SELECTED EARLY WORKS

OF

T. F. POWYS

edited with Introduction and Notes by

ELAINE MENCHER

 

 

With William Langland and John Bunyan, T. F. Powys is one of the three great English fabulists. His publishing career was almost entirely crowded into a dozen years, and at his death in 1953 he left, as well as a score of published books, a mass of unpublished work, much of it from the first twenty years of the twentieth century when he was working his way towards the outpouring of the 1920s. Much of this work is of great inherent interest, and it is all fascinating as the record of a really original mind struggling to find what has to be said, and how.
     After Powys’s death, the early unpublished work was scattered between at least three continents, and has been known only by the publication of the occasional fragment and the Brynmill edition of Father Adam. Mrs Mencher has now performed the huge, difficult and invaluable task of surveying the whole surviving body of work and making a large representative selection.
     This collection includes examples of everything Powys tried, from full-length novels and short stories to prose poems, Bible commentaries and plays. Two plays are given complete (one of them well worth staging) as is also the long very early tale Under the Bondage of Fear, the later Cottage Shadows and the fascinating Journal of 1910–13. As well as some complete stories, the collection also has carefully made selections from some of the other unpublished novels, and the Bible commentaries; there are essays, literary criticism and all the surviving autobiographical fragments of this reticent man. The first-written of Powys’s published novels is here completed with the Cancelled Chapters of Mr Tasker’s Gods.
     The textual editing has been meticulous and the work is fully annotated.
     In a long introduction that is a catalogue raisonnée of the known early works, Mrs Mencher has not only managed to piece together the scattered jigsaw, but also to give an account, unlikely to be superseded, of the author’s by no means steady development.
     The volumes will be necessary to any library with a serious collection of twentieth-century English literature, and also for readers interested in something more like the whole work of this great writer.

The initial publication is limited to 200 numbered copies, 175 of which are for sale. Buckram-bound in a slip-case, these handsome volumes are accompanied by a folder containing five colour facsimile reproductions of Powys’s handwriting (two with transcriptions) and one colour facsimile of a typescript. Eminently collectable!

Volume 1 (pp. i-cxxx + 1-278) with frontispiece photograph of T. F. Powys

Volume 2 (pp. i-iv + 279-615) with frontispiece photograph of T. F. Powys

978 0 907839 88 0           

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Review

Two hundred numbered copies, 175 of which are for sale, of Mencher, ed., Selected Early Works of T. F. Powys, have been produced by Brynmill Press. Elaine Mencher, its editor, in her extensive introduction of over 100 pages, is both critical and textual, describing the editorial issues involved, the state of the texts and disposition of Powys’s manuscripts, and so on. These excellently produced volumes are in a boxed set. Mencher’s introduction is the fullest and most detailed we have of its subject’s known early works, and is based upon personal inspection of materials mainly but not exclusively found at the Harry Ransom Research Center at the University of Texas. Mencher’s collection includes examples of Powys’s early writing, ranging from full-length novels and short stories to prose poetry. Powys is a neglected genius, and students of English literature owe an enormous debt to Elaine Mencher and to Brynmill Press for this scrupulously detailed edition.

The Year’s Work in English Studies vol. 85, covering 2004, p. 1180

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