Powys, Llewelyn, 1884-1939

Alternative names

Hide Profile

Llewelyn Powys (1884-1939) came from a family of distinguished British writers, and wrote a wide variety of works, including essays, a biography, a novel, travel books, works of popular philosophy and propaganda, autobiographical memoirs, and "an imaginary autobiography." Married in 1924 to Alyse Gregory, managing editor of the Dial magazine, and a well-known and well-connected New York novelist and essayist, Powys generally divided his active career between the U.S. and his beloved Dorset. He died of tuberculosis in a sanatorium in Davos, Switzerland in 1939.

From the description of Manuscript Book, 1920s-1950s. (Texas A&M University). WorldCat record id: 50065715

English essayist, novelist, and short story writer.

From the description of Letters, 1923-[1933?], various places, to Ada McVickar, New York. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 34364809

From the description of Letter, [before 1936], Chydyok, Chaldon Herring, Dorchester, Dorset [England], to Mr. Posselt, [n.p.]. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 34365017

Llewelyn Powys was born 13 August 1884 and died 2 December 1939. From a family of distinguished British writers, his brothers, John Cowper Powys (1972-1963) and Theodore Francis Powys (1875-1953) were novelists. Llewelyn Powys wrote a wide variety of works, including essays, a biography, a novel, travel books, works of popular philosophy and propaganda, autobiographical memoirs, and an imaginary autobiography.

Born in Dorset, England, Llewelyn Powys moved with his family to the village of Montacute in Somerset, England, where his father would be rector for the next thirty-three years. This area of England infuses Powys' work with its landscape. Some critics also feel that Llewelyn Powys' work is informed by an urgency possibly caused by his lifelong battle with tuberculosis . After a lackluster showing as a student at Sherborne, then Cambridge University, Llewelyn Powys tried his hand at being a schoolteacher, private tutor, even as a lecturer in the United States. In 1909, however, Llewelyn Powys was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and, though he spent the next two years in a sanatorium in Davos, Switzerland, Powys was never to regain full health.

Nevertheless, this episode and threat of impending death somehow seems to have energized Powys, for he devoted himself from then on to his writing. From 1914 to 1919 Llewelyn Powys lived in Kenya, managing a farm for his brother William, who was in military service during World War I . Llwewlyn Powys published his first book in 1916, a collaborative collection of stories with his brother John, called Confessions of Two Brothers, but his first book written on his own, titled Ebony and Ivory, was not published until 1923, in which he contrasted life in Europe with that in Africa . Six more books followed, between August 1920, when Llewelyn moved to the United States and 1925, when he returned to England. He finally achieved fame only by forsaking his homeland, and publishing outside of England.

Three more books were published in 1924, and in October that year, Llewelyn Powys married the managing editor of the Dial magazine, Alyse Gregory, herself a well-known and well-connected New York novelist and essayist . The marriage seems to have given Llewelyn Powys noy only personal happiness and fulfillment, but a more confident literary style as well.

Published in 1925, after another severe recurrance of his besetting malady of tuberculosis, Llewelyn's most famous work, Skin for Skin shares settings of Montacute in Somerset, with a sanatorium in Switzerland . In his self-absorption and egocentric world view Llewelyn is generally agreed upon by his admirers and critics to imitate his model writer, the essayist William Hazlitt .

At a loss for publishers in England for his autobiographical essays, upon his probably ill-advised return to his homeland in 1925, Llewelyn took a commission to write a biography of a famous world explorer. This quite notable biography Henry Hudson appeared in 1927. At sea himself, however, in the literary world in England, Powys was again lured back to the United States in 1927, where his wife and he had connections, and he had a definite literary following. Subsequently, leaving the United States yet again, however, Llewelyn Powys spent the period of 1928-1931 wandering with Alyse to France, and even Palestine, gathering material for more books, particularly those criticizing Christianity.

Almost immediately upon returning to the United States, the couple again returned to England. This move, in contrast to those of Powys' past, was much more sucessful than previous efforts. Thus, for five years, from 1931 to 1936 Powys remained in his beloved Dorset, publishing a great deal, his work tending to diverge into either the radical, atheistic rant against accepted religion, or the poetic, autobiograpical essay on Dorset lore and country life. His reading public was practically split into two very fervent groups, nearly antithetical to each other. Earth Memories, which includes two of the essays written in this collection's manuscript book, was published during this period of popularity and productivity.

In autumn 1936, Llewelyn Powys' health severely deteriorated and he left England in December for the sanatorium in Davos, Switzerland, in which he died in 1939. Love and Death, considered Llewelyn Powys' best work, was published posthumously, in 1939. As is characteristic of Powys' work, Love and Death presents in microcosm all the elements of Llewelyn Powys's unusual combination of fictionalized autobiography, memoir of desire rather than exact fact, and personal essay with so thin a veneer of objectivity that the self-centered subjectivity causes constant tension within the work and in the perception of the reader.

From the guide to the Inventory of the Llewelyn Powys Manuscript Book Lit MSS 00106., 1920s-1950s and undated, (Cushing Memorial Library)

Llewelyn Powys (1884-1939) was a British writer and younger brother of John Cowper Powys (writer, lecturer, philosopher) and Theodore F. Powys (writer). He was the author of novels, biographies, and non-fiction.

Henry Havelock Ellis (1859-1939) was a British physician and social reformer, noted for his research into human sexuality.

From the guide to the Llewelyn Powys Letters, 1933, undated, (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Llewelyn Powys: Copy Letters, Mid-20th century (copies of originals of 1900-1937) Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives
referencedIn Llewelyn Powys: Commonplace Book, 1934-1935 Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives
creatorOf Llewelyn Powys Letters, 1933, undated Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries
referencedIn Ficke, Arthur Davison, 1883-1945. Arthur Davison Ficke Papers 1865-1971. Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Letters from various correspondents, 1921-1951. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Henderson, James Lambdin, b. 1887. Correspondence, 1911-1967. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Agnes de Lima collection of Alyse Gregory, 1924-1968, 1939-1967 Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
creatorOf Wood, Charles Erskine Scott, 1852-1944. Papers of C. E. S. Wood, 1829-1980 (bulk 1870-1940). Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
referencedIn Gregory, Alyse, 1884-1967. Alyse Gregory correspondence, 1944-1967. Princeton University Library
referencedIn Llewelyn Powys, Theodore Powys and John Cowper Powys: Miscellaneous Letters, 1926-1961 Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives
creatorOf Powys, Llewelyn, 1884-1939. Manuscript Book, 1920s-1950s. Texas A&M University, Evans Library & Annex; Main campus library complex
referencedIn Powys, John Cowper, 1872-1963. John Cowper Powys and Phyllis Playter letters to William Lander, 1950-1963. Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn de Lima, Agnes. Agnes de Lima collection of Alyse Gregory, 1924-1968 (bulk 1939-1967). Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn De Casseres, Benjamin, 1873-1945,. Papers, 1904-1943. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
creatorOf Powys, Llewelyn, 1884-1939. Papers, 1907-1939. University of California, Los Angeles
referencedIn Powys family. Papers, 1922-1955. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Llewelyn Powys and Alyse Gregory: Correspondence with G. Bryer Ash, 1933-1941 Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives
referencedIn Louis Umfreville Wilkinson Collection TXRC02-A6., 1916-1960 Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Powys family. Papers, 1929-1959. University of Connecticut, Homer Babbidge Library
referencedIn Papers of Robert Graves: Correspondence (arranged by correspondent), c1909 to 2004 St John's College, Oxford
referencedIn Gregory, Alyse, 1884-1967. Alyse Gregory letters to Claude Colleer Abbott, 1940-1944. Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
creatorOf Powys, Llewelyn, 1884-1939. Dr. Johnson ; Spirit of the season: manuscript, [not before 1919] Harvard University, Houghton Library
creatorOf Brenan,Gerald, 1894-1987. Gerald Brenan Collection, 1911-1978. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Gregory, Alyse, 1884-1967. Alyse Gregory letters to Valentine Ackland, 1942-1962. Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Gregory, Alyse, 1884-1967. Alyse Gregory letters to Claude Colleer Abbott, 1940-1944. Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Arthur Davison Ficke Papers, 1865-1971 Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Gerald Brenan Collection TXRC98-A15., 1911-1978 Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Powys, Littleton, 1874-1955. Powys Collection, 1914-1980. Colgate University, Everett Needham Case Library
referencedIn Handscombe, Richard. Richard Handscombe Collection of Powys Family Papers. Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library
creatorOf Powys, Llewelyn, 1884-1939. Letters, 1923-[1933?], various places, to Ada McVickar, New York. University of Michigan
referencedIn Gregory, Alyse, 1884-1967. Alyse Gregory letters to Valentine Ackland, 1942-1962. Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Reginald Marsh papers, 1897-1955 Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
referencedIn Powys, John Cowper, 1872-1963. Letter, 1944 July 18, Cae Coed, Corwen, Wales, to Ada McVickar, New York. University of Michigan
referencedIn Wilkinson, Louis, 1881-1960. Louis Wilkinson Collection, 1916-1960 Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Gregory, Alyse, 1884-1967. Letters, to Maurice Browne, 1946-1954. University of Michigan
creatorOf Powys, Llewelyn, 1884-1939. Letters, 1922-1933, to Lewis Mumford. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Wood, Charles Erskine Scott, 1852-1944. Papers of C. E. S. Wood (Addenda), 1897-1970 (bulk 1912-1940). Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
referencedIn de Lima, Agnes. Agnes de Lima collection of Alyse Gregory, 1924-1968 (bulk 1939-1967). Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
creatorOf Powys, Llewelyn, 1884-1939. Papers, 1928-1939. Dartmouth College Library
referencedIn Dial/Scofield Thayer papers, 1879-1982, 1920-1925 Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
creatorOf Powys, Llewelyn, 1884-1939. Correspondence with Van Wyck Brooks, 1921-1939. University of Pennsylvania Library
referencedIn Gregory, Alyse, 1884-1967. Alyse Gregory papers, 1888-1982 (bulk 1939-1967). Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Powys, John Cowper, 1872-1963. John Cowper Powys collection, [ca. 1930-1963]. Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Gregory, Alyse, 1884-1967. Correspondence with Carl Zigrosser, 1919-1967. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Marsh, Reginald, 1898-1954. Reginald Marsh papers, 1897-1955. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
referencedIn Abbott Papers, ca. 1900-1971 Durham University Library, Archives and Special Collections
creatorOf Powys, Llewelyn, 1884-1939. Letter, [before 1936], Chydyok, Chaldon Herring, Dorchester, Dorset [England], to Mr. Posselt, [n.p.]. University of Michigan
creatorOf Inventory of the Llewelyn Powys Manuscript Book Lit MSS 00106., 1920s-1950s and undated Cushing Memorial Library,
referencedIn Alyse Gregory papers, 1888-1982, 1939-1967 Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
creatorOf Powys, Llewelyn, 1884-1939. Correspondence with Theodore Dreiser, 1920-1939. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Gregory, Alyse, 1884-1967. Alyse Gregory papers, 1888-1982 (bulk 1939-1967). Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
creatorOf Ficke, Arthur Davison, 1883-1946. Correspondence, with John Cowper Powys, Llewellyn Powys, and Alyse Gregory, 1925-1945. University of Michigan
referencedIn John Cowper Powys collection, [ca. 1930-1963] Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Thayer, Scofield, b. 1889. Dial/Scofield Thayer papers, 1879-1982 (bulk 1920-1925). Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Gregory, Alyse, 1884-1967. Alyse Gregory diary, 1954-1960. Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
creatorOf Powys family. Powys family collection, 1927-1959. University of Connecticut, Homer Babbidge Library
referencedIn British authors collection, 1840-1953. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Abbott, Claude Colleer, 1889-1971 person
associatedWith Brenan, Gerald, 1894-1987 person
associatedWith Costley-White, Harold, 1878- person
associatedWith De Casseres, Benjamin, 1873-1945, person
associatedWith de Lima, Agnes. person
associatedWith Donald and Mary Hyde Collection of Dr. Samuel Johnson (Houghton Library) corporateBody
associatedWith Ellis, Havelock, 1859-1939 person
associatedWith Ficke, Arthur Davison, 1883-1945. person
associatedWith Graves, Robert Windham, 1858-1934 person
associatedWith Gregory, Alyse, 1884-1967 person
associatedWith Hazlitt, William, 1778-1830 person
associatedWith Henderson, James Lambdin, b. 1887. person
associatedWith Johnson, Samuel, 1709-1784 person
associatedWith Leach, Henry Goddard, 1880-1970 person
associatedWith Llewelyn Powys and Alyse Gregory person
associatedWith Llewelyn Powys, Theodore Powys and John Cowper Powys person
associatedWith Marsh, Reginald, 1898-1954. person
associatedWith McVickar, Ada. person
associatedWith Pollock, H. Rivers, d. 1940. person
associatedWith Posselt, Mr. person
associatedWith Powys family. family
associatedWith Powys family. family
associatedWith Powys family. family
associatedWith Powys, John Cowper, 1872-1963 person
associatedWith Powys, Llewelyn person
associatedWith Powys, Llewelyn, 884-1939 person
associatedWith Powys, Philippa. person
associatedWith Powys, Theodore Francis, 1875-1953 person
associatedWith Sherborne School. corporateBody
associatedWith Sims, George, 1923- person
associatedWith Thayer, Scofield, b. 1889. person
associatedWith Wilkinson, Louis, 1881-1960. person
associatedWith Wilkinson, Louis Umfreville, 1881-1966 person
associatedWith Wood, Charles Erskine Scott, 1852-1944. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Davos (Switzerland)
Great Britain
Davos (Switzerland)
Switzerland--Davos
Somerset (England)
Dorset (England)
Dorset (England)
Kenya
Kenya
Somerset (England)
Subject
Authors, English
Tuberculosis patients' writings
Manuscripts--Catalogs
Antiquarian booksellers--Great Britain
Literature--British
Tuberculosis in literature
English essays--20th century
Sanatoriums
Antiquarian booksellers
Philosophy in literature
Sanatoriums--Switzerland--Davos
Occupation
Authors
Function

Person

Birth 1884-08-13

Death 1939-12-02

Britons

English

Information

Permalink: http://n2t.net/ark:/99166/w67084xs

Ark ID: w67084xs

SNAC ID: 34486180