J.D. Beresford

By: Joshua Glenn
March 17, 2013


The tension, in much Radium Age science fiction, between scientific certainty and cosmic awe is a critical one; few juggled this binary opposition more compellingly than British author J.D. BERESFORD (1873–1947). In 1911’s The Hampdenshire Wonder, for example, the birth of a “supernormal” child — the titular Wonder — can be chalked up to his parents’ fervent desire to have a son born without habits. “Entirely alone among aliens [i.e., adults] who were unable to comprehend him… whose opinions were valueless to him,” the young mutant reads his way through a library and then pronounces his kosmische judgment on the sum total of human knowledge: “So elementary… inchoate… a disjunctive… patchwork.” Had the Wonder lived to adulthood (he is murdered), perhaps he might have turned out like Jasper Thrale, a key character in Beresford’s other terrific sf novel, Goslings (1913), in which a plague wipes out nearly every male in England, leaving women — who’ve never been permitted to learn self-sufficiency — to struggle. Thrale explains the plague like so: “Do you realize how some outside control has always diverted man’s progress; how when nations have tended to crystallize into specialized government, some irruption from outside has always broken it up?” Miracles, it appears, will never cease.


NOTE that HILOBROW is currently serializing J.D. Beresford’s Goslings; in June 2013 HiLoBooks will reissue this title in the form of a gorgeous paperback, with a new Introduction by Astra Taylor.

MORE RADIUM AGE SCI FI ON HILOBROW: HiLoBooks homepage! | What is Radium Age science fiction? |Radium Age 100: 100 Best Science Fiction Novels from 1904–33 | Radium Age Supermen | Radium Age Robots | Radium Age Apocalypses | Radium Age Telepaths | Radium Age Eco-Catastrophes | Radium Age Cover Art (1) | SF’s Best Year Ever: 1912 | Radium Age Science Fiction Poetry | Enter Highbrowism | Bathybius! Primordial ooze in Radium Age sf | War and Peace Games (H.G. Wells’s training manuals for supermen) | Radium Age: Context series | J.D. Beresford | Algernon Blackwood | Edgar Rice Burroughs | Karel Čapek | Buster Crabbe | August Derleth | Arthur Conan Doyle | Hugo Gernsback | Charlotte Perkins Gilman | Cicely Hamilton | Hermann Hesse | William Hope Hodgson | Aldous Huxley | Inez Haynes Irwin | Alfred Jarry | Jack Kirby (Radium Age sf’s influence on) | Murray Leinster | Gustave Le Rouge | Gaston Leroux | David Lindsay | Jack London | H.P. Lovecraft | A. Merritt | Maureen O’Sullivan | Sax Rohmer | Paul Scheerbart | Upton Sinclair | Clark Ashton Smith | E.E. “Doc” Smith | Olaf Stapledon | John Taine | H.G. Wells | Jack Williamson | Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz | S. Fowler Wright | Philip Gordon Wylie | Yevgeny Zamyatin

On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Bayard Rustin, Alexander McQueen.

READ MORE about men and women born on the cusp between the Anarcho-Symbolist (1864–73) and Psychonaut (1874–1883) Generations.