Powys, Llewelyn, 1884-1939Alternative names
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)
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|Tuberculosis patients' writings|
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|Tuberculosis in literature|
|English essays--20th century|
|Philosophy in literature|