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JOHN COWPER POWYS: AUTOBIOGRAPHY

AUTOBIOGRAPHY

JOHN COWPER POWYS

(Reprinted by Faber Finds)

 

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Permissionmust be asked before using any material from this site.

~ Introduction ~

A Resource for both Private and Public Research

The Powys Society has long had an important role in the field of literary scholarship; and this area of the site is primarily intended as a resource for those both within and without the Society who are actively engaged in private or public research.

Here you will find information about the Powys Society Collection (on semi-permanent loan to the Dorset County Museum in Dorchester), and other items of interest.

~ The Powys Collection ~

An Archive of Powys Family Material and Information

The Powys Society Collection and Archive was established in 1992 to provide a focus for scholarship into the Powys Family, particularly John Cowper Powys (1872-1963), Theodore Francis Powys (1875-1953) and Llewelyn Powys(1884-1939) and their immediate circle of friends.

Dorset County Museum in DorchesterThe Collection is housed in its own room at the Dorset County Museum in Dorchester, England, and is accessible to all with an interest in the Powys Family, their work and achievements by application to the curator of the Collection, Michael Kowalewski, or the Director, Jon Murden. Standard archive access arrangements apply.

The core of the Collection consists of major bequests by Mr E E Bissell and Mr Francis Feather, who have bequeathed their very important collections of Powys books and manuscripts to the Society in perpetuity. Other gifts and bequests continue to extend and enrich the material available.

A large number of manuscripts, typescripts, paintings, photographs, wood engravings and memorabilia relating to the Powys Family and their activities are included in the archive. A sample of these is always on display in the Writers Gallery at the Museum.

The Collection also includes an important corpus of Powys family letters, as well as correspondence with their wide circle of friends, including the writers Sylvia Townsend Warner, Huw Menai, Louis Wilkinson, Henry Miller and Elizabeth Myers.

As details of the Collection are passed on to us, we are including them on the Catalogue page. Our first accession in this respect is a description of the John Cowper Powys, Theodore Powys and Llewelyn Powys Manuscripts kindly prepared and supplied to us by Dr. Morine Krissdottir.

View the catalogue of The Powys Society Collection here.

From Michael Kowalewski

When John Cowper Powys in ‘Defence of Sensuality” called his ego an “ichthyosaurus” he may have been thinking of the fossils he had come across on the Dorset coast, but prophet as he was, might not have foreseen that his immortal remains – his works – would one day find themselves in close proximity with the preserved real ichthyosaurus remains in the Dorchester County Museum. But it is fitting that this supreme archaeologist of the soul and his Dorset-loving and -living family, should be housed here, just a few steps from where JCP dwelt during the writing of his diary for the "Dorset Year".

Having taken over the curatorship of the Society's Powys Collection in the Dorchester County Museum, I would like to invite more members to make use of this unique facility, and to breathe upon these fossils to give them life. Morine Krissdottir, who has devoted years to cataloguing and ordering the collection, has left it in fine order. Her catalogue is now available online here.

The Powys Collection is housed in two rooms in the attic – I hesitate to say garret – of the Museum, up a winding stair past ecclesiastical seals and through some corridors whose relation to the Gothic edifice of the Museum is by no means clear. There are two rooms, the outer with the computer, a display cabinet prominently featuring JCP’s walking stick (a formidable cudgel clearly borrowed from the Cerne Abbas Giant) with some memorabilia, and paintings, mostly by Gertrude Powys, of the Powyses.  A second room houses the guts of the collection. This consists of the two bequeathed collections of Francis Feather and E. E. Bissell, preserved integrally on opposite walls and consisting mostly of the published works, plus various donations from and to the Society. In the centre is a shelf of boxes containing Powysiana such as letters, typescripts, manuscripts, publishers proofs, photographs and various memorabilia – JCP’s passport, TFP’s ration card and such-like. We may say therefore that the collection is in two parts – two virtually complete sets of the published works of and about the Powyses, and archival material. There are also Society papers and records, copies of the Powys Journal and Review, the Powys’s ex-libris (I find Theodore's fascinating, a mixture of theology and radicalism) and a few – I emphasise few – more modern editions of the Powys corpus.

Any Society member or researcher on the Powyses is welcome to contact Michael Kowalewski on michael.sonam@btinternet.com or tel 01935 83552 to arrange a time to visit the collection, which is open at the same times as the Museum – 10am-5.00pm Monday to Saturday. I can then arrange any necessary permissions with the DCM.  (This supersedes the information on the web site about first contacting the Museum Director.)

The conditions of the bequests by Feather and Bissell and the agreement with the Dorset County Museum mean that there are some restrictions on the access to the material, so the Curator needs to be present while anyone is using the Collection. The Society is arranging for a new desk so this should cause little discomfort. At the moment copying of documents is possible but costly (20p) and involves my treading up and down even more flights of stairs. We hope to remedy this shortly by having our own copier.

As Curator, I hope to provide a short piece for each Newsletter about material in the Collection. Hopefully this will encourage people to make more use of this valuable Powys resource or at least benefit from its contents. I can only record my own epiphanic moment in the presence of Theodore’s original neatly written manuscript of ‘The Only Penitent’, and hope that similar illuminations may await other devotees of the Powyses.

For further information or to view the Collection in situ, please contact the Society's Powys Collection Curator:
    Michael Kowalewski
    Dorset County Museum,
    High West Street,
    Dorchester DT1 1XA United Kingdom

    Tel: 01305 83552
    or by email to michael.sonam@btinternet.com
  

Often described as one of the great apocalyptic novels of our time, WOLF SOLENT is the story of a young man returning from London to work near to the school at which his father had been history master. Complex, romantic and humorous, it is a classicwork combining a close understanding of man's everyday experience with a delicate awareness of the spiritual.

WOLF SOLENT

John Cowper Powys

A Powys Society Meeting

Mr Weston's Good Wine is the unusual tale of the struggle between the forces of good and evil in a small Dorset village. Its action is limited to one winter's evening when Time stands still and the bitter-sweet gift of awareness falls upon a dozen memorable characters. During the book a child knocked down by his car is miraculously brought back to life; the sign 'Mr Weston's Good Wine' lights up the sky; and the villagers soon discover that the wine he sells is no ordinary wine.

MR WESTON'S GOOD WINE

T.F. Powys

SOMERSET ESSAYS

Llewelyn Powys

 

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