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JCP OWEN GLENDOWER The Seen and the Unseen by P.J. Kavanagh

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DUCDAME

JOHN COWPER POWYS: AUTOBIOGRAPHY

AUTOBIOGRAPHY

(Reprinted by Faber Finds)

 

  

 

DESCENTS OF MEMORY The Life of John Cowper Powys by Morine Krissdottir

Descents of Memory

The Life of

John Cowper Powys

 

 

 

The Brothers Powys by Richard Powys Graves

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by Richard Powys Graves

 

 

 

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John Cowper Powys (1872-1963)

'A Mystical Pantheist'

‘A genius – a fearless writer, who writes with reckless passion.’ Margaret Drabble

John Cowper Powys was a prolific novelist, essayist, letter writer, poet and philosopher, and a writer of enormous scope, complexity, profundity and humour. A powerful orator, he spent over thirty years as an itinerant lecturer in the United States, during which time he wrote his first four novels. In 1930 he retired to up-state New York and turned to full-time writing: it was here that he produced such masterpieces as his Autobiography, A Glastonbury Romance and Weymouth Sands. He returned to Great Britain in 1934, settling in North Wales in 1935, where. he wrote the historical novels Owen Glendower and Porius, the critical studies of Rabelais and Dostoevsky, and The Brazen Head and other inventive fantasies. Other notable novels are Wolf Solent and Maiden Castle: all of them are rich in characterisation, psychological analysis and evocation of place. The Pleasures of Literature demonstrates the breadth of his literary interests, The Meaning of Culture and In Defence of Sensuality the immediacy of his thought.

 

Two Powys Society publications of note:

H.W. Fawkner: John Cowper Powys and the Soul

W.J. Keith: ‘A Glastonbury Romance’ Revisited 

 

Six Major Novels and an Autobiography

Wolf Solent

Wolf Solent is the first of the great novels of John Cowper Powys and caused quite a stir when it debuted in 1929, garnering praise from many of the top writers of the day including Conrad Aiken and Theodore Dreiser. Wolf Solent has been frequently published in Britain and America from 1929 onwards, notably in paperback by Penguin in Britain. In it the title character returns to the Wessex countryside, which remains steeped in mysticism and romance.

The novel is a momentous piece of work . . . of transcendent interest and great beauty. The New York Times Book Review

 

THE FACE ON THE WATERLOO STEPS

'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.'

And so begins chapter one of WOLF SOLENT, now available to read online here from Universal Library (external link which will open in a new window or tab). A computer generated audio version is also available.

A Glastonbury Romance

Described as "the only novel produced by an English writer that can fairly be compared with the fictions of Tolstoy and Dostoyevski" by George Steiner in ‘The New Yorker’ and “The book of the century” by Margaret Drabble in ‘The Telegraph’. John Cowper Powys has been acclaimed by some of the greatest minds of the past century, from Henry Miller (‘my first living idol’) to George Steiner (‘supreme in English fiction after Hardy’) to Robertson Davies (‘a great writer’). A Glastonbury Romance, first published in 1932, is regarded by many as his masterwork, an epic novel of terrific cumulative force and lyrical intensity. In it, he probes the mystical and spiritual ethos of the small English village of Glastonbury, and the effect upon its inhabitants of a mythical tradition from the remotest past of human history - the legend of the Grail. Powys's rich iconography interweaves the ancient with the modern, the historical with the legendary, and the imaginative within man with the natural world outside him to create a book of astonishing scope and beauty.

A truly extraordinary novel. It stands out indeed in a most astonishing way from the great mass of present-day fiction: a very earthquake of a book, bewildering, if you like, shocking, even infuriating, yet incontestably great.... It is a big book, an important book. — The Times 

Weymouth Sands

Powys tells the story of Jobber Skald - a large, somewhat brutish man, obsessed with the urge to kill the local magnate of the town because of the man's contempt for the workers of the local quarry - and his redeeming love for Perdita Wane, a young girl from the Channel Islands. Weymouth Sands boasts a striking collection of human oddities including a famous clown, his mad brother, a naive Latin teacher, a young philosopher, and an abortionist.

It brings to mind the ... the romantic ferment of the film 'Les Enfants du Paradis' or ... one of the works of J.M.W. Turner. — The Observer

Maiden Castle

At the centre of the novel is the aptly named Dud No-man, a historical novelist widowed after a yearlong unconsummated marriage to a woman who continues to haunt him. Inspired by pity and his own deep loneliness, Dud takes Wizzie Ravelston, an itinerant circus performer, into his home and heart. Their awkward yet endearing efforts to create a life together unfold in counterpoint to the romantic and familial relationships that sizzle and simmer in the village of Dorchester. Yet even as the characters in Maiden Castle struggle with the perplexities of love, desire and faith - readjusting their sights and affections - it is the looming fortress of Maiden Castle that exerts the otherworldly force that irrevocably determines the course of their lives.

His sense of encompassing nature and the living ever-present past, his power to convey curious states of mind, the beauty of his best writing, the exciting, erotic and cosmic scenes with which he alleviates his cosmic conceptions, could only come from a man possessed of superlative talent, genius, or (the word is inescapable with Powys) daemon. — Times Literary Supplement

Owen Glendower

It is the year 1400, and Wales is on the brink of a bloody revolt. At a market fair on the banks of the River Dee, a mad rebel priest and his beautiful companion are condemned to be burned at the stake. To their rescue rides the unlikely figure of Rhisiart, a young Oxford scholar, whose fate will be entangled with that of Owen Glendower, the last true Prince of Wales - a man called, at times against his will, to fulfill the prophesied role of national redeemer. Psychologically complex, sensuous in its language, vivid in its evocation of a period shrouded by myth, ‘Owen Glendower’ tells a compelling story of war, love, and magic.  

JCP OWEN GLENDOWER The Seen and the Unseen by P.J. Kavanagh

One of the most fascinating of all historical novels about one of the most tantalizing of historical figures. — Jan Morris

Porius

"Porius stood upon the low square tower above the Southern Gate of Mynydd-y-Gaer, and looked down on the wide stretching valley below." So begins one of the most unique novels of twentieth-century literature, by one of its most ‘extraordinary, neglected geniuses,’ said Robertson Davies of John Cowper Powys.

Powys thought Porius his masterpiece, but because of the paper shortage after World War II and the novel's lengthiness, he could not find a publisher for it. Only after he cut one-third from it was it accepted. This new edition (Overlook, 2007) not only brings Porius back into print, but makes the original book at last available to readers.

Set in the geographic confines of Powys's own homeland of Northern Wales, Porius takes place in the course of a mere eight October days in 499 A.D., when King Arthur - a key character in the novel, along with Myrddin Wyllt, or Merlin - was attempting to persuade the people of Britian to repel the barbaric Saxon invaders. Porius, the only child of Prince Einion of Edeyrnion, is the main character who is sent on a journey that is both historical melodrama and satirical allegory.

A complex novel, Porius is a mixture of mystery and philosophy on a huge narrative scale, as if Nabokov or Pynchon tried to compress Dostoevsky into a Ulyssean mold. Writing in The New Yorker, George Steiner has said of the abridged Porius that it "combines [a] Shakespearean-epic sweep of historicity with a Jamesian finesse of psychological detail and acuity. Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!, which I believe to be the American masterpiece after Melville, is a smaller thing by comparison."

This new, and first complete, edition of the novel substantiates both Steiner's judgement and Powys's claim for Porius as his masterpiece.

 

This mythical masterpiece . . . There is comedy, Miltonic sublimity, chaos and confusion in equal measure . . . fit to be compared both for ambition and achievement with Ulysses.

TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

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.    John Cowper Powys A GLASTONBURY ROMANCE        

     John Cowper Powys  PORIUS     

AUTOBIOGRAPHY

Published between A Glastonbury Romance and Maiden Castle AUTOBIOGRAPHY is a vital and uninhibited self-portrait by one of the major literary figures of the twentieth century. With unparalleled wit, candour, and lyricism, Powys, at the age of sixty, set out to chronicle his life. He wrote: 'I have tried to write my life as if I were confessing to a priest, a philosopher, and a wise old woman. I have tried to write it as if I were going to be executed when it was finished. I have tried to write it as if I were both God and the Devil.' AUTOBIOGRAPHY conveys Powys's contagious excitement of his discovery of books and men and his unceasing discovery of himself, as well as fascinating reminiscences of the remarkable journeys, both geographic and intellectual, of his life. John Cowper Powys's works have been described as 'the only novels produced by an English writer that can fairly be compared to the fictions of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky...with an immensity to which only Blake could provide a parallel in English literature' (George Steiner, The New Yorker). His AUTOBIOGRAPHY is a work that stands alone in autobiographical literature and is the one of the most admired of his books.

"I touch here upon what is to me one of the profoundest philosophical mysteries: I mean the power of the individual mind to create its own world, not in complete independence of what is called "the objective world," but in a steadily growing independence of the attitudes of the minds toward this world. For what people call the objective world is really a most fluid, flexible, malleable thing. It is like the wine of the Priestess Bacbuc in Rabelais. It tastes differently; it is a different cosmos, to every man, woman, and child. To analyse this "objective world is all very well, as long as you don't forget that the power to rebuild it by emphasis and rejection is synonymous with your being alive." P.62

"We are all in secret fighting for our sanity." P.249

"What I really feel is a sickening pity for every sentient thing, victimized, as we all are, by the great sadist who created this world." P.455

"If it has happened, by the will of fate, that in your life the erotic element has not played the dominant part that it has in mine, you are at once luckier than I have been and less lucky! You have escaped a great deal of grotesque tragicomedy, but you have been deprived of many thrilling and rapturous expectations and perhaps also a few paradisic fulfillments." P.480

"Our unfortunate human nature has never been subjected to conditions quite so anti-pathetic to all the most interesting stimuli to poetic human feeling since the beginning of the world, as it has been subjected to in America." P. 494-5

"I consider how my deepest impulses are neither exactly sadistic nor masochistic or mystical or theatrical or quite sane or quite mad, that there ought to be coined a completely new formula for what I am; and perhaps this is true for every separate living soul." P.604

"What we do is important; but it is less important than what we feel; for it is our feeling alone that is under the control of our will. In action we may be weak and clumsy blunderers, or on the other hand sometimes incompetent and sometimes competent. All this is largely beyond our control. What is not beyond our control is our feeling about it." P.626 

 

Printed only on demand, FABER FINDS issued the first four novels by John Cowper Powys plus the later Morwyn, Atlantis, The Brazen Head and The Inmates during 2008.

To read a short article on The Early Novels of John Cowper Powys by Morine Krissdottir please click here 

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

Also available: Autobiography, The Meaning of Culture and In Defence of Sensuality.

John Cowper Powys AUTOBIOGRAPHY

From AUTOBIOGRAPHY by John Cowper Powys (now available in paperback from Faber)

'I touch here upon what is to me one of the profoundest philosophical mysteries: I mean the power of the individual mind to create its own world, not in complete independence of what is called "the objective world," but in a steadily growing independence of the attitudes of the minds toward this world. For what people call the objective world is really a most fluid, flexible, malleable thing. It is like the wine of the Priestess Bacbuc in Rabelais. It tastes differently; it is a different cosmos, to every man, woman, and child. To analyse this "objective world is all very well, as long as you don't forget that the power to rebuild it by emphasis and rejection is synonymous with your being alive.’

 'I have tried to write my life as if I were confessing to a priest, a philosopher, and a wise old woman. I have tried to write as if I were going to be executed when it was finished. I have tried to write it as if I were both God and Devil.'

 

'One of greatest 20th-century English novelists, John Cowper Powys is also the author of one of the greatest auobiographies ever written. Re-creating the lost worlds of late Victorian Dorset and early 20th-century America where he lived and worked, this mesmerisingly strange book shows Powys to be a kind of magical shape-shifter, eluding the reader - and perhaps himself - even as he engages the most reckless self-revelation. Read this Autobiography - you will never forget it.'  

John Gray, author of Straw Dogs and Black Mass

 

 

Currently in print are numerous volumes of JCP's letters to various recipients published by Cecil Woolf Publishers.

 


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Novels

Wood and Stone (1915)

Rodmoor (1916)

After My Fashion (written 1919, published 1980)

Ducdame (1925)

Wolf Solent (1929)

A Glastonbury Romance (1933)

Weymouth Sands (1934)

Jobber Skald (edited version of the above for the UK - 1935)

Maiden Castle (1936)

Morwyn: or The Vengeance of God (1937)

Owen Glendower (1940)

Porius (1951, restored text 1994, final text 2007))

The Inmates (1952)

Atlantis (1954)

The Brazen Head (1956)

Up and Out (two novellas) (1957)

Homer and the Aether (1959)

All or Nothing (1960)

Real Wraiths (novella, published 1974)

Two and Two (novella, published 1974)

You and Me (novella, published 1975)

Philosophy

The War and Culture (1914)

The Complex Vision (1920)

Psychoanalysis and Morality (1923)

The Meaning of Culture (1929)

In Defense of Sensuality (1930)

A Philosophy of Solitude (1933)

The Art of Happiness (1935)

Mortal Strife (1942)

The Art of Growing Old (1944)

In Spite of: A Philosophy for Everyone (1953)

Short stories

The Owl, The Duck, and - Miss Rowe! Miss Rowe! (1930)

Romer Mowl and Other Stories (1974)

Three Fantasies - Abertackle, Cataclysm, Topsy-Turvy - (1985)

Literary essays and studies; essays

Visions and Revisions (1915)

Suspended Judgements (1916)

One Hundred Best Books (1916)

Dorothy Richardson (London: Joiner, 1931)

The Enjoyment of Literature (1938) (Revised UK version: The Pleasures of Literature, 1938)

Obstinate Cymric: Essays 1935-47 (1947)

Dostoievsky (1947)

Rabelais (1948)

Poetry

Odes and Other Poems (1896)

Poems 1899.

Wolf's Bane: Rhymes (1916)

Mandragora: Poems (1917)

Samphire (1922)

Lucifer: A Poem (1956)

John Cowper Powys: A Selection from His Poems Ed. Kenneth Hopkins. London: Macdonald, (1964).

     Horned Poppies (1986)

Autobiographical, Diaries and Letters

Autobiography (1934)

Letters of John Cowper Powys to Louis Wilkinson 1935-1956 (1958)

John Cowper Powys: Letters 1937-54 Ed. Iorwerth C. Peate. (1974)

Letters of John Cowper Powys to His Brother Llewelyn Ed Malcolm Elwin. 2 vols. (1975)

John Cowper Powy: Letters to Nicholas Ross (Selected by Nicholas and Adelaide Ross) Ed. Arthur Uphill. (1971)

Letters to Henry Miller from John Cowper Powys (1975)

Powys to Knight: Letters of John Cowper Powys to G. R. Wilson Knight Ed. Robert Blackmore (1983)

The Diary of John Cowper Powys 1930 Ed Frederick Davies (1987)

The Diary of John Cowper Powys 1931 (1990)

Jack and Frances: The Love Letters of John Cowper Powys to Frances Gregg 2 vols. Ed Oliver Wilkinson, assisted by Christopher Wilkinson (1994)

Petrushka and the Dancer: The Diaries of John Cowper Powys 1929-1939 Ed. Morine Krissdottir (1995)

Powys to Sea Eagle: Letters of John Cowper Powys to Philippa Powys Ed Anthony Head (1996)

The Diary of John Cowper Powys for 1929 Ed Anthony Head (1998)

The Dorset Year: The Diary of John Cowper Powys, 1934-1935 Ed Morine Krissdottir and Roger Peers (1998)

Powys and Dorothy Richardson: Letters of John Cowper Powys and Dorothy Richardson Ed Janet Fouli (2008)

Powys and Emma Goldman: Letters of John Cowper Powys and Emma Goldman Ed. David Goodway (2008)

 Biography and Critical Studies

The Saturnian Quest by G. Wilson Knight (1964)

John Cowper Powys, Old Earth-man by H. P. Collins (1966)

John Cowper Powys: A Record of Achievement by Derek Langridge (1966)

The Powys Brothers A Biographical Appreciation by Kenneth Hopkins (1967)

John Cowper Powys, Novelist by Glen Cavaliero (1973)

John Cowper Powys by Jeremy Hooker. Cardiff (1973)

Recollections of the Powys Brothers Ed by Belinda Humfrey (1980)

John Cowper Powys in Search of a Landscape by C.A. Coates (1982)

The Brothers Powys by Richard Perceval Graves (1983)

The Ecstatic World of John Cowper Powys (Rutherford, Toronto, London) by Harald Fawkner (1986)  

     John Cowper Powys's Wolf Solent Ed by Belinda Humfrey (1990)

I Am Myself Alone: Solitude and Transcendence in John Cowper Powys by Janina Nordius (1997)

In the Spirit of Powys: New Essays Ed Denis Lane. New York (1990)

John Cowper Powys by Herbert Williams (1997)

Descents of Memory: The Life of John Cowper Powys by Morine Krissdottir (2007)

 

A Bibliography of the Writings of John Cowper Powys 1872-1963. (With a foreword by G.Wilson Knight) by Dante Thomas (1975)


 

John Cowper Powys  Forgotten Books reissues

 

The National Library of Wales has a rich and extensive collection of his manuscripts, which includes literary drafts and correspondence.  It also holds a complete run of his diaries, from 1929 to 1961. Read John Cowper Powys's diary for 1939 on the Digital Mirror pages at the National Library of Wales

 

"A completely new type of human being...Porius" at The Lectern 

 

The Madness of John Cowper Powys or Strange Doings at ...

 

In his late fifties the great novelist and lecturer John Cowper Powys moved with his companion to a rural cottage in New England. As Jonathan Law reveals in this remarkable essay, the remote setting enabled Powys to give full vent to his bewildering range of manias and eccentricities . . .

 

Read the full article here:

 

 

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DESCENTS OF MEMORY The Life of John Cowper Powys

DESCENTS OF MEMORY

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

The Powys Society

A Powys Society Meeting

RODMOOR

John Cowper Powys

HOMER AND THE AETHER

John Cowper Powys

 
 

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