Literary Notes


The Candid Friend, 13 July 1901, page 445. [Unsigned]



            The most mysterious of British authors, M. P. Shiel, is fast becoming the central figure of a cycle of legends.  It is said that his birthplace has never been  been revealed to mortal man — I do not know about mortal woman: he is married to a Spanish lady — and his race is as great a mystery as his birthplace.  His friends are agreed that he is a blend of two or three of the great races, but they differ utterly as to which two or three of the great races culminate in him.  He is a man of disappearances.  He will have left his chambers for months, and is believed to be in Ecuador or Teheran, when, at five o’clock on a summer’s morning, his neighbors are roused by a furious knocking, and a pale and flurried man is crying at their doors, “I’ve brought Mr. Shiel’s horse!  I’ve brought Mr. Shiel’s horse!”  Or he has been lost for a year, and a friend, meeting a dusky brood of gipsies on the Great North Road, is driven by a sudden and inexplicable impulse to say to them, “Can you tell me M. P. Shiel’s address?”  And the swarthy crew cry, in one sing-song, “The Paradise, Brondesbury,” or “49, the Chiltern Hundred.”

            His books are in keeping with this man of legend.  He is a genuine stylist in that his writing is the expression of a personality.  Sometimes he writes with extraordinary power, almost with the violence of an inspired madman, and the roaring phrase jostle the violent image: sometimes he writes with a horrible  crudity.  His imagination is chiefly busied with great happenings that change the destiny of the human race, and shake the world.  In “The Lord of the Sea” (Grant Richards), his hero, Richard Hogarth, really Raphael Spinoza, is a young English farmer who realizes, actually realizes as an inspired enthusiast, that the land is the common property of mankind as is the air or sea.  Persecuted by a wealthy Jew, he is wrongfully convicted of murder, and condemned to prison for life.  He makes one of the most ingenious escapes in all fiction from prison; becomes the possessor of immense wealth; and sets about forcing his land theory on the world by making himself lord of the sea. You can revel in breathless excitement from beginning to end of this rushing book. There is in it a wealth of plot, and an almost luxuriance of incident: Mr. Shiel literally flings his panting reader from astounding event to astounding event, shaving impossibility with a most dexterous skill.  Yet, for all its extravagance, the book gives one to think; and Mr. Shiel’s amazing madmen are persons of the most ingenious invention.  


[Note: According to John D. Squires, this is the only contemporary public comment on Shiel’s racial heritage – AG.]



Return to M. P. Shiel at Selected Authors of Supernatural Fiction