Elizabeth Bowen

Elizabeth Bowen

Elizabeth Dorothea Cole Bowen (7 June 1899 – 22 February 1973) was an Anglo-Irish novelist and short story writer. Bowen was born in Dublin and later brought to Bowen’s Court in County Cork where she spent her summers. 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.

She was educated at Downe House School, under the headship of Olive Willis. 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, "Encounters" (1923). In 1923 she married Alan Cameron, an educational administrator who subsequently worked for the BBC.

Bowen inherited Bowen's Court in 1930, but remained based in England, making frequent visits to Ireland. During World War II she worked for the British Ministry of Information, reporting on Irish opinion, particularly on the issue of Irish neutralitycite book | last = | first = | title = ' Notes On Éire: Espionage Reports to Winston Churchill by Elizabeth Bowen' | publisher = Aubane Historical Society, 2008 | year = | pages = | isbn = 9781-903497-42-5] .

Her husband retired in 1952 and they settled in Bowen’s Court, where Alan Cameron died a few months later. For years Bowen struggled to keep the house going, lecturing in the United States to earn money. In 1959 the house was sold and demolished.

Bowen received recognition for her work, being awarded the 1969 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for "Eva Trout" as well as Doctorates in Literature from Trinity College, Dublin (1949) and the University of Oxford (1952). She was also awarded the CBE.

After spending some years without a permanent home, Bowen settled in Hythe and died of cancer in 1973, aged 73. She is buried with her husband in Farahy church yard, close to the gates of Bowen’s Court. A commemoration of her life is held annually in Farahy church.


Elizabeth Bowen was greatly interested in ‘life with the lid on’ and what happened when the lid came off. Her work deals with innocence and betrayal and the secrets that lie beneath the veneer of respectability. Her style is highly wrought and owes much to literary modernism. She was also influenced by the techniques of Film. Place has a central role in her work. Few have evoked London in wartime as well as she did.

elected works

*"The Hotel" (1927)
*"The Last September" (1929)
*"Friends and Relations" ( 1931)
*"To the North" (1932)
*"The House in Paris" (1935)
*"The Death of the Heart" (1939)
*"The Heat of the Day" (1949)
*"A World of Love" (1955)
*"The Little Girls" (1964)
*"The Good Tiger" (1965)
*"Eva Trout" (1968)

Short stories
* Encounters (1923)
* Joining Charles and Other Stories (1929)
* The Cat Jumps and Other Stories (1934)
* The Easter Egg Party (1938 in The "London Mercury")
* Look At All Those Roses (1941)
* The Demon Lover and Other Stories (1945)
* Stories by Elizabeth Bowen (1959)
* A Day in the Dark and Other Stories (1965)
* The Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen (1980)
* Elizabeth Bowen’s Irish Stories (1978)

* Bowen's Court (1942)
* Seven Winters: Memories of a Dublin Childhood (1942)
* English Novelists (1942)
* Anthony Trollope: A New Judgement (1946)
* Why Do I Write: An Exchange of Views between Elizabeth Bowen, Graham Greene and V.S. Pritchett (1948)
* Collected Impressions (1950)
* The Shelbourne (1951)
* A Time in Rome (1960)
* Afterthought: Pieces About Writing (1962)
* Pictures and Conversations (1975)
* The Mulberry Tree (1999).

* Victoria Glendinning: "Elizabeth Bowen: Portrait of a Writer" (1977)

Critical Studies

* Hermione Lee: "Elizabeth Bowen" (1981)
* Phyllis Lassner: "Elizabeth Bowen" (1990)
* Neil Corcoran: "Elizabeth Bowen: The Enforced Return" (2004)

External links

* [http://www.irishwriters-online.com/elizabethbowen.html Elizabeth Bowen at Irish Writers Online]
* [http://www.pgil-eirdata.org/html/pgil_datasets/authors/b/Bowen,Elizabeth/life.htm Elizabeth Bowen at the Princess Grace Irish Library]
* [http://www.litencyc.com/php/speople.php?rec=true&UID=505 Literary Encyclopedia biography]
* [http://www.literarylondon.org/london-journal/march2005/Magot.html Elizabeth Bowen's London in The Heat of the Day: An Impression of the City in the Territory of War by Céline Magot]
* [http://www.headington.org.uk/history/famous_people/bowen.htm Elizabeth Bowen and her Headington home]
* [http://www.myspace.com/elizabeth_bowen Elizabeth Bowen MySpace]
* [http://research.hrc.utexas.edu:8080/hrcxtf/view?docId=ead/00015.xml&query=bowen,%20elizabeth&query-join=and Elizabeth Bowen Collection] at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin


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