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Authors: John Cowper Powys

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BOOK: After My Fashion
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As he went, with the rain whirling round him as if the darkness itself were one great river of water, all manner of strange ideas passed through his mind. It seemed to him as though he were carrying on his back the burden of his great unfinished poem, the poem which he had so often changed in character – and which had now taken the form of a sheep!

Then it seemed to him as if he were arguing with Nelly's father about the existence of God. It seemed as though God too, like his poetry, had turned into a heavy woolly sheep that bleated pitifully into his ear.

Then he suddenly, thought of Karmakoff the Russian; and he imagined himself putting the question to him as to whether they would have slaughter houses in an ideal state!

And he thought of Elise dancing, dancing on the edge of a great grey sea swept by hurricanes of rain …

He knew he must be getting near the hedge, because of the feel of ploughed-up land under his feet. It was just then that he stumbled and bent low under the weight he carried and something seemed to snap in his heart.

After that he saw nothing at all – nothing but darkness, dense black rainy darkness, that seemed full of bleating cries, cries, that called upon him for help.

‘All right! It's all right!' Was it he who uttered those words?

Something pricked his face. The hedge! The hedge!

He stumbled to the ground beneath its shelter, and fell heavily down with the animal above him.


The next thing he was conscious of was the sensation of something burning being poured down his throat and of a swinging lantern. With one last desperate effort he forced his eyelids to open against a weight like lead.

‘I – can't – get – my breath,' he gasped. ‘Does she forgive me?'

‘She loves you,' said Robert Canyot.

The look of unutterable happiness that spread over Richard's face, as the lantern flickered upon it, remained to the end of the painter's life the best return he ever obtained for a love that had learned to be unpossessive.

The head of the dead man fell back upon the living body of the sheep. And so it was that the moment most unalloyed by critical self-consciousness in all the experience of the author of the Life of Verlaine was that moment which, in human speech, it is the custom to refer to as his last.

Canyot, using his one arm with well-calculated effect, lifted the man and the sheep upon the cart he had brought from Furze Lodge. The weight of both the living and the dead was heavy upon him as he drove towards Littlegate through the darkness.
She killed him
because she loved him
, he thought.
Well! She will have his child;
and I shall have – my work!

John Cowper Powys (1872-1963) was born in Derbyshire, brought up in the West Country (the Somerset/Dorset border area was to have a lasting influence on him), went to Cambridge University and then became a teacher and lecturer mainly in the USA where he lived for about thirty years. On returning to the UK, after a short spell in Dorset, he settled in Wales in 1935 where he lived for the rest of his long life.


Those are the bare bones of his life. In some senses they seem unimportant when set alongside his extraordinary writing career. Not only was output prodigious, it was like nothing else in English Literature.


Indeed, George Steiner has made the bold claim that his works are ‘the only novels produced by an English writer that can fairly be compared to the fictions of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky'. And even that doesn't touch on their multifarious strangeness.


John Cowper Powys wrote compulsively: letters, diaries, short stories, fantasies, poetry, literary criticism, philosophy and, above all, novels poured out of him. He also wrote a remarkable autobiography.


In addition to his Autobiography his masterpieces are considered to be
Wolf Solent, Glastonbury Romance, Weymouth Sands
. But his lesser, or less well-known, works shouldn't be overlooked, they spring from the same weird, mystical, brilliant and obsessive imagination.


John Cowper Powys is a challenging author with an impressive list of admirers. In addition to George Steiner, these have included Robertson Davies, Margaret Drabble, Theodore Dreiser, Henry Miller, J. B. Priestley and Angus Wilson.

This ebook edition first published in 2009
by Faber and Faber Ltd
Bloomsbury House
74–77 Great Russell Street
London WC1B 3DA

All rights reserved
© Estate of John Cooper Powys, 1980
Foreword © Francis Powys, 1980

The right of John Cooper Powys to be identified as author of this work has been asserted in accordance with Section 77 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights, and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly

ISBN 978–0–571–25304–3 [epub edition]

BOOK: After My Fashion
6.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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