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Friday, June 25, 2010
Forrest Reid was a novelist, literary critic and translator. He was, along with Hugh Walpole and J M Barrie, a leading pre-war British novelist of boyhood. He is still acclaimed as the greatest of Ulster novelists.
Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Reid entered Christ's College Cambridge in 1905, and was influenced there by the novelist E M Forster. After graduation Forster continued to visit Reid, who was then settled back in Belfast, and the remained lifelong friends. In 1952 Forster travelled to Belfast to unveil a plaque commemorating Forrest Reid's life (at 13 Ormiston Crescent).
As well as his fiction, Reid also translated poems from the Greek Anthology (Greek Authors (Faber, 1943)). His study of the work of W B Yeats (W B Yeats: A Critical Study (1915)) has been acclaimed as one of the best critical studies of that poet. He also wrote the definitive work on the English woodcut artists of the 1860s; his collection of original illustrations from that time are housed in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
He was a close friend of Walter de la Mare, whom he first met in 1913, and about whose fiction he published a perceptive book in 1929. Reid was also an influence on novelist Stephen Gilbert, and had good connections to the Bloomsbury Group of writers. Reid was a founding member of the Imperial Art League (later the Artists' League of Great Britain).
A 'Forrest Reid Collection' is held at the University of Exeter, England; consisting of first editions of all his works and books about Reid. Many of his original manuscripts are in the archives of the Belfast Central Library.