongues of Fire and Other Sketches" (1924; original collection)
*"Ancient Sorceries and Other Tales" (1927; short fiction reprinted from previous Blackwood collections; abridgment of 1932's "The Willows and Other Queer Tales")
*"The Dance of Death and Other Tales" (1927; short fiction reprinted from previous Blackwood collections; reprinted as 1963's "The Dance of Death and Other Stories")
*"Strange Stories" (1929; short fiction reprinted from previous Blackwood collections)
*"Short Stories of To-Day & Yesterday" (1930; short fiction reprinted from previous Blackwood collections)
*"The Willows and Other Queer Tales" (1932; selected from previous Blackwood collections by G. F. Maine)
*"Shocks" (1935; original collection)
*" The Tales of Algernon Blackwood" (1938; short fiction reprinted from previous Blackwood collections, with a new preface by Blackwood)
*"Selected Tales of Algernon Blackwood" (1942; short fiction reprinted from previous Blackwood collections; not to be mistaken for like title from 1964 also by Blackwood)
*"Selected Short Stories of Algernon Blackwood" (1945; short fiction reprinted from previous Blackwood collections)
*"The Doll and One Other" (1946; original collection)
*"Tales of the Uncanny and Supernatural" (1949; short fiction reprinted from previous Blackwood collections)
*"In the Realm of Terror" (1957; short fiction reprinted from previous Blackwood collections)
*"The Dance of Death and Other Stories" (1963; reprint of 1927's "The Dance of Death and Other Tales")
*"Selected Tales of Algernon Blackwood" (1964; short fiction reprinted from previous Blackwood collections; not to be mistaken for like title from 1942 also by Blackwood)
*"Tales of the Mysterious and Macabre" (1967; short fiction reprinted from previous Blackwood collections)
*"Ancient Sorceries and Other Stories" (1968; short fiction reprinted from previous Blackwood collections)
*"Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood" (1973, selected and introduced by Everett F. Bleiler; short fiction reprinted from previous Blackwood collections; includes Blackwood's own preface to 1938's "The Tales of Algernon Blackwood")
*"The Best Supernatural Tales of Algernon Blackwood" (1973; selected, from 1929's "Strange Stories", and introduced by Felix Morrow)
*"Tales of Terror and Darkness" (1977; short fiction reprinted from previous Blackwood collections)
*"Tales of the Supernatural" (1983; selected and introduced by Mike Ashley; short fiction reprinted from previous Blackwood collections)
*"The Magic Mirror" (1989; selected, introduced, and notes by Mike Ashley; original collection)
*"The Complete John Silence Stories" (1997; selected and introduced by S. T. Joshi; reprint of 1908's "John Silence", without the 1942 preface but adding the one remaining John Silence story)
*"Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird Stories" (2002; selected, introduced, and notes by S. T. Joshi; short fiction reprinted from previous Blackwood collections)

elect short stories

*"Smith: an Episode in a Lodging House" (1906)
*:A man and his strange neighbor's paths meet more often than he would like in this story of a man delving into secrets he should not know.
*"The Willows" (1907)
*:Perhaps his most celebrated story, was influenced heavily by Blackwood's own trips down the Danube River. It tells the story of two campers who pick the wrong place to sleep for the night, a place where another dimension impinges on our own. H. P. Lovecraft considered this the finest supernatural tale in English literature. [H. P. Lovecraft's Favorite Weird Tales, ed. Douglas Anderson, Gold Spring Press, pg. 8–9; the book cites two lists made by Lovecraft of his favorite weird tales, both of which put "The Willows" at the top.]
*"The Insanity of Jones" (1907)
*:A reincarnation story based around the correcting of past wrongs by revenge.
*"Ancient Sorceries" (1908)
*:A tourist returning from a trip becomes too enchanted with a strange French town and its people to leave. He is slowly drawn more and more into their realm of secrets and talk of ancient memories.
*"The Wendigo" (1910)
*:Another camper tale, this time set in the Canadian wilderness. A hunting party separates to track moose, and one member is abducted by the Wendigo of legend. Robert Aickman regarded this as "one of the (possibly) six great masterpieces in the field". [Aickman, Introduction to The Third Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories (1971)]
*"The Glamour of the Snow" (1911)
*:A traveller meets a strange woman late one night at a ski resort and spends the rest of his vacation searching for her, so that they can have one last moment together. He almost gets his wish....
*"The Man Whom the Trees Loved" (1912)
*:A wife is powerless to save her husband from the nature he loves and its ever growing influence on his life.
*"The Regeneration of Lord Ernie" (1914)
*:A listless young aristocrat is transformed into a firebrand through witnessing a mystical ceremony.
*"The Damned" (1914)
*:A highly original haunted house tale in which the haunting results from the intolerant religious beliefs of a series of previous residents.
*"A Descent into Egypt" (1914)
*:A long, carefully constructed story in which a man's soul is gradually subsumed into eternity.
*"The Man Who Found Out" (1921)
*:A researcher goes on an expedition to find "The Tablets of the Gods" which have plagued his dreams since his boyhood. He finds them, and the horrible truth of humanity's true purpose in the universe.

Nonfiction

Aside from well over a hundred published articles, essays, prefaces, and book reviews which remain to be collected, Blackwood authored only one nonfiction book, a memoir of his youth:
*"Episodes Before Thirty" (1923; reissued in 1950 with added prefatory "Author's Note" respecting newly incorporated photographic plates)

References

*cite book | last=Ashley | first=Mike | authorlink=Mike Ashley (writer) | title=Algernon Blackwood: A Bio-Bibliography | location=Westport, CT | publisher=Greenwood Press | date=1987 | id=ISBN 0-313-25158-4
*cite book | last=Ashley | first=Mike | authorlink=Mike Ashley (writer) | title=Algernon Blackwood: An Extraordinary Life | location=New York | publisher=Carroll & Graf | date=2001 | id=ISBN 0-7867-0928-6 U.S. edition of "Starlight Man: The Extraordinary Life of Algernon Blackwood".
*cite book | last=Ashley | first=Mike | authorlink=Mike Ashley (writer) | title=Starlight Man: The Extraordinary Life of Algernon Blackwood | location=London | publisher=Constable & Robinson Ltd | date=2001 | id=ISBN 1841194174 U.K. edition of "Algernon Blackwood: An Extraordinary Life".
*cite book | last=Blackwood | first=Algernon | title=Episodes Before Thirty | location=New York | publisher=Turtle Point Press | date=2002 | id=ISBN 1885586833 Modern reissue of subject's memoir; originally published in 1923 (London: Cassell & Co.).
*cite book | last=Tuck | first=Donald H. | authorlink=Donald H. Tuck | title=The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy | location=Chicago | publisher=Advent | pages=47–49 | date=1974 | id=ISBN 0-911682-20-1

Notes

See also

* Religion and mythology
* List of horror fiction authors
* Weird Fiction

External links

*gutenberg author|id=Algernon_Blackwood|name=Algernon Blackwood
*http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/authors/Algernon_Blackwood.htm
* [http://literalsystems.org/abooks/index.php/Audio-Book/TheEmptyHouse "The Empty House"] Creative Commons Audio Book
* [http://www.litgothic.com/Authors/blackwood.html The Literary Gothic's Algernon Blackwood page]


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