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Dance to the Music of Time (Powell) - Author Bio

Author Bio
Birth—December 21, 1905
Where—Westminster, England, UK
Death—March 28, 2000
Where—Somerset, England
Education—Oxford University
Awards—James Tait Memorial Prize.


Powell was born in Westminster, England, to Philip Powell and Maud Wells-Dymoke. His father was an officer in the Welch Regiment, although by happenstance rather than from pride in his rather distant Welsh lineage. His mother came from a land-owning family in Lincolnshire with pretensions, though no incontrovertible claim, to aristocratic descent.

After World War I, Powell attended Eaton, a career marked by what he recalled as "well-deserved obscurity" in "the worst house in the school." He felt no enthusiasm for the games that brought popularity and prestige. In 1923, he went up to Balliol College, Oxford, to read history. He later said that he experienced a loss of intellectual vitality rather than stimulation from his new environmement. Shortly after his arrival he was introduced to the Hypocrites Club, a lively and bibulous gathering that did not attract the aesthetes or the conspicuously well-behaved.

In 1926, Powell went to work in London in a form of apprenticeship at Duckworth publishing house and lived in a small, rather seedy enclave tucked away among the grand houses of Mayfair. His social life developed around attendance at formal debutante dances in white tie and tails at houses in Mayfair or Belgravia. Without telling his friends he joined a Territorial Army regiment in a South London suburb and for two or three evenings a week dined in mess, then spent a couple of hours under instruction in the riding school. He renewed acquaintance with Evelyn Waugh, whom he had known at Oxford and who introduced him to the Gargoyle Club, in Soho, which gave Powell a foothold in London's Bohemia. Between 1931 and 1940, Powell published four novels, married Lady Violet Pakenham, moved to a flat in Bloomsbury (where E.M. Forster made a quick surreptitious inspection of the new arrival), and tried his hand as a film studio script writer, and became a father.

When war arrived, was called to duty as a Second Lieutenant at the end of 1939. The war, he recalled, "led not only into a new life, but entirely out of an old one, to which there was no return. Nothing was ever the same again." At first, serving as a trainer in a regiment posted in Northern Ireland, he eventually was attached to a division in military itellengence, carrying out various posts. When the war ended he was 39.

After several fits and starts, Powell recieved a small legacy, purchased a house, called The Chantry in Somerset (not far from Bath), and returned to writing. He began to ponder a long novel sequence. At an early stage, he found himself in a museum in London standing before Nicholas Poussin's painting "A Dance to the Music of Time," which struck him as conveying graphically the rhythms and complexities of relationships and events as he wished to describe them.

In parallel with his creative writing, he served as the primary fiction reviewer for the (London) Times Literary Supplement, and in 1953 was appointed Literary Editor of Punch, in which capacity he served until 1959. From 1958 to 1990, he was a regular reviewer for the Daily Telegraph, resigning after a vitriolic personal attack on him by Auberon Waugh was published in the newspaper. He also reviewed occasionally for the Spectator. He served as a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery from 1962 to 1976. With Lady Violet, he travelled to the United States, India, Guatemala, Italy, and Greece.

Through his writings, Anthony Powell would go on to international fame. He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1956, and in 1973 he declined an offer of knighthood. He was appointed Companion of Honour (CH) in 1988. He published two more freestanding novels, O, How The Wheel Becomes It! (1983) and The Fisher King (1986). Two volumes of critical essays, Miscellaneous Verdicts (1990) and Under Review (1992), reprint many of his book reviews. Powell's Journals, covering the years 1982 to 1992, were published between 1995 and 1997. His Writer's Notebook was published posthumously in 2001, and a third volume of critical essays, Some Poets, Artists, and a Reference for Mellors, appeared in 2005.

He died peacefully at his home, The Chantry, aged 94 on 28 March 2000. (Author bio adapted from Wikipedia.)




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