Friday, June 7, 2013

Irish novelist & short story writer Elizabeth Bowen was born - 1899

Irish novelist and short story writer Elizabeth Bowen was born on June 7, 1899 in Dublin, Ireland. When her father became mentally ill in 1907, she and her mother moved to England, eventually settling in Hythe. After her mother died in 1912 Bowen was brought up by her aunts. After some time at art school in London she decided that her talent lay in writing. She mixed with the Bloomsbury Group, becoming good friends with Rose Macaulay who helped her find a publisher for her first book, a collection of short stories entitled Encounters (1923). In 1923 she married Alan Cameron, an educational administrator who subsequently worked for the BBC. The marriage has been described as "a sexless but contented union." Their marriage was never actually consummated. She had various extra-marital relationships, including one with Charles Ritchie, a Canadian diplomat seven years her junior, which lasted over thirty years. She also had an affair with the Irish writer Sean O’ Faolain and a relationship with the American poet May Sarton.  

Some of her most notable works included The Last September (1929), To the North (1932), The House in Paris (1935) and The Death of the Heart (1938). During World War II she worked for the British Ministry of Information, reporting on Irish opinion, particularly on the issue of Irish neutrality. During and after the war she wrote among the greatest expressions of life in wartime London, The Demon Lover and Other Stories (1945) and The Heart of the Day (1948). Her husband retired in 1952 and they settled in Bowen’s Court. Since inheriting it many writers had visited her there including Virginia Woolf and Eudora Welty. For years Bowen struggled to keep the house going, lecturing in the United States to earn money. She traveled to Italy in 1958 to research and write A Time in Rome (1960) but by the following year Bowen was forced to sell her beloved Bowen's Court. It was demolished in 1960. After spending some years without a permanent home, Bowen finally settled in Carbery, Church Hill, Hythe, in 1965. Her final novel was Eva Trout, or Changing Scenes (1968). She died of lung cancer in a London hospital on February 22, 1973, aged 73. She was buried with her husband in Farahy churchyard, close to the gates of Bowen’s Court in Farahy, County Cork, Ireland. 
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of the soon to released Literary Legends of the British Isles. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following links: 


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