|David GARNETT||Alyse GREGORY||H. A. MANHOOD||Elizabeth MYERS||Phyllis PAUL|
|Littleton POWYS||Llewelyn POWYS||Philippa POWYS||T.F. POWYS||Forrest REID|
|Gamel WOOLSEY||Roger Norman||David Tipping||Peter Tait|
|Richmal CROMPTON||Flora MAYOR||Rosemary TIMPERLEY||A. N. L. MUNBY||Christopher|
THE BLACKTHORN WINTER
by PHILIPPA POWYSWith an Introduction by Glen Cavaliero
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Also available by Philppa Powys
SORREL BARN and THE TRAGEDY OF BUDVALE
In these two West Country novellas, never before published, Philippa Powys pursued a theme that was central to all her fiction - the entanglement of human passions caused by unrestrained desire.
In The Tragedy of Budvale, written in the 1920s, the love of Christopher Cary for his cousin Mary is set against her own attachment to her curious suitor, the mild-mannered artist Wilfred Wurton, as well as the unreciprocated feelings of the milk-maid Hazel Lee for the broody and impulsive Cary himself, whose jealousy culminates in acts of violence that seal the fate of all concerned.
Sorrel Barn is the tale of an outsider – the vivacious Romanian Zola – and her struggle to adapt to English country life with her boorish husband Frank and the initially unnerving attentions of his employer, the farmer John Marsh, himself the object of desire of a shy local girl. This more mature work, finished at some point in the 1930s, centres on the anguish of a passionate woman trapped in a passionless life, depicting loves denied, embraced and lost.
gold foil blocking on front & spine of boards, in dustjacket
Price: £29.50 ~ ISBN-13: 978-1-908274-02-1 ~ Number of pages: 304
Book Dimensions: 234 × 156 mm x 21.3 mm ~ Weight: 460 grams
Some copies still available
by John Hodgson
Recalling his meeting with Philippa (‘Katie’) Powys shortly before her death, Glen Cavaliero writes, ‘she was, if one may say so, ultra-Powys. With her cropped hair, weatherbeaten face, stooped figure and corduroy trousers, she resembled an old countryman; her voice was vibrant and emphatic’. The Blackthorn Winter, recently republished by The Sundial Press, was the only one of her novels to appear in her lifetime. Several more remain in manuscript, and here we have two of them, The Tragedy of Budvale, written in the 1920s, and Sorrel Barn from about ten years later.
Katie’s life was tragically scarred by unrequited love, and it is the violence of frustrated passion ‘nearly beyond the control of the mind’ and its concomitant jealousies that propel her stories. In Budvale, Kit Cary is driven to rape and murder by his ungovernable passion for his cousin May. In Sorrel Barn, the Romanian Zola, unhappily married to the boorish ex-soldier Frank, is in love with the farmer John Marsh. Although her love is reciprocated, the impossibility of this relationship unhinges the farmer’s brain. The authentic ferocity of the anguish in these stark stories commands respect, but it must be admitted that Philippa’s psychological range is narrow, and in each story the only way out of hopelessness is in melodrama. In her sensitive introduction, Cicely Hill quotes Llewelyn Powys writing of Philippa, ‘… if only the gods had given her the mastery of language that she has of imagination, the world would have welcomed more of her novels’. But the truth might be the other way round, for it is their evocation of the Wessex countryside that makes these stories memorable.
Philippa writes with an unmistakeably Powysian voice which is yet entirely different from any of her brothers. Philippa’s countryside is a place of work, and she writes vividly of agricultural tasks, milking cows, making cheese, washing sheep. Philippa’s cows and horses live and breathe with a vivid presence that recalls her beloved Whitman – ‘I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d’ – and they are everywhere. Even a mat on the floor is ‘dog-lain’. Her ‘bird haunted’ landscapes are precise, beautifully spatial, economical, punctuated by sounds: ‘The weather for the last two weeks had broken up, and there had been a spell of rainy days, with winds that made the leaves rustle and laid low the coming corn.’
Philippa’s natural world offers no assuagement or philosophical consolation: her cabbages ‘sleep a vegetable sleep’ without becoming symbolic or metaphysical. Her descriptions of village life are also busy and populated. Her villagers are not comic rustics, but are gossipy and intrusive and express themselves in a version of Dorset dialect that is more fluent and less mannered than we are used to in John Cowper or T. F. Powys.
Philippa’s writing is most successful when it makes least effort. Her narrative climaxes are cries of despair, but besides ‘the frustrations of impossible longings’ that are Philippa’s theme, there is still an indomitability of spirit and steadiness of vision that give these stories life.
The book has been published by The Sundial Press, with evident love and dedication, as a handsome and opulent hardback. This limited edition of 100 copies is not aimed at a wide audience, but no Powysian advanced motorist will want to be without it.
The Powys Society Newsletter No. 74
SORREL BARN & THE TRAGEDY OF BUDVALE
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