Bowen, Elizabeth, 1899-1973

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1899-06-07
Death 1973-02-22
Irish (Republic of Ireland)
English

Biographical notes:

British writer of essays, short stories, and novels.

From the description of Letter to Mrs. Brownrigg [?], ca. 1930. (Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens). WorldCat record id: 122570785

Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1923) was an Anglo-Irish author. Among her many novels are The last September (1929), The house in Paris (1935), The death of the heart (1938), The heat of the day (1948), A world of love (1955), and Eva Trout; or, changing scenes (1968). Her other numerous writings encompass literary criticism, reviews and several volumes of short stories.

From the description of Papers of Elizabeth Bowen, 1934-1946 (bulk 1944-1946). (Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens). WorldCat record id: 122369279

Anglo-Irish novelist, short story writer.

From the description of Elizabeth Bowen Collection, 1923-1975. (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRC); University of Texas at Austin). WorldCat record id: 122632957

Elizabeth Bowen was the only child born to Henry Cole Bowen and Florence Colley Brown. Though the place of birth on June 7, 1899, was Dublin, her family home was Bowen's Court, near Kildorrey, County Cork, Ireland. Because of her father's law practice, the family divided their residency between Dublin and Bowen's Court. Elizabeth enjoyed a normal Anglo-Irish childhood with her parents until her father suffered a nervous breakdown in 1905 when the pattern changed. Her father was hospitalized off and on for the following few years and, following the advice of his physician, Elizabeth and her mother moved to England to stay with various aunts. As a child Elizabeth insulated herself from stress by paying close attention to her childhood world of the imagination and the part place played in her life. A stammar in her speech developed at this time which stayed with her for the rest of her life. Her father recovered by the time she was twelve, but before the family was fully reunited her mother, diagnosed with cancer, died when Elizabeth was thirteen. Maternal aunts, who took over her care, arranged for her to attend a boarding school, Downe House, in Kent, from 1914 to 1917. This school played a significant role in her development as a young woman and as a writer with its emphasis on limiting display of one's feelings and its strong encourgement of sociability at meals. Later Elizabeth was known as a considerate and successful hostess.

Elizabeth enjoyed painting and drawing as a child and in 1918 studied at the London County Council School of Art but withdrew after two terms because of what she considered her limited ability. She was to make use of this painter's sensitivity in her literary work, however. She had done a great deal of creative writing while at Downe House, mainly short stories, and decided this was her calling. She set about incorporating her memories and experiences into her fiction. Rose Macaulay, a friend of the headmistress of Downe House, gave her guidance and introduced her to editors, publishers, literary agents, and others who could help a fledgling writer.

Elizabeth's first volume of short stories, Encounters, was published in 1923, the year she married Alan Charles Cameron, an assistant secretary for education in Northampton. Upon his promotion to Secretary of Education for the city of Oxford she found the intellectual atmosphere of the city conducive to her further development as a writer. Her second volume of stories, Ann Lee's and Other Stories (1926), was followed by her first novel, The Hotel (1927). During her years at Oxford Elizabeth published her second novel, The Last September (1929), and two collections of short fiction, Joining Charles and Other Stories (1929) and The Cat Jumps and Other Stories (1934), as well as three additional novels, Friends and Relations (1931), To the North (1932), and The House in Paris (1935).

In 1935 Elizabeth and Alan moved to Regent's Park in London, which furthered her career. She began writing reviews for the Tatler and in 1938 her novel, the Death of the Heart, was published, followed by Look at All Those Roses: Short Stories in 1941. World War II played a dominant role in her writing as well as in her life. She became an Air Raid Precautions warden which brought her into contact with people she would not have known otherwise and opened up new avenues of interest for her writing. Also she and Alan often experienced the effects of the bombing raids on their own home in Regent's Park. Two of her works from this period, her novel The Heat of the Day (1949) and The Demon Lover, and Other Stories (1945), are considered by some to be among the best records of London during the war.

After the war Elizabeth continued to write short stories and essays, and produced three additional novels, A World of Love (1955), The Little Girls (1964), and Eva Trout; or, Changing Scenes (1968) for which she received the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1970. She wrote essays and reviews for the Tatler, the Cornhill Magazine, the New Statesman and Nation, the New Republic, the New York Times Magazine, Harpers, and the Saturday Review of Literature, among others, and became associate editor of London Magazine. After her husband's death in 1952 she spent part of every year in the United States lecturing and working as a writer in residence. Elizabeth Bowen died of lung cancer at her home at Hythe in Kent on February 22, 1973.

From the guide to the Elizabeth Bowen Collection TXRC98-A19., 1923-1975, (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin)

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Subjects:

  • Ireland in literature
  • Women and literature--History--20th century
  • Women authors--Correspondence
  • Women novelists, Irish--20th century
  • World War, 1939-1945--Literature and the war
  • Publishers and publishing--Correspondence
  • World War--1939-1945--Women--Correspondence
  • War in literature
  • Authors, British--20th century--Correspondence
  • Authors, English--20th century
  • Women and literature--Ireland--History--20th century

Occupations:

not available for this record

Places:

  • Ireland (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)