Algernon Blackwood

Algernon Henry Blackwood, CBE (14 March 1869 – 10 December 1951) was an English broadcasting narrator, journalist, novelist and short story writer, and among the most prolific ghost story writers in the history of the genre. The literary critic S. T. Joshi stated, "His work is more consistently meritorious than any weird writer's except Dunsany's."[2] and that his short story collection Incredible Adventures (1914) "may be the premier weird collection of this or any other century".[3]

Algernon Blackwood
Algernon Blackwood.jpg
BornAlgernon Henry Blackwood
(1869-03-14)14 March 1869
Shooter's Hill, Kent, England[1]
Died10 December 1951(1951-12-10) (aged 82)
Bishopsteighton, Kent, England
OccupationWriter, broadcaster
GenreFantasy, Horror, Weird fiction
Notable worksThe Centaur, "The Willows", "The Wendigo"

Life and workEdit

Blackwood was born in Shooter's Hill (now part of south-east London, then part of north-west Kent). Between 1871 and 1880, he lived at Crayford Manor House, Crayford[4] and he was 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."[5] After he read the work of a Hindu sage left behind at his parents' house, he developed an interest in Buddhism and other eastern philosophies.[6] Blackwood had a varied career, working as a dairy farmer in Canada, where he also operated a hotel for six months, as a newspaper reporter in New York City, bartender, model, journalist for The New York Times, private secretary, businessman, and violin teacher.[7]

Throughout his adult life, he was an occasional essayist for periodicals. In his late thirties, he moved back to England and started to write stories of the supernatural. He was successful, writing at least ten original collections of short stories and later telling them on radio and television. He also wrote 14 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, as many of his stories reflect. To satisfy his interest in the supernatural, he joined The Ghost Club. He never married; according to his friends he was a loner, but also cheerful company.[8]

Jack Sullivan stated that "Blackwood's life parallels his work more neatly than perhaps that of any other ghost story writer. Like his lonely but fundamentally optimistic protagonists, he was a combination of mystic and outdoorsman; when he wasn't steeping himself in occultism, including Rosicrucianism, or Buddhism he was likely to be skiing or mountain climbing."[7] Blackwood was a member of one of the factions of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn,[9] as was his contemporary Arthur Machen.[10] Cabalistic themes influence his novel The Human Chord.[11]

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 reaches a climax 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 of human consciousness. In correspondence with Peter Penzoldt, Blackwood wrote,[12]

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

Blackwood died after several strokes. Officially his death on 10 December 1951 was from cerebral thrombosis, with arteriosclerosis as a contributing factor. He was cremated at Golders Green crematorium. A few weeks later his nephew took his ashes to Saanenmöser Pass in the Swiss Alps, and scattered them in the mountains that he had loved for more than forty years.



Critical studiesEdit

  • An early essay on Blackwood's work was "Algernon Blackwood: An Appreciation," by Grace Isabel Colbron (1869–1943), which appeared in The Bookman in February 1915.[27]
  • Peter Penzoldt devotes the final chapter of The Supernatural in Fiction (1952) to an analysis of Blackwood's work and dedicates the book "with deep admiration and gratitude, to Algernon Blackwood, the greatest of them all".
  • A critical analysis of Blackwood's work appears in Jack Sullivan, Elegant Nightmares: The English Ghost Story From Le Fanu to Blackwood, 1978.
  • David Punter has an essay on Blackwood.[28]
  • There is a critical essay on Blackwood's work in S. T. Joshi's The Weird Tale (1990).
  • Edward Wagenknecht analyses Blackwood's work in his book Seven Masters of Supernatural Fiction.[29]
  • David Grimbleby, "Algernon Blackwood: A Personal Appreciation". Occulture 1, No 2 [1994]
  • Eugene Thacker, in his "Horror of Philosophy" series of books, discusses Blackwood's stories "The Willows" and "The Man Whom The Trees Loved" as examples of how supernatural horror poses philosophical questions regarding the relation between human beings and the "cosmic indifference" of the world.[30]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Blackwood, Algernon Henry". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/31913. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ S. T. Joshi, The Weird Tale (University of Texas Press, 1990), p. 132.
  3. ^ S. T. Joshi, The Weird Tale (University of Texas Press, 1990), p. 131.
  4. ^ Historic England. "Crayford Manor House (1412621)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  5. ^ Peter Penzoldt, The Supernatural in Fiction (1952), Part II, Chapter 7.
  6. ^ Mosse, Kate (27 October 2007). "Horror in the shadows" – via
  7. ^ a b Jack Sullivan, ed. The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural (1986), p. 38.
  8. ^ Jack Sullivan, ed. The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural (1986), p. 39
  9. ^ Regardie, Israel (1982). The Golden Dawn. Llewellyn Publications ISBN 0-87542-664-6 p. ix.
  10. ^ "Shadowplay Pagan and Magick webzine – HERMETIC HORRORS". 16 September 1904. Archived from the original on 9 November 2009. Retrieved 5 June 2012.
  11. ^ Dirda, Michael (2005). Bound to please. W.W. Norton & Co. p. 221. ISBN 0-393-05757-7. After these adventures in the New World...
  12. ^ Quoted in Peter Penzoldt, The Supernatural in Fiction (1952), Part II, Chapter 7.
  13. ^ David Stuart Davies, "Introduction" to William Hope Hodgson, The Casebook of Carnacki the Ghost-Finder. Wordsworth Editions, 2006. ISBN 1-84022-529-7 p. 8.
  14. ^ Richard A. Lupoff, "England, George Allan" in Twentieth-Century Science-Fiction Writers by Curtis C. Smith. St. James Press, 1986, ISBN 0-912289-27-9, pp. 230–231.
  15. ^ Chris Morgan, "H. Russell Wakefield", in E. F. Bleiler, ed., Supernatural Fiction Writers, pp. 617–622. New York: Scribner's, 1985. ISBN 0-684-17808-7
  16. ^ John Grant and John Clute, The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, "Beck, L(ily) Adams", pp. 99–100, ISBN 0-312-19869-8
  17. ^ Stefan Dziemianowicz, "Lawrence, Margery (Harriet)", in S. T. Joshi and Dziemianowicz, (ed.) Supernatural Literature of the World : an encyclopedia. Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 2005. ISBN 0313327742, pp. 698–700.
  18. ^ Cosette Kies, "Walton, Evangeline" in St. James Guide To Fantasy Writers, edited by David Pringle. St. James Press, 1996, pp. 586–587.
  19. ^ "Ramsey Campbell's fiction is considerably more than an engagement with the Lovecraftian; the awe and unease of M. R. James and Algernon Blackwood... need to be taken into account." Andy Sawyer,"That Ill-Rumoured and Evil-Shadowed Seaport" in Gary William Crawford ed.,Ramsey Campbell: Critical Essays on the Modern Master of Horror. Scarecrow Press, 2013. ISBN 0810892979, p. 2.
  20. ^ "Graham Joyce is an English writer, who describes his work as "Old Peculiar" akin to Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood, and other English masters of the weird tale...." Darrell Schweitzer, Speaking of Horror II: More Interviews with Modern Horror Writers. Rockville, Md., Wildside Press, 2015, ISBN 1479404748, p. 171.
  21. ^ Dale Nelson, "Literary Influences: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries" in Michael D. C. Drout, J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment. New York, Taylor & Francis, 2007 ISBN 0415969425, p. 373.
  22. ^ "Parodic treatment of horror motifs from various classics – "The Wendigo" and "The Willows" by Algernon Blackwood, "The Yellow Sign" by Robert W. Chambers, etc." "The Space-Eaters" in E. F. Bleiler and Richard Bleiler. Science-Fiction: The Early Years. Kent State University Press, 1990, p. 452. ISBN 9780873384162.
  23. ^ "Genius Loci... is a rare Smith story with a contemporary setting near Smith's own home that drew upon both Algernon Blackwood and Montague Summers for inspiration." Scott Connors, "Smith, Clark Ashton", in S. T. Joshi, ed. Encyclopedia of the Vampire: the living dead in myth, legend, and popular culture.Santa Barbara, Calif.: Greenwood Press, 2011. ISBN 9780313378331, p. 302.
  24. ^ "Caitlin Kiernan pays tribute to the influence of Algernon Blackwood and H.P. Lovecraft in her second novel, Threshold"..." Neil Barron, What Do I Read Next? Gale Research Inc. 2001, p. 224. ISBN 0-7876-3391-7.
  25. ^ VanderMeer, Jeff. "Interview: Caitlín R. Kiernan on Weird Fiction". Weird Fiction Review. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  26. ^ Dirda, Michael (2005). Bound to please. W. W. Norton & Co. p. 222. ISBN 0-393-05757-7. During the First World War...
  27. ^ The essay was reprinted: Jason Colavito, ed. A Hideous Bit of Morbidity: An Anthology of Horror Criticism from the Enlightenment to World War I. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2008 ISBN 978-0-7864-3968-3, pp. 303–307.
  28. ^ David Punter, "Algernon Blackwood", Supernatural Fiction Writers. New York: Scribner's, 1985 ISBN 0-684-17808-7, pp. 463–470.
  29. ^ "Algernon Blackwood" in: Wagenknecht, Edward. Seven Masters of Supernatural Fiction. New York: Greenwood, 1991. ISBN 0-313-27960-8, pp. 69–94.
  30. ^ Thacker, Eugene (26 August 2011). In The Dust Of This Planet - Horror of Philosophy Vol. 1. Zero Books. ISBN 9781780990101. and Tentacles Longer Than Night - Horror of Philosophy Vol. 3. Zero Books. 24 April 2015. p. 110ff. ISBN 9781782798880.


  • Ashley, Mike (1987). Algernon Blackwood: A Bio-Bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-25158-4.
  • Ashley, Mike (2001). Algernon Blackwood: An Extraordinary Life. New York: Carroll & Graf. ISBN 0-7867-0928-6. US edition of Starlight Man: The Extraordinary Life of Algernon Blackwood.
  • Ashley, Mike (2001). Starlight Man: The Extraordinary Life of Algernon Blackwood. London: Constable & Robinson Ltd. ISBN 1-84119-417-4. UK edition of Algernon Blackwood: An Extraordinary Life.
  • Blackwood, Algernon (2002). Episodes Before Thirty. New York: Turtle Point Press. ISBN 1-885586-83-3. Modern reissue of subject's memoir; originally published in 1923 (London: Cassell & Co.).
  • Burleson, Donald. "Algernon Blackwood's 'The Listener: A Hearing'". Studies in Weird Fiction 5 (Spring 1989), pp. 15–19.
  • Colombo, John Robert. "Blackwood's Books: A Bibliography Devoted to Algernon Blackwood" Toronto Hounslow Press 1981 ISBN 0-88882-055-0
  • Colombo, John Robert. (ed) Algernon Blackwood's Canadian Tales of Terror Lake Eugenia, Ontario Battered Silicon Dispatch Box 2004 ISBN 1-55246-605-1
  • Goddin, Jeffrey. "Subtle Perceptions: The Fantasy Novels of Algernon Blackwood" in Darrell Schweitzer (ed) Discovering Classic Fantasy Fiction, Gillette NJ: Wildside Press, 1986, pp. 94–103.
  • Johnson, George M. "Algernon Blackwood". Dictionary of Literary Biography. Late-Victorian and Edwardian British Novelists, First Series. Ed. George M. Johnson. Detroit: Gale, 1995.
  • Johnson, George M. "Algernon Blackwood". Dictionary of Literary Biography. British Short-Fiction Writers, 1880–1914. Ed. William F. Naufftus. Detroit: Gale, 1995.
  • Johnson, George M. "Algernon Blackwood". New Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. Brian Harrison. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
  • Johnson, George M. "Algernon Blackwood’s Modernist Experiments in Psychical Detection". Formal Investigations: Aesthetic Style in Late-Victorian and Edwardian Detective Fiction. Stuttgart: Ibidem Press, 2007. pp. 29–51.
  • Johnson, George M. "The Other Side of Edwardian Fiction: Two Forgotten Fantasy Novels of 1911". Wormwood: Literature of the fantastic, supernatural and decadent. UK, No. 16 (Spring 2011) 3–15.
  • Joshi, S. T. (1990). The Weird Tale. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. pp. 87–132, 236–38, 246–48, 266–69. ISBN 0-292-79057-0.
  • Tuck, Donald H. (1974). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Chicago: Advent. pp. 47–49. ISBN 0-911682-20-1.

Further readingEdit

  • Goddin, Jeffrey. "Subtle Perceptions: The Fantasy Novels of Algernon Blackwood" in Darrell Schweitzer, ed. Discovering Classic Fantasy Fiction. Gillette, NJ: Wildside Press, 1996, 94-103.
  • Gilbert, Stuart. "Algernon Blackwood, Novelist and Mystic". Transition No 35 (July 1935).
  • Letson, Russell Francis J. "The Approaches to Mystery: The Fantasies of Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood." Dissertation Abstracts International, 36 (1976): 8047A (Southern Illinois University).
  • Sullivan, Jack. Elegant Nightmares: The English Ghost Story from Le Fanu to Blackwood. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1978.
  • Wagenknecht, Edward. Seven Masters of Supernatural Fiction. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1991, Chapter Four.

External linksEdit