John Cowper Powys

Herbert Williams
Publication Date: 
Monday, August 18, 1997
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John Cowper Powys (1872-1963) has been called the forgotten man of English literature, seemingly a remarkable assessment for such a prolific writer. Novels such as Weymouth Sands, Wolf Solent, A Glastonbury Romance and Maiden Castle stand as landmarks in twentieth century writing, yet debate over his genius, or lack of it, has raged controversially since before his death.

The debate has been fuelled by his individuality as a writer and a man. He spent many successful years on the American lecture circuit, and shunned literary London when he returned to Britain.

His writing is marked by a unique personal philosophy which among other things, invested the inanimate with souls. Both man and writing suggested wizardry and the otherworldly.

This timely introductory study offers new insight into John Cowper Powys and his work. It traces his extraordinary family background and his equally extraordinary relationships with his wife, his companion Phyllis Playter and his son. And it explores the singular character and aestheticism of Powys, particularly through the novels and the huge Autobiography.

The world in which Powys lived now seems remote, yet it is recreated here and the writer placed firmly in it. Herbert Williams demystifies the Powys legend, and if he comes down on the side of John Cowper Powys as a genius it is not without some well-argued caveats. His book is an invaluable and accessible account of an enigma in English literature.

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