Robert Hichens (writer)

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Robert Hichens
Hichens in 1912
Hichens in 1912
Born14 November 1864
Speldhurst, Kent, England
Died20 July 1950 (aged 85)
Zurich, Switzerland
OccupationWriter, journalist, music critic
Alma mater

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]


Hichens was born in Speldhurst in Kent, the eldest son of the Rev. Frederick Harrison Hichens, and his wife Abigail Elizabeth Smythe.[3][4] He was educated at Clifton College,[5] the Royal College of Music and early on had a desire to be a musician.[1] Later in life he would become 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;[6] 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satire of Hichens's friends Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas; since the work made clear Wilde was homosexual it was withdrawn from publication in 1895,[1] but not before helping set the stage for Wilde's public disgrace and downfall.[1][6]

Hichens was also friends with several other writers, including E. F. Benson and Reggie Turner,[6] as well as the composer Maude Valérie White.[7]

Hichens in August-September 1895 edition of The Bookman (New York City)

Hichens's 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's 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"[8] and Edmund Wilson dismissing the story as "trash".[8] Later reviews of the story were more positive; J. A. Cuddon called it "outstanding" and compared it with "The Horla" by Guy de Maupassant and "The Beckoning Fair One" by Oliver Onions.[9] Brian Stableford described the story as an "authentic masterpiece of horror fiction",[2] and Jason Colavito called it "possibly one of the greatest stories of its age".[8]

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

Hichens published his memoirs in 1947, Yesterday.

Selected bibliography[edit]


First edition cover of The Call of the Blood (novel) (1906)



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




  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o 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. ^ Gillis, Stacy. "Hichens, Robert Smythe". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/33851. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  4. ^ Foster, Joseph (1888–1892). "Hichens, Frederick Harrison" . Alumni Oxonienses: the Members of the University of Oxford, 1715–1886. Oxford: Parker and Co – via Wikisource.
  5. ^ "Clifton College Register" Muirhead, J.A.O. p84: Bristol; J.W Arrowsmith for Old Cliftonian Society; April, 1948
  6. ^ 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).
  7. ^ "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).
  8. ^ 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 (pp. 307–324). (Reprinted from Cooper's Some English Story Tellers, 1912. pp. 342–375.)
  9. ^ 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

External links[edit]