Robert Lynd - Essay

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Robert Wilson lynd
Born in Belfast and educated at R.B.A.I. and the then Queen's College, where he studied classics. He worked briefly for The Northern Whig before moving to Manchester and then to London as a free-lance journalist. In the capital he shared a flat with the artist Paul Henry (q.v.), with whom he had graduated.

Lynd became a staff writer for the Daily News (later the News Chronicle) and from 1912 to 1947 was its literary editor. He also wrote for the Nation, and - under the pseudonym of Y. Y. - contributed, from 1913 to 1945, a weekly literary essay to the New Statesman. In politics he was a socialist and adherent of Sinn Fein and the Gaelic League; he also edited some of the works of James Connolly.

He is remembered today for the remarkable sequence of essays he wrote over a period of more than forty years. They never fall below a high level of elegance and fluency, and while some are too self-consciously literary for today's taste, the best of them - such as The Herring Fleet, inspired by his memories of Ardglass - have become twentieth century classics.


Although Robert Lynd was born into an upper-middle-class Ulster Protestant family and was sent to university, at a time when very few people could afford to give their children a university education, his early life in London was a hard struggle. Desmond McCarthy wrote that: 'for several years Lynd knew what it was to live undernourished and on the edge of poverty.' He was glad to accept shelter in the studio of his friend Paul Henry, the Belfast-born artist and a radical like Lynd himself.

It was as an essayist that Robert Lynd achieved international fame. But he also wrote politics and put the case for Irish Nationalism in Ireland a Nation which was published in 1919. In the autumn of 1916 the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union asked him to write the Introduction to the first published edition of James Connolly's Labour in...
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