Robert Wilson Lynd

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Robert Wilson Lynd
Caricature of Robert Lynd, 1928
Caricature of Robert Lynd, 1928
Native nameRobiard Ó Flionn/Roibeard Ua Flionn
Born20 April 1879
Belfast, Ireland
Died6 October 1949(1949-10-06) (aged 70)
Resting placeBelfast City Cemetery
LanguageEnglish, Irish
GenresEssays, poems
Literary movementIrish literary revival
Years active1906-1949
SpouseSylvia Dryhurst
ChildrenMáire and Sigle
RelativesTim Wheeler (grandson)
Robert Lynd Erskine Lowry (grandnephew)

Robert Wilson Lynd (Irish: Roibéard Ó Floinn; 20 April 1879 – 6 October 1949) was an Anglo-Irish writer, editor of poetry, urbane literary essayist and strong Irish nationalist.

Early Life[edit]

He was born in Belfast to Robert John Lynd, a Presbyterian minister, and Sarah Rentoul Lynd, the second of seven children. Lynd's paternal great-grandfather emigrated from Scotland to Ireland.[1]

Lynd was educated at Royal Belfast Academical Institution, studying at Queen's University. His father served a term as Presbyterian Church Moderator but he was just one of a long line of Presbyterian clergy in the family. A 2003 essayist on Lynd recounts that his "maternal grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather had all been Presbyterian clergymen." [1]

Literary career[edit]

He began as a journalist on The Northern Whig in Belfast. He moved to London in 1901, via Manchester, sharing accommodation with his friend the artist Paul Henry. Firstly he wrote drama criticism, for Today, edited by Jerome K. Jerome. He also wrote for the Daily News (later the News Chronicle), being its literary editor 1912-47.[2]

The Lynds were literary hosts, in the group including J. B. Priestley. They were on good terms also with Hugh Walpole. Priestley, Walpole and Sylvia Lynd were founding committee members of the Book Society.[3] Irish guests included James Joyce and James Stephens. On one occasion reported by Victor Gollancz in Reminiscences of Affection, p. 90, Joyce intoned Anna Livia Plurabelle to his own piano accompaniment.[citation needed]

He used the pseudonym Y.Y. (Ys, or wise) in writing for the New Statesman. According to C. H. Rolph's Kingsley (1973), Lynd's weekly essay, which ran from 1913–45, was 'irreplaceable'. In 1941, editor Kingsley Martin decided to alternate it with pieces by James Bridie on Ireland, but the experiment was not at all a success.[citation needed]

Political activism[edit]

Lynd's political views were radicalised by his experience of how Ulster and Home Rule developed in the 1912-1914 period. He was appalled at the threat of the use of violence to deliver Ulster from Home Rule and the later decision to postpone the implementation of the Third Home Rule Bill. He later wrote "Then came August 1914 and England began a war for the freedom of small nations by postponing the freedom of the only small nation in Europe which it was within her power to liberate with the stroke of a pen’.[4]

He became a fluent Irish speaker, and Gaelic League member. As a Sinn Féin activist, he used the name Robiard Ó Flionn/Roibeard Ua Flionn.[5]

Personal life and death[edit]

He married the writer Sylvia Dryhurst on 21 April 1909. They met at Gaelic League meetings in London. Their daughters Máire and Sigle became close friends of Isaiah Berlin. Sigle's son, born in 1941, is artist Tim Wheeler.

In March 1924, Robert and Sylvia moved to what was to be their long-term married home, the elegant Regency house of 5 Keats Grove in the leafy suburb of Hampstead, north-west London. The house had been lived in by various members of Sylvia's (Dryhurst) family.[6]

James Joyce and his wife Nora Barnacle held their wedding lunch at the Lynds’ house after getting married at Hampstead Town Hall on 4 July, 1931. [7]

Lynd died in Hampstead in 1949.[8] He is buried in Belfast City Cemetery.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Wesley McCann (2006). "Robert Lynd Biography (free sample)". Dictionary of Literary Biography. Book Rags. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  2. ^ Profile,; accessed 21 February 2017.
  3. ^ Robert and Sylvia were considered 'powerful' figures of London literary life: Sarah LeFanu, Rose Macaulay (2003), p.153.
  4. ^ Then came August 1914 and England began a war for the freedom of small nations by postponing the freedom of the only small nation in Europe which it was within her power to liberate with the stroke of a pen’.
  5. ^ "Robert Wilson (1879-1949): Journalist and writer". Dictionary of Ulster Biography. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^

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