David Wheldon was born in 1950 in Moira, a coal-mining village in Leicestershire, England.  He was given a Quaker education at Sidcot School, Somerset. He read Medicine at Bristol and, after receiving his degree, he studied Pathology and Medical Microbiology at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford.  He studied Neuropathology under the direction of Betty Brownell and David Oppenheimer. He has practised medicine since in many parts of England and Wales. One of his interests is the treatment of infections of the central nervous system. He has become convinced by evidence that a bacterium causes multiple sclerosis, a common and disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord. More about this here.

Although he was brought up in a family filled with love, the threat of an inherited illness menaced his childhood and young adult life.  This illness caused the early death of his father, and, probably, that of his brother also. 

Uncertainty is present in all David Wheldon’s work. In the novels The Viaduct and The Course of Instruction and in the sonnet sequence The Uncompliant Stranger the characters are always on the edge of coming into being or of returning to the silence of unremembered absence: their desires and investigations are always met by circumstances in which chance and intention cannot for certain be told apart.  Or—to look at it another way—the unknowable distinction between chance and intention makes a person’s viewpoint both possible and unique.  Only an essentially unknowable world can stand the weight of living.  Life is the lightning-bolt which divides the two darks, and by its brief light the darks are told apart.

In these works surface and depth are not mutually exclusive: on touching the surface one is feeling in deep.  The surface is but a section through the deep which would otherwise be unknown.

The author questions the reality of those ideas which we must take as givens in order to live — ideas of an apparent self in a phenomenal world. His work can be be read as an investigation of the boundary between the two. There is a growing certainty that this boundary is a defensive projection rather than a reality.

Superficial critics of Wheldon's work have dismissed it as belonging to an over-worked existentialist genre: a more thorough reading shows his thought to be rigorously analytic of an existential view of the world — a view which, in his eyes, becomes the more untenable the more narrowly it is examined. The real boundaries (which bind within the closest limits) are those of which I — as me — am bound to be unaware.

And yet, paradoxically, the overall character of the work is affirmative and even liberating.

Many reviewers have remarked that this understated writing has the elusive quality of the thing it observes.

David Wheldon loves and is married to Sarah Longlands, a fine artist of distinction.


updated 12th January 2011



‘The senses change with hours’


The senses change with hours. Sight, now,
where once I could not see a thing, no hand
before no face; but the smell of distance
made, bore out the leagues, measured out
the spans of time: and then the echo came,
brief, but hearing was intense, acute.