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Elizabeth Bowen:

An Inventory of Her Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator Bowen, Elizabeth, 1899-1973
Title Elizabeth Bowen Collection
Dates: 1923-1975
Extent 13 boxes (5.42 linear feet), 1 galley folder
Abstract Irish writer Elizabeth Bowen brought a painter's sensitivity to her creative writing, incorporating her memories and experiences into short stories and novels. Her collection is composed largely of works and correspondence and reflects Bowen's long and productive literary career. A small number of legal and financial papers are also present.
Language English
Access

Open for research




Acquisition

Purchases and gifts, 1964-1995 (R2030, R2301, R5155, R6434, R6487, R7629, R8477, R8478, R13296, R13494)

Processed by

Sally M. Nichols, 1998

Repository:

Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin


Elizabeth Bowen was the only child born to Henry Cole Bowen and Florence Colley Brown. Though the "place" of birth on June 7, 1899, was Dublin, her family home was Bowen's Court, near Kildorrey, County Cork, Ireland. Because of her father's law practice, the family divided their residency between Dublin and Bowen's Court. Elizabeth enjoyed a normal Anglo-Irish childhood with her parents until her father suffered a nervous breakdown in 1905 when the pattern changed. Her father was hospitalized off and on for the following few years and, following the advice of his physician, Elizabeth and her mother moved to England to stay with various aunts. As a child Elizabeth insulated herself from stress by paying close attention to her childhood world of the imagination and the part place played in her life. A stammar in her speech developed at this time which stayed with her for the rest of her life. Her father recovered by the time she was twelve, but before the family was fully reunited her mother, diagnosed with cancer, died when Elizabeth was thirteen. Maternal aunts, who took over her care, arranged for her to attend a boarding school, Downe House, in Kent, from 1914 to 1917. This school played a significant role in her development as a young woman and as a writer with its emphasis on limiting display of one's feelings and its strong encourgement of sociability at meals. Later Elizabeth was known as a considerate and successful hostess.

Elizabeth enjoyed painting and drawing as a child and in 1918 studied at the London County Council School of Art but withdrew after two terms because of what she considered her limited ability. She was to make use of this painter's sensitivity in her literary work, however. She had done a great deal of creative writing while at Downe House, mainly short stories, and decided this was her calling. She set about incorporating her memories and experiences into her fiction. Rose Macaulay, a friend of the headmistress of Downe House, gave her guidance and introduced her to editors, publishers, literary agents, and others who could help a fledgling writer.

Elizabeth's first volume of short stories, Encounters, was published in 1923, the year she married Alan Charles Cameron, an assistant secretary for education in Northampton. Upon his promotion to Secretary of Education for the city of Oxford she found the intellectual atmosphere of the city conducive to her further development as a writer. Her second volume of stories, Ann Lee's and Other Stories (1926), was followed by her first novel, The Hotel (1927). During her years at Oxford Elizabeth published her second novel, The Last September (1929), and two collections of short fiction, Joining Charles and Other Stories (1929) and The Cat Jumps and Other Stories (1934), as well as three additional novels, Friends and Relations (1931), To the North (1932), and The House in Paris (1935).

In 1935 Elizabeth and Alan moved to Regent's Park in London, which furthered her career. She began writing reviews for the Tatler and in 1938 her novel, the Death of the Heart, was published, followed by Look at All Those Roses: Short Stories in 1941. World War II played a dominant role in her writing as well as in her life. She became an Air Raid Precautions warden which brought her into contact with people she would not have known otherwise and opened up new avenues of interest for her writing. Also she and Alan often experienced the effects of the bombing raids on their own home in Regent's Park. Two of her works from this period, her novel The Heat of the Day (1949) and The Demon Lover, and Other Stories (1945), are considered by some to be among the best records of London during the war.

After the war Elizabeth continued to write short stories and essays, and produced three additional novels, A World of Love (1955), The Little Girls (1964), and Eva Trout; or, Changing Scenes (1968) for which she received the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1970. She wrote essays and reviews for the Tatler, the Cornhill Magazine, the New Statesman and Nation, the New Republic, the New York Times Magazine, Harpers, and the Saturday Review of Literature, among others, and became associate editor of London Magazine. After her husband's death in 1952 she spent part of every year in the United States lecturing and working as a writer in residence. Elizabeth Bowen died of lung cancer at her home at Hythe in Kent on February 22, 1973.


Dictionary of Literary Biography, v. 15 (Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Co., 1983).

Dictionary of Literary Biography, v. 162 (Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Co., 1996).

Glendinning, Victoria. Elizabeth Bowen (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978).


Manuscripts and correspondence make up the bulk of the Elizabeth Bowen Collection, 1923-1975, and reflect Bowen's literary career. The material is organized into four series: I. Works, 1926-1975 (9.5 boxes), II. Correspondence, 1923-1969 (2 boxes), III. Financial and Legal Papers, 1927-1947 (1 box), and IV. Miscellaneous, 1951-1967 (.5 box). Within each series the material is arranged alphabetically by title or author. This collection was previously accessible only through a card catalog, but has been re-cataloged as part of a retrospective conversion project.

The Works Series consists of holograph drafts, typescripts, galley proofs, notes, and fragments of novels, stories, articles, essays, radio broadcasts, lectures, reviews, and translations. The Center has manuscript holdings for the majority of Bowen's novels, including Eva Trout (1968), Friends and Relations (1931), The Heat of the Day (1948), The Hotel (1927), The House in Paris (1935), The Last September (1929), The Little Girls (1963), To the North (1932), and A World of Love (1955). Collections of short stories include Ann Lee's and Other Stories (1926), and Joining Charles and Other Stories (1929); in addition, there are manuscripts for numerous short stories which were published separately in various periodicals; and for unfinished and unpublished works. Manuscripts for her nonfiction works include English Novelists (1942), The Shelbourne (1951), and A Time in Rome (1960). Autobiographical works include Bowen's Court (1942), Pictures and Conversations (1975), published posthumously, and Seven Winters (1962). The radio broadcasts were mainly for the BBC on a variety of topics ranging from literary figures, books, and places, to plays she adapted from her stories for radio.

The Correspondence Series consists principally of letters regarding Bowen's literary work. Outgoing letters occupy two folders and were written chiefly to her literary agents at Curtis Brown; to various publications such as Blarney Magazine, Contact Publications, the Cork Examiner, and Everybody's; and to the Golden Cockerel Press; also to literary friends Joe Ackerley, Daniel George, Glyn Jones, and Grover Smith. Correspondence from Bowen can also be found with incoming correspondence as she had the habit of responding on the verso of incoming letters.

Incoming letters are more numerous and include an extensive correspondence from her literary agents at Curtis Brown; letters from the above mentioned publications, as well as others; and letters from publishers Eyre & Spottiswoode; Longmans, Green, and Co.; and Sidgwick and Jackson Ltd. Among the literary figures represented by correspondence are C. M. Bowra, Agatha Christie, Ivy Compton-Burnett, Cyril Connolly, A. E. Coppard, Cecil Day-Lewis, T. S. Eliot, Graham Greene, Rosamund Lehmann, Rose Macaulay, Ottoline Morrell, John Middleton Murry, Sean O'Faolain, William Plomer, Edward Charles Sackville-West, William Sansom, Eleanor Sarton, Stephen Spender, Elizabeth Taylor, Hugh Walpole, Evelyn Waugh, Veronica Wedgwood, H. G. Wells, Eudora Welty, Edmund Wilson, and Virginia Woolf.

Series III, Financial and Legal Papers, includes royalty statements, tax records, and lists of memoranda of agreement with various publishing companies for publishing rights to Bowen's works. The small Miscellaneous Series contains two typescripts of works by Eudora Welty, "The Bride of the Innisfallen" and "The Wand."

Elsewhere in the Center are eight Vertical File folders which contain newspaper and periodical clippings of articles written by and about Bowen, reviews of her works, and a slim envelope containing items removed from her books, and two scrapbooks of press clippings. There is one photograph of Bowen in the Literary File of the Photography Department. Correspondence and manuscripts relating to the publication of Elizabeth Bowen: A Bibliography by J'Nan M. Sellery and William O. Harris are found in the Ransom Center Archives.


Other manuscripts and letters by Bowen can be found in the collections of T. I. F. Armstrong, Jocelyn Brooke, A. E. Coppard, Kay Dick, Graham Greene, Rayner Heppenstall, John Lehmann, London Magazine, Compton Mackenzie, Carson McCullers, Ottoline Morrell, PEN, J. B. Priestley, and R. S. Scott-James.


Correspondents

Bowra, C. M. (Cecil Maurice), 1898-1971.

Coppard, A. E. (Alfred Edgar), 1878-1957.

Day-Lewis, Cecil, 1904-1972.

Eliot, T. S. (Thomas Sterns), 1888-1965.

Hartley, L. P. (Leslie Poles), 1895-1972.

Lehmann, Rosamond, 1901- .

Macaulay, Rose, Dame.

Morrell, Ottoline Violet Anne Cavendish-Bentinck, Lady, 1873-1938.

Plomer, William, 1903-1973.

Sarton, May, 1912- .

Spender, Stephen, 1909- .

Taylor, Elizabeth, 1912-1975.

Waugh, Evelyn, 1903-1966.

Wells, H.G. (Herbert George), 1866-1946.

Welty, Eudora, 1909- ,

Woolf, Virginia, 1882-1941.

Organizations

Curtis Brown, Inc.

Subjects

Authors, English--20th century.

Ireland in literature.

War in literature.

Women novelists, Irish--20th century.

Women and literature--Ireland--History--20th century.

Document Types

Contracts.

Financial records.

Galley proofs.

Postcards.