Cushing Memorial Library, Texas A & M University

Inventory of the Llewelyn Powys Manuscript Book:

1920s-1950s and undated



Descriptive Summary and Abstract

Creator Powys, Llewelyn, 1884-1939
Title Inventory of the Llewelyn Powys Manuscript Book
Dates 1920s-1950s and undated
Abstract Llewelyn Powys, (13 August 1884- 2 December 1939), wrote a wide variety of works, including essays, a biography, a novel, travel books, works of popular philosophy and propaganda, autobiographical memoirs, and "an imaginary autobiography." Born in Dorset, England, Llewelyn Powys moved with his family to the village of Montacute in Somerset, England, where his father would be rector for the next thirty-three years. This area of England infuses Powys' work with its landscape. Some critics also feel Llewelyn Powys' work is informed by an urgency possibly caused by his lifelong battle with tuberculosis, with which he was diagnosed in 1909. Though Powys spent the next two years in a sanatorium in Davos, Switzerland, he was never to regain full heath. Nevertheless, this episode and the threat of impending death may have somehow energized Powys, for he seems to have devoted himself from then on to his writing. From 1914 to 1919 Llewelyn Powys lived in Kenya, managing a farm for his brother William, who was in military service during World War I. In 1919, Llewelyn moved to the United States, and did not return to England again until 1925. This pattern of leaving and returning to England informs the rest of Powys' life. Until the last few most productive years of his life, between 1931 and 1936, when he remained to write in his boyhood home of Dorset, England, Llewelyn Powys only achieved fame by forsaking his homeland and publishing outside of England. In October 1924, Llewelyn Powys married the managing editor of the Dial magazine, Alyse Gregory, herself a well-known and well-connected New York novelist and essayist. In autumn 1936, Llewelyn Powys' health severely deteriorated and he left England in December for the sanatorium in Davos, Switzerland, in which he died in 1939. Love and Death, considered Llewelyn Powys' best work, was published posthumously, in 1939. The nearly 100 page manuscript book, bound in 3/4 cloth with marbled sides and a handwritten paper label listing the contents in ink pasted on the front, contains six handwritten essays, five in pencil and one in ink, by Llewelyn Powys, some published and some not published. The essays are as follows: "Of the Sun," consisting of eight pages, extensively revised; "Of Romance," covering nine pages, extensively revised, apparently unpublished; "Of a Gannet", apparently unpublished; "Of Egoism," twenty pages, extensively revised, published in the New Statesman, November 6, 1926, and also reprinted in Earth Memories, the first edition appearing in 1934, an enlarged edition in 1938; "Of Goodness," sixteen pages, extensively revised, apparently not published, or at least not under this title; and finally, "When the unicorn cons the water," in ten pages, written in ink, with revisions, which was printed in the Weekend Review and also reprinted in Earth Memories. Also in the box made for the manuscript book by Sangorski & Sutcliffe, is a letter handwritten in ink by Powys, dated December 15th 1935, signed by Llewelyn Powys. It is titled "Instructions as to the disposal of my body in the case of my death," and was given to his wife Alyse Gregory. A note in her hand in ink appears on the verso of the two page letter below Llewelyn's signature and the date. An envelope with a typed description of the letter is included. A Catalogue of the Llewelyn Powys Manuscripts, offered by G. F. Sims (Rare Books), Peacocks, Hurst, Berkshire, probably from the early 1950s follows, as does a typed index card listing the contents of the manuscript book, and a photocopy of the description of the collection from the rare book dealer, David. J. Holmes Autographs, of Collingswood, N.J.
Identification Lit MSS 00106
Extent 7 items.
Language English.
Repository Cushing Memorial Library College Station, TX 77843-5000

Biographical Note

Llewelyn Powys was born 13 August 1884 and died 2 December 1939. From a family of distinguished British writers, his brothers, John Cowper Powys (1972-1963) and Theodore Francis Powys (1875-1953) were novelists. Llewelyn Powys wrote a wide variety of works, including essays, a biography, a novel, travel books, works of popular philosophy and propaganda, autobiographical memoirs, and "an imaginary autobiography."

Born in Dorset, England, Llewelyn Powys moved with his family to the village of Montacute in Somerset, England, where his father would be rector for the next thirty-three years. This area of England infuses Powys' work with its landscape. Some critics also feel that Llewelyn Powys' work is informed by an urgency possibly caused by his lifelong battle with tuberculosis. After a lackluster showing as a student at Sherborne, then Cambridge University, Llewelyn Powys tried his hand at being a schoolteacher, private tutor, even as a lecturer in the United States. In 1909, however, Llewelyn Powys was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and, though he spent the next two years in a sanatorium in Davos, Switzerland, Powys was never to regain full health.

Nevertheless, this episode and threat of impending death somehow seems to have energized Powys, for he devoted himself from then on to his writing. From 1914 to 1919 Llewelyn Powys lived in Kenya, managing a farm for his brother William, who was in military service during World War I. Llwewlyn Powys published his first book in 1916, a collaborative collection of stories with his brother John, called Confessions of Two Brothers, but his first book written on his own, titled Ebony and Ivory, was not published until 1923, in which he contrasted life in Europe with that in Africa. Six more books followed, between August 1920, when Llewelyn moved to the United States and 1925, when he returned to England. He finally achieved fame only by forsaking his homeland, and publishing outside of England.

Three more books were published in 1924, and in October that year, Llewelyn Powys married the managing editor of the Dial magazine, Alyse Gregory, herself a well-known and well-connected New Yorknovelist and essayist. The marriage seems to have given Llewelyn Powys noy only personal happiness and fulfillment, but a more confident literary style as well.

Published in 1925, after another severe recurrance of his besetting malady of tuberculosis, Llewelyn's most famous work, Skin for Skin shares settings of Montacute in Somerset, with a sanatorium in Switzerland. In his self-absorption and egocentric world view Llewelyn is generally agreed upon by his admirers and critics to imitate his model writer, the essayist William Hazlitt.

At a loss for publishers in England for his autobiographical essays, upon his probably ill-advised return to his homeland in 1925, Llewelyn took a commission to write a biography of a famous world explorer. This quite notable biography Henry Hudson appeared in 1927. At sea himself, however, in the literary world in England, Powys was again lured back to the United States in 1927, where his wife and he had connections, and he had a definite literary following. Subsequently, leaving the United States yet again, however, Llewelyn Powys spent the period of 1928-1931 wandering with Alyse to France, and even Palestine, gathering material for more books, particularly those criticizing Christianity.

Almost immediately upon returning to the United States, the couple again returned to England. This move, in contrast to those of Powys' past, was much more sucessful than previous efforts. Thus, for five years, from 1931 to 1936 Powys remained in his beloved Dorset, publishing a great deal, his work tending to diverge into either the radical, atheistic rant against accepted religion, or the poetic, autobiograpical essay on Dorset lore and country life. His reading public was practically split into two very fervent groups, nearly antithetical to each other. Earth Memories, which includes two of the essays written in this collection's manuscript book, was published during this period of popularity and productivity.

In autumn 1936, Llewelyn Powys' health severely deteriorated and he left England in December for the sanatorium in Davos, Switzerland, in which he died in 1939. Love and Death, considered Llewelyn Powys' best work, was published posthumously, in 1939. As is characteristic of Powys' work, Love and Death presents in microcosm all the elements of Llewelyn Powys's unusual combination of fictionalized autobiography, memoir of desire rather than exact fact, and personal essay with so thin a veneer of objectivity that the self-centered subjectivity causes constant tension within the work and in the perception of the reader.


Scope and Content Note

This nearly 100 page manuscript book, bound in 3/4 cloth with marbled sides and a handwritten paper label listing the contents in ink pasted on the front, contains five handwritten essays, four in pencil and one in ink, by Llewelyn Powys, some published and some not published. The essays are as follows: "Of the Sun," consisting of eight pages, extensively revised; "Of Romance,"; covering nine pages, extensively revised, apparently unpublished; "Of a Gannet", apparently unpublished; "Of Egoism," twenty pages, extensively revised, published in the New Statesman, November 6, 1926, and also reprinted in Earth Memories the first edition appearing in 1934, an enlarged edition in 1938; "Of Goodness," sixteen pages, extensively revised, apparently not published, or at least not under this title; and finally, "When the unicorn cons the water," in ten pages, written in ink, with revisions, which was printed in the Weekend Review and also reprinted in Earth Memories. Also in the folding case made for the manuscript book by Sangorski & Sutcliffe, is a letter handwritten in ink by Powys, dated December 15th 1935, signed by Llewelyn Powys. It is titled "Instructions as to the disposal of my body in the case of my death," and was given to his wife Alyse Gregory. A note in her hand in ink appears on the verso of the two page letter below Llewelyn's signature and the date. An envelope with a typed description of the letter is included. A Catalogue of the Llewelyn Powys Manuscripts, offered by G. F. Sims (Rare Books), Peacocks, Hurst, Berkshire, probably from the early 1950s follows, as does a typed index card listing the contents of the manuscript book, and a photocopy of the description of the collection from the dealer David. J. Holmes Autographs of Collingswood, N.J.


 

Organization of the Papers

The manuscript book, along with the letter to Alyse Gregory from Powys, and the rare book dealer's catalogue from the 1950s offering the Llewelyn Powys Manucripts for sale are all contained in a half-morrocco folding case by Sangorski & Sutcliffe, housed in a clamshell box in the repository.

Arrangement of the Papers

This collection is arranged chronologically.

Restrictions

Access

No restrictions.

Usage Restrictions

Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.


Online Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the online catalog of Cushing Memorial Library. Researchers wishing to find related materials should search the catalog under these index terms.
Names
Powys, Llewelyn, 884-1939--Manuscripts.
Sims, George, 1923- .
Gregory, Alyse, 1884-1967.
Powys, Theodore Francis, 1875-1953.
Powys, John Cowper, 1872-1963.
Hazlitt, William, 1778-1830.
Powys, Llewelyn, 884-1939--Autographs.
Subjects
Antiquarian booksellers--Great Britain.
Philosophy in literature.
English essays--20th century.
Tuberculosis patients' writings.
Tuberculosis in literature.
Manuscripts--Catalogs.
Sanatoriums--Switzerland--Davos.
Places
Dorset (England)--Description and travel.
Somerset (England)--Description and travel.
Kenya--Description and travel.
Davos (Switzerland)
Titles
Catalogue of the Llewelyn Powys manuscripts.
Dial.
Earth memories.
Love and death.
Ebony and ivory.
Confessions of two brothers.
New statesman.
Weekend review.
Skin for skin.
Of the sun.
Of romance.
Of a gannet.
Of egoism.
Of goodness.
When the unicorn cons the water.

Administrative Information

Provenance

Purchased from David. J. Holmes Autographs of Collingswood, N.J.

Processing Information

Processed by Aletha Andrew in September 2001.


Detailed Description of the Collection

 

1. Manuscript Book, and folding case, 1920s-1930s and undated.
2 items.

Bound manuscript book containing approximately 100 pages of lined paper, covered in 3/4 cloth with marbled sides. Measuring about 23 x 17 cm., the book has a paper label with a handwritten list of contents in ink pasted on the front cover. Five of the six essays are handwritten by Llewelyn Powys in pencil, one in ink. Along with other materials in this collection, manuscript book contained in a half-morocco folding case by Sangorski & Sutcliffe, measuring 25 x 20 cm., possibly made at the request of rare book dealer George Sims in the 1950s after receiving the manuscript book as a gift of appreciation from Llewelyn Powys' widow, Alyse Gregory.



 

2. Letter to Alyse Gregory, and undated envelope with typed description of letter. 15 Dec. 1935.
2 items.

Letter titled "Instructions as to the disposal of my body in the case of my death," with a note in another hand in ink, "For Alyse [Gregory], Private, Not to be Lost", which was apparently written by Alyse Gregory. Envelope may have been typed to hold the letter by George Sims, a rare book dealer, in the 1950s. Typing is similar to that on index card described below.



 

3. Index card listing contents of manuscript book, undated.
1 item.

A 3 x 5 inch lined index card with a typed list of the contents of the manuscript book. Unclear as to whether the index card was inserted by George Sims in the 1950s, or the later rare book dealer, David J. Holmes Autographs, but physical appearance of card suggests the earlier date.



 

4. A Catalogue of The Llewelyn Powys Manuscripts, 1950s.
1 item.

16 pages bound in blue paper, with cover title A Catalogue of The Llewelyn Powys Manucripts, [offered by] G.F. Sims (Rare Books), Peacocks, Hurst, Berkshire. Printed by Robert Stockwell Ltd., 5-13 Baden Place, London.



 

5. Photocopy of rare book dealer's description of collection, 1990s-2000s.
1 item.

Description of the collection as purchased by the repository, containing extensive quote from George Sims, rare book dealer, in his essay, More of the Rare Book Game, published in 1988, about how the manuscript book was saved out from the general sale of Llewelyn Powys' papers when put on the market in the early 1950s, and given to Sims by Alyse Gregory . The letter to Gregory from Powys was found slipped into the manuscript book at the time it was given to Sims.