E. H. Visiak

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Edward Harold Physick (20 July 1878 – 30 August 1972) was an English writer, known chiefly as a critic and authority on John Milton; also a poet and fantasy writer.[1] He used the pseudonym E. H. Visiak from 1910.

Life[edit]

He was born in Ealing, London. Both his father, Edward James Physick (the younger), and his grandfather, Edward James Physick (the elder), were sculptors. His maternal uncle was W. H. Helm, writer and critic.

He went to Hitchin Grammar School (now Hitchin Boys School), and became a clerk with the Indo-European Telegraph Company. He contributed poetry to The New Age and Dora Marsden's Freewoman.

During World War I the poetry he wrote, in opposition to it, cost him his job. When conscription was introduced, he became a conscientious objector. After a short time teaching he became an independent scholar, living very quietly. During the 1930s he collaborated on some short stories, with John Gawsworth in particular.

A friend and enthusiast of the Scottish novelist David Lindsay, Visiak wrote three short macabre novels, The Haunted Island, Medusa and The Shadow, and the autobiography Life's Morning Hour. He provided an introuctory note for Lindsay's novel A Voyage to Arcturus.

The Haunted Island (1st edition Elkin Mathews, 1910; reprint Peter Lund, 1946) features the adventures of Francis and Dick Clayton in the seventeenth century, who sail a seized ship to one of the Juan Fernandez Islands. They there fall into the hands of pirates, meet a ghost, and a wizard who rules over a colony of slaves. Ultimately they find a treasure.

The Shadow was not published separately but was incorporated in John Gawsworth's anthology Crimes, Creeps and Thrills (1936) (which also included Visiak's story "Medusan Madness").

Much of Visiak's supernatural work bears similarities to that of William Hope Hodgson since both writers were fascinated by the lure and power of the sea, which forms the focus of the majority of their literary work.

Critical reception[edit]

His novel Medusa: A Story of Mystery (1929) became popular in the 1960s. Mike Ashley describes Medusa as Visiak's "premier achievement".[1] Medusa was also included by horror historian Robert S. Hadji in his list of "unjustedly neglected" horror novels.[2] An essay on the novel by Karl Edward Wagner appears in the anthology Horror: 100 Best Books (1988; revised edition 1992). China Miéville has also expressed admiration for Visiak's work.[3]

Works[edit]

Poetry[edit]

  • Buccaneer Ballads (1910)
  • Flints and Flashes (1911)
  • The Phantom Ship (1912)
  • The Battle Fiends (1916)

Novels[edit]

  • The Haunted Island (1910)
  • Medusa: A Story of Mystery (1929)
  • The Shadow (1936)

Literary criticism[edit]

  • Milton Agonistes: a metaphysical criticism (1923)
  • Mirror of Conrad (1956)
  • The Portent of Milton: Some Aspects of His Genius (1958)
  • The Strange Genius of David Lindsay (1970; with J. B. Pick and Colin Wilson)

As editor[edit]

  • The Mask of Comus (1937)
  • Milton's Lament for Damon and his other Latin poems (1935; with Walter W. Skeat)
  • Richards' Shilling Selections from Edwardian Poets (1936)
  • Milton: Complete Poetry and Selected Prose, with English Metrical Translations of the Latin, Greek and Italian Poems (1938)

Autobiography[edit]

  • Life's Morning Hour (1969)

Critical study/anthology[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Visiak, E(dward) H(arold)," Mike Ashley in David Pringle, St. James guide to Horror, Ghost & Gothic Writers. London : St. James Press, 1998, ISBN 1558622063 (pp. 611-12).
  2. ^ R.S. Hadji, "13 Neglected Masterpieces of the Macabre", in Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine, July–August 1983. TZ Publications, Inc. (p. 62)[1]
  3. ^ "I like people like E. H. Visiak..." China Miéville profile in David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, Year's Best Fantasy 3. New York, Harpercollins/Eos, ISBN 978-0-06-052180-6. (p. 339)

External links[edit]