Algernon Blackwood

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Algernon Blackwood

Algernon Henry Blackwood, CBE (March 14, 1869 – December 10, 1951) was an English short story writer and novelist, one of the most prolific writers of ghost stories in the history of the genre. He was also a journalist and a broadcasting narrator.

Personal life

Algernon Blackwood was born on March 14, 1869 southeast of London in Kent. His father was a Post Office administrator. Algernon was educated at Wellington College. He engaged in a wide variety of occupations in addition to his writing. While in Canada, he worked as a dairy farmer and operated a hotel. In New York City he was a newspaper reporter, a bartender, a model, a private secretary, and violin teacher. After returning to England in his late thirties, he achieved success as a writer, specializing in tales of the supernatural.

He died on December 10, 1951 after several strokes.

Theosophical involvement

On February 2, 1891, at age 21, Algernon Blackwood applied to become a member of the Theosophical Society in Toronto. His sponsors were Dr. Emily H. Stowe and Mrs. E. Day MacPherson. The date of his diploma, issued from New York, was February 17, 1891[1]. However, Ted G. Davy writes:

It is probable, however, that Blackwood had already made contact with the Theosophical Society, or at least one or more of its members, either in England or when he was studying in Edinburgh. Certainly he was already aware of H. P. Blavatsky's magazine Lucifer, in which three of his articles were published, one of them appearing prior to his becoming a member of the Society. Neither these articles, nor those written in Toronto for the Methodist Monthly, give much hint as to his potential as a much published writer. Nor were they to the literary standard of most of the writings published in Lucifer while Blavatsky was editor. Nevertheless, they do reveal something of his character and temperament. "Thoughts on Nature," for instance, evokes his strong attachment to the outdoors. "Notes on Theosophy," signed "Du Bois-noir", shows the influence of his Theosophical reading, including Franz Hartmann's Magic Black and White, which is liberally quoted. Lastly, "From a Theosophist's Diary" hints at the soul-searching he must have been undergoing at the time. The "diary" includes entries datelined Niagara Falls and Cobourg, Ontario.[2]
Soon after he joined the Toronto Theosophical Society, and Blackwood's is one of the five names on the Charter of this organization. The document, dated February 25, 1891, was one of the last Charters to be signed by H. P. Blavatsky before her death. Blackwood became the first Secretary of the Lodge. His attendance, however, was not very consistent, and in September 1892 he left the city for New York, becoming a member-at-large. While in New York he was seriously ill and unemployed, but managed to attended some meetings of the Aryan Theosophical Society.[3]

In 1899 Blackwood returned to England, and in May he was admitted to the London Lodge of the T.S. It is not known how long he remained a member.

In 1930, a member of the Toronto Theosophical Society wrote to Blackwood requesting a signed photograph to be hung in the Lodge rooms. He complied with the request and dedicated it: "With happy memories of 1890-1 when the T.S. Lodge was founded."[4]

Writings

Blackwood was a very prolific writer. The Union Index of Theosophical Periodicals lists 41 articles by or about Blackwood, including numerous book reviews by W. H. Chesson in The Occult Review.

A very complete listing of Blackwood's novels and weird tales is available in Wikipedia.

Other resources

Biographies and bibliographies

  • Ashley, Mike. Algernon Blackwood: A Bio-Bibliography. New York/ London: Greenwood Press, 1987. xx + 349 pp. This volume is mostly bibliography, but has an excellent short sketch of Blackwood's life.
  • Blackwood, Algernoon. Episodes Before Thirty. Autobiographical stories.

Articles

Notes

  1. Theosophical Society General Membership Register, 1875-1942 at http://tsmembers.org/. See book 1, entry 6550 (website file: 1C/15).
  2. Ted G. Davy, "Algernon Blackwood's Brief 'Episode' in the T.S.", The Canadian Theosophist 72:4 (Sept.-Oct., 1991), 75.
  3. Ted G. Davy, "Algernon Blackwood's Brief 'Episode' in the T.S.", The Canadian Theosophist 72:4 (Sept.-Oct., 1991), 77.
  4. Ted G. Davy, "Algernon Blackwood's Brief 'Episode' in the T.S.", The Canadian Theosophist 72:4 (Sept.-Oct., 1991), 78.