The Centaurby Algernon Blackwood
Although 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. His best stories, such as those collected in the book Incredible Adventures, are masterpieces of atmosphere, construction and suggestion.
Born in Shooter's Hill (today part of south-east London, but then part of north-west Kent) and educated at Wellington College, Algernon Blackwood had a varied career, farming in Canada, operating a hotel, and working as a newspaper reporter in New York City. In his late thirties, Blackwood moved back to England and started to write horror stories. He was very successful, writing 10 books of short stories and appearing on both radio and television to tell them. He also wrote fourteen novels and a number of plays, most of which were produced but not published. He was an avid lover of nature, and many of his stories reflect this.
Blackwood wrote an autobiography of his early years, Episodes Before Thirty (1923).
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 biography by Mike Ashley (ISBN 0-7867-0928-6) and 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.
- Wildside Press
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Meet the Author
Algernon Blackwood (1869-1951) was born into a well-to-do Kentish family. His parents, converts to a Calvinistic sect, led an austere life, ill-suited to their dreamy and sensitive son.
During adolescence, he became fascinated by hypnotism and the supernatural and, on leaving university, studied Hindu philosophy and occultism. Later, he was to draw on these beliefs and experiences in his writing.
Sent away to Canada at the age of twenty, his attempts at making a living were wholly unsuccessful and shortly after his return to England, he began to write. The Empty House and Other Ghost Stories, published in 1906, was followed by a series of psychic detective stories, featuring John Silence, ‘physician extraordinary’. His reputation as one of the greatest exponents of supernatural fiction began to grow.
Chiefly known for his ghost stories, Blackwood wrote in many different forms within the genre. His most personal works, however, are his ‘mystical’ novels, for example The Centaur, where he explores man’s empathy with the forces of the universe.
Blackwood also wrote children’s fiction. A Prisoner in Fairyland was adapted into the play (later the musical), Starlight Express.
Later in life, Blackwood turned to writing radio plays, and in 1947 he began a new career on BBC TV telling ghost stories. He received a knighthood in 1949.
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A wonderful and enchanting tale by Blackwood.