Richard Barham Middleton

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Richard Barham Middleton ca. 1909

Richard Barham Middleton (28 October 1882 – 1 December 1911) was an English poet and author, who is remembered mostly for his short ghost stories, in particular The Ghost Ship.[1]


After education at Cranbrook School, Kent, he worked in London for the Royal Exchange Assurance Corporation bank, as a clerk, from 1901 to 1907. Unhappy in this, he affected a Bohemian life at night; he is mentioned, in disguised terms, in Arthur Ransome's Bohemia in London. He moved out of his parents' house and into rooms in Blackfriars and joined the club The New Bohemians where he acquired literary contacts who included Arthur Machen, Louis McQuilland (1880-1946), Christopher Wilson and others.

He became an editor at Vanity Fair under Edgar Jepson where he confided to Frank Harris, who was also editing at the magazine at the time, that what he would really wanted to do was make a living as a poet. Shortly thereafter, Harris published Middleton's poem "The Bathing Boy".[2]

I saw him standing idly on the brim
Of the quick river, in his beauty clad,
So fair he was that Nature looked at him
And touched him with her sunbeams here and there
So that his cool flesh sparkled, and his hair
Blazed like a crown above the naked lad.

And so I wept; I have seen lovely things,
Maidens and stars and roses all a-nod
In moonlit seas, but Love without his wings
Set in the azure of an August sky,
Was all too fair for my mortality,
And so I wept to see the little god.

Till with a sudden grace of silver skin
And golden lock he dived, his song of joy
Broke with the bubbles as he bore them in;
And lo, the fear of night was on that place,
Till decked with new-found gems and flushed of face
He rose again, a laughing, choking boy.

His work was also published by Austin Harrison in The English Review and he wrote book reviews for The Academy.[3]

Middleton suffered from severe depression, called melancholia at the time. He spent the last nine months of his life in Brussels. There, in December 1911, he took his life by poisoning himself with chloroform which had been prescribed as a remedy for his condition.[4] His reputation was kept alive by Edgar Jepson and Arthur Machen (who wrote an introduction to Middleton's collection, The Ghost Ship[5]) and then later by John Gawsworth. His stories have appeared in many anthologies.

An encounter with the young Raymond Chandler is said to have influenced the latter into postponing his career as writer.[6]


  • Poems and Songs (1912)
  • Poems and Songs Second Series (1912)
  • The Day Before Yesterday (1912) essays
  • The Ghost Ship: And Other Stories (1912)
  • Monologues (1913)
  • Queen Melanie And the Woodboy (1931) novel
  • The Pantomime Man (1933) stories
  • Richard Middleton (1937), Richards Press – poems


  1. ^ Darrell Schweitzer, Richard Middleton: Beauty, Sadness, and Terror. in: Schweitzer, Darrell, ed. Discovering Classic Horror Fiction I. Mercer Island, WA: Starmont, 1992.ISBN 1-55742-084-X (pp.34-40).
  2. ^ Frank Harris (1915) Contemporary Portraits, Mitchell Kennerley, New York.
  3. ^ Henry Savage (1922) Richard Middleton: The Man And His Work, Cecil Palmer, London.
  4. ^ Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, ©1995 Gale Cengage
  5. ^ Mark Valentine, Arthur Machen. Seren, 1995. ISBN 185411123X, (p. 79).
  6. ^ Raymond Chandler: Raymond Chandler Speaking, Dorothy Gardiner, Kathrine Sorley Walker (Ed.), p. 24, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1962, ISBN 978-0-520-20835-3.


  • Richard Middleton's Letters to Henry Savage (1929, Mandrake Press) edited by Henry Savage
  • Henry Savage; Richard Middleton: The Man And His Work (1922, London: Cecil Palmer)

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