Thursday, December 26, 2013

Alexander Kinghorn

Alexander Kinghorn (b. London, 12 October 1926; d. Oakington, Cambridgeshire, 25 April 2007)

Alexander (“Sandy”) Manson Kinghorn was born in London to a Scottish family.  He studied at the University of Aberdeen, and received an M.A. in 1947 for his dissertation “A Study of Literary Criticism in Scotland during the Second Half of the Eighteenth Century”. He received a Ph.D. from Pembroke College, Cambridge, in 1953. His studies had been interrupted for three years service in post-war Vienna as part of the army intelligence corps. His scholarly publications were numerous (some signed “A.M. Kinghorn”), including The Chorus of History, 1485-1558: Literary-Historical Relations in Renaissance Britain (1971), and the booklet Death and the Makars: Timor Mortis in Scottish Poetry to 1600 (1979). He also edited texts such as John Barbour’s The Bruce: A Selection (1960), and anthology of Mediaeval Drama (1968; second edition, as The Rise of English Drama to 1600, 1984), The Middle Scots Poets (1970), and Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice (1988). With his longtime friend Alexander Law he co-edited The Works of Allan Ramsey in six volumes (1951-1974), and The Poems of Allan Ramsey and Robert Fergusson (1974). Kinghorn also contributed to many journals. His pseudonymous work includes a biography, The Life and Death of Michael X (1981), as by James Sharp, and a short book of illustrated rhymes, Jittery Goose (1975), as by Tom Piper.

He married Marion Gurling in London on 1 September 1956.  His academic postings ranged around the world:  the University of Texas at Austin (1953-55), McGill University in Montreal (1955-57), King’s College, at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia (1957-1960), and the University of the West Indies, Jamaica (beginning in 1960).  After some time in Denmark, Kinghorn spent the 1980s as Professor of English at the University of Qatar in the Arabian Gulf.  After his wife died in Qatar in the late 1980s, Kinghorn retired to England, and subsequently re-married, a widow Margaret Crow, in 1996.  

In retirement he turned to writing ghost stories, following the example of M.R. James. These stories were published as a trade paperback original, Thirteen Ghost Stories (Bognor Regis, West Sussex: Woodfield Publishing, 2004).  In his Preface, Kinghorn notes that James “drew attention to the suggestive importance of settings” in the writing of ghost stories, and Kinghorn has followed James’s example.  Indeed, it is the details of Kinghorn’s settings that give the stories real verisimilitude, along with (again following James) a tendency for malevolent ghosts.  These are literate, atmospheric tales, which have gone mostly unnoticed by readers of the genre. Kinghorn died of cancer.


  1. At last! A lesser-known author I knew of- via Death and the Makars, which is worth reading if you admire Dunbar.
    All the same, while I keep thinking I must look them up when I'm in the BL, it would be interesting to know how you came across the authors and whether or not you'd actually read them and whether they are worth reading themselves..

    1. I come across these authors almost anywhere, via references in biographies, bookseller's catalogs, old book reviews, old articles, etc. Usually, something about the reference has ticked my interest for one reason or another. I do read relevant works before I post an entry--e.g., the main item of interest to me by Kinghorn is his volume of ghost stories. I called them "literate, atmospheric tales"--which is about where I'd categorize them in terms of quality. None of them stand out as new classics, but none of them are poor either. Some authors interest me more than others, and get longer write-ups. Nothing about the process is really methodical. Thanks for writing.