An Inventory of His Collection at the Harry Ransom Center
Wilfrid Ewart, 1892-1922
World War I novelist and essayist Wilfrid Herbert Gore Ewart (1892-1922) was born on May 19, 1892. His father, Herbert Brisbane Ewart, came from a noted military family and served as comptroller to the widow of a Russian nobleman. His mother, Lady Mary "Molly" Ewart, was of aristocratic birth, the youngest daughter of the third Earl of Arran. Despite growing up in the fashionable neighborhood of Belgravia in London, Ewart did not have an easy childhood. He was blind in one eye and had poor eyesight in the other. Moreover, though his father was supportive, his mother would at times fly into rages. For this reason, Ewart and his younger sisters, Angela and Betty, were often sent to stay at the home of their mother's cousin in Buckinghamshire. At nine, Ewart was sent to St. Aubyn's boarding school in Rottingdean, Sussex. There, he grew introverted and acutely sensitive to criticism. He was next educated by a private tutor in Bournemouth before, at the age of fourteen, going to learn of agriculture at a Bottisham farm in the Cambridge fens.
At Bottisham, Ewart began to write about the English rural life around him and developed a love for the writings of Thomas Hardy. While still in his teens, he became one of the country's leading experts on hens. He collaborated with John Stephen Hicks on a book titled The Possibilities of Modern Poultry Farming (1909), based on his previously serialized articles for Farm Life. He also began writing satirical pieces about the London society and manners he encountered on his visits back to the city.
Despite his bad eyesight and general poor health, Ewart joined the army in the summer of 1914. He obtained a commission, serving as a captain in the Scots Guards. During his wartime service, Ewart met writer Stephen Graham, then a soldier in Ewart's battalion. As an officer, Ewart would have not typically associated with Graham, a conscript who was ten years his senior. But, the two bonded over their mutual interest in literature and writing since, as Graham would recall, the Scots Guards was "not a literary regiment." During the war, Ewart wrote articles, sometimes pseudonymously, about the Scots Guards and combat. After the war, he published a novel, The Way of Revelation; A Novel of Five Years (1921), which drew on his wartime experiences. The Way of Revelation became a bestseller and was highly praised even at a time when readers were becoming weary of war memoirs and novels.
In 1921, Ewart travelled through Ireland, penning articles for the Times about the civil strife between the British and Irish nationalist forces. He then gathered and expanded these pieces for the volume A Journey in Ireland, 1921 (1922). He also continued writing reviews and articles for periodicals and newspapers. In April of 1922, Ewart suffered a mental and physical collapse, which included the partial paralysis of his fingers. Historian Hugh Cecil suggests that Ewart's always fragile psychology might have been further unbalanced by a combination of the aftereffects of the war, his immersion in the London literary scene, overwork, and personal disappointments. At the urging of Stephen Graham and his wife, Ewart set out to visit the couple and recover with them in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Ewart embarked for the United States in September of 1922. He took with him notes for the history of the Scots Guards during the First World War that he was composing. In New Mexico, Ewart recovered the use of his fingers and began to write again. Though he had planned to spend the Christmas holidays in New Orleans, at the last minute he decided to delay his visit to Louisiana and travel to Mexico first. It was in Mexico City that, having survived the First World War, Ewart met his tragic early death. Near midnight on December 31, 1922, Ewart stepped out onto his hotel balcony to observe the New Year's festivities. He was killed by a stray bullet fired by a reveler celebrating below.
In spite of his death, Wilfrid Ewart's literary career continued. In 1924, Stephen Graham commemorated his friend and fellow writer in his volume The Life and Last Words of Wilfrid Ewart (1924). Ewart's own opening chapters on the Scots Guards were gathered alongside material by F. Loraine Petre and Major-General Cecil Lowther in a volume titled The Scots Guards in the Great War, 1914-1918 (1925). In the early 1930s, John Gawsworth (the pen name of Terence Ian Fytton Armstrong) began editing and publishing posthumous volumes of Ewart's writing, first When Armageddon Came: Studies in Peace and War (1933) and then Scots Guard (1934), an autobiographical account of Ewart's war and post-war years based on Ewart's letters to his family and published articles. These were followed by two additional posthumous volumes, Love and Strife (1936), a novel Ewart had written before Way of Revelation, and Aspects of England (1937), a collection of Ewart's essays on English rural life.
John Gawsworth, 1912-1970
British editor, anthologist, and poet John Gawsworth (1912-1970) was a bohemian and bibliophile who worked assiduously to revive the reputations of writers he felt were unduly neglected. Gawsworth was born Terence Ian Fytton Armstrong on June 29, 1912. His parents, Frederick Percy and Ethel Jackson Armstrong, were divorced when Gawsworth was still a child, and he was raised in London where he attended Merchant Taylors' School.
Following his graduation in 1928, Armstrong began working at the bookstore of Andrew Block in the Soho region of London. Gawsworth was zealous about collecting books and manuscripts and soon met several writers through his various positions in the book trade. He fashioned himself as a "Man of Letters," adopting the nom-de-plume "John Gawsworth." He also wrote and published poetry, including his early volumes Confession: Verses (1931) and Fifteen Poems, Three Friends (1931). In 1929, he began corresponding with and eventually met writer Arthur Machen, about whom he wrote an unpublished biography. He next focused his attention on the horror and fantasy writer, M. P. Shiel, who was a friend of Machen's and whose reputation was then similarly in decline. When Shiel died in 1947, he bequeathed to Gawsworth the title of "King Juan I of Redonda." Shiel's father had staked a claim on the miniature Caribbean island and had fancifully crowned his son king. In this manner, the already multiply-named Gawsworth received another moniker, the King of Redonda.
In the early 1930s, Gawsworth began publishing horror, mystery, and fantasy anthologies, such as Strange Assembly: New Stories (1932), Full Score: Twenty-five Stories (1933) and New Tales of Horror by Eminent Authors (1934), which contained stories by Machen, Shiel, and others. The Gawsworth-edited anthology Masterpiece of Thrills (1936) is notable for being one of the earliest book appearances by writer Lawrence Durrell. Gawsworth's efforts on behalf of fantasy, mystery, and horror writing helped draw renewed attention to this genre.
In his editing, Gawsworth would at times undertake collaborations, revising and completing story fragments by authors such as E. H. Visiak, M. P. Shiel, and Edgar Jepson. During the 1930s, Gawsworth edited four posthumous volumes of Wilfrid Ewart's writing: When Armageddon Came: Studies in Peace and War (1933), Scots Guard (1934), Love and Strife (1936), and Aspects of England (1937). Gawsworth's editing of Ewart's work entailed revising previously published essays, and even, in the case of Scots Guard, drawing on Ewart's correspondence to produce a first person episodic narrative. Gawsworth also edited volumes of writing by M. P. Shiel, Theodore Wratislaw, E. H. W. Meyerstein, and others.
In the late 1930s, Gawsworth began receiving recognition for his literary and editorial efforts. He became first a member in 1933 and then a Fellow in 1938 of the Royal Society of Literature, before winning its Benson Silver Medal in 1939.
Gawsworth founded The English Digest in 1939 and served as its editor until 1941. Following his service in both the Royal Army and the Royal Air Force during World War II, he resumed his work on periodicals. He edited Enquiry, a journal of parapsychology and philosophy, The Literary Digest, and, most notably, from 1949 to 1952, The Poetry Review. The late 1940s also saw the publication of The Collected Poems of John Gawsworth (1948), a high point in his poetic career.
Gawsworth's personal life took a difficult turn in the late 1940s. In 1948, he divorced his first wife Barbara Kentish, whom he had married in 1933. He subsequently entered into unsuccessful marriages with Estelle Gilardeau and Doreen Emily Ada (Rowley) Downie, whom he called "Anna." This time period also saw a decline in his literary reputation and his health (he was diabetic and a heavy drinker). By 1969, with little money, he was living an itinerant lifestyle, staying with friends when he could, traveling some, and passing in and out of hospitals. In July of 1970, he was honored in a BBC tribute hosted by Lawrence Durrell, but died soon after of a pulmonary embolism at the Brompton Hospital in London on September 23, 1970.
The Wilfrid Ewart Collection consists of materials accumulated by John Gawsworth (Terence Ian Fytton Armstrong) for his posthumous volumes of Ewart's writing. These materials include a small number of typescripts and manuscripts by Ewart, research notes, copies of Ewart's correspondence with his family, clippings and copies of Ewart's published articles (often with corrections in Gawsworth's hand), and Gawsworth's own emended drafts of writings by Ewart. Also present are clippings about Ewart and a scrapbook containing reviews of and articles about Gawsworth's volumes of Ewart's writing. The collection does not include draft materials for the two books that Ewart published during his lifetime: his bestselling novel The Way of Revelation (1921) and Journey in Ireland, 1921 (1922), although photocopies of some of the articles Ewart wrote on Ireland for the Times are among the research materials Gawsworth used in compiling Scots Guard (1934). The collection is arranged in three series: I. Works, 1907-1967; II. Correspondence and Works by Others, 1924-1967; and III. Scrapbook and Clippings, 1912-1937.
Series I. consists of works by Wilfrid Ewart, including manuscripts and typescripts (some produced by Gawsworth) with handwritten corrections by both Ewart and Gawsworth. Research notes and copies of Ewart's correspondence are also present. This series is organized alphabetically by the title of each work. The series' drafts and emended article clippings document the extent of John Gawsworth's editorial interventions. Of the four posthumous volumes of Ewart's writing edited by Gawsworth, only Ewart's novel Love and Strife (1936) is not represented here. Drafts for this novel do, however, appear in the Harry Ransom Center's Terence Ian Fytton Armstrong collection.
Materials for Scots Guard (1934), an autobiographical account of Ewart's experiences from the First World War up until his death, constitute the largest collection of documents in the Works series. Gawsworth drew on Ewart's correspondence and published articles to produce the book's first person narrative. Materials for this volume include Gawsworth's typescript and manuscript copies of over eighty letters from Ewart to his family, beginning during the war and dating up until a few days before his death. Other Scots Guard materials include article proofs with Ewart's emendations; clippings, photostats, and Gawsworth's manuscript and typescript copies of Ewart's published articles; an advance proof of the volume with minor corrections, and publicity materials. Articles interleaved in the advanced proof copy have been removed to box 1, folder 14, though their original positions are indicated with paper flags.
When Armageddon Came (1933) is represented by article clippings, manuscript fragments in Ewart's hand, and manuscript and proof versions of John Gawsworth's preface. Aspects of England (1937) is represented by proof, typescript, and manuscript fragments (in Gawsworth's hand). Additional materials in this series include Gawsworth's file of uncollected articles by Ewart, as well as additional individual article drafts and fragments, some of which contain corrections in Ewart's hand. Also present is a composite draft for an unpublished volume of Ewart's journalism titled Impressions and Reactions. Gawsworth abandoned this volume when a kit bag containing additional manuscripts was discovered by Ewart's father, Herbert. These newly-discovered materials formed the basis of Love and Strife (1936) and Aspects of England (1937).
The Works series also includes research notes, drafts, and correspondence from Ewart's fellow officers for the book on the Scots Guards in the First World War that Ewart was preparing at the time of his death. This work was later completed, incorporating chapters by Ewart, by F. Loraine Petre under the title The Scots Guards in the Great War, 1914-1918 (1925).
Series II. Works by Others consists of letters from Ewart's father, Herbert, and sister, Angela, to John Gawsworth; a letter from Herbert Ewart to writer Stephen Graham, and a typescript for an unpublished article on Ewart by his friend Henry Williamson, titled A Wild Goose Chase with Gawsworth.
Series III. consists of clippings of published articles on Ewart and his writing. The folder of press clippings includes over forty-five articles and notices written about Ewart during his lifetime, five photographs of the countryside, a copy of The White Wyandotte Club Year Book, 1912 containing Ewart's "The Minor Points of a White Wyandote," and Ewart's Times obituary notice. A scrapbook contains John Gawsworth's collection of press clippings for When Armageddon Came (1933), Scots Guard (1934), Love and Strife (1936), and Aspects of England (1937).
Materials in the collection are in English and are in good condition, with the exception of the clippings scrapbook, which is fragile. A digital copy of the scrapbook is available for access.
Open for research
Purchase, 1968 (R4350)
Elspeth Healey, 2010
Box and folder numbers are followed by parenthetical notations indicating the number of letters to or from a particular correspondent.