RepositorySpecial Collections Archives (GB 0029)
Ref NoEUL MS 433/JCP
TitlePapers and books relating to John Cowper Powys
DescriptionMaterial relating to John Cowper Powys, collected by E.E. Bissell and Francis Feather, and donated to the Powys Society. The majority of the collection is comprised of books by, or about, Powys, in addition to his ex libris. The collection also contains manuscripts, typescripts and proofs relating to a number of his work, as well as correspondence with friends, family and business contacts.

Includes material relating to Powys's major works: ‘Atlantis' (1984), ‘The Brazen Head' (1956), ‘Homer and the Aether' (1959), ‘The War and Culture' (1914), ‘Psychoanalysis and Morality' (1923), ‘In Defence of Sensuality' (1930), ‘The Art of Happiness' (1935), ‘Visions and Revisions' (1915), ‘The Enjoyment of Literature' (1938), and Rabelais (1948), among others.
Admin HistoryJohn Cowper Powys the novelist, poet, philosopher, essayist and letter writer was the eldest of eleven children, and was born to the Reverend Charles Francis Powys and his wife Mary Cowper Johnson (who was related to the Poet William Cowper) on 8th October 1872 in Shirley, Derbyshire at the Vicarage. The family moved from Derbyshire to Dorset in 1879 where John’s father was a curate, then in 1885 settled in Somerset where he was the Vicar of Montacute for 32 years. Powys was educated at Westbury House Preparatory School, at Sherbourne School, and then at Cambridge University, graduating from Corpus Christi college with a second class History degree in the June of 1894. Powys married Margaret Lyon (a close friend’s sister) in 1896, and then in 1902, his only son (Littleton Alfred) was born. Powys worked lecturing in Brighton and then at Oxford, before, travelling to America in 1904. He spent the larger part of the following years there, where he attracted large audiences lecturing across the continent and started to write his novels, sending money back to England to support his wife and his son and returning to them during the summer.

Powys’s first published work was ‘Odes and Other Poems’ (1896) and he continued to publish volumes. Then his first novel, ‘Wood and Stone’ was published in New York in 1915, and received very little attention, and his second novel ‘After My Fashion’, written in 1919 and inspired in part by his friendship with Isadora Duncan, was not published until 1980 when Picador published it. The first of his novels to bring him any recognition and the first of his six masterpieces was ‘Wolf Solent’ (1929).

In 1921 Powys met Phyllis Playter who he would remain with for the rest of his life, and retiring to a cottage in New York with her in 1930, he began to write full time. Here he wrote his next novels ‘A Glastonbury Romance’ (1933), which has been described as the only work by an English writer that can be fairly compared with the work of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, ‘Weymouth Sands’ (1934), and his ‘Autobiography’ (1934). After returning to Dorset and England in 1934, and writing ‘Maiden Castle’ (1937) Powys then moved to Wales a year later and wrote his two famous Welsh chronicles: ‘Owen Glendower’ (1940) and ‘Porius’ (1951). He received the Plaque of the Hamburg Free Academy of Arts in 1958, and was made Dlitt by the University of Wales in 1962.

Powys’s work receives a very mixed response with many loathing his work, and others admiring his writing, and increasingly since his death he has become known as a writer who was ahead of his time. He was famous for never rereading anything that he wrote and known for being eccentric. John Cowper Powys died age 90 on June 17th 1963 at Memorial Hospital in Blaenau Ffestiniog, Wales, and he was cremated with his ashes scattered at Chesil Beach in Dorset.

Other works which are considered to be among Powys’s major works (including philosophy and essays) include: ‘Atlantis’ (1984), ‘The Brazen Head’ (1956), ‘Homer and the Aether’ (1959), ‘The War and Culture’ (1914), ‘Psychoanalysis and Morality’ (1923), ‘In Defence of Sensuality’ (1930), ‘The Art of Happiness’ (1935), ‘Visions and Revisions’ (1915), ‘The Enjoyment of Literature’ (1938), Rabelais (1948).
FormatVarious formats
Access StatusOpen
Creator_NamePowys; John Cowper (1872-1963); philosopher, lecturer, novelist, literary critic, and poet
London; The Powys Society (1967-)
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