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Robert Lynd

Both A Voyage to Arcturus and The Haunted Woman were helped towards publication by Robert Lynd. It was Lynd who, as a Reader for Methuen, recommended Arcturus; and it was Lynd who serialised The Haunted Woman in The Daily News when it had been rejected by Methuen. (Also, of course, it was Lynd who had Lindsay cut 20,000 words from The Haunted Woman, but his serialisation of the novel led to it being published in book-form.)

Lynd was born in North Belfast on 20th April 1879. An Irish Nationalist all his life (also a member of Sinn Fein, and an avowed Socialist), Lynd neverthless spent most of his life in England. After a short stint working for The Northern Whig, he left Belfast for Manchester in 1901, to work for The Daily Dispatch, then moved to London and in 1908 become assistant literary editor of The Daily News. He was promoted to literary editor in 1912, a post he held till 1947. He died, after having been hit by a motorbike, in October 1949.

Lynd's main output was in the form of the literary essay, publishing regularly in The Daily News, The New Statesman (under the pen-name "Y. Y.", pronounced "wise"), The News Chronicle and John O'London's Weekly. Many of his books are collections of his literary essays, including Irish and English (1908), Home Life in Ireland (1909), Rambles in Ireland (1912), and If the Germans Conquered England (1917). He wrote a lot on literary topics, as collected in Old and New Masters (1919), on such greats as Austen, Dostoevsky, Henry James, Keats, Kipling and Wordsworth; The Art of Letters (1920), looking at Coleridge, Shelley, and Tennyson, among others; and Books and Authors (1922) on Hans Christian Andersen, Beerbohm, Bennett, Byron, Hugo, and Vachel Lindsay. One of the books he is most remembered for is the Anthology of Modern Poetry (1939), published through Methuen.

Looking through Lynd's literary essays, it's hard to find evidence for what drew him to David Lindsay's work. Writing of Dostoevsky, for instance, he says: "One does not grudge an artist an abnormal character or two. Dostoevsky, however, has created a whole flock of these abnormal characters and watches over them as a hen over her chickens." (Old and New Masters). David Lindsay, of course, created not a flock of abnormal characters, but a world-full. And with Bunyan, the closest to a fantasy writer Lynd considers, he feels the need to justify the use of imagination with a tempering realism: "If he wrote the greatest allegory in English literature, it is because he was able to give his narrative the reality of a travel-book instead of the insubstantial quality of a dream." (The Art of Letters). Whereas Arcturus is more a dream than it ever is a "travel-book". Perhaps, though, it was Lynd's attitude to literature in general, as put forward in his essay, "Book Reviewing" (The Art of Letters), where he says that it is a reviewer's job to assess a book on its intrinsic qualities, not because it fails to be an example of the reviewer's favourite kind of book: "a review should be, from one point of view, a portrait of a book. It should present the book instead of merely presenting remarks about the book... One has to get the reflexion of the book, and not a mere comment on it, down on paper." In other words, Lynd was prepared to be receptive to what he read, rather than prejudicial, which is certainly something Arcturus suffered from once it was released (in, for instance, knee-jerk comparisons to "Poe in his most grisly vein" (The Times Literary Supplement, 30th September, 1920)). Or perhaps it was simply that Lynd appreciated the satire of Arcturus's opening chapter, set in fashionable Hampstead, where Lynd himself lived.

 

Robert Lynd at Wikipedia.

Robert Lynd's works at Project Gutenberg.

© Murray Ewing 2017