Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Bernard Sellin and David Lindsay

Of the small number of books ever written on David Lindsay (1876-1945), author of A Voyage to Arcturus (1920), I wrote about the first one in Wormwood no. 36 (Spring 2021), "David Lindsay: The Forging of a Literary Reputation." This covers the multi-authored volume The Strange Genius of David Lindsay (1970), by Colin Wilson, E.H. Visiak and J.B. Pick. 

The next important appraisal of Lindsay came out in 1981, The Life & Works of David Lindsay (Cambridge University Press), by Bernard Sellin, translated from the French by Kenneth Gunnell. This was a reworking of Sellin's thesis at the Sorbonne, David Lindsay (1878 [sic]-1945): sa vie, son oeuvre (1977). I learned of Sellin's book via a review by Humphrey Carpenter in the TLS of 19 June 1981. I was then in regular correspondence with Humphrey, and mentioned my interest in Lindsay in my next letter to him.  By transatlantic return mail, came his review copy of the book (with a short presentation inscription, "Doug-- hope it's of interest! Humphrey"), and I was very grateful. If not the foundation of my forty-plus years of David Lindsay obsession, it was certainly a milestone, a bedrock book with lots of new information on Lindsay's life (and a rare photograph of Lindsay on the dust-wrapper), and an extensive analysis of his writings. In 1981, the book was priced £17.50, which seemed exorbitant, but it quickly went out of print and became a sought-after item in the rare books trade. Finally, in February 2007, a print-on-demand trade paperback facsimile (also priced high at £25.99) was made available.  

I had some contact with Professor Sellin, beginning in 2005, when he had heard about the publication of Lindsay's "A Christmas Play" in my anthology Tales Before Tolkien (2003), and wrote to me asking for details. We swapped books and articles over the next few months. Sadly, I just learned that he passed away in August of this year, so I post this as a small memorial to him for his work on Lindsay. 

Photo from article here.


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