Algernon Blackwood Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

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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(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Algernon Henry Blackwood was born on August 15, 1869, in the small village of Shooters Hill, now a suburb of London, England. His father was an official in the British Post Office, and his mother was the widow of the sixth duke of Manchester. A strict religious upbringing and a year studying at the School of the Moravian Brotherhood in Germany developed in Blackwood a distrust of fundamentalist religions and a lifelong interest in Eastern wisdom, alternative religions, and mystical studies.

From 1890 to 1899 Blackwood lived in Canada and New York, trying a variety of businesses and careers, eventually becoming a reporter for The New York Times and a private secretary for a wealthy banker. His experiences camping in the wilderness of Canada as well as a period of ill health and poverty in New York provided settings and events he would use later in his fiction.

Upon his return to England in 1899, Blackwood began writing, traveling widely, and seriously investigating paranormal and mystical subjects. His volumes of ghost stories and mystical, nature adventures began to sell, and his reputation grew. As the Ghost Man, Blackwood became a staple on Saturday night television until his death in 1951 at age eighty-two.