J. D. Beresford (1873–1947), English writer who assisted F. M. Alexander drafting some of the early chapters to Alexander’s Man’s Supreme Inheritance (1910).
J. D. Beresford was affected by infantile paralysis, which left him partially disabled and he had to use crutches. His father was a clergyman, but J. D. Beresford became a determined agnostic. However later in life he embraced spirituality and faith-healing and described himself as a Theosophist. One early influence on him was Frederick W. H. Myers’ Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death (1903), which Alexander criticises in MSI.
Beresford started writing in 1901 while holding various jobs and had produced three unpublished novels by 1907. By 1908 he started become a regular reviewer for the Westminster Gazette. During 1908 he wrote The Early History of Jacob Stahl (not published until 1911) and also The Hampdenshire Wonder, and both received good reviews. He would then write novels and short stories and almost publish a book annually until the 1940s. He continued as a reviewer and was also at one time a literary adviser for Collins publishers. He is now best remembered for his early science fiction and for his stories in the horror story and ghost story genres. None of his books sold particularly well, but he was well respected as a man of letters. His novel about a faith healer, The Camberwell Miracle (1933), and a non-fictional book, The Case for Faith-Healing (1934) brought him a new audience.
Connection with F. M. Alexander
Walter Carrington describes how Alexander employed Beresford to help him write the 1910 MSI; however Beresford’s input was limited to the early parts of the book.
The format was this: FM would draft a chapter and send it to Beresford, whose job it was to revise it and put it in a more readable form. But, invariably, FM wrote back saying: ‘Well, this is very nice but, of course, it’s not what I intended to say.’ Then after about four chapters, with a lot of toing and froing, FM decided he might as well do the whole thing himself.
It is likely that the ‘Old Sol’ character and the fictional ‘John Doe’ in MSI are Beresford’s inventions as such literary devices are not characteristic of Alexander’s writings. Alexander henceforward wrote all his books himself, though he always relied on friends for feedback (as can be seen in his acknowledgements). It is possible that Alexander did not find Beresford able to communicate Alexander’s ideas since Beresford favoured a view of dividing the human organism, a view which was in stark contrast to Alexander’s of unity of the organism.
Whether Beresford had lessons with Alexander is not known.
J. D. Beresford by George Johnson is a biography and an examination of Beresford’s books. It does not mention F. M. Alexander.
See also entries in F. M. Alexander’s writings.
John Davys Beresford *17 March 1873 – †2 February 1947.