At first it may not always be apparent, because the busy preparations of tent and cooking prevent, but with the first pause–after supper usually—it comes and announces itself. And the note of this willow-camp now became unmistakably plain to me; we were interlopers, trespassers; we were not welcomed. The sense of unfamiliarity grew upon me as I stood there watching. We touched the frontier of a region where our presence was resented. For a night’s lodging we might perhaps be tolerated; but for a prolonged and inquisitive stay—No! by all the gods of the trees and wilderness, no! We were the first human influences upon this island, and we were not wanted. The willows were against us.
Algernon Henry Blackwood (1869–1951) in his rich and varied lifetime was an English broadcasting narrator, Canadian farmer, New York newspaper reporter, hotel operator, journalist, bartender, secretary, mystic, teacher, adventurer, novelist, and short-story writer, and among the most prolific ghost story writers in the history of the genre. The son of a preacher, Blackwood rebelled against his strong Catholic upbringing and had a life-long interest in the supernatural, spiritualism, and the occult, later joining several occult societies. He was an avid lover of nature and the outdoors, which many of his stories reflect, especially two of his best-known works “The Willows,” in which two friends on a canoe trip become temporarily marooned on a river island only to discover the willow trees are not what they seem, and “The Wendigo,” where a Canadian hunting party encounters the mythical beast of legend – stories that led H.P. Lovecraft to praise Blackwood as “the one absolute and unquestioned master of weird atmosphere.”
“. . . some of the finest spectral literature of this or any age."
Additionally, we have added our customary footnotes where we felt they were needed. “The Willows” is a bit front-heavy with notes as Blackwood establishes geography, but they quickly thin out as the story progresses.
As a Foreword, we have included Grace Isabel Colbron’s 1915 essay Algernon Blackwood: An Appreciation, which we believe helps place his work into the proper context and perspective, especially if you are a first-time reader of Blackwood’s work. Work we believe feels surprisingly modern given that it’s over a century old! That said, has anyone else noticed that most authors that were members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (Blackwood, Conan Doyle, Machen, Rohmer, Stoker, Yeats, et al.) all wielded the English language in such a way that it feels fresh and modern no matter what decade — or century — it’s read? Weird, indeed.
“The suspense of ‘The Willows’ is hard to match anywhere.” —E.F. Bleiler
“To many, including H.P. Lovecraft, ‘The Willows’ is the finest story in the canon of supernatural fiction. Blackwood himself is, arguably, the central figure in the British supernatural literature of the twentieth century.” —Michael Dirda, New York Review of Books
“Blackwood is incomparable, and if I were asked to name the most terrifying ghost story ever written my answer would be ‘The Wendigo.’” —L.T.C. Rolt
“Mr. Blackwood writes with a master’s art.” —The New York Times
“Algernon Blackwood has been little advertised, except by readers who have come under the spell of his unique literary personality. For sheer naked concentrated horror, unexplained and unexplainable, such tales as ‘The Wendigo’ and ‘The Willows’ may be said to lead among the stories of the supernatural.” —Grace Isabel Colbron, Algernon Blackwood: An Appreciation
“One of the most original writers in the line that descends from Edgar Allen Poe.” —Time
“. . . some of the finest spectral literature of this or any age. Of the quality of Mr. Blackwood’s genius there can be no dispute . . . he is the one absolute and unquestioned master of weird atmosphere. Foremost of all must be reckoned ‘The Willows.’ Here art and restraint in narrative reach their very highest development, and an impression of lasting poignancy is produced without a single strained passage or a single false note. Another amazingly potent tale is ‘The Wendigo’ . . . a marked triumph in craftsmanship.” —H.P. Lovecraft
Published: May 1, 2021
Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.38 inches
Weight: 7.2 ounces
Cover: Matte Finish
Interior: Black & White on Cream Paper
Pages: 152 (+2 POD)
Annotations: 45 Footnotes
May 1, 2021