The Land of Lost Content: Henry Williamson, Llewelyn Powys

  • Glen Cavaliero


The lyrical note that sounds through the work of Adrian Bell springs from a profound and common apprehension: the sense that man, being animal, is himself a part of the natural order and is at home there. It is found in accounts of rural childhood such as Herbert Read’s The Innocent Eye (1933) or Edwin Muir’s The Story and the Fable (1940);1 and the view of childhood voiced in Wordsworth’s ‘Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood’ (which, however, combines this sense of belonging with a feeling of exile) has passed into the English imaginative tradition, apparently to stay.2 The lives of country children are often described in the fiction of this period, Kenneth Grahame’s The Golden Age (1895) and Dream Days (1897) being succeeded by such popular books as Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons (1930) and its successors. The latter are in the tradition of Richard Jefferies’s Bevis (1882), where a boyish interest in practical affairs offsets any tendency to precocious feelings. But the most remarkable of these books is Henry Williamson’s The Beautiful Years (1921), where Jefferies’s influence is felt in a more ambiguous manner.


Rheumatic Fever Peregrine Falcon Love Affair Lyrical Note Sexual Love 
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  1. 2.
    For a detailed exposition of the theme see Peter Coveney, Poor Monkey (1957), reprinted 1967 as The Image of Childhood, with an introduction by F. R. Leavis.Google Scholar
  2. 24.
    Besides Llewelyn Powys’s two writer brothers, John Cowper and T. F. Powys, other members of the family achieved distinction, notably Gertrude Powys (1877–1952) as a painter, and A. R. Powys (1881–1936) as an architect. For a good general account of the family, see Kenneth Hopkins, The Powys Brothers (1967).Google Scholar
  3. 28.
    See Malcolm Elwin, The Life of Llewelyn Powys (1946), pp. 53–7.Google Scholar
  4. 31.
    A curious sleight of hand is taking place here: the character of Dittany is in fact modelled on that of Gamel Woolsey, the American poet (later married to Gerald Brenan) with whom Powys had a tragic love affair. See Alyse Gregory, The Cry of a Gull, and Llewelyn Powys, So Wild a Thing (both Dulverton: Ark Press, 1973).Google Scholar

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© Glen Cavaliero 1977

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  • Glen Cavaliero

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