Robert W. Chambers

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Robert William Chambers
Robert William Chambers.jpg
Born(1865-05-26)May 26, 1865
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
DiedDecember 16, 1933(1933-12-16) (aged 68)
New York City, New York, U.S.
OccupationNovel & short story author
GenresHorror, Fantasy, Science fiction, Romance, Historical fiction, Art Nouveau

Signature
 
Jump to: navigation, search
Robert William Chambers
Robert William Chambers.jpg
Born(1865-05-26)May 26, 1865
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
DiedDecember 16, 1933(1933-12-16) (aged 68)
New York City, New York, U.S.
OccupationNovel & short story author
GenresHorror, Fantasy, Science fiction, Romance, Historical fiction, Art Nouveau

Signature

Robert William Chambers (May 26, 1865 – December 16, 1933) was an American artist and writer.

Biography[edit]

He was born in Brooklyn, New York, to William P. Chambers (1827–1911), a famous lawyer, and Caroline (Boughton) Chambers, a direct descendant of Roger Williams, the founder of Providence, Rhode Island. Robert's brother was Walter Boughton Chambers, the world famous architect.

Robert was first educated at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, and then entered the Art Students' League at around the age of twenty, where the artist Charles Dana Gibson was his fellow student. Chambers studied at the École des Beaux-Arts, and at Académie Julian, in Paris from 1886 to 1893, and his work was displayed at the Salon as early as 1889. On his return to New York, he succeeded in selling his illustrations to Life, Truth, and Vogue magazines. Then, for reasons unclear, he devoted his time to writing, producing his first novel, In the Quarter (written in 1887 in Munich). His most famous, and perhaps most meritorious, effort is The King in Yellow, a collection of Art Nouveau short stories published in 1895. This included several famous weird short stories which are connected by the theme of a fictitious drama, The King in Yellow, which drives those who read it insane.[1] E. F. Bleiler described The King in Yellow as one of the most important works of American supernatural fiction.[2] It was also strongly admired by H.P. Lovecraft and his circle.

Chambers returned to the weird genre in his later short story collections The Maker of Moons, The Mystery of Choice and The Tree of Heaven, but none earned him as much success as The King in Yellow. Some of Chambers's work contains elements of science fiction, such as In Search of the Unknown and Police!!!, about a zoologist who encounters monsters.[3]

Chambers later turned to writing romantic fiction to earn a living. According to some estimates, Chambers had one of the most successful literary careers of his period, his later novels selling well and a handful achieving best-seller status. Many of his works were also serialized in magazines.

During World War I he wrote war adventure novels, and war stories. Some of these showed a strong return to his old weird style, such as "Marooned" in Barbarians (1917). After 1924 he devoted himself solely to writing historical fiction.

Chambers for several years made Broadalbin, New York, his summer home. Some of his novels touch upon colonial life in Broadalbin and Johnstown.

On July 12, 1898, he married Elsa Vaughn Moller (1882–1939). They had a son, Robert Edward Stuart Chambers (who sometimes used the name Robert Husted Chambers.)

Robert W. Chambers died on December 16, 1933 after having undergone intestinal surgery three days earlier.

Criticism and legacy[edit]

H. P. Lovecraft said of Chambers in a letter to Clark Ashton Smith,

"Chambers is like Rupert Hughes and a few other fallen Titans – equipped with the right brains and education but wholly out of the habit of using them."[4]

Despite his effective later abandonment of the weird supernatural tale, Chambers's early works heavily influenced Lovecraft's tales.

Frederic Taber Cooper commented,

"So much of Mr Chambers's work exasperates, because we feel that he might so easily have made it better."[5]

A critical essay on Chambers's horror and fantasy work appears in S. T. Joshi's book The Evolution of the Weird Tale (2004).

Chambers' novel The Tracer of Lost Persons was adapted into a long-running (1937–54) old-time radio crime drama, Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons, by legendary soap opera producers Frank and Anne Hummert.[6]

Chambers' The King in Yellow has inspired many modern authors, including Karl Edward Wagner, Joseph S. Pulver, Lin Carter, James Blish, Michael Cisco, Ann K. Schwader, Robert M. Price and Galad Elflandsson.

After emerging as a writer in the New Masses magazine, Whittaker Chambers faced confusion as Robert W. Chambers' son from Max Bedacht, the Communist Party official who summoned him into the Communist underground:

Max Bedacht had somehow convinced himself that I was the son of Robert W. Chambers, the novelist. No doubt, the same surname and the fact that we both wrote (though for somewhat different markets) made kinship seem self-evident to him. When the novelist died, shortly after I came to know Bedacht, he congratulated me on coming into a fat legacy, which I believe he thought was about to be swept into the party's till. When I tried to undeceive him, his disappointment was so great that at first he insisted that I was covering up, and I had some trouble convincing him that Robert W. Chambers and Whittaker Chambers were really unrelated.[7]

Cover of the first edition of In Search of the Unknown

Bibliography[edit]

Bibliography of novels and story collections
Published posthumously
Children's books
Collections containing reprinted work by Robert W. Chambers

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Brian Stableford, "The King in Yellow" in Frank N. Magill, ed. Survey of Modern Fantasy Literature, Vol 2. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Salem Press, Inc., 1983. pp. 844–847.
  2. ^ Quoted in "Chambers, Robert W(illiam)" by T. E. D. Klein, The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural, Penguin, 1986 (p. 74-6).
  3. ^ Bleiler, Everett Franklin and Bleiler,Richard. Science-Fiction: The Early Years. Kent State University Press, 1990.(p. 129-132).
  4. ^ Lovecraft, Selected Letters vol. 2, ed. August Derleth and Donald Wandrei (Arkham House, 1968), p. 148.
  5. ^ Cooper, Some American Story Tellers (Henry Holt, 1911), p.81. Quoted in Joshi, The Evolution of the Weird Tale, p.18.
  6. ^ Cox, Jim (May 2004). Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons: A Complete History and Episode Log of Radio's Most Durable Detective. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. ISBN 0-7864-1738-2. 
  7. ^ Chambers, Whittaker (1952). Witness. New York: Random House. p. 275. 

References[edit]

External links[edit]