Algernon Blackwood, 1869-1951

Portrait

Biographical note

English short story writer and novelist, one of the most prolific writers of ghost stories in the history of the genre. He 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" and that his short story collection Incredible Adventures (1914) "may be the premier weird collection of this or any other century".

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:

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.

Blackwood was a member of one of the factions of the qabalistic Order, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, as was his contemporary Arthur Machen. Qabalistic themes are at the heart of his novel The Human Chord.

Works

Autobiographical

Novels

Short stories

Children’s stories:

  • Toby’s Birthday Presents” [1926]
  • Mr. Cupboard, or The Furniture’s Holiday” [1927]
  • The Water Performance” [1927]
  • When Nick Dressed Up” [1928]
  • The Chocolate Cigarettes” [1928]
  • My Underground” [1929]
  • The Graceless Pair, a serial of six magazine stories constituting a prequel to Blackwood’s 1929 novel Dudley & Gilderoy: A Nonsense:
    1. The Saving of Colonelsirarthur” [1930]
    2. French and Italian” [1930]
    3. Burglars” [1930]
    4. ‘Anyopedoctor? Abaslesboches! Etc.’” [1930]
    5. The Fish Pond” [1930]
    6. The Afternoon Call” [1930]
  • The Parrot and the — Cat!” [1930; prequel to Blackwood’s 1929 novel Dudley & Gilderoy: A Nonsense and to his 1930 serial The Graceless Pair]
  • The Italian Conjuror” [1931]
  • Maria (of England) in the Rain” [1932]
  • Sergeant Poppett and Policeman James” [1933]
  • What the Black Chow Saw” [1933]
  • The Fruit Stoners” [1934); linked to, but not part of, Blackwood’s 1934 novel The Fruit Stoners: Being the Adventures of Maria Among the Fruit Stoners
  • How the Circus Came to Tea” [1935]
  • Eliza Among the Chimney Sweeps” [1950]

Short story collections

  • Four Weird Tales
    The Insanity of Jones. The Man Who Found Out. The Glamour of the Snow. Sand.
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