Robert Nichols

Robert Malise Bowyer Nichols (1893–1944) was a poet and playwright, who wrote a number of works of fantasy and science fiction. John Clute mentions several in the Encyclopedia of Fantasy, including The Smile of the Sphinx (1920), an Arabian Fantasy which appeared in revised form in Romances of Idea, Volume One: Fantastica: Being the Smile of the Sphinx and Other Tales of Imagination (1923). This book (which was never succeeded by a Volume Two), also contained the book-length “Golgotha & Co”. This imagined an apocalyptic Second World War, in which the Wandering Jew appears as Antichrist and there is a second crucifixion of Christ. In 1929 he published a science fiction play, with Maurice Browne, called Wings Over Europe: A Dramatic Extravaganza on a Pressing Theme, which according to Wikipedia was a Broadway hit.

Nichols was born at Shanklin, on the Isle of Wight, on 6 September 1893, the elder son of John Bowyer Buchanan Nichols, an artist and author.  He was educated at Winchester College, and he went up to Trinity College, Oxford in 1913; the war cut short his university career. He published two volumes of poetry during the War which were well regarded.

After hanging around Oxford for a while after his war service, he took the chair of English at Tokyo Imperial University. He was there from 1921 to 1924, and wrote a good deal for local publications. He seems to have learnt enough Japanese to translate a seventeenth-century Japanese poet.

In 1922 he married Norah Denny.  In 1924 he left Japan and went to Hollywood, as an adviser to Douglas Fairbanks Snr. In 1926 he returned to England. He wrote plays and prose rather than poetry; a volume of verse published in 1920 was his last. In 1943 he published an Anthology of War Poetry, 1914-1918. He died in Cambridge in 1944.

I am relying here on the entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography written by Edmund Blunden, revised by Sayoni Basu.


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