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TFP The Voice of God by Michael Kowalewski

T.F. Powys’s Favourite Bookseller

 

TFP's catalogued contents in The Powys Collection:

(Each file will open as a PDF file in a new window.)

Books

Articles & Books about TFP

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Contribution of stories to periodicals

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Theodore Francis Powys (1875-1953

Author of a remarkable Trinity of Novels: Mr. Weston's Good Wine, Unclay, and Kindness in a Corner as well as the extraordinary Fables

MR. WESTON'S GOOD WINE

Among the residents of a small Dorset town called Folly Down, an unlikely struggle between the forces of good and evil is taking place. For a single winter's evening, Time stands still and the bitter-sweet gift of awareness descends upon the people.

tfp, the powys society

“Mr. Weston, for a common tradesman - and the most princely of merchants is only that - possessed a fine and creative imagination. And, although entirely self-taught - for he had risen, as so many important people do, from nothing - he had read much, and had written too. He possessed in a very large degree a poet's fancy, that will at any moment create out of the imagination a new world.
     Mr. Weston had once written a prose poem that he had divided into many books, and was naturally surprised when he discovered that the very persons and places that he had but seen in fancy had a real existence in fact. The power of art is magnificent. It can change the dullest sense into the most glorious; it can people a new world in a moment of time; it can cause a sparkling fountain to flow in the driest desert to solace a thirsty traveller.”

T.F. Powys: Mr Weston's Good WineMr Weston is a genial old man, with a head of hair as white as wool concealed beneath his brown felt hat. He was once a writer, the composer of a prose poem, but these days it is difficult for him to find anyone interested in his literary work. He is travelling through a small part of Dorset in an old Ford van which bears his name on its side, intent on supplying his good wine to any inhabitants willing to drink or receive some, and he is accompanied on this journey by a companion named Michael who has an unusually detailed understanding of the interests, thoughts and hopes of the locals, and who can describe at length all recent events in the area.
   The pair enter Folly Down late in the afternoon, and by means of some mechanical contraption they illuminate the sky as evening falls, advertising themselves and their wares; a little later they head to the local inn in search of custom. But something strange happens when Mr. Weston enters Angel Inn: the clocks throughout the village cease recording the passage of time at exactly 7pm, and steadfastly hold to that time as long as Mr. Weston remains in the village. (Read the full
Penguin No. 73 article here.)

 

T.F. Powys FABLES

"IN ALL THE WORLD there lived no one who thought more of weddings than did Miss Hester Gibbs. She lived in a little cottage at Madder, and kept it so clean and tidy that not a thing was ever out of place, nor a spot of ugly dust seen anywhere.

Even when Hester Gibbs was a very little girl she plainly showed that she had a whimsical mind. This mind of hers, that seemed to be settled somewhere under her dark hair— that never had a curl that wasn't as it should be—had ever pursued into many strange windings all the mysteries of matrimony.

But Hester soon found, even though she followed her natural studies bravely, and noticed the behaviour of men, beasts and birds, that nothing so odd or so very queer occurred. 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 - God's Eyes A-Twinkle

 

"These stories treat of the general and unalterable, with subtlety of thought and feeling, and with simplicity of presentation. Wisdom and humour are embedded in them. They reveal the infinite mystery, the fluid inconsistencies of life. They are delicate, wiry and human. God's eyes are a-twinkle; but the main business is the incalculable doings of that oddity, Man. ... Powys's unorthodox version of Christianity reveals strands of mysticism, quietism, and pantheism, but the major influence upon him was the Bible, and he claimed that Religion 'is the only subject I know anything about'. Sometimes savage, often lyrical, his novels and stories explore universal themes of Love, Death, Good and Evil within the microcosm of the rural world. In spite of the apparent realism of his settings, Powys is a symbolist and allegorist". (From the Preface to God's Eyes A-Twinkle by Charles Prentice.)

The greatest value of his work is in showing that it is still possible to write about the primordial human experiences to which religion is a response...Very few 20th-century authors have the knack of writing convincingly of first and last things. - John Gray, New Statesman

 

T.F. Powys's best known fiction

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.

Generally considered his masterpiece - Washington Post

On the evening of November 20, 1923, an old Ford car stops on a hill overlooking Folly Down, a village in western England. Within the car Mr. Weston, a wine merchant, confers with Michael, his assistant, about possible customers in the village. They have a large book that list the names of the inhabitants, and Michael has detailed knowledge about them, which only a supernatural being could possess. As they talk, their coming is forecast to the village of Folly Down by an electrical sign displayed atop the car...

Grimly brilliant - John Carey, Sunday Times

Mr Weston's Good Wine is a book without parallel. It is an allegory, it is a bucolic farce, it is a religious (or anti-religious?) masterpiece. - A N Wilson

 

THE LEFT LEG by T. F. Powys (1st UK edtn.) BLACK BRONY by T. F. Powys (1st UK edtn.)  MR TASKER'S GODS by T. F. Powys (1st UK edtn.)MARK ONLY by T. F. Powys (1st UK edtn.) FABLES by T. F. Powys (1st UK edtn.) UNCLAY by T. F. Powys (1st US edtn.)  

UNCLAY, the author's last novel and final masterpiece is a work of great originality and imagination.

'Unclay, the most affectively powerful of Powys's novels, much bleaker than MR. WESTON'S GOOD WINE (and less popular in consequence) but at least equal to it in literary worth.' – Barron

'In my view, Unclay is Powys's crowning achievement, since it contains the fullest artistic expression of his meditations on life, beauty, evil, love, and death.' - Marius Buning (author of T.F. Powys: A Modern Allegorist)

From Chapter Four of Unclay:

'Tell me your name,’ asked Mr Hayhoe, who began to think that the poor man must have escaped from a madhouse, 'so that, if I have the good fortune to discover your property, I may be able to restore to you what you have lost.’

'My name is Death,’ answered the man.

'A Suffolk family?’ rejoined Mr Hayhoe, 'for I know a village in that county where your name is common, and I have seen it too written upon a tombstone in this neighbourhood. But I trust you will not think me rude if I ask you to tell me your Christian name too?’

'I have never had one,’ replied Death simply, 'though in coming here this morning I met a little girl who made fun of my beard and called me “John".’

 

From the opening chapter of Innocent Birds:

 'A village is like a stage that retains the same scenery throughout all the acts of the play. The actors come and go, and walk to and fro, with gestures that their passions fair or foul use them to.

Sometimes the human beings who occupy the stage, that is, the farms and village cottages, remain the same—or almost the same—for many years; sometimes they change more quickly.

A country village has a way now and again of clearing out all its inhabitants in one rush, as though it were grown tired of that particular combination of human destinies, and shakes itself free of them as a tree might do of unwelcome leaves.

This shake comes perhaps like the last trump, with a loud noise; as when Farmer Mew set afire his gunpowder, and so caused the people to go off in all directions: some far and some near, but all bent on going.'

From Mr Weston’s Good Wine:

'With the first lighting of a cottage candle a man becomes an entirely new being, and moves in a totally different world to that of daytime. He is now born into a world whose god is a rushlight, and a man’s last moments in this world generally come when the light is extinguished and he creeps into bed.

Every common appearance that during the day the vulgar sun has shown, becomes changed by candlelight. For now a thousand whimsical shapes, dim shades and shadows, come, that no daytime has ever seen or known. The bright sun of heaven that has made all things upon earth only too real is not now to be feared by the housewife as a telltale, for all is become magic and a pretty cheat. Dust upon a book or in a corner, a straw upon the floor-cloth, show now only as objects of interest. The black stain that the smoke from the lamp has made upon the ceiling becomes colour and is not unlovely. The cheap wallpaper, though wrinkled and torn, has now a right to be so, and is not regarded with displeasure. Nothing after sunset need be looked at too closely, and everything pleases if regarded in a proper evening manner.

Man is drugged and charmed by this beneficent master whose name is darkness; he becomes more joyful, and thank goodness, less like himself. With the first lighting of the lamp, love and hatred, the sole rulers of human life, take a new form and colour. Love becomes more fantastical in the darkness and malice less logical, and both the one and the other are more full of the strange matters that dreams are made of.

Duration itself has a mind to dance or stand on one leg, for a winter’s evening here is often felt to be a period of time as long as a lifetime, and is filled more fully than ever a lifetime can be with unlikely happenings. Even the soft mud of a road in late November, and the little clinging drops of misty rain that may be falling, change their aspect in the darkness and become different in character from what they were known to be in the daytime…’

Michael would have said more, only Mr Weston interrupted him.

From Soliloquies of a Hermit:

'Though not of the Church, I am of the Church. Though not of the faith, I am of the faith. Though not of the fold, I am of the fold; a priest in the cloud of God, beside the Altar of Stone. Near beside me is a flock of real sheep; above me a cloud of misty white embraces the noonday light of the Altar. I am without a belief; — a belief is too easy a road to God.'

 

Major Works of T. F. Powys

 

Soliloquies of a Hermit (1918)

The Left Leg (1923)

Black Bryony (1923)

Mark Only (1924)

Mr Tasker's God's (1925)

Mockery Gap (1925)

Innocent Birds (1926)

Mr Weston's Good Wine (1927)

The House with the Echo (1928)

Fables (1929)

Kindness in a Corner (1930)

The White Paternoster (1930)

The Only Penitent (1931)

Unclay (1931)

The Two Thieves (1932)

Captain Patch (1935)

Bottle's Path (1946)

God's Eyes A-Twinkle (1947) Anthology

PUBLISHED POSTHUMOUSLY:

Rosie Plum (1966)

Father Adam (1990)

The Market Bell (1991)

Mock's Curse (1995)

The Sixpenny Strumpet (1997)

Selected Early Works (2005)

OF BIOGRAPHICAL INTEREST:

Cuckoo in the Powys Nest by Theodora Gay Scutt (2000)

T. F. Powys: Aspects of a Life by J. Lawrence Mitchell (2003)

 

 

CHALDON HERRING (East Chaldon)

featuring BETH CAR, home of Theodore Powys,

the Old School (now the village hall), the Church of St. Nicholas

[Philippa (Katie) Powys, Sylvia Townsend Warner & Valentine Ackland

and Janet Pollock, nee Machen.]

[Video filmed on a pocket camcorder by Frank Kibblewhite]

 

Theodore Francis Powys

A man who rarely left home or travelled in a car, who claimed to love monotony, and who 'never gave so much as a sunflower-seed for the busy, practical life' - this was Theodore Francis Powys. He ran his own farm, White House Farm at Sweffling, Suffolk (1895 -1901) before "retiring" to Dorset, determined to write. In 1904, he settled in East Chaldon, 'the most hidden village in Dorset', and there he remained until 1940, when the war drove him inland to Mappowder. In 1905, he married Violet Rosalie Dodds, a local girl; they had two sons and an adopted daughter.

 

Powys's unorthodox version of Christianity reveals strands of mysticism, quietism, and pantheism, but the major influence upon him was the Bible, and he claimed that Religion 'is the only subject I know anything about'. Sometimes savage, often lyrical, his novels and stories explore universal themes of Love, Death, Good and Evil within the microcosm of the rural world. In spite of the apparent realism of his settings, Powys is a symbolist and allegorist. Key works include Soliloquies of a Hermit, Mr Weston's Good Wine, and Unclay; his Fables and short stories are also much admired.

 

 

MOCK'S CURSE by T. F. Powys (Brynmill)   THE MARKET BELL by T. F. Powys (Brynmill)   THE SIXPENNY STRUMPET by T. F. Powys (Brynmill)   SOLILOQUIES OF A HERMIT by T. F. Powys (Powys Press)   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.   KINDNESS IN A CORNER  by T. F. Powys (Sundial Press)   UNCLAY by T. F. Powy

Currently in print (2013): Mr Weston's Good Wine, Kindness in a Corner, Unclay, Soliloquies of a Hermit,

Mr Tasker's Gods, Mark Only, Mockery Gap, Innocent Birds, and God's Eyes A-Twinkle,

Father Adam, The Market Bell, Mock's Curse, The Sixpenny Strumpet, Selected Early Works of T. F. Powys

'Mr Powys is not a writer for everybody, but I am sure he is a writer for posterity.' - Sylvia Townsend Warner 

Theodore Powys and The Paradox of Immortality

Are people foolish to crave everlasting life? Writer Theodore Powys' reflections on immortality capture the paradox - and downsides - of living forever, says philosopher John Gray.

John Gray

John Gray reflects on the paradox of immortality as captured by the writer Theodore Powys, "The longest life may fade and perish but one moment can live and become immortal."

Read John Gray's article on the BBC News website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19004818

Listen to it here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01l1ggb

JOHN GRAY is Emeritus is an English political philosopher with interests in analytic philosophy and the history of ideas. He is formerly School Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Gray contributes regularly to The Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement and the New Statesman, where he is the lead book reviewer.

He has written the introduction to the most recent edition of TFP's final novel Unclay and is the author of several influential books, the most recent being:The Silence of Animals: On Progress and Other Modern Myths published by Allen Lane (2013)

 

Powys began to write Mr Tasker’s Gods during the First World War, almost a decade before its publication. It alludes darkly, more than once, to what was going on elsewhere in the world, perhaps not that far from Powys’s home on the coast of Dorset – across the English Channel, say – without referring to it directly. The style is typical of early Powys (much admired by Q. D. Leavis, who quoted approvingly and at length from Mr Tasker’s Gods in Fiction and the Reading Public), a thing of biblical cadences and a plain yet resonant vocabulary. Like David Garnett, Sylvia Townsend Warner, T. E. Lawrence, Liam O’Flaherty and other literary mavericks, Dennis Wheatley responded strongly to this earthy, unfashionable fiction, calling Powys the “English Tolstoy”. Others called him a heretic; Frank Kermode saw him as, above all, an ironist. His brother John Cowper Powys repeatedly hailed him as an “original”.

From: ‘T. F. Powys, an English Tolstoy? by Michael Caines. Read the full article in the TLS here (link will open in a new window).

 

This website is © The Powys Society 2014.

Permission must be asked before using any material from this site.

 

GOAT GREEN by T. F. Powys (1st UK trade edtn.)

GOAT GREEN

T.F. Powys

 

A Powys Society Meeting

FABLES by T. F. Powys (Hieroglyph softback edition)

FABLES

T.F. Powys

ASPECTS OF A LIFE by J. Lawrence Mitchell

ASPECTS OF A LIFE

J. Lawrence Mitchell

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