Clifton College, 32 College Rd, Bristol BS8 3JH, Regno Unito
Royal College of Music, Prince Consort Rd, Kensington, London SW7 2BS, Regno Unito
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". Almost as soon as John Borie and Victor Beigel arrived in London in 1907, they resumed their close friendship with Jane Emmet and Wilfrid de Glehn, whose home in Chelsea already had become "a center for the art colony" of painters, composers, and musicians. Though modestly gifted at the easel, Jane Emmet de Glehn excelled as a hostess, and she organized numerous recitals in their drawing room "when John Singer Sargent was present and their close friends Roger Quilter, Leonard Borwick, Gervase Elwes, Percy Grainger, and the singer Susie Metcalfe... all performed." Though overlooked by most published accounts (because their names now lack the cachet of celebrity), Victor Beigel, Dickie Borie, and Emily Sargent were present, too, on such occasions, when the lines distinguishing strictly professional from more intimate personal relations readily were blurred. A gossipy letter from Jane Emmet back to America helps to clarify the social dynamic of this close-knit group. "I was carried off to dinner by Lady Bective," she wrote in June 1907, "it was great fun. Beigel & Dickie and a young Indian Rajah who is studying law and art (very handsome) and the writer Robert Hichens Beigel played divinely after dinner & Dicky was too funny. He has the most perfectly divine combination with Lady Bective who is an old Countess and a great sport. She sits and stares at Dicky's impertinences and says really he must treat her with some respect. She's been used to it." Despite, or possibly because of it, John Borie's irresistible sallies, Alice Maria Bentinck, the Countess of Bective, hired the architect to redecorate her elaborate London residence at 29 Easton Place (one of the few later commissions on record for him). This must have been a very queer evening, indeed: Hichens notoriously had satirized - and exposed - Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas in his 1894 novel The Green Carnation (published anonymously), and many of his later works suggestively would explore the homoerotic subtext of Britain's orientalist fixations in the far reaches of the Empire. Not surprising, then, to find a "very handsome" Indian Rajah among the company.
Hichens was born in Speldhurst in Kent, the eldest son of a clergyman. He was educated at Clifton College, the Royal College of Music and early on had a desire to be a musician. Later in life he would be a music critic on the World, taking the place of George Bernard Shaw. 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. For most of his later life he lived outside England, in Switzerland and the Riviera. Hichens was a homosexual; he never married.
Clifton College, UK
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, but not before helping set the stage for Wilde's public disgrace and downfall.
Hichens was also friends with several other writers, including E. F. Benson and Reggie Turner, as well as the composer Maude Valerie White.
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. Other early fiction includes The Folly of Eustace (1896), a collection of stories including some supernatural; Flames (1897), a story resembling Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde; The Londoners (1898), a satire about decadent London; The Slave (1899), a fantasy about an amazing emerald; 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). "How Love Came to Professor Guildea" was not initially well-received, with Frederic Taber Cooper calling the story "a hideous bit of morbidity" and Edmund Wilson dismissing the story as "trash". 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. Brian Stableford described the story as an "authentic masterpiece of horror fiction", and Jason Colavito called it "possibly one of the greatest stories of its age".
Hichens's Felix (1902), is an early fictional treatment of hypodermic morphine addiction, while The Garden of Allah (1904) sold well internationally, and was made into a film three times.
Hichens published his memoirs in 1947, Yesterday.
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