Skip to main content
Collection of ephemera and magnifying glass

10 April 2024

On 13 December 2023 the National Library of Wales bought at auction a large group of papers from the Mappowder Powys Collection, papers of the Powys family which were accumulated by Lucy Amelia Penny (1890-1986), the youngest of eleven children of the Rev. C. F. Powys and Mary Cowper Johnson. Her siblings included the writers John Cowper Powys (1872-1963), Theodore Francis Powys (1873-1953) and Llewelyn Powys (1884-1939). The collection takes its name from the village of Mappowder in Dorset, Lucy's home from 1950.

The collection includes a number of early poems and other literary manuscripts of John Cowper Powys, sermons of the Rev. C. F. Powys and papers of other family members, but by far the greater part of the archive comprises correspondence. There are 1500 general family letters. The majority are addressed to Lucy (there are one hundred and sixty-six to her from her brother John for instance) but she also collected together many other letters from family and friends.

In addition to these there are well over two thousand further letters, being the correspondence of Lucy with her only daughter Mary Casey (1915-1980), author of the novel The Kingfisher's Wing (1987) (the manuscript of which is also included), and Mary's husband Gerard (d. 2002). In 1947, at John Cowper Powys's suggestion, Mary and Gerard moved to Kenya to live (a fact reflected in much of the correspondence being sent in the form of air letters).

Seven albums of Powys family photographs were also purchased by NLW at the auction and these are now part of the Library's Photographic Collection.

Following Lucy's death the collection stayed at Mappowder in the care of her cottage's new owner. While there, the entire collection was carefully sorted and catalogued and currently the correspondence is still stored very neatly in seventeen shoe boxes.

The Mappowder collection complements the large group of manuscripts and papers (139 volumes and 63 boxes) already at the National Library of Wales relating to John Cowper Powys and also to his partner Phyllis Playter, his siblings and the wider family (here we find 660 letters to John from Lucy and thirty from Mary). John and Phyllis moved to Wales in 1935, living in Corwen and later Blaenau Ffestiniog.

I look forward to cataloguing the collection in the near future, with it becoming available to the public soon after.

Rhys Jones

Assistant Curator of Manuscripts

Category: Article