Wilfrid Ewart, 1892-1922
|World War I novelist and essayist Wilfrid Herbert Gore Ewart (1892-1922) was born
May 19, 1892. His father, Herbert Brisbane Ewart, came from a noted military family
and served as comptroller to the widow of a Russian nobleman. His mother, Lady
"Molly" Ewart, was of aristocratic birth, the youngest daughter of the third Earl
Arran. Despite growing up in the fashionable neighborhood of Belgravia in London,
Ewart did not have an easy childhood. He was blind in one eye and had poor eyesight
in the other. Moreover, though his father was supportive, his mother would at
fly into rages. For this reason, Ewart and his younger sisters, Angela and Betty,
were often sent to stay at the home of their mother's cousin in Buckinghamshire.
nine, Ewart was sent to St. Aubyn's boarding school in Rottingdean, Sussex. There,
he grew introverted and acutely sensitive to criticism. He was next educated by
private tutor in Bournemouth before, at the age of fourteen, going to learn of
agriculture at a Bottisham farm in the Cambridge fens.
|At Bottisham, Ewart began to write about the English rural life around him and
developed a love for the writings of Thomas Hardy. While still in his teens, he
became one of the country's leading experts on hens. He collaborated with John
Stephen Hicks on a book titled The Possibilities of Modern
Poultry Farming (1909), based on his previously serialized articles for
Farm Life. He also began writing satirical pieces
about the London society and manners he encountered on his visits back to the
| Despite his bad eyesight and general poor health, Ewart joined the army in the
summer of 1914. He obtained a commission, serving as a captain in the Scots Guards.
During his wartime service, Ewart met writer Stephen Graham, then a soldier in
Ewart's battalion. As an officer, Ewart would have not typically associated with
Graham, a conscript who was ten years his senior. But, the two bonded over their
mutual interest in literature and writing since, as Graham would recall, the Scots
Guards was "not a literary regiment." During the war, Ewart wrote articles,
sometimes pseudonymously, about the Scots Guards and combat. After the war, he
published a novel, The Way of Revelation; A Novel of Five
Years (1921), which drew on his wartime experiences. The Way of Revelation became a bestseller and was highly
praised even at a time when readers were becoming weary of war memoirs and novels.
| In 1921, Ewart travelled through Ireland, penning articles for the Times about the civil strife between the British and
Irish nationalist forces. He then gathered and expanded these pieces for the volume
A Journey in Ireland, 1921 (1922). He also
continued writing reviews and articles for periodicals and newspapers. In April
1922, Ewart suffered a mental and physical collapse, which included the partial
paralysis of his fingers. Historian Hugh Cecil suggests that Ewart's always fragile
psychology might have been further unbalanced by a combination of the aftereffects
of the war, his immersion in the London literary scene, overwork, and personal
disappointments. At the urging of Stephen Graham and his wife, Ewart set out to
visit the couple and recover with them in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
| Ewart embarked for the United States in September of 1922. He took with him notes
for the history of the Scots Guards during the First World War that he was
composing. In New Mexico, Ewart recovered the use of his fingers and began to
again. Though he had planned to spend the Christmas holidays in New Orleans, at
last minute he decided to delay his visit to Louisiana and travel to Mexico first.
It was in Mexico City that, having survived the First World War, Ewart met his
tragic early death. Near midnight on December 31, 1922, Ewart stepped out onto
hotel balcony to observe the New Year's festivities. He was killed by a stray
fired by a reveler celebrating below.
| In spite of his death, Wilfrid Ewart's literary career continued. In 1924, Stephen
Graham commemorated his friend and fellow writer in his volume The Life and Last Words of Wilfrid Ewart (1924). Ewart's
own opening chapters on the Scots Guards were gathered alongside material by F.
Loraine Petre and Major-General Cecil Lowther in a volume titled The Scots Guards in the Great War, 1914-1918 (1925). In
the early 1930s, John Gawsworth (the pen name of Terence Ian Fytton Armstrong)
editing and publishing posthumous volumes of Ewart's writing, first When Armageddon Came: Studies in Peace and War (1933)
and then Scots Guard (1934), an autobiographical
account of Ewart's war and post-war years based on Ewart's letters to his family
published articles. These were followed by two additional posthumous volumes,
Love and Strife (1936), a novel Ewart had written before
Way of Revelation, and Aspects of England (1937), a collection of Ewart's essays on English
John Gawsworth, 1912-1970
| British editor, anthologist, and poet John Gawsworth (1912-1970) was a bohemian and
bibliophile who worked assiduously to revive the reputations of writers he felt
unduly neglected. Gawsworth was born Terence Ian Fytton Armstrong on June 29,
His parents, Frederick Percy and Ethel Jackson Armstrong, were divorced when
Gawsworth was still a child, and he was raised in London where he attended Merchant
| Following his graduation in 1928, Armstrong began working at the bookstore of Andrew
Block in the Soho region of London. Gawsworth was zealous about collecting books
manuscripts and soon met several writers through his various positions in the
trade. He fashioned himself as a "Man of Letters," adopting the nom-de-plume "John
Gawsworth." He also wrote and published poetry, including his early volumes Confession: Verses (1931) and Fifteen Poems, Three Friends (1931). In 1929, he began corresponding
with and eventually met writer Arthur Machen, about whom he wrote an unpublished
biography. He next focused his attention on the horror and fantasy writer, M.
Shiel, who was a friend of Machen's and whose reputation was then similarly in
decline. When Shiel died in 1947, he bequeathed to Gawsworth the title of "King
I of Redonda." Shiel's father had staked a claim on the miniature Caribbean island
and had fancifully crowned his son king. In this manner, the already multiply-named
Gawsworth received another moniker, the King of Redonda.
| In the early 1930s, Gawsworth began publishing horror, mystery, and fantasy
anthologies, such as Strange Assembly: New Stories
(1932), Full Score: Twenty-five Stories (1933) and
New Tales of Horror by Eminent Authors (1934),
which contained stories by Machen, Shiel, and others. The Gawsworth-edited anthology
Masterpiece of Thrills (1936) is notable for
being one of the earliest book appearances by writer Lawrence Durrell. Gawsworth's
efforts on behalf of fantasy, mystery, and horror writing helped draw renewed
attention to this genre.
| In his editing, Gawsworth would at times undertake collaborations, revising and
completing story fragments by authors such as E. H. Visiak, M. P. Shiel, and Edgar
Jepson. During the 1930s, Gawsworth edited four posthumous volumes of Wilfrid
Ewart's writing: When Armageddon Came: Studies in Peace and
War (1933), Scots Guard (1934), Love and Strife (1936), and Aspects of England (1937). Gawsworth's editing of Ewart's work entailed
revising previously published essays, and even, in the case of Scots Guard, drawing on Ewart's correspondence to
produce a first person episodic narrative. Gawsworth also edited volumes of writing
by M. P. Shiel, Theodore Wratislaw, E. H. W. Meyerstein, and others.
| In the late 1930s, Gawsworth began receiving recognition for his literary and
editorial efforts. He became first a member in 1933 and then a Fellow in 1938
Royal Society of Literature, before winning its Benson Silver Medal in 1939.
| Gawsworth founded The English Digest in 1939 and
served as its editor until 1941. Following his service in both the Royal Army
the Royal Air Force during World War II, he resumed his work on periodicals. He
edited Enquiry, a journal of parapsychology and
philosophy, The Literary Digest, and, most notably,
from 1949 to 1952, The Poetry Review. The late 1940s
also saw the publication of The Collected Poems of John
Gawsworth (1948), a high point in his poetic career.
| Gawsworth's personal life took a difficult turn in the late 1940s. In 1948, he
divorced his first wife Barbara Kentish, whom he had married in 1933. He
subsequently entered into unsuccessful marriages with Estelle Gilardeau and Doreen
Emily Ada (Rowley) Downie, whom he called "Anna." This time period also saw a
decline in his literary reputation and his health (he was diabetic and a heavy
drinker). By 1969, with little money, he was living an itinerant lifestyle, staying
with friends when he could, traveling some, and passing in and out of hospitals.
July of 1970, he was honored in a BBC tribute hosted by Lawrence Durrell, but
soon after of a pulmonary embolism at the Brompton Hospital in London on September