Saturday 14 August 2021 — Discussion of JCP’s novel The Brazen Head
This event will be HELD ONLINE by ZOOM at 15:00 BST (Max 1.5 HOURS to 16:30).
- If any member wishes to join the Zoom discussion, please e-mail Kevin Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org. Kevin will be hosting the meeting and will send you joining details in due course.
The Brazen Head, set in the thirteenth century, features the priest scientist Roger Bacon (1220-1292) and his invention of an oracular metallic head. The novel has a large cast of eccentric characters and combines history and theology wIth fantasy. According to our past President Glen Cavaliero the novel is “the most robust of all the author's novels...It is possessed of mental rather than imaginative energy, and is something of a conversation piece. It is the most Peacockian of his novels...its world is typical of Powys's last period being earthy, speculative and genial in tone...The Brazen Head has a far more flexible and lively style than the more famous novels preceding it..”
Here are familiar Powysian themes and images - magic wonders, alchemy, magnetism, sense emanations, thought eidola, demonic spirits, a Druidic stone circle, giants, good and evil powers, love and sexual energy. This novel had specific personal significance for JCP for he imagines the medieval world of thirteenth century Wessex (Bacon was born in Ilchester just a few miles from Montacute) and has one chapter entitled The Cerne Giant. In 1955 in a letter to his friend Nicholas Ross JCP spelled out the autobiographical meaning of the novel: “my romance begins and ends in the year of the Devil 1272. Just 600 years before at 6 A.M. in Shirley, Derbyshire. Charles Francis Powys and Mary Cowper Powys had their first-born child. My romance centres round far the most important figure of the Middle Ages, namely ROGER BACON who succeeded in doing what no other human being has ever done before or since. That is to say Friar Roger Bacon, who was infinitely greater than Francis Bacon,[and who] imitated God and created a living soul!”