(1864-1950) UK writer, prolific for half a century but now almost forgotten except for The Green Carnation (1894) and The Garden of Allah (1904), neither fantasy though both written in a style so heated, and so confused about the loathsome allure of Sex, that they seem infused with the supernatural. Most of his work of interest is Supernatural Fiction, with explicit reference to Occultism, and most of it concentrates on various forms of psychic Bondage – through Haunting, or transfers of malign influence between Doubles, or other transactions of the Spirit. Relevant fiction appears in various collections, including: The Folly of Eustace (coll 1896); Bye-Ways (coll 1897), which includes "A Tribute of Souls" about a Pact with the Devil; Tongues of Conscience (coll 1900), containing stories in which intolerable guilt tends to accompany imprecisely described sins, as well as RH's best single tale, "How Love Came to Professor Guildea", about the fatal attraction of a dimwitted lovesick spirit for the eponymous scientist; The Black Spaniel (coll 1905), the title story being a typical turn-of-the-century vivisection tale, in which a guilty doctor's spirit descends into a dog, which is duly tortured; Snake-Bite (coll 1919); The Last Time (coll 1923); The Gardenia (coll 1934); and The Man in the Mirror (coll 1950).
Throughout his work RH tends to punish any love relationship between man and woman, but abhors any hint of homosexual love. Both his supernatural novels – Flames: A London Phantasy (1897) and The Dweller on the Threshold (1911) – depict the malign consequences of intensifying male relationships through spiritual means. The Doubles so created – in the latter book, so intimate is the intermingling that the two victims almost seem to become involved in a full Identity Exchange – are against nature, and the sadism of the resulting interactions seems unmistakably sexual, though deeply coded (see also Debasement). Most vividly, perhaps, in the "Parable of the Footprints" – which constitutes the narrative heart of The Dweller on the Threshold – RH's work is haunted by a horror of exposure. [JC]
other works: The Daughters of Babylon (1899) with Wilson Barrett, historical novel with fantasy elements; The Prophet of Berkeley Square (1901), romance dealing mundanely with Astrology.
Robert Smythe Hichens