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Elizabeth Bowen
Elizabeth Bowen.jpg
Born Elizabeth Dorothea Cole Bowen
(1899-06-07)7 June 1899
Dublin, Ireland
Died 22 February 1973(1973-02-22) (aged 73)
London, England
Resting place Saint Colman's Church, Farahy
Language English
Notable works The Last September (1929)
The House in Paris (1936)
The Death of the Heart (1938)
The Heat of the Day (1949)
Eva Trout (1968)
Spouse Alan Cameron (1923–1952; his death)

Elizabeth Bowen CBE (/ˈbən/; 7 June 1899 – 22 February 1973) was an Irish-British novelist and short story writer notable for her books about the "big house" of Irish landed Protestants as well her fiction about life in wartime London.


Elizabeth Bowen (here-was-born plaque)
Elizabeth Bowen was born and spent her first seven winters in this house.

Elizabeth Dorothea Cole Bowen was born on 7 June 1899 at 15 Herbert Place in Dublin, daughter of barrister Henry Charles Cole Bowen (1862–1930), who succeeded his father as head of their Irish gentry family traced back to the late 1500s, of Welsh origin, and Florence Isabella Pomeroy (died 1912), daughter of Henry FitzGeorge Pomeroy Colley, of Mount Temple, Clontarf, Dublin, grandson of the 4th Viscount Harberton. Florence Bowen's mother was granddaughter of the 4th Viscount Powerscourt. Elizabeth Bowen was baptised in the nearby St Stephen's Church on Upper Mount Street. Her parents later brought her to her father's family home, Bowen's Court at Farahy, near Kildorrery, 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 September 1912 Bowen was brought up by her aunts; her father remarried in 1918. 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 seek out a publisher for her first book, a collection of short stories entitled Encounters (1923).

In 1923 she married Alan Cameron, an educational administrator who subsequently worked for the BBC. Bowen and her husband first lived near Oxford, where they socialised with Maurice Bowra, John Buchan and Susan Buchan, and where she wrote her early novels, including The Last September (1929). Following the publication of To the North (1932) they moved to 2 Clarence Terrace, Regent's Park, London, where she wrote The House in Paris (1935) and The Death of the Heart (1938). In 1937, she became a member of the Irish Academy of Letters.

In 1930 Bowen became the first (and only) woman to inherit Bowen's Court, 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 neutrality. Bowen's political views tended towards Burkean conservatism. During and after the war she wrote among the greatest expressions of life in wartime London, The Demon Lover and Other Stories (1945) and The Heat of the Day (1948); she was awarded the CBE the same year.

Her husband retired in 1952 and they settled in Bowen's Court, where he died a few months later. Many writers visited her at Bowen's Court from 1930 onwards, including Virginia Woolf, Eudora Welty, Carson McCullers, Iris Murdoch, and the historian Veronica Wedgwood. For years Bowen struggled to keep the house going, lecturing in the United States to earn money. In 1957 her portrait was painted at Bowen's Court by her friend, painter Patrick Hennessy. She travelled to Italy in 1958 to research and prepare A Time in Rome (1960), but by the following year Bowen was forced to sell her beloved Bowen's Court, which was demolished in 1960. In the following months, she wrote for CBS the narrative of the documentary titled Ireland the Tear and the Smile which was realised in collaboration with Bob Monks as camera man and associate producer. After spending some years without a permanent home, Bowen finally settled at "Carbery", Church Hill, Hythe, in 1965.

St Colman's Church, Farahy - - 1392163
St Colman's Church, Farahy, County Cork, Bowen's burial place

Her final novel, Eva Trout, or Changing Scenes (1968), won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1969 and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1970. Subsequently, she was a judge (alongside her friend Cyril Connolly) that awarded the 1972 Man Booker Prize to John Berger for G. She spent Christmas 1972 at Kinsale, County Cork, with her friends, Major Stephen Vernon and his wife, Lady Ursula (daughter of the Duke of Westminster) but was hospitalised upon her return. Here she was visited by Connolly, Lady Ursula Vernon, Isaiah Berlin, Rosamund Lehmann, and her literary agent, Spencer Curtis Brown, among others.

In 1972 Bowen developed lung cancer. She died in University College Hospital on 22 February 1973, aged 73. She is buried with her husband in St Colman's churchyard in Farahy, close to the gates of Bowen's Court, where there is a memorial plaque to the author (which bears the words of John Sparrow) at the entrance to St Colman's Church, where a commemoration of her life is held annually.


In 1977, Victoria Glendinning published the first biography of Elizabeth Bowen. In 2009, Glendinning published a book about the relationship between Charles Ritchie and Bowen, based on his diaries and her letters to him. In 2012, English Heritage marked Bowen's Regent's Park home at Clarence Terrace with a blue plaque. A blue plaque was unveiled 19 October 2014 to mark Bowen's residence at the Coach House, The Croft, Headington, from 1925 to 1935.


Bowen was greatly interested in "life with the lid on and what happens when the lid comes off", in the innocence of orderly life, and in the eventual, irrepressible forces that transform experience. Bowen also examined the betrayal and secrets that lie beneath a veneer of respectability. The style of her works is highly wrought and owes much to literary modernism. She was an admirer of film and influenced by the filmmaking techniques of her day. The locations in which Bowen's works are set often bear heavily on the psychology of the characters and on the plots. Bowen's war novel The Heat of the Day (1948) is considered one of the quintessential depictions of London’s atmosphere during the bombing raids of World War II.

She was also a notable writer of ghost stories. Supernatural fiction writer Robert Aickman considered Elizabeth Bowen to be "the most distinguished living practitioner" of ghost stories. He included her tale 'The Demon Lover' in his anthology The Second Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories.

Selected 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 (1938)
  • The Heat of the Day (1949)
  • A World of Love (1955)
  • The Little Girls (1964)
  • Eva Trout (1968)

Short story collections

  • Encounters (1923)
  • Ann Lee's and Other Stories (1926)
  • Joining Charles and Other Stories (1929)
  • The Cat Jumps and Other Stories (1934)
  • Look at All Those Roses (1941)
  • The Demon Lover and Other Stories (1945)
  • Ivy Gripped the Steps and Other Stories (1946, USA)
  • Stories by Elizabeth Bowen (1959)
  • A Day in the Dark and Other Stories (1965)
  • The Good Tiger (1965, children's book) - illustrated by M. Nebel (1965 edition) and Quentin Blake (1970 edition)
  • Elizabeth Bowen’s Irish Stories (1978)
  • The Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen (1980)
  • The Bazaar and Other Stories (2008) - edited by Allan Hepburn


  • Bowen's Court (1942, 1964)
  • 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), edited by Spencer Curtis Brown
  • The Mulberry Tree: Writings of Elizabeth Bowen (1999), edited by Hermione Lee
  • "Notes on Éire": Espionage Reports to Winston Churchill by Elizabeth Bowen, 1940–1942 (2008), edited by Jack Lane and Brendan Clifford
  • People, Places, Things: Essays by Elizabeth Bowen (2008) - edited by Allan Hepburn
  • Love's Civil War: Elizabeth Bowen and Charles Ritchie: Letters and Diaries, 1941–1973 (2009), edited by Victoria Glendinning and Judith Robertson
  • Listening In: Broadcasts, Speeches, and Interviews by Elizabeth Bowen (2010), edited by Allan Hepburn
  • Elizabeth Bowen's Selected Irish Writings (2011), edited by Éibhear Walshe
  • The Weight of a World of Feeling: Reviews and Essays by Elizabeth Bowen (2016), edited by Allan Hepburn

Television and film adaptations

See also

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