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john cowper powys, powys and lord jim, the powys society
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Publishing News

Announcing the publication of



Edited with an Introduction by Chris Gostick

in paperback at £10.00
post-free within the UK
Outside the UK: £15.00 (includes postage)

How To Order A Copy

Copies of POWYS AND LORD JIM can be obtained from:
Chris Thomas, Hon Secretary, The Powys Society, 87 Ledbury Road, London W11 2AG, UK (

Payment by cheque, made payable to 'The Powys Society',
by bank transfer (please contact Hon. Secretary for details)

powys and lord jim, james hanley, john cowper powys, chris gostick, the powys society

Launched at this year’s Powys Society Conference in August

john cowper powys, proteus and the magician, henry miller

The Letters of Henry Miller and John Cowper Powys
edited by Jacqueline Peltier


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Just Published

by Tim Blanchard

powysland, john cowper powys, tim blanchard

Defy the modern world with forgotten genius
John Cowper Powys

powysland, the discovery of john cowper powys, tim blanchard  powysland, the discovery of john cowper powys

John Cowper Powys is the greatest novelist that most people have never heard of.
  He produced a whole torrent of books about the magic contained within everyday life, and how to defy the competition and conformity demanded by the modern world.
  Powysland isn’t a straight biography - it wouldn’t suit him. Instead it explores the places that made the man and his eccentric philosophy, the huge rhapsodic novels and his life as a touring literary prophet. It sets out to discover how he attracted both a fanatical following over the past 100 years, why he’s mattered to so many people then and now - but also became reviled, neglected and forgotten.
  There’s a binary divide between those who think Powys one of the giants and geniuses of literature - and those who thought he was a nut and really just too much to stomach. Among the fans have been Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, JB Priestley, and more recently Iris Murdoch, Iain Sinclair, Bernard Cornwell, Margaret Drabble and Philip Pullman. American intellectual George Steiner said he’s the only writer in English language we’ve got who can stand comparison with Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.
  On the other side you’ve got a big chunk of the literary establishment, reviewers and academia. Which has meant he’s had no chance of making it into the literary canon.
  I’ve made my own adventures in Powysland over the past 15 years, joining with the hardcore followers of Powys, visiting the important places to him, trying to figure out how and whether there’s anything to be gained from thinking and living like a Powysian.
  In a sanitised world, we need Powys. But he's a writer who's running out of readers. This book will be one way to make sure this one-off in literary history, an English eccentric with so much to say about modern angst and disenchantment, isn’t carelessly forgotten.

tim blanchard

Publication: 21 November 2018
Available from The Sundial Press


Visit the POWYSLAND website here (opens in a new tab or window)

Reisuued for the first time
ALYSE GREGORY's first novel

alyse gregory, she shall have music, janice gregory, sundial press
With an introduction
by Janice Gregory

Publication: Summer 2017

holding a copy of the new edition of

janice gregory, alyse gregory she shall have music
by her great-aunt
at the Powys Society Conference
(August 2017)

littleton powys, the joy of it,  front cover, sundial press
Littleton Powys: THE JOY OF IT
Limited edition Hardback
with coloured endpapers and silk ribbon marker
256pp ISBN: 9781908274045  
The Sundial Press
Limited to 100 numbered copies on 115 gsm matt coated paper
Published at £25.00

Sundial has a nine unnumbered copies printed on 80 gsm bookwove
Available to Powys Society members for just £12.50 post-free (UK only)
while stocks last

Littleton Powys: THE JOY OF IT


clay phoenix a biography of jack clemo, luke thompson


A Biography of Jack Clemo

by Luke Thompson

Published: June 2016
£15.00 (paperback)
ISBN 9780993473494
Pages: 608

Jack Clemo (1916–1994) is best known as a poet – one of the most extraordinary poets of the twentieth century. His novel Wilding Graft (1948) was admired by TF Powys; the two corresponded and met.

In his second volume of autobiography, The Marriage of a Rebel (1980), Clemo’s sense of kinship with TF Powys - to whom he also dedicated a poem, 'A Kindred Battlefield' - is made explicit: 'He too had chosen the unworldly borderline, the terrible wrestle with God.'

Clay Phoenix is the first biography of Clemo, and it is the first study to draw from Clemo's extensive archives; an archive that includes sixty years of diaries, letters (including to and from Charles Causley, Cecil Day Lewis, Mary Whitehouse, AL Rowse, Frances Bellerby, TF Powys, George MacBeth and Sir Arthur Quiller Couch), manuscripts of every volume of Clemo’s work and a large photograph collection.

Luke Thompson lectures at Falmouth University and is a former student at Exeter University.  He will be a speaker at the Society’s One Day Literary Symposium (Exeter University, Old Library, 15 June 2017)

the Society’s President:


New and Collected Poems

by Glen Cavaliero

glen cavaliero the flash of weathercocks
Published: 28/11/2016
Troubador Publishing Ltd
£11.99 (paperback) £24.99 (hardback)
ISBN 9781785892332 (paperback) 9781785892349 (hardback)

“Cavaliero is a poet with much to offer, shrewd in his observation of human nature and technically assured in his articulation of relatively figurative emotions and sensations” – Glyn Pursglove, Acumen

“Sharply observant... [His poems] have that sense of place which such poetry needs” – John Betjeman

“Cavaliero is one of the master-shapers of the English stanza” – Charles Lock, Poetry Salzburg Review

philippa powys, the blackthorn winter, the powys society, sundial press

First paperback edition
230 pages ISBN-13: 9780955152320 Book Dimensions: 198×129 mm
Price: £12.50
Limited special price of £10.00
to Powys Society members


£10.00  (U.K only)

llewelyn powys recalled to life, the powys society

Llewelyn Powys: A Consumptive’s Diary, 1911

Edited by Peter Foss

The Powys Presss
August 2016
By the spring of 1911, the writer Llewelyn Powys (1884-1939) – then only 26 – had spent eighteen months at a Swiss sanatorium, being treated for the tuberculosis which the previous year had nearly killed him. Still frail, he returned to England, and to Montacute, the Somerset home of his family, where his father had been vicar for 26 years. This homecoming, which Powys first described in his remarkable book Skin for Skin (1925), was fraught with ambiguities, partly occasioned by his confirmed espousal of a neo-pagan philosophy which turned him against the religion of his forebears. Here, in Somerset, he ‘came into his own’, regaining his strength and rediscovering anew the beautiful landscape of his boyhood. This was characterised by a determination to extract joy from every passing moment. He cultivated a visionary response to Nature, relished erotic sensations, and enthusiastically indulged his friendships – especially with his brother John Cowper Powys. This ‘eternal flow of life’, as he called it, was a panacea and, through the writing of this diary, provided ‘food for future years’. Continuing and expanding the narrative account, Powys’s 1911 diary charts in candid detail his longings, his friendships, his reading, the poetry he loved and the letters he received. He writes of his walks in the countryside of south Somerset, imbibing at inns, encountering wayfarers, luxuriating in the natural world – and all this in one of the glorious summers of the twentieth century, when temperatures famously reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit. In the words of Siegfried Sassoon, it seemed to all ‘a summer of commingled happiness’. But 1911 was also a year of dramatic social and political upheavals that were changing the age-old ways of life, rendering the experience of this year a kind of ‘timeless moment’ – and that is how Powys later re-imagined it in writings such as Love and Death (1939). With the insidious disease always in the background, the 1911 diary conveys vividly what it was like still to live life to the full in the last throes of Edwardian England before The Great War swept so much away.


RECALLED TO LIFE was launched at the August 2016 conference

£10.00 within the UK
Outside UK price: £15.00
Please send your cheque, made payable to the Powys Society, to:
Hon Secretary, Chris Thomas, at 87 Ledbury Road, London, W11 2AG

Jacqueline Peltier’s translation of JCP’s Suspended Judgements (Judgements Réservés), with notes by the translator and an introduction by Marcella Henderson-Peal, will be available at this year’s conference Jacqueline's Powys website can be reached here.

Paul Weston has recently published Glastonbury Psychogeography (Avalon Aeon Publications, 2016) in which he discusses A Glastonbury Romance. Also available on his website is the film THE DAEMONIC GENIUS OF JOHN COWPER POWYS which he delivered at the Society’s 2010 conference in Street.

zouheir jamoussi_theodore-powys-gods-and-demons
Zouheir Jamoussi at Tunis University has updated and revised his 1971 doctoral thesis called Theodore Powys’s  Gods and Demons. The book is published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

[ISBN: 978-1443894357 Price: £47.99]

by Neil Lee and Reb Lee available as a kindle book .

September 2015

  From The Powys Press:

A Phenomenological Study of Maiden Castle

H.W. Fawkner John Cowper Powys and the Elements:In this study of Maiden Castle, H.W. Fawkner discusses the elements—but in a way new to Powys criticism and indeed to element-theory. In a move that aligns itself with the ongoing shift from postmodernism to speculative realism, Fawkner highlights the Powysian emphasis on elements as a mechanism that invalidates the tradition of taking the human being as ultimate standard of reference. In Maiden Castle, No-man’s name points to this devolution. The futility of self-centredness is inscribed in his identity as a void into which self-glory perpetually plummets— but also as a gateway for release into the elemental surprises of the real. Space is uncovered as a field in which each element is a dwelling for anything existing under the authority of its sphere. Here each being has an elemental essence surpassing all possible relations to it. Objects and people are not defined by relations but by the style and feel of the element in which they are imbued.

  Freed from connectivity, an object, colour, or landscape is perceivable in stand-alone fashion as something almost surreally real. Powys is hooked on the rumbling, ghostly, or unobtrusive intensity of this reality-factor, all relations and connections being subservient to it. To read Maiden Castle as a celebration of the elements is accordingly to confront the fact that every primordial component of the world is somehow absolutely real prior to its being-related. Each item of reality, whether living or inanimate, sports the secret of an intrinsic reality that is hidden from the rush of the world’. To see things and beings non-relationally is to see elementally. That seeing is complex—and no one understood that complexity more profoundly and vividly than John Cowper Powys.

ISBN 9781874559504

Semi-Annual published by the Powys Society of North America

powys notes spring  1999, john cowper powys, the popwys society 1990
 (Edited by Denis Lane)
Vol. 6. No. 1. Spring 1990
Powys’s Punch and Judy Show, Weymouth Sands and Misogyny by Linda Pashka
The Idea of the Feminine in John Cowper Powys’s A Glastonbury Romance by Peter G Christensen
A Modern Mystery Play by John Cowper Powys
A Re-Discovery: Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Summer Will Show, reviewed by Richard Maxwell
Editor’s Notes

Vol. 6. No.2. Fall 1990
Porius and the Feminine by Michael Ballin
Talk, Detail and Action, An Introduction to Atlantis by Richard Maxwell
Restoring Maiden Castle, Review article by W J Keith
T F Powys and the Divine  Presence – T F Powys’s Father Adam reviewed by Anne Barbeau Gardiner
Editor’s Notes

(Edited by Richard Maxwell)
Vol. 7.  No. 1. Spring and Summer 1991
Exile and Presences, Powys’s Nihilism by Ben Jones
The American Scene and Character by John Cowper Powys
Powys Modernist by Glen Cavaliero
Powys Progressive by Denis Lane

Vol. 7. No. 2. Fall and Winter 1992
Editing Porius by Wilbur T Albrecht
“A Certain Combination of Realism and Magic”: Notes on the Publishing History of Porius by Michael Ballin

Vol. 8. Nos. 1 & 2. 1992, A Double Issue
John Cowper Powys at the Iris Club by Constance Harsh
“A Peculiar Blending”: Powys’s Anglo American Synthesis in A Glastonbury Romance and the Autobiography by Nicholas Birns
The Mythology of Escape: Owen Glendower and the Failure of Historical Romance by Ian Duncan
Powys and America, A Panel Discussion

Vol. 9. No. 1. Fall 1993 and Winter 1994
John Cowper Powys and William James on Religious Faith by Peter G Christiansen
A Fulltime Occupation by Charles Lock
Gestures of God by Marius Buning
Voltairean Cadences...Powysian Phantasmagoria by William Olmsted
Peter Powys Grey, an Obituary by Charles Lock

Vol. 9. No. 2. Fall 1994 and Winter 1995
A Special issue on the Canadian lecture tours of John Cowper Powys
John Cowper Powys’s Canadian lecture tours by Robin Patterson

Vol. 10. No. 1. Fall and Winter 1995
A Symposium on the new Colgate Porius
Porius: tired thoughts like stones...” by Timothy Hyman
The Art of Sinking by Ian Duncan
Porius: Another Story by Janina Nordius
Exteriority in Porius by Harald Fawkner
On the new Porius by Charles Lock
A Question or Two about the Text of Porius
Observations Bibliographic and Social

Vol. 10. No. 2. Fall and Winter 1996
Aether and Ocean: Two Uses of Homer after the Empire by Gregory D Alles
Letters from John Cowper Powys to Merlin Wolcott at Colgate University by Constance Harsh
Book Reviews
Observations Bibliographic and Social

Vol.11. No. 1. Spring 1997
“The Circuitous Outward”: Natural Mythology in John Cowper Powys’s Owen Glendower
The Great Mother: The “Divine Feminine” in Powys’s A Glastonbury Romance by Christine Bilodeau
Cavaliero on the Supernatural (book review) by Richard Maxwell
Observations Bibliographic and Social
A Powys Collection For Sale

(Edited by Nicholas Birns)
Vol.11. No. 2. Winter 1998
Dismantling the Nineteenth Century Novel: J C Powys’s Wood and Stone by W J Keith
Porius: A Week Without History, A Word Without Sense by Charles Lock
Subversions of the Celtic in John Cowper Powys’s Porius by Joe Boulter
Extraordinary Musings of a Plain Man by Michael Ballin

Vol.12. No. 1. Summer 1998
Between Myth and History: Problems in the Sacrifice Theme in Owen Glendower by Peter G Christensen
Romance and Realism in John Cowper Powys’s Owen Glendower by Robin Wood
Elusive America by John Cowper Powys reviewed y Constance Harsh
The Mystic Leeway by Frances Gregg reviewed by Jacqueline Peltier
The Sixpenny Strumpet by Theodore Francis Powys reviewed by Greg Bond
Notes and Comments by Nicholas Birns

Vol.12. No.2. Spring 1999
Movement Without World: Phenomenological Remarks on the Opening Chapter of A Glastonbury Romance by H W Fawkner
Herbert Williams: John Cowper Powys reviewed by Glen Cavaliero
W J Keith on the 1999 UK Powys Society Conference
Janina Nordius, Solitude and Transcendence in John Cowper Powys, reviewed by J P Couch
How I met the Powys Brothers by Greg Bond
Song of the Hermit Thrush by Paul Wiener
Notes and Comments by Nicholas Birns

Please contact Hon. Secretary,
by e-mail, at,
or write to Hon Secretary at 87 Ledbury Road, London, W11 2AG
for details of availability and costs including postage.

Two forthcoming 2018 publications

Edited by Peter J. Foss
The Powys Press
ISBN 9781874559481
Price: UK £10.00 (includes p&p) Overseas £14.00 (includes p&p)

llewelyn powys diary 1910
At the age of 25, the writer Llewelyn Powys(1884-1939), favourite brother of the novelist John Cowper Powys, contracted pulmonary tuberculosis, the killer disease of the age. Sent toa sanatorium at Clavadel near Davos Platz, he began in 1910 to keep a diary, over 48,000 words long which charted not only the insidious progress of the illness, and the treatments then in vogue, but also the cultural life of the high altitude ‘cure’, cut off from the world amidst a strange medley of characters, reminiscent of Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain. In periods between blood spitting, Powys read widely and intensively, formulating his life affirmative philosophy which was to permeate all he later wrote, from his vivid account of consumption in Skin for Skin (1925) to his ‘imaginitive autobiography, Love and Death (1939). This experience was augmented by the ‘dangerous liaisons’ he formed with young women, giving to the diary narrative an erotic frisson which reflects something of the nature of the illness itself. Powys received numerous letters while at Clavadel, from family and friends, many here quoted at length, making the diary an important untapped source of Powys material. The result is a kaleidoscope of impressions and anecdotes, bizarre encounters, and philosophical speculations which was considered at the time a work of literary art in its own right. Like Katherine Mansfield’s journal from the same period, Llewelyn Powys’s diary is a major record from inside the consumptive experience and adds significantly to our understanding of the ordeal of this deadly and durable disease in the first half of the twentieth century.

Now available direct from Hon. Secretary
Please make cheque payable to 'The Powys Society' and send to
Chris Thomas, Flat D, 87 Ledbury Road, London W11 2AG

llewelyn powys, the conqueror worm, literary review, john gray


“An unfinished story written in 1912-13 that Foss includes at the end of The Conqueror Worm makes clear the lesson Powys took from his illness. The experience did not make him more prudent or in any conventional sense more moral. Instead it strengthened his resolve to enjoy life 'without restrictions'. 'If God restored me', Powys wrote, 'I thought I would live more eagerly, more wickedly than ever and with far more craft.' Recording a bold and original mind seeking and finding delight in life while facing the prospect of imminent death, this must surely be one of the most remarkable diaries that has been published in many years.”

From John Gray’s review CONSPICUOUS CONSUMPTION in The Literary Review (June 2015)

To read the full review please click on the link below to be transported to the website of The Literary Review

earth memories

‘These essays celebrate the life of the spirit – not by turning to an otherworldly realm, or retreating into the shadowy depths of the mind, but by standing still and looking anew at the sun and rain and the changing seasons. As Powys shows, the human spirit is reborn when it sees the natural world as it actually is – a spectacle of inexhaustible beauty.’   JOHN GRAY

The Powys Society NEWSLETTER No.83 (48 pages) published November 2014

NEW from Conquistador Press
llewelyn powys, skin for skin

First published in 1925, Skin For Skin is a deeply personal account of Llewelyn Powys’ encounter with tuberculosis, which he contracted in 1909 at the age of twenty-five. In those days, prior to the discovery of antibiotics, TB - or consumption as it was then called - was a leading cause of death; for Powys, the bubbling sensation in his lungs and the blood in his mouth amounted to a sentence of death. In the pages of this uncompromising memoir we accompany him to a Swiss sanitarium to recover his health, then back to the south of England for a period of convalescence, hoping that the symptoms of the “hideous complaint” do not return.

Hoping - but not praying. For Powys, an atheist, there is no comfort in a belief in God and an immortal soul, and so he finds himself staring into the abyss.

llewelyn powys 1884-1939Hoping - but not praying. For Powys, an atheist, there is no comfort in a belief in God and an immortal soul, and so he finds himself staring into the abyss. The experience, as so much else in the book, is recounted in powerfully vivid, lyrical prose: “I would wake in the small hours of the morning swaddled in fear. With scared eyes I would peer into the darkness of my room, and into the unknown days before me, and come to realize, during those tense, suspended moments, how completely unattended, how intolerably alone we are, each one of us, like cattle herded into a merciless stockyard, to be driven into the shambles, separately, when our turn comes.”

And yet, despite the soulless darkness, there is reason for existence. As we see in Skin For Skin, Powys finds it in enjoying life to the fullest, in feasting upon it while he has it, in squeezing the last drop of joy from each day. As the Brooklyn Daily Eagle concluded in its review in 1925, "Rugged, brutal and yet, in spots, tender, Skin For Skin makes life worth living after all."

November 2014 • pb 9780992078676 • 146pp • £6.95


The Letters of Henry Miller and John Cowper Powys

edited by Jacqueline Peltier

This volume brings together in one place, for the first time in English, the correspondence between these two great writers who both had such a profound influence on each other.

PROTEUS AND THE MAGICIAN includes an introduction, by Jacqueline Peltier, notes, bibliography, index, photos and reproductions of original letters and dedications.

The book was launched at the famous Shakespeare & Co bookshop, 37 rue de la Bûcherie, Paris, on Sunday 11 May at 5pm, in a tie in with the Henry Miller Festival, ‘Aller Retour Paris’, organised by the Henry Miller Memorial Library.

Published by The Powys Press


For more details of JCP’s influence on Henry Miller click here.

john cowper powys proteus and the magician

Price: £10.00 in UK (post free); overseas, please add 40% to cover postage.

Please send orders for PROTEUS AND THE MAGICIAN to:

Chris Thomas, Hon Secretary, The Powys Society,  e-mail:

or write to: Flat D, 87 Ledbury Road, London W11 2AG

When a young American, 'a kid from Brooklyn', enraptured by the world of words and books hears an English writer, the future author of Wolf Solent, A Glastonbury Romance and Autobiography, delivering unforgettable public lectures to all kinds of audiences throughout America, we may well imagine the powerful impact it had on a gifted young man, obsessed with the ambition to be a writer. This is exactly what happened to Henry Miller. Some time in the 1920s, after having listened to John Cowper Powys lecturing at the Labor Temple in New York, elated and fascinated, he wished to celebrate the great achievement of the writer he admired so much: that was when Powys entered the pantheon of Henry Miller's literary masters. Some thirty years later, Henry Miller, busy writing what would become The Books in My Life remembered the emotion he had felt while listening to Powys's lectures and suddenly decided to write to him. In the correspondence which followed, from 1950 to 1962, the reader will witness their profound understanding, their particular interests, often shared, their vivacious exchanges bearing essentially on books, those they wrote and those they read. Their letters are exciting to read and are also a passionate tribute to pure literature. How apt for Miller to have found the expression 'a living book', and to have applied this to John Cowper Powys, for it is an expression that could also easily refer to Henry Miller himself.

Jacqueline Peltier

TLS Review


In March 1950, Henry Miller, then living in Big Sur, CA, "poor in pocket" though the author of several famous books, introduced himself to John Cowper Powys in Wales: "I suddenly thought of you and the very great  influence you had upon me years ago, when I was just a lad ... I read everything of yours I could lay hands on". Miller asked Powys if  there was anything he could send him from across the ocean. The older writer, delighted to receive this fan letter, replied graciously, "any books of yours, for though I have been snatching at fragments of your work for years & years I don't possess one single book".

Thus a pen-palship was born, which lasted till Powys's death in 1963. The book Miller sent was not one of the Tropics, or Nexus, Sexus or Plexus — the content of which he feared might alarm the elderly Englishman — but an anthology of milder writings, Sunday After the War. Powys enjoyed them: "I tell my friends over here & my brothers and sisters that my new friend is an Atlantean Heathen Primi­tive like myself.”

Judging by the letters contained in Proteus and the Magician, a 160-page collection of the two authors' correspondence, Powys might have preferred something stronger. It was not the alleged friend Miller who was eager to introduce sexual topics into the letters, but the Glastonbury romancer. He did so in an un-Tropic-like manner:

For all my instinctive sex-vices my inherent sadism & masochism & spiritual & mental homo-sexuality (which is a weird sort of twice inverted Lesbianism when I really examine it) are vices that could easily exist in an extremely fastidious old maid . . . .

Powys contrasted his old maidishness with his correspondent's "possession of . . . nerves blood marrow flesh skin & magnetism — these overtones & undertones of 'love' . . .". He signed off, "your old Auntie John o' Dreams".

Miller stuck to old-fashioned courtesies ("I am still just a mere lad, in writing to you"). Instead of taking the hint and mailing one of what Powys called his "volcanic" works — all selling well in France but banned in Britain and the US — he recommended that Powys seek out The Spirit of Zen by Alan Watts. "There is more to it than tea ceremonies." The old maid wrote back that he was "a Mausoleum of Man-Woman Secrets". Miller suggested Siddhartha by Herman Hesse.

An unexpected actor in the drama is a young Londoner, Graham Ackroyd, who wrote audaciously to Powys: 'About the book I'm doing on Miller — it will contain letters —  so perhaps you will be kind enough to loan me any letters that Miller has written to you". Powys asked Miller what to do. With typical openness, Miller replied that while Ackroyd was not "ready" to write a book about him, Powys should let him have the letters anyway. A note tells us that Graham Ackroyd is the father of the novelist Peter and that the Miller book never got written.

Proteus and the Magician, edited by Jacqueline Peltier, is published by the Powys Press at £10.

©The TLS (30 May 2014 No 5800)

Wise Old Codgers

A review by author Lindsay Clarke who relishes the correspondence between two authors.
Proteus and the Magician: The Letters of Henry Miller and John Cowper Powys, edited by Jacqueline Peltier. The Powys Society, 2014. ISBN: 9781874559467

These days so much fiction is written in a spare, almost anorexic prose that it’s salutary to be reminded how once, and not so long ago, there were novelists who took delight in appealing to their readers’ senses as well as to the intellect by regaling them with a feast of language. Prominent among them were two brave writers, of different generations but kindred temperament, whose imaginations travelled far beyond the current vogue for ironical scepticism in their need to articulate a vision of cosmic range. Now the Powys Society has done us a valuable service by making available in English the full, generous-hearted correspondence between Henry Miller and John Cowper Powys.

Read the complete review here

w j keith, ultimate things


Christianity, Myth and the Powyses

July 2013 • pb 9781874559443 • 191pp • £10.00

If we consider the religious variety embraced by the offspring of CF. Powys and Mary Cowper Johnson, the full range of modern western spiritual experience is represented. It extends from full acceptance of Roman Catholicism (Littleton Alfred Powys, JCP's son, who died a priest) to total rejection of Christian claims (Llewelyn). In between, there are numerous gradations: a considered preparedness to conform outwardly to tradition (Littleton, Bertie, Will, and Lucy), a reformulated faith in the Christian vision (Gerard Casey), as well as a stubborn, resistant independence detectible in various ways in Gertrude, Marian, and Katie - and, of course, the special cases of Theodore's one-of-a-kind enigmatic private world-view, and JCP's imaginative acceptance of all possibilities in a world recognized as fascinating, mysterious, and ultimately inscrutable. If in their basic solidarity they seem 'one monstrous Powys', as individuals they were indeed 'many'.

W.J. Keith


Prefatory Note ix

Explanations and Acknowledgments xi


Chapter 1: Background Information

Christianity and Myth 13

Theologians and Philosophers versus Writers and Artists 17

Chapter 2: Life at Montacute

The Role of the Father 24

The Shadow of the Vicarage 26

Sibling Variations 34

Chapter 3: Two Meanings of Myth

Llewelyn and ‘Luluization’ 40

Theodore and the Making of a Recluse 44

JCP and ‘Life-illusion’ 47

Chapter 4: Llewelyn

Autobiography and the Shocks of Circumstance 52

Llewelyn as a Professional Writer 57

The Religion of an Atheist 61

Llewelyn: The Pros and the Cons 66

The Llewelyn Stone 74

Chapter 5: Theodore

Was Theodore a Christian? 82

Theodore’s Earliest Non-Fiction Writings 90

Interpreting Soliloquies of a Hermit 94

Theodore’s Thought in Fiction 101

Chapter 6: John Cowper

From Faith to Scepticism 108

Encountering William James 116

JCP’s ‘Saint Paul’ 119

The Soul, Other Dimensions, and Mystery 128

The Culmination in Porius 132

Chapter 7: The Next Generation:

Mary and Gerard Casey

The Biographical Background 139

Mary’s The Kingfisher’s Wing and A Net in Water 143

Gerard’s Night Horizons 146

The Powys Influence 150

Chapter 8: The Powyses in the Modern World

‘Many Gods’ and ‘Sacred Places’ 158

One Powys or Many Powyses? 163

The Importance of the Powyses 166

Conclusion 170



Textual Problems in Soliloquies of a Hermit 173

Works Cited 176

Index 186



Background Information

Christianity and Myth

The Reverend C.F. Powys (1843-1923) was successively a curate at Bradford Abbas in Dorset (1867-72), vicar of Shirley in Derbyshire (1872-9), a curate at Dorchester in Dorset (1879-85), and vicar of Montacute in Somerset (1885-1918). Between 1872 and 1890, he and his wife produced eleven children, of which, remarkably for that period, ten lived to maturity; moreover, four of them survived into or beyond their ninetieth year. It was an exceptionally gifted family. The three best known – John Cowper (1872-1963), Theodore (1875-1953), and Llewelyn (1884-1939) – had substantial literary careers, while four others each published at least one book. Most of them, indeed, distinguished themselves in some sort of artistic or intellectual endeavour. Littleton became an influential headmaster, Gertrude an artist of considerable ability studying and exhibiting in London and Paris, A.R. (Bertie) a well-known architect, while Marian was recognized as a leading authority on the creating and conservation of lace. Philippa (Katie to family and friends), though hardly a successful writer, published a slim volume of poetry and one novel in her lifetime, but more fiction, poems and considerable extracts from her diaries are now available. Interestingly, almost all of them moved away from the Anglican Church in which they had been born and brought up; at the same time, they remained acutely responsive to religious issues and explored alternative religious – or, at least, spiritual – beliefs.

   In view of the religious preoccupations that dominate the writings of John Cowper, Theodore and Llewelyn, it seems essential that we establish, as precisely as we can, not only the positions that individual members of the family embraced, but also, as far as possible, what they believed (and did not believe) at various stages of their careers. By the same token, we need to determine the extent to which they discussed religious matters with each other, and in some cases notably influenced each other. However, the Powyses themselves rarely made attempts to arrive at any systematic conclusions.

Eight John Cowper Powys Novels reprinted

Faber & Faber's print-on-demand imprint, Faber Finds, has issued eight of John Cowper Powys's novels in paperback priced around £15.00.

JCP - Wood and Stone Wood and Stone was John Cowper Powys' first novel published in 1915. It is no prentice-work however - the author was already in his forties. The novel is set in the area of south Somerset that John Cowper Powys grew up in. The village of Nevilton is based on Montacute where his father was vicar for many years. When he wrote it Powys was living in the USA and it is perhaps this absence that accounts for the heightened vividness of the descriptive writing. Powys deploys a large and wonderfully delineated cast of characters. They are loosely divided between 'the well-constituted' and 'the ill-constituted'. Characteristically Powys favours the latter. Paperback. £22.00 ISBN: 0571243150

Rodmoor is unusually for a John Cowper Powys novel set in East Anglia, Rodmoor itself being a coastal village. The protagonist, Adrian Sorio, is a typically Powys-like hero, highly-strung with only precarious mental stability. He is in love with two women, Nance Herrick and the more unconventional Phillipa Renshaw. This was Powys' second novel published in 1916. It deploys a rich and memorable cast of characters.  Paperback. £17.00  ISBN: 0571242170

After My Fashion has an unusual publishing history. Although it was John Cowper Powys' third novel written in 1920, it wasn't published until 1980. It seems that when his US publisher turned it down, Powys made no effort to place it elsewhere. Indeed, when Powys had finished a book, he tended to be oddly indifferent to its fate. The novel has two other unusual features: its locations (Sussex and Greenwich Village) and Isadora Duncan being the inspiration for Elise, the dancer and mistress of the protagonist, Richard Storm (based quite largely on Powys himself). As one would expect from Powys, the writing is vivid, not least in the descriptions of the Sussex landscape and the bohemian milieu of Greenwich Village.  Paperback. £15.00  ISBN: 0571242111

Ducdame was John Cowper Powys' fourth novel published in 1925. It is set in Dorset. The protagonist, Rook Ashover (a wonderfully Powysian name) is an introverted young squire with a dilemma: to go on loving his mistress, Netta Page, or, make a respectable marriage and produce an heir. Of his early novels (pre Wolf Solent), this one is often considered to be the most carefully constructed and best organized. Like them all it contains a gallery of rich, complex characters and glorious writing. Paperback. £15.00  ISBN: 0571242146

To read an article on The Early Novels of John Cowper Powys by Morine Krissdóttir please click here

Morwyn First published in 1937, John Cowper Powys originally wanted to call this novel ‘Hell’. One can see why. Powys was a fervent opponent of vivisection, ‘man’s most vicious cruelty’, and here, in this strange fantasy, he gives full vent to his feelings. The main adventures are set in Hell where the narrator, not named but clearly based on Powys himself, his dog, Black Peter, Morwyn, his new love and her father, a vivisector find themselves hurled after a cataclysm on a Welsh mountain-side. The infernal adventures and encounters are virtuoso displays of Powys’s extraordinary knowledge of the mythical underworld.

Atlantis Published in 1954, John Cowper Powys called this novel, a 'long romance about Odysseus in his extreme old age, hoisting sail once more from Ithaca'. As usual there is a large cast of human characters but Powys also gives life and speech to inanimates such as a stone pillar, a wooden club, and an olive shoot. The descent to the drowned world of Atlantis towards the end of the novel is memorably described, indeed, Powys himself called it 'the best part of the book'. Many of Powys's themes, such as the benefits of matriarchy, the wickedness of priests and the evils of modern science which condones vivisection are given full rein in this odd but compelling work.

The Brazen Head In this panoramic novel of Friar Roger Bacon, John Cowper Powys displays his genius at its most fecund. First published in 1956, this novel, set in thirteenth-century Wessex, is an amalgam of all the qualities that make John Cowper Powys unique. The love-story of Lil-Umbra and Raymond de Laon, and the quest of the Mongolian giant, Peleg, for Ghosta, the girl seen, loved, and lost on the battlefield, are intermingled with the historical, theological and magical threads which form the brocade of this novel. Dominating all is the mysterious creation of Roger Bacon one of the boldest as well as most intricate of Powys' world-changing inventions. Professor G. Wilson Knight called this 'A book of wisdom and wonders'.

The Inmates 'What I've tried to do in this tale is to invent a group of really mad people who have the fantastic and grotesquely humorous extravagance that, afer all, is an element in life'. So wrote John Cowper Powys himself in his prefatory note to this novel first published in 1952. In this 'wild book' Powys creates a 'Philosophy of the Demented' expressing fundamental truths about madness and sanity. Most of the novel, though, like so much of his later fiction, it is more a fantasy, takes place in Glint Hall, a lunatic asylum. The two main characters are John Hush and Tenna Sheer. They fall in love. The rapidly developing, psychologically complex narrative centres on 'Hush's organization of a conspiracy of revolt amongst the most fantastically crazy of the inmates'. It makes for a strange, disturbing, and yet, at times, funny read.

Read both WOOD AND STONE & RODMOOR, the first two novels by John Cowper Powys, online (also available to download). Click on the links below to be transported (both links will open in new tabs or windows):  



Two previously unpublished novellas by PHILIPPA POWYS
“Philippa my dear I must congratulate you on the excitement your Budvale caused us. Alyse read it first & expressed herself astonished at its power & beauty. Then as soon as Lulu was back I read it all through aloud to them both, in two readings. And Lulu was as excited as I have only about once before seen him excited by any writing.
… Philippa, dear sister, I do congratulate you on this work … but I regard it as only a prelude to others more beautiful & formidable.” – John Cowper Powys (in a letter to the author postmarked Aug. 5, 1924).

Two previously unpublished novellas by Phillppa Powys

With an Introduction by Cicely Hill and Editor's Note by Louise de Bruin
in a limited edition hardback with coloured endpapers, silk ribbon & dj


philippa powys, sorrel barn and budvale
'A FEW evenings later Zola found herself once more fetching water. The sun had set, but darkness still held aloof from the fields. The winds were cold, though the primroses crowded the woods, and violets lay concealed between their new leaves; a great part of the fallow land remained bare. Through a border of trees to a field below Zola followed the little foot-path, where behind a big walnut there lay hidden among a network of bushes a clear spring of water. Having first leant over to drink from the rising bubbles themselves, she filled her pails, then turned to leave the well as she found it – a temple for the birds. But almost as quickly she dropped them as she could not resist the desire to pick the primroses which clustered yellow at different points on the banks beside her. What joy they gave her, with their fragrance and their delicacy!' (From Sorrel Barn) READ MORE here

Under the Shadow of the Oath
Editor: Louise de Bruin

Publisher: Old Africa Books (September 2012) -  Paperback: 218 pages - ISBN-13: 978-9966757029
The poet and diarist Mary Casey (1915-1980) was the niece of John Cowper, Theodore Francis and Llewelyn Powys. After her marriage to Gerard Casey she followed him to Kenya, where he was working as a farm assistant for her uncle and godfather W.E. (Will) Powys. The title of this selection from Mary Casey's African journals Under the Shadow of the Oath refers to the Mau Mau Uprising, which started in 1952. By then the Caseys were well established on their own farm on the slopes of Mount Kenya just above a forest reserve, a hiding-place for dangerous wild animals as well as the Mau Mau, but as Mary Casey writes ' ... if you have to spend your days with people who have taken blood-curling oaths for your destruction the only possible way to carry on is as if everything was as usual, apart from what seem reasonable precautions.' Her journals offered often a refuge and meant to her 'above all a transmutation by poetic thought of grief into some kind of tragic drama; of joy in the elements into song'.

mary casey - Under the Shadow of the Oath
An excellent book review by Jeremy Hooker here


llewelyn powys durdle door to dartmoor


Wessex Essays of Llewelyn Powys

in paperback at £9.99

from The Sundial Press ISBN-13: 9780955152344

CONTENTS: The Durdle Door - The White Nose - A Bronze Age Valley - Bats Head -The Fossil Forest - The Castle Park of East Lulworth - St Aldhelm’s Head - Studland - Corfe Castle - Herring Gulls - Stalbridge Rectory - The River Yeo - Cerne Abbas - Stinsford Churchyard - The Grave of William Barnes - Weymouth Harbour - Portland - A Famous Wreck - Hardy’s Monument - The Swannery Bell at Abbotsbury - Lyme Regis - Montacute House - Ham Hill - On the Other Side of the Quantocks - Exmoor - Dartmoor 

llewelyn powys still blue beauty

STILL BLUE BEAUTY in paperback at £9.99

from The Sundial Press ISBN-13: 9780955152375

(lncluding four previously uncollected essays)

An attractive second volume of twenty-six Wessex Essays by Llewelyn Powys


CONTENTS: The Sea! The Sea! The Sea! - Lodmoor - The Memory of One Day - A Stonehenge in Miniature - The Father of Dorset - A Pond - High Chaldon - A Royal Rebel - Somerset Names - Montacute Hill - The Village Shop - The Wordsworths in Dorset - The World Is New! - A Visit by Moonlight - Shaftesbury: Champion of the Poor - A Wish for Freedom - Athelney: In the Steps of King Alfred - Wookey Hole - Green Corners of Dorset - Recollections of Thomas Hardy - A Foolish Razorbill - A Richer Treasure - Weymouth Memories - The Shambles Fog-Horn - Dorchester Lives

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"FROM WATERLOO STATION TO THE SMALL COUNTRY TOWN of Ramsguard in Dorset is a journey of not more than three or four hours, but having by good luck found a compartment to himself, Wolf Solent was able to indulge in such an orgy of concentrated thought, that these three or four hours lengthened themselves out into something beyond all human measurement."  — John Cowper Powys

And so begins chapter one of WOLF SOLENT, now available to read online here

“She would wish that far stranger weddings happened in the world than anything that she saw or heard of at Madder. She needed much more than plain Madder life to interest her — some events more like a proceeding that had happened in a book of fables that she had once read, where a little mouse wished to be joined in holy wedlock with a lioness, who, unluckily going out to meet her little dear before the wedding, chanced to set her foot upon him.” — T.F. Powys

 "No sight that the human eyes can look upon is more provocative of awe than is the night sky scattered thick with stars.” — Llewelyn Powys

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