Novelist, short-story writer, and mystic, Algernon Henry Blackwood belongs to that tradition of original writers of the supernatural that includes such luminaries as Edgar Allan Poe, M. R. James, Henry James, Sheridan Le Fanu, and W. W. Jacobs. He was born on March 14, 1869, the son of the duchess of Manchester and a gentleman usher to Queen Victoria. Since his father was a leading speaker and writer in the Evangelical movement, Algernon was reared in a strict household in which such activities as dancing, card playing, and drinking were suppressed. He was educated at a school of the Moravian Brotherhood in the Black Forest of Germany. By the age of seventeen, he had become an introspective young man who studied yoga, theosophy, and Buddhism.
Having displayed no special talent at the University of Edinburgh, Blackwood moved to Canada at the age of twenty. With some financial help from his parents, he invested in a dairy farm, but the business failed. Blackwood then bought a small hotel business in Toronto, which also failed six months later. After retreating briefly to the backwoods of Ontario, Blackwood went to New York, where he found work as a third-rate reporter for the Evening Star. He hated his reportorial job so much that he escaped from the tedium of his work by detaching himself mentally. Blackwood began reading imaginative literature in French, German, and English in the local libraries. From these books, he derived his interest in the so-called psychic regions. He also found relief in the natural world, which he had begun to prefer over the world of social interaction.
In 1899, Blackwood returned to England and became involved in the dried milk business. He began writing professionally when a friend submitted several of his stories to a publisher without Blackwood’s knowledge. These stories, which Blackwood had not intended to publish, seem to have been written as outlets for those natural desires that his Evangelical upbringing had suppressed. Not only do they reflect the pain and bitterness of his years in New York, but they also express his belief that the average person possesses extraordinary psychic powers. The publication of these stories led to his first book, The...
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