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Monday, 9 March 2015

Between Kenya and the USA: Llewelyn Powys back in Weymouth, Dorset; Discontented in Dorset

Memorial Stone, Coastal Path, Chaldon Down

cf  Llewellyn Powys, from “Death” in “Ebony and Ivory”:

“The unspeakable privilege of merely being above ground”.

Letter of October 8, 1919, to John Cowper Powys:

“My plans at present are to stay here and see if I cannot make some headway in writing…Of course I find my surroundings at present very much to my taste. I write all the morning…”

Letter, 1920, to John Cowper Powys:

"3 Greenhill Terrace is becoming intolerable, the click of the fiendish little front gate, the clang of the cursed bells... Before that (ie journey to America) two months of Weymouth anguish have to be got through...Even the magic of the full moon cannot relieve my case. The moonlight on Weymouth Bay - that's nothing, I say to myself".

From my copy of the Jonathan Cape 1927 British edition

From "Discontent", chapter one of "The Verdict of Bridlegoose" by Llewellyn Powys, 1926.

Depressed after his return  from East Africa, the author feels nothing, finds himself inattentive and unmoved by the beauty of Dorset, the once-familiar sights of the Chesil beach, by "the winter stars shining at midnight upon the backs of Dorset sheep, asleep on Dorset downs":

'Never had I experienced a deeper discontent than I felt at my father's house at Weymouth after my return from Africa...Whenever I took up my pen a heavy melancholy weighed me down. "Had not I, in my time, heard lions roar?"...I, the lover of life, the son of the sun, became a renegade and remained unmoved before what I had always held most dear...Of course I realised perfectly well the cause of my predicament. Nothing else, in fact, than that it was my misfortune to belong to, to have been born into, the English middle class. For after all, what a terrible class it is; merely to have occasional intercourse with the people who belong to it is awful enough, but to be born one of them! It is like finding oneself in an enormous wire trap unable to get out. You can get in; anybody can get in, but you can't get out.

In July, I went to Southampton to meet my brother John, who was returning from the Unites States for a holiday. As we sat together on the wharf he asked me whether I would not consider going back with him to America. I answered without hesitation that I would go back with him. Had not I been feeling for the last twelve-month that it was high time for me to be setting out on my travels again, to be setting out on my travels for a new jungle? I had no mind to remain any longer under my father's protection, cooped up like a prize hen. I would rather starve, I thought, in a garret of New York City than live so mean a life".

A Leopard By Lake Elmenteita, 1922

On Llewellyn Powys

"Llewelyn Powys (1884-1939), novelist and essayist, was born at Dorchester, Dorset, on 13 August 1884, and educated at Sherborne School, 1899-1903, and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, 1903-1906. He was a stock farmer in Kenya, 1914-1919, and a journalist in New York City, 1920-1925".

"Tanks should be constructed in the mind such tanks would really avail the human race - religion, poetry, philosophy - these things only are of use". Llewelyn Powys, letter to  T.F. Powys, June 11, 1918

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