De Selby

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De Selby or de Selby is a fictional character originally invented by Flann O'Brien for his novel The Third Policeman. In this novel the character is known as "de Selby", with the capital D appearing in O'Brien's later The Dalkey Archive. De Selby does not actually appear in the plot of The Third Policeman, but only in references and frequent footnotes, where his unorthodox theories and areas of research are, however tenuously, linked to the plot.[1] De Selby is heavily referenced in footnotes in this book, the longest of which takes up the bottom halves of eight pages and ends on a completely different note from the one on which it began.

De Selby has a host of critical analyzers – the narrator among them – many of whom have highly conflicting opinions of his esoteric thoughts. Although generally held in high regard by these people (many of whom hate each other), he is thought by many to have had regrettable lapses and is even called, by implication, a "nincompoop".

De Selby also appears in O'Brien's The Dalkey Archive, in which he develops a substance ("D.M.P.") capable of extracting all oxygen from an airtight enclosure, of disrupting the sequentiality of time, and of producing fine mature whiskey in a week.[2] De Selby vows to use the substance to destroy the world in the name of God.[2]

"de Selby" and his commentators are frequently cited in the footnotes of Robert Anton Wilson's novel The Widow's Son.[3]

Wilson later included Professor de Selby as the main character in his short story "The Horror on Howth Hill" where de Selby has a conversation with J. R. "Bob" Dobbs.[4]

De Selby's research continued into the 1990s, when he compiled the Index to Roger Scruton's pioneering work of classical scholarship Xanthippic Dialogues.[5]


  1. ^ In one footnote, he attempts to dilute water; in another, he posits that night is caused by the accumulation of "black air".
  2. ^ a b Gonzalez, Alexander (1997). Modern Irish Writers. Westport: Greenwood Press. pp. 292–294. ISBN 0-313-29557-3. 
  3. ^ Wilson, Robert Anton (1985). The Widow's Son. 
  4. ^ Stang, Rev. Ivan, ed. (1990). Three-Fisted Tales of "Bob": Short Stories in the Subgenius Mythos. New York: Fireside. pp. 168–181. ISBN 0-671-67190-1. 
  5. ^ Scruton, Roger (1993). Xanthippic Dialogues.

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