The Powys Brothers

Every year, I break off my holiday in France to return to England for the Powys Conference. For those who don’t know (and many don’t), the Powys family  consisted of the eleven children of the Reverend C F Powys and his wife Mary Cowper Powys, and included amongst their number a headmaster (Littleton), a talented painter (Gertrude), a novelist and poet (Philippa), an authority on lace-making (Marian) and another expert on ancient buildings (Alfred). The best known of the siblings, however, were the three brothers, John Cowper, Theodore and Llewelyn who between them wrote over one hundred books in vastly different styles and genre. Their following is international as is very evident from the eclectic mix of adherents and academic writers who gather each year at the society’s conference to promote their work, although in Dorset, and indeed, England, they are an example of ‘prophets in their own country.’

Margaret Drabble once wrote that John Cowper Powy’s novel, ‘A Glastonbury Romance’ was greatest novel of the twentieth century while many writers have been influenced and inspired by their writings. For me, it is the dispassionate and overwhelming rawness of John’s autobiography that makes it one of the most remarkable books that I have read.

Gamel Woolsey, wife of Llewelyn Powys, was herself a notable writer and her book ‘Patterns on the Sand’ was reviewed by Michael Caines in the TLS of 19 th July 2013 (available through Sundial Press).

Incidentally, Sundial Press also publishes a number of attractive editions of lesser known members of the Powys family

By Peter Tait

A retired teacher and head for 17 years, now focusing on writing, both on education and further fiction and non-fiction (previously having published two novels and a non-fiction book on Thomas Hardy's wives and other women, a biography, poetry and numerous articles on education).