Powys Society Logo

Back to Powys Society Publishing News

Cecil Woolf Publishers

cecil woolf publishers, mornington place, collected letters of john cowper powys



Paul Roberts
John Cowper Powys, Margaret and Lily:
the Evidence of the Syracuse Manuscripts

28 pp. incl. 2 illus., card covers, ISBN 1897967373   £3.50


A.B. Gourlay
The Powys Brothers at Sherborne School

20 pp. incl. 5 illus., card covers, ISBN 189796742X   £3.50


Glen Cavaliero
The Powys Family: Some Records of a Friendship

28 pp. incl. 10 illus., card covers. ISBN 1897967578   £3.50


Jacqueline Peltier
Alyse Gregory: A Woman at Her Window

52 pp. incl. 10 illus., card covers, ISBN 1897967624   £4.95


Chris Gostick
Lord Jim, Lady Tim and the Powys Circle

28 pp. incl. 7 illus., card covers, ISBN 1897967829   £4.50


Susan Rands
John Cowper Powys, the Lyons and W.E. Lutyens

60 pp. incl. 12 illus., card covers, ISBN 189796787X   £6.50


Boyne Grainger
Edited and with an Introduction by Anthony Head
We Lived in Patchin Place

64 pp. incl. 16 illus., card covers, ISBN 1897967187   £8.50


David Gervais
John Cowper Powys, T.S. Eliot and French Literature

44 pp. incl. 12 illus., card covers, ISBN 1897967632   £6.50


Llewelyn Powys
Edited and with an Introduction by Peter J. Foss
The Diary of a Sherborne Schoolboy:
Llewelyn Powys's Diary for 1903

36 pp. incl. 5 illus., card covers, ISBN 1897967047   £7.00



Michael Holliday
Making It New:
John Cowper Powys and the Modernist Tradition

24 pp, illustration, card covers, ISBN 1897967934   £6.00

Llewelyn Powys
Edited and with an Introduction by Peter J. Foss
The Diary of a Reluctant Teacher:
Llewelyn Powys's Diary for 1908

60 pp. incl. 11 illus., card covers, ISBN 1897967497   £8.00

Jacqueline Peltier
Two Powys Friends:
Glimpses into the Lives of Bernard O'Neill & Ralph Shirley

36 pp. incl. 6 illus., card covers, ISBN 1897967632   £7.00



Llewelyn Powys
Edited and with an Introduction by Peter J. Foss
The Immemorial Year:
Llewelyn Powys's Diary for 1909

68 pp. incl. 10 illus., card covers, ISBN 1897967845   £9.00



Christiane Poussier
Translated from the French by Nelly Markovic
Encounters with John CowperPowys,
a Meditation

28 pp. incl. 1 illus., card covers, ISBN 9781907286001   £6.00



Chris Gostick
T. F. Powys's Favourite Bookseller,
The Story of Charles Lahr

32 pp. incl. 7 illus., card covers, ISBN 9781907286018   £6.00

llewelyn powys diary of a reluctant teacher, cecil woolf

T. F. Powys’s Favourite Bookseller

The Story of Charles Lahr

by Chris Gostick  

 The London bookseller and publisher Charles Lahr was a larger-than-life character whose various business enterprises and devil-may-care radicalism played an important role in the careers of numerous writers during the inter-war years. A particular friend and patron of T. F. Powys, as well as other members of the Powys family and their circle, he also had close and fruitful associations with such writers as H. E. Bates, Liam O’Flaherty, Rhys Davies, D. H. Lawrence, James Hanley and Kenneth Hopkins.

During the 1920s and 1930s Lahr’s Red Lion Street bookshop in Holborn was a magnet for writers and bibliophiles of all stripes, ‘a rendezvous for rebels and world-shakers.’ But although he features in many of the literary memoirs and novels of these years there has so far been no full biography of this renowned eccentric and ‘literary buccaneer’.

Now, in T. F. Powys’s Favourite Bookseller, Chris Gostick provides the first detailed synopsis of Lahr’s work and achievements, drawing not only on archive documents but on original materials provided by Lahr’s two daughters to trace Lahr’s often turbulent life, from his birth in Germany in 1885 to his death in London eighty-six years later. Chris Gostick is the author of Lord Jim, Lady Tim and the Powys Circle (2000) in the Powys Heritage Series and is currently completing a full biography of James Hanley. In this monograph he pays tribute to a significant and unjustly neglected figure on the London literary scene.

A review by David Goodway


T.F. Powys’s Favourite Bookseller, the Story of Charles Lahr by Chris Gostick

Powys Heritage series, 32pp, £6.00 ISBN 978-1-907286-01-8

When I first met Charles (or Charlie) Lahr in 1967, four years before his death, it seemed appropriate he was running the bookshop of the Independent Labour Party, since in old age he had slipped back into the world of far-left groupings (the ILP having disaffiliated from the Labour Party in 1932) that had sustained him after his arrival in London in 1905. Born Karl Lahr in the Rhineland Palatinate, he had fled aged twenty to England to avoid military service, working in a bakery and then as a razor-grinder.

Throughout the interwar years, though, he owned with his wife Esther (née Archer, anglicized from Argeband) a notable bookshop in Red Lion Street, Holborn, much mentioned in literary memoirs of the period, becoming the firm friend of such writers as Hugh MacDiarmid, James Hanley, Liam O’Flaherty, H.E. Bates, Rhys Davies, Malachi Whitaker and Olive Moore as well as the painter William Roberts.  John Cowper Powys visited in 1929, noting in his diary:

Went to Theodore’s favourite German bookseller in Red Lion St and signed a lot of my books.  He is publishing a book of Lawrences wh is very rough & crude & violent and angry and plebian and obscene [Pansies]….He corresponds with Violet and gets them an honest penny by selling Theodore’s books (signed)  I gave him some roses for his wife. I liked him very much.  It was the smallest shop I have ever been in.

In the mid-twenties Lahr had published the six issues of the New Coterie for its three editors. Although (pace Chris Gostick) he had little if any editorial input, this was how he came into close contact with two contributors, D.H. Lawrence (by then in France) and T.F. Powys, whom he would visit several times a year in Dorset. Striking out entrepreneurially he began to publish off-prints from the magazine as strange, unglamorous limited editions, no fewer than five in the case of Powys, but one including an original story, ‘A Strong Girl’, together with a fine portrait drawing by Roberts. Christ in a Cupboard followed in 1930 as one of eighteen Blue Moon Booklets.

Another Blue Moon Booklet was Philippa Powys’s collection of poems, Driftwood.  Lahr also published the first volume of poetry by Laurence Powys, that is Francis Powys, Theodore’s son. To complete the connection with the Powys family, one needs to go further than Gostick does and say that in 1931 an essay by Llewelyn Powys was announced as a ‘Blue Moon Octavo’ (yet there couldn’t have been a worse time than at the trough of the Depression to launch such a venture). Llewelyn was to tell Kenneth Hopkins that Now That the Gods Are Dead was originally written for Lahr, although thirty years later Alyse Gregory corrected this to Glory of Life.

Gostick’s pamphlet is in general well-informed and well-researched. However, portions of text get repeated, and there are errors and misspellings: for example, the poet John Gawsworth appears as ‘Gawsworthy’ and P.R. Stephensen, Lahr’s Australian co-conspirator in his dealings with Lawrence, is repeatedly named as ‘Stephenson’. Few people who knew Lahr well are still alive and Gostick is understandably much reliant on the testimony of the two daughters. But he goes too far, captured by them in Lahr family wars in which they take the side of their mother, hard-done-by according to them.

Lastly, Gostick, while struggling valiantly with Lahr’s youthful anarchist activism, has no interest in the political dimension. Entirely missing is the distinctive – and unusual – politics of Lahr’s clientèle: ILP, anarchist, heterodox Marxist including (very importantly) Trotskyist. If Lahr can be said to have discovered any writers, they were not only Rhys Davies but also George Woodcock, the future historian of anarchism and leading man of letters in Canada, a tiny collection of whose poems he printed in 1938.  But Lahr also attracted Africans such as Jomo Kenyatta and the novelist Peter Abrahams, as well as two notable West Indian revolutionaries with whom he became intimate, George Padmore and C.L.R. James, the latter a commanding figure in Caribbean literature and thought.

David Goodway

From The Powys Society Newsletter, No 68


Encounters with John Cowper Powys

A Meditation

by Christiane Poussier

Translated from the French by Nelly Markovic

 Admirers of John Cowper Powys can often vividly recall the moment when they first encountered his work. For many it proves to be an unforgettable experience, if not a life-changing one. In Encounters with John Cowper Powys, a personal meditation on the man and his life, Christiane Poussier conveys the peculiar influence that Powys has had on her imagination and thinking from the moment she first came into contact with his work. In a discursive and highly individual manner, she recounts her various ‘encounters’ with Powys through his writing, speculates about aspects of his own personality and thought, and offers some suggestive glimpses into the mind and spirit of one of literature’s towering figures.

Christiane Poussier has held various positions in the field of education and now mostly works as a translator of English texts. Among several Powys titles she has translated are Confessions de deux frères (Confessions of Two Brothers) by John Cowper Powys and Llewelyn Powys (1982), Esprits-Frères (Selected Letters of John Cowper Powys) (2001), Le Hibou, le Canard et Miss Rowe! Miss Rowe! (The Owl, the Duck and Miss Rowe! Miss Rowe!) by John Cowper Powys (2007), and ‘Remy de Gourmont par John Cowper Powys’ in Actualité de Remy de Gourmont (2008), an extract from Powys’s Suspended Judgments. She has also translated works by Patrick Hamilton, Angela Huth and P. C. Doherty. 



The Uniform Edition of the Collected Letters of John Cowper Powys


Powys and Dorothy Richardson

The Letters of John Cowper Powys and Dorothy Richardson


This correspondence, now published in the Uniform Edition of the Letters of John Cowper Powys, is among the first in which the letters on both sides have been collected, where it has been possible to reconstruct the dialogue between the two writers. The result is an extraordinarily stimulating exchange of views between two people who are not only prolific letter-writers, but also significant literary figures.

Powys was constant in his admiration of Dorothy Richardson's books, and his encouragement and efforts to help her precarious financial circumstances are evident from his letters to her. When he first wrote to her, suggesting that they might meet, she failed to realize that he too was an author and was reluctant to meet him:

'I think on the whole [she writes] I agree with those who feel it is a mistake to meet writers whose work one likes. There is so rarely any correspondence. The enquirer risks losing "illusions" - and the writer a reader. Truth is served however and that, no doubt, if one can face it, is great compensation. We shall be at home on Sunday.'

From this luke-warm invitation sprang a friendship that was to last twenty-five years. Between 1929 and 1952, she wrote 64 letters and 40 postcards to Powys and received 76 from him. Their first meeting in 1929 immediately established their friendship and while they were not to meet frequently, their correspondence quickly developed into a steady exchange of ideas and of books. The letters in this remarkable correspondence belong to a period that includes the publication of Ulysses, the translation into English of À la recherche du temps perdu, the writings of Virginia Woolf and Henry Miller, and, in another perspective, the Second World War. They bear lively witness to these events and to the warm friendship of both writers. They also provide memorably vivid self-portraits of Powys and Richardson, showing each of them in his and her preoccupations and environment. These are not deliberate self-revelations for the public gaze, for neither writer anticipated publication. This adds a special interest, for we can see Powys and Richardson as they were to themselves, and to each other, and, not least, to those closest to them - the silent spouses and collaborators, John Cowper's Phyllis Playter and Dorothy's Alan Odle.

This long-awaited collection forms what, in a different context, Dorothy Richardson calls 'an excursion into the mind and personality of the author'. As such it is an invaluable complement to the books of each writer and its contribution to our knowledge and understanding of both is considerable. 

Casebound, 215x135mm, 272 pp., illustrated. ISBN 978-1-897967-27-0, Price to members of the Powys Society £28.00* (usual price £35.00) and £26.25* if ordered with Powys and Emma Goldman. *Free post and packing in Great Britain.

 Powys and Emma Goldman

The Letters of John Cowper Powys and Emma Goldman


John Cowper Powys and Emma Goldman became friends in the United States during the First World War. 'Jack' was an established lecturer, travelling the country extensively and attracting huge audiences, yet only beginning his second career as an author, and 'Red Emma' was a central figure in American anarchism. In respectable society she was considered a monster, one of America's most dangerous agitators. To her many admir­ers she was a mythic figure, a charismatic heroine who lived her life in the service of a personal and political ideal.

After World War I she was deported with several hundred 'alien radicals' to her native and then revolutionary Russia, but although she fled from there after less than two years, continued to be excluded from America. She renewed contact in 1936 with Powys, by now a major novelist, wishing to establish herself as a lecturer in Britain. After the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, she was called to Barcelona as the foremost international  anarchist activist, and in consequence Powys was immersed in details of the unfolding conflict and of the anarchist ideal, all to be imprinted on his writings, both fiction and non-fiction, in the late 1930s and 40s. Emma Goldman in turn benefited from the characteristic gener­osity of his response during her dispiriting attempts to mobilize moral and material support for the Spanish anarchists in London.

In this important and fascinating collection, one of the few in the Uniform Edition of the Letters of John Cowper Powys to contain both sides of the correspondence, Emma Goldman recounts and analyzes her experiences in a series of lucid but passionate letters.

Casebound, 215x135mm, 188pp..illustrated. ISBN 978-1-897967-84-3. Price to members of the Powys Society £24* (usual price £30.00) and £22.50* if ordered with Powys and Dorothy Richardson. *Free post and packing in Great Britain.

Two reviews

The Real and the Ideal

 John Dunn evaluates Anarchism and the individual in the letters of John Cowper Powys and Emma Goldman.



edited by David Goodway

Cecil Woolf, 188pp, £30, ISBN 978-1897967-84-3


 David Goodway has been building up our expectations about the publication of this book over many years and the results will not disappoint. Apart from a brief passing reference to the Powys-Goldman connection made by George Woodcock in his Anarchism (1963), Powys’s anarchist leanings were first seriously brought to light in Goodway’s The Politics of John Cowper Powys in the Powys Review (1985).  We were later treated to Goodway’s thoughts on Powys’s individualist anarchist philosophy in the Powys Journal of 2004.  Then Powys was given a central position in Goodway’s invaluable history of British anarchism, Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow (2006). Now Goodway presents the concluding evidence in support of his long running thesis of Powys as anarchist.  For here is Powys in his own words, a serious, politically aware writer, in correspondence with one of the best known anarchists of the twentieth century, Emma Goldman or ‘Red Emma’ as she was known, over the four eventful years from 1936 to 1940.


Goodway explains, in his informative introduction, that Goldman had seen the Russian Revolution at first hand and also the hand of Stalin at work in undermining the bid for freedom made by the anarchists in the Spanish Revolution.  A succinct biography of Goldman is given, describing her life in the United States as that of an anarchist agitator and her disillusionment with Bolshevik Russia after her deportation there from the United States at the height of the ‘red scare’ in 1918. Thereafter, Goldman was ‘nowhere at home’, until a marriage of convenience gave her British citizenship in 1925.  Goodway's introduction details the possible points of contact between Goldman and Powys in the United States before the former’s deportation. However limited these were, Goldman thought she knew Powys well enough to write to him in 1936, having been given his name and address by their mutual friend, Maurice Browne, founder of the Chicago Little Theatre…. and so the correspondence began.


Goodway explains that Powys was not at his best here as a letter writer -- I beg to differ.  Whilst not to be compared with his literary backslapping of old and close friends, nor his intimate exchanges with lovers and siblings, the letters to Goldman do have a fascination for what they reveal about Powys as a serious political thinker, quite apart from their value as an historical record of responses by concerned individuals to momentous contemporary events. 


In a letter of introduction for Goldman, Powys described her as a philosophical anarchist.  In another letter, he compared Goldman’s philosophy with those of Kropotkin, Bakunin and Tolstoy.  He later compared her efforts to break through ‘our national peculiarities’ of ‘reserve & timidity & suspiciousness & slow caution’, with those of Edward Carpenter.  In other words, Powys was sufficiently politically aware to be able to draw readily upon key names from the libertarian socialist and anarchist canon. 


He also displayed an appreciation of what anarchism really meant. ‘How weird it is for Emma Goldman’s friends’, he wrote, ‘to be fighting “for the government” when you think of it!’ This tone of irony, however small, is never entirely absent from Powys’s voice when he is questioning Goldman about what a future anarchist state might be like.  If Goldman’s friends were to defeat fascism, how would they face the challenges of being an isolated enclave of anarchism?  Which authorities would deal with the imports and exports?  Who would divide the profits made from exporting to the other districts of Spain and other countries?  These are astute questions from Powys, whose own perception of a post-revolutionary anarchy was that it would be a world system or nothing, a system without buying, selling, or exchange.  In this context, his questions to Goldman were telling indeed.  This was not the pupil of anarchism at the feet of his master, this was a serious political thinker (anyone who has read The Complex Vision knows as much), not letting on that he knew as much as he did. (Goodway himself notes that whilst Powys expressed to Goldman his ignorance of anarchism and anarchist writers, he had in fact read the individualist anarchist, Max Stirner and had known the libertarian socialist, Erskine Wood.)  And how did Goldman answer him?  She did so by avoiding the main thrust of Powys’s questions.  Of course she was right to respond that anarchism would not have a ‘centralised authority’, nor would it profit from production and distribution. What she failed to answer was how such an isolated Utopia would survive in an otherwise capitalist world.  Powys knew anarchism was not possible under such conditions. Goldman, with all her heroic idealism, could not allow herself to think that.


It was Goldman’s ‘saintly’ idealism that ultimately found itself at odds with the old ‘ichthysaurian’ Powys.  Nothing could have been further from Powys’s Stirner-influenced egoism than when Goldman wrote that she had found in Spain a way ‘to realize the ideal and ideas for which I had struggled all my life’. ‘Realize the ideal’, how those words must have jarred with Powys.  Max Stirner opened the concluding chapter of The Ego and His Own with the words…


Pre-Christian and Christian times pursue opposite goals; the former wants to idealise the real, the latter to realise the ideal.

The opposition of the real and the ideal is an irreconcilable one, and the one can never become the other: if the ideal became the real, it would no longer be the ideal; and, if the real became the ideal, the ideal alone would be, but not at all the real.



The point Stirner went on to conclude was that, in striving for the ideal Man, the individual is lost. ‘All higher essences must be shunned if my feeling of uniqueness is to survive. One’s concern can only be with the unique one, one’s self.’  It was probably this dictum of Stirner’s that was at the heart of Powys’s personal philosophy of solitude. 


When Goldman requested Powys to contribute a propaganda piece to Spain and the World she was, unwittingly, giving Powys a platform from which to exclaim his own brand of anarchism.  The resulting piece was The Real and the Ideal, a work not only with a title lifted straight from the pages of  The Ego and His Own, but very likely the most telling and succinct statement of Powys’s political philosophy we have and, therefore of immense importance to Powysians. Goodway astutely includes it in full, chronologically slotted in amongst the letters. The purposeful choice of title is also proof positive that Powys not only read, but was influenced heavily by Max Stirner.  In short, even though Goodway does not acknowledge the fact, I believe The Real and the Ideal vindicates his long-held thesis about Stirner’s influence on Powys.


In Powys’s The Real and Ideal it is the individual that counts, not ideals or ideologies.  Notably, it is not the engines of destruction devised by tyrants and demagogues that Powys cites as the greatest threat to humanity, but the onslaught of the media.


The unhappy individual who tries to obey his conscience is besieged over the air and through the press by the most crafty, insidious, corrupting, lying propaganda, made possible by wireless, cinemas, and newspapers, that has ever been exerted in the history of our race, to swamp, drown, pervert and hypnotize every attempt he makes at thinking for himself.


Powys emphasised that to ‘think for yourself has become today the one unpardonable sin’, whether the prevailing ideology was communism, fascism or democratic capitalism.  The latter was, for Powys, just as much a threat to individual freedom as that of any dictatorship, only more invidious.


Powys comes across as a realist in this piece and the most he could offer Emma, by way of propaganda in this exposition of his own brand of anarchism, was to say that even if the Spanish anarchists were to be ‘bombed into annihilation’, then at least it could be said they had offered ‘a living experience’ to which humanity might return in the future.           


In addition to the excellent introduction to this correspondence, Goodway offers the reader copious and scholarly notes to each letter, imparting a wealth of information about the individuals and places included. In the thoughtful afterword to the letters, Goodway states that ‘one problem is the extent to which Powys really did understand the theoretical basis of anarchism . . . Had Powys . . . really become an anarchist?’ Having read these letters, I would say it is now clear that Powys did have a theoretical understanding of anarchism before he corresponded with Goldman. 


Goodway has done future studies of John Cowper Powys an enormous service in expanding widely upon Woodcock’s passing reference to the connection between Powys and Goldman.  There can no longer be a balanced understanding of Powys’s life and work that does not take his political thinking and closely related philosophy into account. The Letters of John Cowper Powys and Emma Goldman, is not only a joy to read, but beautifully produced and a pleasure to hold. A short read it might be, but it possesses enough stimulating and important content to make it priceless to anyone with an interest in Powys’s politics, philosophy and thought.


John Dunn.

 From The Powys Society Newsletter, No 64

From a review by Jeff Bursey:

The Letters of John Cowper Powys and Emma Goldman, recently released by the small English publisher Cecil Woolf, is another addition to the fine collection of Powys letters his firm has already published. The letters cover the period 1936-1940, and with such figures—Powys full of admiration for Goldman, Goldman consumed by the dire state of Spain—we might expect either a cautious correspondence or one that takes full flight and seizes the reader. “How important was this correspondence to the participants?” Goodway asks in his Afterword. He offers an only partially satisfying answer, that Powys was an “invaluable morale booster” for Goldman, and that she tutored him in anarchist thought, correcting his early errors. Thanks to her, Powys could balance his idiosyncratic outlook on the world with political thought. Her re-education of him was necessary, and beneficial, and it gave him the words and concepts to refine and better articulate his own libertarian (i.e., anarchist) views.

To read the full review, please click here (NB external link)


'The noblest and most intellectual woman'


Marcella Henderson-Peal is moved by the 'unorthodox orthodoxy' of a profound friendship.



edited by Janet Fouli

Cecil Woolf, London, 2008; 272pp., £35; ISBN 978-1-897967-27-0 

JCP, p.20: …You, my friend, are like a priestess…and to the priestess (as well as to the priest) one instinctively, without knowing why, finds oneself confessing.


JCP 21, p. 62 : …the letters of yours which I really enjoy most are the ones that are the most personal and that give a picture of you and A.O’s days in their most peaceful though so laborious routine……ever beyond the loveliest praise of Glastonbury or the most illuminating and stimulating criticism.             


DMR 49, p.152: '…my letters …are communications bubbling within...'


JCP 42, p.113: '...as we put it to each other while reading your letter, there are no two people we are more completely at ease with and more without any ruffle or restraint or hindrance with than we feel with you …'


JCP 19, p.56: 'It’s that indestructible profane relish, that heathen glow over anything and everything that smoulders up in you…that does so suit the Welsh spirit of  'In Spite'  in my heart!'


Out of all the John Cowper Powys correspondence series edited by Cecil Woolf, the 76 letters he wrote to Dorothy Richardson, 'the noblest and most intellectual woman ' , and the 64 letters and 40 postcards he received from her between 1929 and 1952 (also including excerpts from John’s diary), are among the most touching, caring and revealing ever written. They make up the story of bosom minds befriended in mutual understanding, despite geographical distance and World War II, between two of the twentieth century’s most unusual authors. Both Phyllis Playter and Alan Odle from their self-appointed background positions discreetly but genuinely shared this friendship in twin kinship.


The letters encompass all aspects of both writer’s lives and thoughts, small domestic details and 'merry chat', such as DMR advocating All-Bran and eye-massage and JCP quite openly mentioning his enemas, the female mind, spiritual issues and comments on world and family news. Both authors participated in the proof-editing and critical reading of each other’s manuscripts, with related concerns over publishers as well as informative discussions on the art of narrative. Also included are their views on contemporary authors and well-loved writers, poets and philosophers such as Wordsworth, Dostoievski and Rabelais (to name but a few).


This exchange triggers discussions on the throes and pleasures of writing their ongoing books. 'How could you discover that about the later portion of the book [Glastonbury]  being in some way less organic than the earlier portion'  (JCP 22, p.64); and again 'Glastonbury….opposing Glendower as one mighty headland opposes its fellow across the bar. But if I could keep only one, that one would be Glendower. For here is the theme made to your own hand. …what I do find amazing…is the depth & the width of the imaginative sympathy there revealed. (DMR 64, p.190). Yet Dorothy was not such a fan of JCP’s work as her husband truly was and would conceal this by using her pen to convey Alan Odle’s appreciation. After reading The Pleasures of Literature -- and she much preferred John’s essays -- Dorothy writes 'John, write no more novels…keep now to unmitigated human history, experience, the tale of tales, irreversible, not to be monkeyed with even by the magician of magicians'. (DMR49, p.152)


John Cowper's own respect for Dorothy’s work and her influence on him runs deep when he writes in his first letter:  ' ...except for Wordsworth & Walter Pater it is from your philosophy that I have, among our English writers, got the most for my furtive cult of pure sensation...'.


John Cowper and Dorothy share his 'elementalism', 'the worship of the Inanimate as the best substitute for God', and this is also illustrated by charming and deeply felt descriptions of situations, places and details of nature beautifully expressed as early as in DMR’s third letter to JCP (p.17) when describing the Walnut Tree inn on Romney Marsh:

          'with a rich dark-brown-varnished-wood bar parlour and low windows where the ripe autumn sunlight comes in through leaves – comes in green-&-gold into the rich dark interior – gold light reflected from old brown varnish, you know John. But without people, the first having being one’s little lonely self, what would that absolute gold be? '


Dorothy Richardson (just as Phyllis) has the ability of drawing JCP out: she prods and questions his mind, his spirituality thereby exposing her own, and these discussions on philosophy and religion are possibly the most fascinating of all. Here is Dorothy commenting on 'The Bible as Literature': ' ...all the study-labour, & tough-labour of your life is  projected alive …in emphasizing  the humanity of Jesus, his human limitations…you still leave Him, for me, at the Centre, as the centre…the meeting place of Man & God .' (DMR 50, p.155). Or again, on Solovyev: '…he is …more sharply aware …of the necessity of orthodoxy together with the need for ceaseless development and reinterpretation…. excelling in seeing the error of Thomism & the dangers of formal logic' (DMR 86 p.221). She challenges the self-named 'John, John, the parson’s son' (p. 202) for '…your repudiation of ‘Deism’ & amply tolerant of as many ‘Gods’ as you choose to muster ' (DMR 83, p.218). John writes earlier on:  '…I do think I have exhausted my own interest…in this question of the dualism of Good and Evil – But….merely to approach such a provocative place as Glastonbury wd set me off again! However, I suppose I could deal with a certain vein of the mystic – not exactly the occult – but just, just stopping short of that !' (JCP 3, p.19) -- to which Dorothy replies that 'L. [Llewelyn Powys] and I agreed that the artist’s link with religion is nearly quite entirely aesthetic…It is the artist’s way through what Blake meant when he said ‘A tear is an intellectual thing’.' (DMR 4, p.22).


And again, John on the occult and spritualism:

           'Yes, I agree absolutely with every word of what you say about the long memory of larger and older consciousnesses, in some mysterious sort of contact with ours... I’ve got a curious mania for antiquity in continuity in one spot of the earth’s surface… it goes back to total Obscurity and Mythology fading away too slowly to be caught at any point for certain between reality & unreality and between history & legend' (JCP 66, p. 208 & 209).


 JCP and DMR definitely felt very comfortable with each other like brother and sister in unorthodox orthodoxy. For nowhere else except maybe to Llewelyn (but certainly not in Autobiography) has JCP ever been so honest and outspoken and divorced from the public eye or any provocative 'showing off'.


May all our thanks be given to Janet Fouli.  In editing and giving Powys-lovers and Richardson fans such a gem, in other words Correspondence As Literature, she has given the reader a unique chance of enjoying a holistic appreciation of both John Cowper and Dorothy Richardson, offering a first hand opportunity to find incredibly rich material for thought and research without any of the subjective appropriation that is the unwitting wont of all critics, biographers or academics, however honest and discreet. Here is John’s own voice, John at his best, in other words, John as Himself.


Marcella Henderson-Peal


Marcella Henderson Peal lives in Paris and teaches English at Paris 12 university. She is currently working at the Sorbonne on a PhD on John Cowper Powys: “Spiritual Tension, Sensation and Reality”. She is married with two daughters.



Other volumes in the Uniform Edition of the Collected Letters of John Cowper Powys

The Letters of John Cowper Powys to Sven-Erik Tackmark Edited by Cedric Hentschel

The Letters of John Cowper Powys to G.R. Wilson Knight Edited by Robert Blackmore

The Letters of John Cowper Powys to H. W. & V. Trovillion Edited by Paul Roberts

The Letters of John Cowper Powys to Ichiro Hara Edited by Anthony Head

The Letters of John Cowper Powys to Phillppa Powys Edited by Anthony Head

The Love Letters of John Cowper Powys and Frances Gregg (two volumes) Edited by Oliver and Christopher Wilkinson

The Letters of John Cowper Powys to Glyn Hughes Edited by Frank Warren

The Letters of John Cowper Powys to Frank Warren Edited by Frank Warren