the sundial press, sherborne dorset, sherborne publisher
Littleton POWYS Llewelyn POWYS Philippa POWYS T.F. POWYS Forrest REID
Roger NORMANDavid TippingPeter TAIT
Rosemary TIMPERLEY A. N. L. MUNBYChristopher

currently being updated

The Discovery of
John Cowper Powys


powysland poster, john cowper powys, tim blanchard



(Some kind of directions)
(What to read in Powysland)
2. TANGLED GARDEN (Montacute and East Chaldon)
(How to read Powys)
(Favourite Powys)
(Powysian tactics for defiance)
5. VIRGINAL ARCADIA (the USA: Patchin Place and Phudd Bottom)
(Saving Powys)
6.  MYTH (Corwen and Blaenau Ffestiniog)

tim blanchard, powysland, the discovery of john cowper powys, sundial press

Price: 9.99 | Paperback | ISBN-13: 978-1-908274-41-1 | Book Dimensions: 198129mm | Publication: October 2018

Publication of this title has been delayed until October
(with apologies from the publisher)

Defy the modern world with forgotten genius John Cowper Powys!

Excerpt from


Few writers have tickets for the express train. Those that do ride smoothly on the rails of great literatureever after, sitting back in the carriages of the canon club: Hardy, Joyce, Lawrence, Woolf, Tolkien – the names which a hundred years on have the redolence of luxury brands and some of the same hard coating of gloss. One of their contemporaries, John Cowper Powys, is an example of what can go wrong, what happens when a potential giant ends up trundling into the backwoods on a branch line.

Theres standing room only on Powyss train, carriage after carriage of forgotten authors on their way to nowhere. Many will have had bestsellers or even been feted as creators of a masterpiece, but theres no way back now. It matters in Powyss case because his work is extraordinary and because hes so relevant to our anxious 21st-century world. Its lazy to say he was a genius. What does it mean? Calling Powys a genius only lumps him with Lionel Messi and Laurel and Hardy. It would be more accurate to argue hes the most distinctive and interesting of English authors, the most exciting and addictive for anyone bookish.

John Cowper Powys changed lives: as a star turn on lecture tours across the USA (where his popularity attracted the attention of intelligence operatives looking for subversives); as a novelist described as the English Dostoevsky, the English Proust; and by helping people make sense of themselves in the modern world, to do more than just muddle through against all-consuming pressures of competition and conformity. Powyss influence might be relatively limited, but wherever it appears its deeply-rooted. He was described as a magician and a sage by writers who made a pilgrimage to visit him before he died in 1963. And fans turn up in unusual places. Isadora Duncan, dancer and international sensation, was so entranced by Powys she filled his room with roses; maverick jazz pianist Glenn Gould was inspired by Powysian ideas; and more recently, Chris Woodhead (the controversial educationalist and Chief Inspector of Schools for England) and Howard Davies (former head of the London School of Economics) have both been active champions.

Then again Powys might have been a charlatan. Most guardians of literature thought so, claiming he was better off in the hinterland, the kinds of places where theres always likely to be something nasty in the woodshed. In an age when review pages are part of a process of publicity, more cosy than critical, the response to Powys can be extreme. The first biography, published in 1983, covered John Cowper as well as his author brothers Theodore and Llewelyn. The Times review was run under the headline A Bunch of Nutters. In 2007 the only biography of John Cowper was written up by the Daily Telegraph with the conclusion he was a “monstrous man” and “remorselessly unattractive”.

Powys had a talent for manipulation. He said he would have liked to have been an actor, and his lectures were a performance where even the university gown he wore was a borrowed costume. He also knew how to thrill – Iris Murdoch thought Powys wrote about sex better than anyone. How genuine, then, were his ideas and his popularity? For all those American ladies attending his lectures, yearning for a dose of highbrow from the Old World, he was always going to be a pin-up.

One of the likeable aspects of Powyss character is that he wasnt offended by these kinds of criticisms. A charlatan? Yes! Why not? And its fair to say his novels are difficult in lots of ways. His philosophy is uncomfortably counter-cultural and theres a need for a level of open-mindedness that goes well beyond whats expected from reading authors in the canon. This is why hell never make it onto that express train and theres no good in campaigning for it. Instead of being part of any system of required or even recognised reading, Powys has relied on being discovered independently. He’s stumbled over by happy accident and itll probably always need to be that way.

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tim blanchard, powysland, the discovery of john cowper powys, sundial press    tim blanchard, powysland   tim blanchard, powysland, the discovery of john cowper powys, sundial press


Tim Blanchard has been exploring Powysland for the past fifteen years as a reader and member of the Powys Society. He once made an appearance at a Society conference to give a thrilling paper on drugs and rebellion - which in Powys’s case meant drinking cups of very sugary tea.

In the past he’s worked as a journalist and a PR and communications consultant. Much of this time has been spent focusing on the reputation of universities in the UK and internationally, ghostwriting for academics and senior figures for national broadsheet newspapers and professional media on everything from astral physics to the future of sewage.

His head full of Powys, Tim gave up on a regular career to work for himself as a freelance writer and communications professional.

Tim has previously contributed essays to Slightly Foxed and New Escapologist.

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Defy the modern world with forgotten genius John Cowper Powys!

john cowper powys

"He produced a whole torrent of books about the magic contained within everyday life, and how to defy the competition and conformity demanded by the modern world.

Powysland isn’t a straight biography - it wouldn’t suit him. Instead it explores the places that made the man and his eccentric philosophy, the huge rhapsodic novels and his life as a touring literary prophet. It sets out to discover how he attracted both a fanatical following over the past 100 years, why he’s mattered to so many people then and now - but also became reviled, neglected and forgotten. There’s a binary divide between those who think Powys one of the giants and geniuses of literature - and those who thought he was a nut and really just too much to stomach. Among the fans have been Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, JB Priestley, and more recently Iris Murdoch, Iain Sinclair, Bernard Cornwell, Margaret Drabble and Philip Pullman. American intellectual George Steiner said he’s the only writer in English language we’ve got who can stand comparison with Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.

On the other side you’ve got a big chunk of the literary establishment, reviewers and academia. Which has meant he’s had no chance of making it into the literary canon.

I’ve made my own adventures in Powysland over the past 15 years, joining with the hardcore followers of Powys, visiting the important places to him, trying to figure out how and whether there’s anything to be gained from thinking and living like a Powysian. In a sanitised world, we need Powys. But he's a writer who's running out of readers. This book will be one way to make sure this one-off in literary history, an English eccentric with so much to say about modern angst and disenchantment, isn’t carelessly forgotten."

Tim Blanchard

powysland poster, john cowper powys, tim blanchard

Visit the POWYSLAND website here

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