Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Elizabeth Dorothea Cole Bowen (BOH-uhn), born in Dublin, Ireland, on June 7, 1899, the only child of a landed Protestant attorney, Henry Charles Cole Bowen, and his wife, Florence Colley Bowen, was a distinguished Anglo-Irish writer. Her introverted and shy parents responded to their only child with emotional vagueness and hired nurses and governesses to supervise her schedule. Though stories were read to her, she was not permitted to learn to read before she was seven years old, for fear it would stress her mind. During these early years, which Bowen articulates in her first autobiography, Seven Winters, she spent the winter months of each year in Dublin and the rest of the year at Bowen’s Court, the eighteenth century estate deeded to her ancestor Colonel Bowen, a professional soldier who was a lieutenant colonel in Oliver Cromwell’s army in 1653.
Throughout her life, Bowen was not only reticent about discussing personal experiences but also elusive when asked overt questions. Much of her childhood was buried within her until she began to write. This emotional diffidence resulted from the traumas which occurred between her seventh and thirteenth years. Her father had a mental breakdown when she was seven years old, and her mother died of cancer when Bowen was thirteen. After her father’s hospitalization, the doctor recommended that...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Elizabeth Dorothea Cole Bowen received her formal education at Downe House in Kent and at the London County Council School of Art. In 1923 she married Alan Charles Cameron and lived with him in Northampton and Old Headington, Oxford. In 1935 she and her husband moved to Regent’s Park, London, where Bowen became a member of the Bloomsbury group. During World War II she stayed in London, where she worked for the Ministry of Information and as an air-raid warden. In 1948 she was made a Commander of the British Empire. She was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters by Trinity College, Dublin, in 1949. After the death of her husband in 1952, Bowen returned to live at Bowen’s Court in Ireland, her family estate. In 1957 she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of Oxford. In 1960 she sold Bowen’s Court and returned to Old Headington, Oxford. After a final trip to Ireland, Elizabeth Bowen died in London on February 22, 1973.
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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Although born in Ireland, Elizabeth Dorothea Cole Bowen came from a pro-British family who received land in county Cork as an award for fighting with Oliver Cromwell in 1649. The family built Bowen’s Court in 1776—what the Irish call a “big house”—as a Protestant stronghold against the mainly Catholic Irish and lived there as part of the Anglo-Irish ascendancy. Bowen was educated in England and spent some summers at Bowen’s Court. Not until after the Easter Rising in 1916 did she come to realize the causes of the Irish struggle for independence, and in writing Bowen’s Court she admitted that her family “got their position and drew their power from a situation that shows an inherent wrong.”
Her barrister father, when he was nineteen, had disobeyed forewarnings and carried home smallpox, which eventually killed his mother and rendered his father mad. Preoccupied with the desire for a son, Bowen’s father nearly lost his wife in the attempt to have one in 1904, and, burdened with the debts of Bowen’s Court, he suffered severe mental breakdowns in 1905 and 1906 and again in 1928. He was the cause of Elizabeth’s removal to England, where, as an Irish outcast, her defense was to become excessively British. Living in a series of locations with her mother, she was kept uninformed of family circumstances; as an adult, her novels provided for her an outlet for her sense of guilt, the result of her feeling responsible for the...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Elizabeth Dorothea Cole Bowen (BOH-uhn) was born in Dublin, Ireland, on June 7, 1899. Her parents were Henry Cole Bowen and Florence Isabella Pomeroy (Colley) Bowen. Both of them were Anglo-Irish, giving Elizabeth a Protestant, landowning heritage. Her father, a barrister, inherited Bowen’s Court, which was built in the eighteenth century and in which Elizabeth lived as a young girl. In 1930, upon the death of her father, she inherited the family estate. When Elizabeth was thirteen years old, her mother died. After her father’s health deteriorated, she spent several years living with various relatives. Her mother’s death, her father’s precarious health, and her lack of a permanent, stable home all had a strong impact on the way that Bowen developed, both as a person and as a writer.
Bowen’s education began at Downe House, Kent, England. She also studied at the London County Council School of Art, and she soon began to write short stories. Her first collection, Encounters, was published in 1923. In the same year, she married Alan Charles Cameron, a graduate of Oxford and a World War I veteran. He began a long career in educational administration through his appointment, in 1925, as secretary for education in the city of Oxford.
By 1927, Bowen was an established writer and spent part of each year in one of her three...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Elizabeth Bowen was a prolific writer from the time that she published her first fiction. She was considered an important and original author by readers who shared her taste for the understated and the poetic. They admired her patient probing of the psychological aspects of her characters. Speaking through her characters, she revealed her insights through such images as “the lunatic giant” mentioned by St. Quentin in The Death of the Heart. That noisy, crazy, internal figure is the one to which Bowen paid the most attention.
The American scholar and critic Edwin J. Kenney pointed out that all Bowen’s books deal with the isolated and self-destructive capacities of innocent heroines in disordered circumstances. The crisis of identity recurs in all of her work and makes a unified whole of the novels and short stories. A somewhat eccentric and oblique style set her apart from all but a few writers of her time, notably the novelists Virginia Woolf and Henry James. Her affinity with them in style, structure, and subject matter placed her in very distinguished company, among the outstanding writers of the twentieth century.
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Elizabeth Bowen’s early years—while not quite as grim as those of Portia, the main character in her most well-regarded novel, The Death of the Heart—were unstable. She found herself at various times being raised by a group of aunts. On occasion, Bowen moved from house to house, similar to the treks from hotel to hotel that Portia and her parents make across France and Switzerland.
Bowen was born June 7, 1899, in Dublin, Ireland, into a wealthy and socially prominent family with ties to England. She was her parents’ only child. When Bowen was seven, her father was hospitalized for a mental condition. She and her mother moved to England and spent the next five years moving from villa to villa on the Kent coast. While this could have been a lonely existence, both her parents came from large extended families, and an Anglo-Irish network of adults and children surrounded Bowen during this period in her life. One of her closest relatives was Audrey Fiennes, a cousin about her age. Together with Fiennes, Bowen began to express her imaginative gifts, creating stories about make-believe families.
By 1912, Bowen’s father had recuperated enough that he was making regular visits to Kent to see his wife and daughter. Later that year, however, tragedy struck the family when Bowen’s mother was diagnosed with cancer and died. Once again, the extended family helped take care of Bowen.
In 1918, Bowen’s father remarried, and his...
(The entire section is 467 words.)
Elizabeth Bowen was an only child, born in Dublin, Ireland, on June 7, 1899 to Henry Cole Bowen and Florence Colley Brown. Her father worked in the law and this kept the family between their two homes in Ireland, one in Dublin and another in Bowen’s Court, her family house in County Cork. Bowen had a happy childhood until 1905, when her father had a nervous breakdown. Due to her father’s long convalescence for the next several years, a family physician recommended that Elizabeth and her mother go stay with various aunts in England. Bowen’s father recovered from his breakdown when Elizabeth was 12. However, her happiness at the family being reunited was short-lived since her mother died of cancer the following year. Her sense of displacement and loss of innocence as a result of her parent’s death became major themes in her work.
After her mother’s death, Bowen was sent to Downe House, a boarding school in Kent, England, where she stayed for the next three years. She wrote a great deal of short stories at Downe House, and decided this was what she was meant to do. Bowen was able to get started with her career as a writer partly due to Rose Macaulay, a friend who attended Downe House and who introduced her to influential editors and publishers.
Encounters, her first volume of short stories, was published in 1923. The same year, Bowen married assistant secretary for education in Northampton, Alan Charles Cameron. Bowen was soon...
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Elizabeth Dorothea Cole Bowen was born in Dublin, Ireland, on June 7, 1899. The daughter of aristocratic, Anglo-Irish parents, Bowen divided time between the family's Dublin home and Bowen's Court, their estate in County Cork, Ireland, during her early childhood. This ended, however, when Bowen's father was hospitalized for mental illness, and she and her mother went to England to stay with relatives until he recovered. In 1912, just as she and her family were to be reunited, her mother was diagnosed with cancer and died shortly afterwards.
Bowen was sent to England to be raised in the care of her mother's extended family. She attended Downe House Boarding School in Kent, and then went on to the London Council School of Art from 1918 to 1919. While in London, she began to work seriously on her writing. In 1923 she married professor Alan Charles Cameron and published her first collection of short stories, Encounters. In 1926 she and her husband moved to Oxford, bringing Bowen into contact with a literary circle that included the scholars C. M. Bowra and Lord David Cecil. During the next three years, she published two more short story collections and two novels, establishing a rate of production she would maintain nearly all of her life. When Bowen and her husband moved back to London in 1935, she became acquainted with Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group. Bowen wrote the stories in her collection The Demon Lover and Other Stories between...
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