Forrest Reid

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Forrest Reid (born 24 June 1875, Belfast, Ireland; d. 4 January 1947, Warrenpoint, County Down, Northern Ireland) was a British novelist, literary critic and translator. He was, along with Hugh Walpole and J.M. Barrie, a leading pre-war British 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.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Belfast, he was the youngest son of a Protestant family of twelve, six of whom survived. His mother, his father's second wife, came from an aristocratic Shropshire family. Although proud of this ancestry, he found the strict Protestant ethics of his immediate family constricting. 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,[1] 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.[1]

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

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

Works and influences[edit]

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); his collection of original illustrations from that time are 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 of Reid's portraits, 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.[2]

Critical standing[edit]

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 (1924). 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.[1]

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. Queen's University Belfast catalogued in 2008 a large collection of Forrest Reid documentary material it had recently acquired including many letters from E.M. Forster.[3]

Fiction[edit]

  • The Kingdom of Twilight (1904).
  • The Garden God – a Tale of Two Boys (1905).
  • The Bracknels – a Family Chronicle (1911), revised as Denis Bracknel (1947).
  • Following Darkness (1912) (An inspiration for James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man).
  • The Gentle Lover – A Comedy of Middle Age (1913).
  • At the Door of the Gate (1915).
  • The Spring Song (1916).
  • A Garden by the Sea (1918). (Stories).
  • Pirates of the Spring (1919).
  • Pender among the Residents (1922).
  • Demophon – a Traveller's Tale (1927).
  • Uncle Stephen (1931).
  • Brian Westby (1934).
  • The Retreat (1936).
  • Peter Waring (1937).
  • Young Tom (1944).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Guide to Print Collections – Forrest Reid Collection". University of Exeter. Retrieved 5 July 2009. 
  2. ^ "Forrest Reid". Dictionary of Ulster Biography (1993). Retrieved 5 July 2009. 
  3. ^ Detailed listing of Forrest Reid Manuscripts held at Queen's University Belfast

Further reading[edit]