Llewellyn Powys Dorset Essays


Llewelyn Powys (1884-1939)

'A Philosophical Poet'


"No sight that the human eyes can look upon is more provocative of awe than is the night sky scattered thick with stars. But this silence made visible, this silence made audible, does not necessarily give rise to a religious mood. It may evoke a mood that neither requires nor postulates a God. On frosty January nights when I walk over the downs I feel myself to be passing through a lofty heathen temple, a temple without devil-affrighting steeple bells, without altars of stone or altars of wood. Constellation beyond constellation, the unaltering white splash of the Milky Way, and no sign of benison, no sign of bane, only the homely hedgerow shadows and the earth's resigned stillness outstretched under the unparticipating splendour of a physical absolute."


Llewelyn Powys was born in Dorchester, Dorset, spent his childhood at Montacute, Somerset, and as an adult lived for varying periods in Kenya, the United States, Dorset and Switzerland. His twenty-six books include a novel, Apples be Ripe, a biography, Henry Hudson, essays descriptive and polemical, memoirs and reminiscences. Of all the Powys brothers, Llewelyn was recognized as the most cheerful, the most at ease with existence: the only one for whom a title such as Glory of Life could hold not a shadow of the ironic. Llewelyn's epicurean philosophy is intimately related to the tuberculosis with which he struggled for thirty years.


Among Llewelyn's best books are Black Laughter, about life in Africa, Skin for Skin, a memoir of his first attack of tuberculosis and residence in a Swiss sanatorium, Impassioned Clay, a statement of his philosophical outlook, the essays collected in Earth Memories, Dorset Essays, Somerset Essays and Swiss Essays, and the fictionalized autobiography Love and Death. In their blend of the descriptive, the reminiscent, and the polemical, Llewelyn's best writings have retained both their urgency of appeal and their charm of evocation.

Malcolm Elwin, his first biographer, described Llewelyn Powys as 'a philosophical poet relating the pleasures of his senses in the purest prose of his time'.

Major Works of Llewelyn Powys


Ebony and Ivory (1923)

Thirteen Worthies (1923)

Black Laughter (1924)

Skin for Skin (1925)

The Verdict of Bridlegoose (1926)

Henry Hudson (1927)

The Cradle of God (1929)

The Pathetic Fallacy (1930)

Apples Be Ripe (1930)

A Pagan�s Pilgrimage (1931)

Impassioned Clay (1931)

Glory of Life (1934)

Earth Memories (1934)

Damnable Opinions (1935)

Dorset Essays (1935)

The Twelve Months (1936)

Rats in the Sacristy (1937)

Somerset Essays (1937)

Love and Death (1939)

A Baker�s Dozen (1939)

 Swiss Essays (1947)

Llewelyn Powys in New York, 1928. Photo by Doris Ulmann 

(Courtesy of Stephen Powys Marks)

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. After marrying Alyse Gregory (1884-1967) in 1924, Powys travelled with his wife, paying visits to Palestine (1928), West Indies (1930) and Switzerland (1937). He died in Switzerland on 2 December 1939.

Recent Llewelyn Powys publications


All four titles in paperback format at �9.99 excepting Christmas Lore and Legend at �6.99.

Additionally, three booklets of diaries published by Cecil Woolf and edited by Peter Foss, and the same author�s Bibliography of Llewelyn Powys. All are currently in print.

Peter Foss will give a talk at this year's Powys Society Conference on Llewelyn's diary for 1910.



read by Chris Wilkinson (7 mins 41 secs)

Please click on the icon below to hear Chris Wilkinson read an essay from Dorset Essays reprinted in Durdle Door to Dartmoor(The Sundial Press)

[ Please allow a few seconds for buffering, depending on your connection speed]

 The Dandelion Fellowship


Celebrating the life, work and philosophy of Llewelyn Powys (1884-1939)

The Friends of Llewelyn Powys congregate each August 13th for the annual gathering at the Sailor�s Return in East Chaldon, Dorset at 12 noon � all welcome.

After lunch those assembled walk from Chaldon up to the coastal path on top of Chaldon Down and wild flowers are laid on Llewelyn Powys� Memorial Stone, a toast is drunk to his memory and several passages from Llewelyn's books are read. This year the Birthday Walk celebrates its 20th anniversary.

A few copies of The Dandelion FellowshipNewsletter are still available

For further information please contact Neil Lee: atkin.neil@sky.com


  New gallery being created  


The Diary of a Reluctant Teacher:
 Llewelyn Powys's Diary for 1908

Edited with an Introduction

by Peter J. Foss



Llewelyn Powys


From The Book of Days

Llewelyn Powys



Christmas Lore & Legend: Yuletide Essays by Llewelyn Powys

Christmas Lore & Legend is a collection of fourteen previously uncollected `Yuletide Essays’ by Llewelyn Powys, although five of them have previously been published in books which include `A Baker’s Dozen (2)’; `Dorset Essays’(2); `The Twelve Months’ and Kenneth Hopkins’ `Llewelyn Powys – A Selection from His Writings’ The remaining nine essays were previously published in newspapers and magazines during the 1930s, with about half of them being written in Switzerland during the final three years of Llewelyn’s life, and they are collected here in book form for the first time.

This is the third book of `collected essays’ from the Sundial Press by this author, following `Durdle Door to Dartmoor’ and its companion volume, `Still Blue Beauty’, and the publishers are to be congratulated, for as all devotees of Llewelyn Powys know, apart from `Wessex Memories’ (2002) and Cecil Woolf’s `Powys Heritage Series’ of diary publications selected & edited by the excellent Peter Foss, in recent years any previously unpublished Llewelyn Powys material has been – and remains - as rare as frog's feathers!

Of course it is regrettable and little disappointing to those who collect his work that any new title with Llewelyn Powys named as author should contain any previously published material at all, yet considering that it’s seventy one years since his death, it’s almost inevitable that this should be the case as the volume of his work -- especially that which constitutes publishable material -- becomes exhausted. Perhaps then, we should be thankful for small mercies and welcome this latest publication into the canon of his books, remembering that it could also be an introduction to the author for someone who is only initially interested in the lore and legend of Christmas! For even if the author’s name meant nothing, the startlingly attractive cover alone would most certainly catch the interest and attention of such a person, for it bears all the festive hallmarks of the 1930’s period Christmas with the ubiquitous Robin and sprigs of holly against a merry red background, and looks for all the world like the fattest Christmas card you ever saw. Dare I hint that it would make an ideal Christmas gift?

The book benefits from an intuitively written and extremely perceptive foreword by Anthony Head, whose brilliant summation of this collection of essays can neither be gainsaid nor surpassed when he writes:

Rich in imagery and anecdote, woven through with local lore and personal reminiscence, these Yuletide essays bring vividly alive the customs and character, the sounds and tastes of earlier generations and are informed by the lively curiosity and deep nostalgia that typify Powys’ best work.

`Rich in imagery and anecdote’ is true of all his work, but oft repeated anecdote constitutes a blemish on an otherwise flawless page, and there are blemishes here which include the repetition of both anecdote and phrase in several of the essays. Of content and style they represent a mixed bag, with the author’s virtues and faults paraded together; well-balanced lyrical sentences marred by the use of an obscure word or phrase, one or two mixed metaphors, the striving for effect with an over-indulgence in exclamation marks…!

Equally, those who are familiar with Llewelyn’s best work will recognize instances where his normally unique style becomes affected – doubtless influenced by writing for a specific readership, but nevertheless disconcerting; and given his avowed and much vaunted pagan rationalism, some of these `affectations’ are incommiscible. And whilst some may feel that two or three of the essays lack the quality of construction and crystal clear coherence normally associated with Llewelyn, others may be bemused by comments which would seem to indicate the author’s tacit acceptance of some of the tenets of Christianity.

Criticism apart, some of Llewelyn’s finest work is also represented here, perhaps nowhere more so than in the very first essay, `The First Fall of Snow’ when, reminiscing about his time in Africa, he writes:

I have felt the earth, our ancient Mother Earth beneath my feet, tremble and quiver in an ecstasy of childbirth under the sweet persuasion of those torrential down-pourings; but never once did she attain to such mysterious power as when, at rest under a covering of snow, she lies with the appearance and potency of a sepultured goddess who is in truth dead and yet retains that upon her ivory forehead which is equivalent to immortality.

Neil Lee Atkin (The Powys Society Newsletter)

Llewelyn Powys and Christmas shopping in Dorchester

Jo Draper takes a walk through yesteryear's Dorchester as seen through the enthusiastic eyes of Llewelyn Powys and traders' adverts through the ages

Llewelyn Powys loved Dorchester, and even thought it best in winter, rejoicing: ‘Oh! how happy I have been shopping in this town on the Saturday before Christmas. The thronging crowds afford a liberal education as to the inner being of the county – the eighteenth-century country faces of the farmers, homely and hearty, as they stand in the crowds outside the Antelope, … the face of a farm labourer almost religious in its refinement, glimpsed for a moment as the man passes along the pavement with a sprig of holly in his cap.
‘To be abroad in Dorchester on a Christmas Eve is an experience never to be forgotten,’ he waxed happily, continuing, ‘by half-past three, with the first snow of the year fluttering down, the shops are brightly lighted. The streets offer many a lively scene – the country woman, over-burdened with parcels and with young-eyed children one, two, and three all clinging to the folds of her round skirt; the town girl light of step with a present for true love; the aged upstairs lodger, glad to have been about in the taverns Christmassing; the genial fishwife, my own friend, at her place, with two heaps piled up on her wide wooden tray, the one of silver, the other of gold – for see how her fat fresh herrings shine silver bright, her oranges from Spain like a pyramid of brass!’

From Dorset Life magazine (to read the full article, please click here)

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