Reid, Forrest (1875–1947), novelist, was born 24 June 1875 at 20 Mount Charles, Belfast, youngest of six surviving children of Robert Reid, manager of Anderson's Felt Works, and his second wife, Frances Matilda (née Parr), of an aristocratic English family. His family moved to 15 Mount Charles in 1880 but his father died in 1881, leaving the family in genteel poverty. Educated at Miss Hardy's preparatory school, Belfast, in 1887, he entered the Royal Belfast Academical Institution in 1888, leaving school for a five-year apprenticeship with Musgrave's tea merchants in 1891. He showed his early experiments in writing to Andrew Rutherford in 1896 before he published his first novel, Kingdom of twilight (1904). Admiring Henry James, he sent the American author a copy of this first work and dedicated the homoerotic The garden god (1905) to him. Scandalised, James stopped all correspondence. Reid entered Christ's College, Cambridge, in 1905, graduating BA in medieval and modern languages in 1908. He returned to live at 9 South Parade, Belfast, and met E. M. Forster, who remained a lifelong friend, in February 1912. In 1914 he moved to 12 Fitzwilliam Avenue, Belfast, before another move to 62 Dublin Road in 1917. His final address was at 13 Ormiston Crescent, Belfast, from 1924. He published consistently: sixteen novels, three critical studies, two volumes of autobiography, and one volume of translated Greek poetry in all. Apostate (1926) is a superb first volume of autobiography, while Peter Waring (1937) captures the sense of dissociation Reid felt from consensus values in his story of a young boy grown to manhood. Male relationships define his work and he lived with Stephen Gilbert, a young writer, from 1931. For all that, his Young Tom (1944), for which he was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction, is stubbornly haut bourgeois, his boy hero dressed for tennis in balmy days subtly charged with erotic atmosphere. But this summer world is capable of eclipse, and a darkness inhabits the shadows of Private road (1940), a second volume of autobiography. A founder member of the Irish Academy of Letters, he was made honorary doctor of literature by QUB in 1933. He died of peritonitis at Warrenpoint, Co. Down, on 4 January 1947. He is buried in Dundonald cemetery and a plaque marks his last home. Two portraits of him survive: one by Arthur Greeves (friend of C. S. Lewis (qv)), in possession of the Royal Belfast Academical Institution, and one by James Sleator (qv), in possession of the Ulster Museum.
Northern Whig, Belfast News Letter, 6 Jan. 1947; John Boyd, ‘Forest Reid: an introduction to his work’, Irish Writing, no. 4 (Apr. 1948), 72–7; John Boyd, ‘Ulster prose’, Sam Hanna Bell, Nesca Robb, and John Hewitt (ed.), The arts in Ulster: a symposium (1951), 99–130; Russell Burlingham, Forrest Reid: a portrait and a study (1953); J. W. Foster, Forces and themes in Ulster fiction (1974); Threshold, xxviii (spring 1977); George Buchanan, ‘An Irish pastoral’, Honest Ulsterman, lvi (May–Sept. 1977), 132–3; Brian Taylor, ‘A strangely familiar scene: a note on landscape and locality in Forrest Reid’, Irish University Review, vii, no. 2 (autumn 1977), 213–18; Brian Taylor, The green avenue: the life and writings of Forrest Reid, 1875–1947 (1980); E. M. Forster, Two cheers for democracy (1972 ed.); Damian Smyth (ed.), ‘Lost fields’, supplement to Fortnight, no. 306 (May 1992); E. M. Forster, Abinger harvest (1996 ed.; ed. by Elizabeth Heine); Éibhear Walshe (ed.), Sex, nation and dissent in Irish writing (1997); Paul Goodman and Brian Taylor (ed.), Retrospective adventures (1998); Gillian McIntosh, The force of culture (1999)