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alyse gregory

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The Newsletter

powys society newsletters

The Powys Society's Newsletter is published thrice yearly (March, July and November)  and is packed with news, information, reviews, details of forthcoming publications and events, previously unpublished Powys letters, extracts from Powys journals and much more besides. A delightful range of photographs, book jacket images and illustrations embellish its pages. Edited by Kate Kavanagh who is always pleased to receive news and short articles. You can contact Kate here:

powys society newsletter 94 (july 2018)

The Powys Society Newsletter No. 94 (July 2018)
(48 pages) is now available to all Society members.

powys society newsletter 93 (march 2018)
March 2018: The Powys Society Newsletter No. 93
(48 pages)

powys society newsletter 91, the powys society (2017)
July 2017: The Powys Society Newsletter No. 91

powys society newsletter 90 (march 2017)
The Powys Society Newsletter No. 90 (March 2017)

The Powys Society Newsletter No. 88 (July 2016)
Newsletter 89 (52 pages) Contents
powys society newsletter 89 front cover
Powys Society Newsletter 89
front cover

The Conference 2016

DVDs of Conference Talks

AGM and Hon. Secretary’s report

Meeting in London, December 3rd

‘My Conference’: Kevin Taylor,
Robin Hickey, Rampaul Chamba,
Marcel Bradbury

Jung’s Glastonbury Romance

The Llewelyn Birthday Walk 2016

News and Notes

Review: Michael Kowalewski on

Zouheir Jamoussi’s Theodore Powys’s
Gods and Demons

Review: Arjen Mulder on Llewelyn
Powys: Recalled to Life,
A Consumptive’s Diary, 1911

Julia Mathews: Childhood Memories

of T.F. Powys in Mappowder

Inscriptions and Dedications

Ron Hall: Introduction and
John Cowper Powys’s letters 
powys society newsletter 89 back cover
Powys Society Newsletter 89
back cover
To those of us who came on the Powys scene in the early 1970s with Jeff Kwintner’s Village Press, Ron(ald) Hall is a familiar name. Ron (1929-1985) left two heartfelt tributes to JCP’s effect on his life, one the introduction to JCP’s letters to Henry Miller in the 1975 Village edition, and another to the unpublished letters from JCP to his young self, some of which are in this Newsletter.
   The chief publishing event of the Powys year has been Recalled to Life, the fifth and most substantial of Llewelyn Powys’s diaries edited by Peter Foss, whose conference talk filled in the background to 1911. Arjen Mulder also takes a personal view of Llewelyn in Switzerland. The customary LlP Birthday Walk took place at East Chaldon (this year simultaneously with the conference). JCP as so often dominated the talks, but Michael Kowalewski discusses a Tunisian study of Theodore Powys, who is also recalled by Julia Mathews in her childhood memories of Mappowder. Chris Thomas tracks interesting leads and connections, from Jung at Chalice Well to Van Gogh’s boots, and charts the wealth of revealing inscriptions on the flyleaves of Powys books.
            Kate Kavanagh
A PDF of this Newsletter is available to download
Text file here       Cover (front & back) file here

The Powys Society Newsletter No. 88 (July 2016)

powys society newsletter number 88
December Meeting
Chairman’s Report
Treasurer’s Report
AGM 2016
Committee Nominations
The Powys Conference, 2016
Recalled to Life, LlP’s 1911 Diary
Charles Lock, Geoffrey Hill and JCP: A Tribute
Maiden Castle at Ely Meeting

Powys Day, Dorset County Museum
Notes and News
Alliance of Literary Societies
Kevin Taylor, This is Norfolk
A Tale of a Postcard
Mike Smith, A dissertation revisited
Gift of Correspondence
Frederick Davies,
A Letter to Colin Wilson
Review, by Geoffrey Winch
Jerry Bird, JCP’s A Glastonbury Romance

Available to all Society members.
(A digital edition of this issue is available to read on The Newsletter webpage here)

Further digital back issues of the Society's Newsletter will be added in due course.

The Powys Society Newsletter No. 87 (March 2016)

powys society newsletter 87 (march 2016)
the powys society newsletter 87 (march 2016)


Two Powys Days

Rothesay House, Dorchester
A G M Committee Nominations
Conference 2016
Obituary: Joan Stevens
Notes & News
Gamel Woolsey ‘Spanish Fairy Stories’
T.F. Powys and Satyajit Ray
Earth Memories original cover


Phyllis Playter, Teenage Author

When David met Phyllis
‘Shakespeare’s Fairies’, by LlP
Shakespeare, by J. C. Powys
Maria Popova, ‘Brainpickings’
Earth Memories – A Response
by Anthony Head
Powyses in Patchin Place
All those Littleton Powyses


A previous Newsletter editor once described the job as an exploration of the ‘nooks and crannies’ of Powys … lore. The present edition is a good example of this, with several interesting pathways followed up by Chris Thomas (to whom as usual very many thanks) – among them the sculptor David Nash’s reminiscences of Phyllis Playter in the 1970s, and a connection between T. F. Powys and the great film-maker Satyajit Ray. Added to this Chris acts as a brilliant receiving-point for Powys mentions and references both on and off the Internet. It all adds up.
Phyllis Playter herself makes two appearances: aged 14 – a discovery by Robin Wood in Canada – with a ‘futurist’ story of flying machines not unlike JCP’s ‘Shillyshally’, 50 years on; and with her late friendship with David Nash, Blaenau’s other famous resident. Stephen Powys Marks traces Littleton Powyses through the ages, and Tony Head justifies the ways of editors to sometimes puzzled readers – in this case with the new ‘Earth Memories’, which it is hoped will attract new readers to Llewelyn Powys as a ‘classic’. JCP’s Meaning of Culture gets an appreciation from a new generation: not only ‘forgotten wisdom’, ‘a vintage gem’ but ‘a masterwork – one of the most thoughtful and beautifully written books I’ve ever encountered … wholly rewarding’.
Shakespeare is in the air, reflected in typical ways by Llewelyn and John Cowper.
(Did Theodore ever mention Shakespeare? Any suggestions gratefully received.)
continues next page

The Powys Society Newsletter No.86
Available to all Society members (05 November 2015) A range of artcles including reviews and opinions of the annual conference, the AGM, JCP's Fantasies, the 20th Llewelyn Birthday Walk, reviews of two books by Llewelyn Powys, a very special Blackthorn Winter, News & Notes, plus much more).

the powys society  newsletter 85

The Powys Society Newsletter No.85

Includes: reports on the Montacute & Dochester Powys Days plus Charles Beauclerk's lecture on The Art of Happiness in Sherborne; reviews of Llewelyn Powys's The Conqueror Worm and the new version of Earth Memories; John Cowper Powys on Wordsworth and The Illiad; Philippa Powys's diary, 1903-4; The Essays of Llewelyn Powys by Stephen Powys Marks; articles by W.J. Keith & Patrick Quigley; obituary notices for David Gervais; News & Notes and much more.

alyse gregory

The Powys Society NEWSLETTER No. 84
Late March 2015 publication (available now)
(The front cover features a portrait of Alyse Gregory as “Pandora” by Chester Hayes, Paris 1900.)
Contents: will contain reports on the London meeting in December, and previews of two more at Montacute (April 25th) on JCP's Wood and Stone, and Dorchester (June 20th) on Powys and Wordsworth; details of the 2015 Conference at Llangollen (August 21-23 speakers include John Gray, Nic Birns and Robert Caserio from America, Kathy Roscoe and Chris Thomas); new books (The Conqueror Worm, Llewelyn's 1910 "Consumptive's Diary", edited by Peter Foss;  Llewelyn Powys, the Man behind the Myth by Neil Lee); three Powys views of the Book of Genesis; Miklos Szentkurthy and JCP; Iain Sinclair on JCP; JCP lecturing in Wales in April 1940; and Caroline Powys's visit to Stonehenge in 1759.

the powys society, newsletter 83

The Powys Society NEWSLETTER No. 83
November 2014 publication

Contents: The 2014 Conference, The London and Dorchester Powys Days, Visit to Wyke Manor, G.R. Wilson Knight, JCP's winning English essay, Llewelyn's 130th Birthday Party, Tribute to JCP by Henry Miller, Proteus & the Magician review, JCP & Eric Barker, News & Notes, The Crowcombe connection, Answering a mobile by Peter Foss, Klinton Top, Llewelyn Powys the man behind the myth, Powys & Purdy review, A Chronology for Louis  Wilkinson, Musical Inspiration by JCP, The Powys Society Collection.

Below, a few covers of back issues of The Newsletter followed by several articles.
 powys society newsletter 66, t f powys & ottoline morrell)    the powys society newsletter 81   the powys society newsletter 71, william powys   the powys society newsletter 73    powys society newsletter 80, john cowper powys & llewelyn powys


The Seen and the Unseen

 P.J. Kavanagh

This sprawling masterpiece begins at a walking-pace, a horse's walking-pace, that of the hero Rhisiart's beloved piebald Griffin. If Griffin spots a tasty bit of sorrel by the path-side, he stops to enjoy it. Indeed for the first few pages Griffin is as much a character as his master. When Griffin meets other horses he 'flirts' with them. The verb is JCPs, and there is much human flirting in this book, and more than flirting. Those were lusty times.


The attempt to get inside the head of a horse is a part of JCP's urgent desire to suggest the inexpressible, animate and inanimate, seen and unseen, waves of it, affecting us. There is no dark and draughty castle chamber without a slit through which an important star is glimpsed, or a passing ominous bird, and the sea heard, or the wind. Owen Glendower, for instance, is so distracted by a bothersome gnat inside his helmet that he almost fails to prevent his French allies from raping and pillaging a Herefordshire village.


Glendower himself is seen as both theatrical and magical, self-doubting and confident, ruthless and compassionate, usually at more or less the same time. This ambiguity is oddly reminiscent of Marvell's attitude to Cromwell in his Ode. Marvell's obvious love of his monarch, both as King and as a person, is not in opposition to his admiration for the Protector, whom he sees as a force of nature, one possessed, as it were, by History itself. So it is with Glendower. Powys makes no comment of the fact that Glendower's love of the Welsh people, his fated need to rescue them from English tyranny and to burn the English out of their haughty castles, will necessitate the burning of Welsh villages with Welsh people n them.


Before going on to praise, it is necessary to warn of a couple of irritations. First, this book's length: my copy weighs in at a thousand pages. It is impossible not to long for a pair of scissors. Second, and more urgent, is Powys's use of several names, and nicknames, in both Welsh and English, for his individual characters, so that frequently the reader is at a loss to know whom he is talking about, or who is talking.


Enough complaint – what of the set-pieces, in which Cowper Powys is so often at his best? They are many, dramatic, even operatic, but they work because they so often seem psychologically right – just what would have happened at that point. For example, Rhistiart, after some dubious sexual groupings on the castle's dark stairs, finds himself in the room of his true love Tegolin (though, a man, he does not yet know that is what she is) and kneels at her feet, weeping, speechless. Tegolin does not speak either. A woman, she knows more than he does of the unseen link between them.  Powys does not tell us this; he has no need to, it just seems to the reader precisely right.


Later, under arrest, manacled, expecting execution, Rhisiart gives poison to his cell-mate and friend, the Lollard, who is to be burned alive next day.This might seem too Grand Opera, to go too far, but does not, is almost intimate, the details both mental and practical (the manacles) so precise.


The gnat in Glendower's helmet expelled, he comes to himself and prevents the destruction of the Hereford village. Thereby he loses his French allies, deprived of their girls and their loot. The rebellion is therefore over. We next see him old, ill unto death, living with one retainer in a prehistoric Welsh tunnel in the Welsh hills. Kingly still, he rouses himself ceremoniously to burn, or cause to be burned, the King's Pardon. Typically, it is uncertain that his last proud words might well have been spoken after his death-seizure. For did he not live for centuries in the Welsh consciousness, alive/ dead, waiting to come back and rescue them again?


Everything is uncertain, depending on forces unseen. Powys ends this pageant with his full Credo. Rhisiart, now a successful lawyer, is half Norman but vows to be wholly Welsh because of "the Welsh knowledge that the things seen are unessential compared with the things that are unseen."  Meanwhile Meredith, Glendower's young son, his father's funeral pyre burning in the hills, comes upon an antlered stag at dawn, hears an owl and ponders the effect they have on him. "What were they, what did they have in them, that they should bring such comfort?"  They were seen, but they carried with them the inexpressible unseen. And he realises why: ' "It's their impersonality" he thought, "visions of thousands of generations ... they're not mine!" ' It is the unseen, says Meredith/ Powys, that releases us, briefly, mercifully, from our selves.

From The Powys Society Newsletter, No 70.


Theodore’s 'Soliloquies of a Hermit'

Michael Kowalewski

Some of us are drawn to the Powyses through their works and some through personal encounter. I came to the Powyses via JCP’s works, first encountered in Jeff Kwintner’s inspirational Village Bookshop. Then, I met an actual Powys, Theodore’s son Francis and his wife Sally. They were transcribing JCP’s diaries. Francis told me that “of course” the greatest of the writing Powyses was his father, Theodore. Up till then I had only read TFP’s Mr Weston’s Good Wine and found it a powerful allegory of Christian faith in a superbly evocative, dark Dorset setting. After Francis’s remark I decided to read more TFP and the next  I read, by chance, was 'The Only Penitent'. This story tells of an evangelical vicar, Mr Hayhoe, who decides to revive the Catholic sacrament of Penance. However his ‘only penitent’ is an old tinker called Jar. In his confession to Mr Hayhoe it becomes clear that Jar is God himself confessing his sins against humanity – “I have crucified my son”. It is one of these scalp-tingling moments in literature and I realised that Theodore (appropriately enough, considering his name) was also a theologian of unique power and vision in which God indeed walks among men and is a suffering being.


The Soliloquies of a Hermit (or Soliloquy as it was titled in America) published at the beginning of his career, was a kind of manifesto of this unique blend of literature and theology. “I am a priest” he says in it, and indeed he is, not as a romantic exalting art but humbly placing the word at the service of The Word, without in the slightest adhering to any evangelical fanaticism. He does not thump the Bible but finds it open before him in everyday existence.


One can place the three writing brothers according to their reaction to their father’s evangelical religion, from Llewellyn’s rejection, JCP’s mystical neo-paganism and in Theodore’s case apparent agreement but in reality, as the reversal in 'The Only Penitent' shows, complete subversion. The unique feature of Theodore amidst all the theological currents of the time is its rejection of the Hellenic and Latin Platonic current of Christianity. As he says in Soliloquies, ‘I know no Latin’. His religion is based exclusively on a personal reading of the Bible with a bit of help from the Mystery Plays, Bunyan and Wesley – whom he cites in Soliloquies. While Theodore is described as an allegorist, he seems to me to have gone beyond allegory to a more concrete religion in which gods actually “walk in the cool of the garden” and as Ezra Pound says in an essay in Passions and Divisions, prior to moralising abstraction, there was concrete experience of an encounter with divine beings which is only turned into a fable when its truth is questioned. It is the level of consciousness described by Julian Jaynes in his Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind,  in which men actually heard and were possessed by divine voices and had no proper self-consciousness but just a readiness to obey the divine voices – a sacred audition rather than vision.


Theodore in Soliloquies calls himself a priest and one who listens, like Mr Hayhoe, to the voice of God in nature. His god is a god of stories and story-telling who appears in his own tales. Theodore is a priest because he tells these stories, which are real events because told by God. In the Soliloquies, Theodore talks of the moods of God, and they are not very different from the moods of Theodore who attends to them. This emphasis on moods might seem to give the book a rambling kind of air, like the extended walks Theodore was fond of, but actually there is a three-part structure here. The pivotal point in the middle of the work is announced by Theodore with another inversion – looking at himself as a 'Mr Thomas', from the point of view of one of the ‘immortals’ who have no care for the moods of God and think they will never die, as he digs his garden and mends – or fails to mend – his fence. This projection and objectification of self is precisely the kind of mind-projection Jayne’s bicameral mind is capable of, rather than the anguished ‘agenbite of inwit’ of the modern self-consciousness. Sequestered in his remote Dorset hideout Theodore attains to a pre-modern consciousness of unique power and resonance for us, overburdened with conscience.


After this externalised portrait, in the third part of Soliloquies Theodore turns to Jesus and the meaning of his love, which he interprets in a deeply personal way as a living in the Now. This is compared by some to Zen or even the Tibetan lightning bolt of enlightenment, but we do not know how much of eastern religion Theodore knew. His style is forged by the Bible and the ‘mad German’, Nietzsche – also a son of the manse – and we should allow him his uniqueness. His is not a Platonic religion of abstract ideas clothed in allegory but a concrete encounter with living presences whom he encounters in quotidian life. Theodore makes nothing of any distinction of body and spirit. Spirit and flesh are a single substance that lives in persons who can be actually encountered. Flesh is quite as holy as spirit. His is not an ascetical or negative theology so much as a deeply inverted one, where certain concepts, such as immortality, function in the opposite way to the normal religious usage, and thus create a shock of radical encounter as if for the first time. His Jesus is a defence against the moods of God that dominated in the first part of Soliloquies, Jesus 'stood alone in all the earth to face and destroy the moods.' In this way, ‘The New Heaven and the New Earth’, as the last section-heading puts it, will be opened without anger or guilt, those sins of excessive ego-consciousness.


To return to Francis’s question about the greatest writer – Theodore is perhaps not the greatest, but certainly the most unique and original. His brother John said of him that he had reached levels of moral pain that he, John, had never plumbed. Certainly Theodore’s presentation of evil, not the banality of evil but the evil of banality, has a unique power. For example, in 'The White Paternoster', he describes the cold-blooded planned rape of an innocent girl – targeted precisely to destroy that innocence -- by two lechers over a beer, in a way that chills the blood far more than any actual description of a rape would do.


Towards the end of his life Theodore seems to have found a kindred spirit: Simone Weil’s Waiting on God is in Theodore’s library, heavily annotated. He belongs with her and a handful of religious thinkers who explored the very boundaries of the Christian message. Theodore’s God was the author of tales, who appeared in his own dramas and suffered in the world to realise his love for it.

From The Powys Society Newsletter, No 70.


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“In books dwell all the demons and all the angels of the human mind. It is for this reason that a bookshop — especially a second-hand bookshop / antiquarian — is an arsenal of explosives, an armoury of revolutions, an opium den of reaction.” — John Cowper Powys

“She would wish that far stranger weddings happened in the world than anything that she saw or heard of at Madder. She needed much more than plain Madder life to interest her — some events more like a proceeding that had happened in a book of fables that she had once read, where a little mouse wished to be joined in holy wedlock with a lioness, who, unluckily going out to meet her little dear before the wedding, chanced to set her foot upon him.” — T.F. Powys

 "No sight that the human eyes can look upon is more provocative of awe than is the night sky scattered thick with stars.” — Llewelyn Powys

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