Forrest Reid

Forrest Reid (born 24 June 1875, Belfast, Ireland; d. 4 January 1947, Warrenpoint, County Down, Northern Ireland) was an Northern Irish novelist, literary critic and translator. He was, along with Hugh Walpole and J. M. Barrie, a leading pre-war novelist of boyhood. He is still acclaimed as the greatest of Ulster novelists and was recognised with the award of the 1944 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his novel Young Tom.[1]

Early life and educationEdit

Born in Belfast, he was the youngest son of a Protestant family of twelve, six of whom survived. His father, Robert Reid (1825–1881), was the manager of a felt works, having failed as a shipowner at Liverpool,[2] and came from a well-established upper-middle-class Ulster family; his mother, Frances Matilda, was his father's second wife. She was the daughter of Captain Robert Parr, of the 54th Regiment of Foot, of the landed gentry Parr family of Shropshire, related to Catherine Parr, last wife of King Henry VIII.[3][4][5][6] Although proud of this ancestry, he found the strict Protestant ethics of his immediate family constricting. His father's death left the family in straitened circumstances. Reid was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution, after which he was initially apprenticed into the Belfast tea-trade before going to Christ's College, Cambridge,[7] where he read medieval and modern languages, and was influenced by the novelist E. M. Forster. Despite this, he described his Cambridge experience as 'a rather blank interlude' in life. Graduating in 1908, he returned to Belfast to pursue a writing career; his first book, The Kingdom of Twilight, had been published in 1904.[7]

A plaque reading "Forrest Reid lived here 1924–1947" on a house at 13 Ormiston Crescent, Belfast.

After graduation Forster continued to visit Reid, who was then settled back in Belfast. In 1952, Forster traveled to Belfast to unveil a plaque commemorating Forrest Reid's life (at 13 Ormiston Crescent).

Works and influencesEdit

As well as his fiction, Reid also translated poems from the Greek Anthology (Greek Authors (Faber, 1943)). His study of the work of W. B. Yeats (W. B. Yeats: A Critical Study (1915)) has been acclaimed as one of the best critical studies of that poet. He also wrote the definitive work on the English woodcut artists of the 1860s (Illustrators of the Sixties (1928)); his collection of original illustrations from that time is housed in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

He was a close friend of Walter de la Mare, whom he first met in 1913, and about whose fiction he published a perceptive book in 1929. Reid was also an influence on novelist Stephen Gilbert, and had good connections to the Bloomsbury Group of writers. Reid was a founding member of the Imperial Art League (later the Artists League of Great Britain). Reid was also a close friend of Arthur Greeves, the artist known to be C. S. Lewis's best friend. Greeves painted several portraits of Reid, now all in the possession of the Royal Belfast Academical Institution.

He published articles in many magazines, including Uladh, The Westminster Review and the Ulster Review, and he reviewed books for the Manchester Guardian. Apostate, an autobiography, was published in 1926, and its sequel, Private Road, was published in 1940. He was a founder member of the Irish Academy of Letters.[8]

Critical standingEdit

Though his books are not necessarily well-known today, he has been labelled 'the first Ulster novelist of European stature', and comparisons have been drawn between his own coming of age novel of Protestant Belfast, Following Darkness (1912), and James Joyce's seminal novel of growing up in Catholic Dublin, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916). Reid's fiction, which often uses submerged narratives to explore male beauty and love, can be placed within the historical context of the emergence of a more explicit expression of homosexuality in English literature in the 20th century.[7]

A "Forrest Reid Collection" is held at the University of Exeter, consisting of first editions of all his works and books about Reid. Many of his original manuscripts are in the archives of the Belfast Central Library. In 2008, Queen's University Belfast catalogued a large collection of Forrest Reid documentary material it had recently acquired, including many letters from E.M. Forster.[9]




  • Apostate (1926)
  • Private Road (1940)

Reissue editionsEdit

Beginning in 2007, Valancourt Books began releasing editions of Reid's works, all containing new introductions by authors and scholars:

  • The Garden God: A Tale of Two Boys (2007), edited with a foreword, introduction and notes by Michael Matthew Kaylor
  • The Tom Barber Trilogy (2011) hardcover two-volume set
  • The Spring Song (2013)
  • Following Darkness (2013)
  • Brian Westby (2013)
  • Denis Bracknel (2014)
  • Pender among the Residents (2014)
  • Uncle Stephen (2014)
  • The Retreat (2015)
  • Young Tom (2015)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Forrest Reid: homepage". Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 25 April 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^,809270,en.pdf
  3. ^ A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland Vol. II, 4th edition, Sir Bernard Burke, 1863, p. 1153, Parr of Parr pedigree
  4. ^ The Green Avenue: The Life and Writings of Forrest Reid, 1875-1947, Brian Taylor, Cambridge University Press, 1980, p. 8
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b c "Guide to Print Collections – Forrest Reid Collection". University of Exeter. Retrieved 5 July 2009. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ "Forrest Reid". Dictionary of Ulster Biography. 1993. Retrieved 5 July 2009. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  9. ^ Detailed listing of Forrest Reid Manuscripts held at Queen's University Belfast Archived 13 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  • Paul Goldman and Brian Taylor, Retrospective Adventures: Forrest Reid, Author and Collector (Scholar Press, 1998)
  • Colin Cruise, "Error & Eros: The Fiction of Forrest Reid", Sex, Nation & Dissent (Cork University Press, 1997)
  • Brian Taylor, The Green Avenue: The Life and Writings of Forrest Reid, (Cambridge University Press, 1980)
  • Russell Burlingham, Forrest Reid: A Portrait & A Study (Faber, 1953)
  • John Wilson Foster, critical readings of Forrest Reid in Forces and Themes in Ulster Fiction (Totowa: Rowman and Littlefield; Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1974), pp. 139–48, 197–211
  • Eamonn Hughes, "Ulster of the Senses", Fortnight #306 (May 1992) – essay about Reid's autobiography

External linksEdit