Robert Smythe Hichens

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Robert Hichens 1912

Robert Hichens (Robert Smythe Hichens, 14 November 1864 – 20 July 1950) was an English journalist, novelist, music lyricist, short story writer, music critic and collaborated on successful plays. He is best remembered as a satirist of the "Naughty Nineties".[1][2]

Biography[edit]

Hichens was born in Speldhurst in Kent, the eldest son of a clergyman.[1] He was educated at Clifton College, the Royal College of Music and early on had a desire to be a musician.[1] Later in life he would be a music critic on the World, taking the place of George Bernard Shaw.[1] He studied at the London School of Journalism. Hichens was a great traveller. Egypt was one of his favourite destinations – he first went there in the early 1890s for his health.[1] For most of his later life he lived outside England, in Switzerland and the Riviera.[1] Hichens was a homosexual;[3] he never married.[1]

Hichens first novel, The Coastguard's Secret (1886), was written when he was only seventeen. He first became well known among the reading public with The Green Carnation (1894), a satire of Hichens' friends Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas; since the work made clear Wilde was homosexual it was withdrawn from publication in 1895,[1] but not before helping set the stage for Wilde's public disgrace and downfall.[1][3]

Hichens was also friends with several other writers, including E. F. Benson and Reggie Turner,[3] as well as the composer Maude Valerie White.[4]

Hichens' first big success was An Imaginative Man (1895); set in the city of Cairo, Egypt a place which fascinated Hichens, it is a study of insanity, in which the hero has a number of sexual adventures and then smashes his head against the Great Sphinx.[1] Other early fiction includes The Folly of Eustace (1896), a collection of stories including some supernatural;[1] Flames (1897), a story resembling Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde;[1] The Londoners (1898), a satire about decadent London;[1] The Slave (1899), a fantasy about an amazing emerald;[1] Tongues of Conscience (1900), a collection of five horror stories including "How Love Came to Professor Guildea" (this story is about a supernatural visitation and is thought by some to be Hichens' best fiction – it is frequently anthologised).[1][2] "How Love Came to Professor Guildea" was not initially well-received, with Frederic Taber Cooper calling the story "a hideous bit of morbidity"[5] and Edmund Wilson dismissing the story as "trash".[5] Later reviews of the story were more positive; J. A. Cuddon called "How Love Came to Professor Guildea" "outstanding" and compared it with "The Horla" by Guy de Maupassant and "The Beckoning Fair One" by Oliver Onions.[6] Brian Stableford described the story as an "authentic masterpiece of horror fiction",[2] and Jason Colavito calling "How Love Came to Professor Guildea" "possibly one of the greatest stories of its age".[5]

Hichens' Felix (1902), is an early fictional treatment of hypodermic morphine addiction, while the The Garden of Allah (1904) sold well internationally,[1] and was made into films three times.

Hichens published his memoirs in 1947, Yesterday.

Bibliography[edit]

Novels

  • The Coast Guard's Secret (1886)
  • The Green Carnation (published anonymously, 1894; republished, 2009)
  • An Imaginative Man (1895)
  • Flames (1897)
  • The Londoners (1898)
  • The Slave (1899)
  • The Prophet of Berkeley Square (1901)
  • Felix (1902)
  • Black Spaniel, and Other Stories (1905)
  • The Garden of Allah (1904), elaborately presented as a play in New York City and filmed thrice, in 1916, 1927 (with Alice Terry) and 1936 (one of the earliest 3-strip Technicolor features, with Marlene Dietrich and Charles Boyer)
  • Call of the Blood (1905)
  • Barbary Sheep (1907)
  • Bella Donna (1909), in which Alla Nazimova starred on Broadway in 1912, filmed in 1915 and in 1923
  • The Spell of Egypt (1911)
  • The Dweller on the Threshold (1911)
  • The Way of Ambition (1913)
  • In the Wilderness (1917)
  • Snake-Bite (1919)
  • Mrs. Marden (1919)
  • Spirit of the Time (1921)
  • December Love (1922)
  • The Last Time (1924)
  • After The Verdict (1924)
  • The First Lady Brendon (1927)
  • Mortimer Brice (1932)
  • The Paradine Case (1933) – Film version directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1947
  • The Power To Kill (1934)
  • The Pyramid (1936)
  • The Sixth of October (1936)
  • Daniel Airlie (1937)
  • Secret Information (1938)
  • The Journey Up (1938)
  • That Which Is Hidden (1939)
  • The Million (1940)
  • A New Way of Life (1941)
  • Veils (1943)
  • Harps in the Wind (1945)

Collections

  • The Folly of Eustace: And Other Stories (1896)
  • Bye-Ways (1897)
  • Tongues of Conscience (1898, 1900)
  • The Black Spaniel: And Other Stories (1905)
  • Snake-Bite: And Other Stories (1919)
  • The Return of the Soul and Other Stories (2001; ed. S. T. Joshi)

Nonfiction

  • Yesterday (1947)

Anthologies containing stories by Hichens

  • Great Short Stories of Detection, Mystery and Horror 1st Series (1928)
  • Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1957)
  • The 2nd Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories (1966)
  • Medley Macabre (1966)
  • Black Water (1984)
  • I Shudder at Your Touch (1992)
  • 4 Classic Ghostly Tales (1993)

Short stories

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p John Sutherland. "HICHENS, Robert" in The Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction. 1989
  2. ^ a b c Brian Stableford, "Hichens, Robert (Smythe)" in David Pringle, ed. St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost and Gothic writers. Detroit, MI: St. James Press, 1998, ISBN 1-55862-206-3 (pp. 268-70).
  3. ^ a b c "Like Douglas and Turner, Hichens was sexually attracted to men". Dennis Denisoff, Aestheticism and Sexual Parody 1840-1940.Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2006 ISBN 0521024897, (p. 115).
  4. ^ "White also had friends with several gay men including... the novelist Robert Hichens, whom she met in the late 1890s". Sophie Fuller and Lloyd Whitesell, Queer Episodes in Music and Modern Identity. University of Illinois Press, 2002 ISBN 025202740X, (p. 90).
  5. ^ a b c "Frederic T. Cooper", "Robert Hichens",in: Colavito, Jason, 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 (p. 307-324). (Reprinted from Cooper's Some English Story Tellers, 1912. p. 342-375.)
  6. ^ J. A. Cuddon, The Penguin Book of Horror Stories. London, Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-1-870630-94-8 (p. 44)

Additional sources

  • "Robert S. Hichens". Dictionary of Literary Biography. Volume 153: Late-Victorian and Edwardian British Novelists. First Series. Detroit: Gale Research, 1995.
  • Author and Book Info.com

External links[edit]