Lowry, Malcolm, 1909-1957

Alternative names
Birth 1909-07-28
Death 1957-06-26
Spanish; Castilian, English

Biographical notes:

Lowry, (Clarence) Malcolm was a novelist born in New Brighton, England. He spent time at sea before studying at Cambridge. His most recognized novel is Under the Volcano (1947), set in Mexico where he resided 1936-37. Other works include Ultramarine (1933), based on his early sea travel, and the posthumous Dark is the Grave Wherein My Friend Is Laid (1968). Most of his productive years he lived in British Columbia. From 1954 to his death he resided in England.

From the description of Malcolm Lowry collection. [1940's]. (University of Victoria Libraries). WorldCat record id: 676738325

Clarence Malcolm Lowry was born in Cheshire, England, on July 28, 1909, to cotton broker Arthur Osborne and Evelyn (Boden) Lowry. His early life was marked by distance from his parents, and the alcoholism that would afflict him for the rest of his life began when he was just a teenager. As a young boy he was sent to private boarding schools and was expected to enter the family business after completing college. After finishing boarding school, he worked on the British freighter S. S. Pyrrhus for five months in 1927 before returning home and entering Cambridge in 1929.

A year after graduating from Cambridge, Lowry published his first novel, Ultramarine (1933). The book received poor reviews and later Lowry himself described it as "an altogether unmentionable early novel." In April of 1933, while on a trip to Spain, Lowry met Jan Gabrial. Less than a year later they were married in Paris.

Lowry and Gabrial's relationship was rocky, and soon after the marriage, Gabrial returned to her home in New York, leaving Lowry in Paris. He followed her to New York in 1935, where his drinking problem was treated in Bellevue Hospital's psychiatric ward. The two moved to Mexico in 1936, and a year later, Gabrial once again left Lowry, and returned to the United States. During the remainder of his time in Mexico, Lowry sank further into depression and alcoholism and began working on a draft of Under the Volcano (1947), which would become his most recognized work.

In 1938, Lowry returned to the United States where he met former actress Margerie Bonner. They moved to Canada upon the expiration of Lowry's U. S. visa, and after securing a divorce from Gabrial in 1940, Lowry married Bonner. Following the destruction of their home by a fire in 1944, Lowry and Bonner moved in with their friends, Gerald and Betty Noxon, where Lowry completed Under the Volcano . The book was published two years after its completion in 1945.

Lowry found it difficult to produce new work after Under the Volcano and traveled with his wife frequently to find new inspiration. In 1949, after returning to Canada, Lowry briefly worked on a screenplay of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night.

Despite continued efforts, Lowry never published a novel after Under the Volcano . Several of his unfinished works and collections of his short stories were published posthumously, edited primarily by his wife Margerie.

After the termination of his contract with Random House, in 1954 Lowry and his wife began travelling in Europe. They rented a cottage in England in February 1956, where Lowry lethally overdosed on alcohol and barbiturates and died on June 27, 1957.

From the guide to the Malcolm Lowry Collection, 1940-1956, (The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Center)


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  • English literature--20th century
  • Authors, English--20th century


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