George Belden




The illustrations published here are taken from his journal, Land of the Snow Men, purporting to be an eyewitness account of Scott's 1910-12 polar expedition. Belden was confined for most of his life in the Waterbury Asylum, Vermont.

Norman Lock discovered Belden and his remarkable journal by accident. He had been for some years in Africa, writing a novel, A History of the Imagination. The strain of living in a country as alien as Africa, with little money and little hope of finding a publisher, caused him to have a nervous breakdown. A friend in Mombassa contacted his wife, who arranged for his return and commitment to a private sanitarium in Vermont's Green Mountains. During the final weeks of Lock's recuperation, the institution's chief of staff asked if he would sort through boxes of old files in the sanitarium's basement to determine whether or not any should be kept. In one of those boxes, Lock found Land of the Snow Men. Enthralled by the "stories" and accompanying drawings that comprise it, he became their "literary custodian," offering the work to Derek White and his Calamari Press after reading Peter Markus' Singing Fish, which the press had published earlier that year. [1]

While the cause or causes of George Belden's insanity cannot be known, the evaluation made by a doctor late in 1915 at the Waterbury Asylum is cogent: "The tragedy he was meant to memorialize proved too great for an impressionable mind, which gave way under the weight of obligation and sympathy." This judgment would seem to be confirmed by Belden himself, who scrawled repeatedly in the margins of his journal: "Hell is Consciousness."

Land of the Snow Men can be considered as the fulfillment of Belden's commission to erect a monument to Scott, Wilson, and Bowers. How Belden came to compose his strange and luminous texts is one enigma among many surrounding the life of this visionary artist.

[1] Publisher's Note: Lock's review of The Singing Fish can be read at [].