Stephen Reynolds

(1881—1919) writer

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(1881–1919) was born at Devizes, Wiltshire, son of a landowner with whom he later quarrelled bitterly. He was educated at the College, Devizes, All Saints School, Bloxham, Manchester University (he read chemistry), and the École des Mines, Paris. After leaving the last institution to work on the Weekly Critical Review, he went to Sidmouth, Devon, for a fortnight's holiday, and, instead of returning to Paris, bought a fishing-boat. This was followed by a period in his home town of Devizes, recovering from a nervous breakdown; after this he returned to Sidmouth to live and work as a fisherman, and later as a spokesman for the working-class point of view in politics and fishery affairs. His line was to celebrate the strength of the working-class community and deplore intervention (including elementary education) while trying to give fishermen more power in negotiations with middlemen: ‘Economically, I'm socialistic, and socially I'm high Tory.’ He worked intermittently as a journalist and in early 1909 was very briefly a sub-editor on the English Review, but he detested London. Because of this F. M. Hueffer used to exercise Reynolds's Great Dane in the city. Hueffer called Reynolds's early death ‘the greatest loss that has befallen English literature for many years’. He contributed to Books during Archibald Marshall's editorship, to the Speaker (see The Nation) and to the New Age. The Holy Mountain (1910) is a fantastic tale which portrays a thinly disguised Devizes. This was written before, but published after, A Poor Man's House (1909), a non-fictional account of the home life of his friends the Woolleys, which shot to suprising success on publication: Reynolds became a cult figure, and ‘Elizabeth’ even came down to Sidmouth and went out fishing with him and Bob Woolley. How 'Twas: Short Stories and Small Travels was published in 1912. The edition of his letters by Harold Wright (1923) reveals Reynolds's touchy, sentimental, fanatical character. Reynolds died of Spanish 'flu which became pneumonia, compounded, his friends thought, by overwork as Inspector of Fisheries for the south-western area during the First World War. ‘The only thing I find fault with in Reynolds’, wrote D. H. Lawrence, apropos of Alongshore (1910), ‘is that he swanks his acquaintance with the longshoremen so hugely. He writes “de haut en bas” like any old salt talking to a clerk … except that he's the clerk himself, carefully got up as the salt.’

From The Oxford Companion to Edwardian Fiction in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.

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