BOWEN, Elizabeth (1899-1973)
Plaque erected in 2012 by English Heritage at 1-7 Clarence Terrace, Regent's Park, London, NW1 4RD, City of Westminster
ELIZABETH BOWEN 1899-1973 Writer lived here 1935-1952
Elizabeth Dorothea Cole Bowen was born in Dublin, the only child of Henry Bowen, a barrister, and his wife Florence, née Colley. Her childhood was spent between Dublin, her family's home Bowen's Court in County Cork and a succession of homes on the Kent coast, where she and her mother lived after her father suffered a breakdown.
It was whilst at boarding school at Down House in Kent Bowen was encouraged to write by her headmistress. By 1921 she had written a number of short stories and had been introduced to London literary circles by the novelist Rose Macaulay; she published her first collection of stories, Encounters, in 1923. In the same year she married Alan Cameron and in 1925 moved to Oxford after he gained a new job in the Oxfordshire education department. She quickly felt at home in the academic world, making firm friends with Lord David Cecil, John and Susan Buchan, and Isaiah Berlin, and published her first novel, The Hotel (1927).
In 1935, Bowen moved to London after her husband was appointed to the schools broadcasting unit at the BBC. At their grand house in Regent's Park, Bowen entertained the literary elite and also wrote her two finest novels, The Death of the Heart (1938) and The Heat of the Day (1949). She also published two further volumes of short stories, Look at all those Roses (1941) and The Demon Lover (1945). During the war, Bowen worked for the Ministry of Information and made several intelligence-gathering trips to neutral Ireland; on these visits, she stayed at Bowen's Court, which had been left to her by her father in 1930.
In 1945 Alan Cameron retired from the BBC, and the couple spent more time at Bowen's Court, which became their principal home in 1952; his death there in August that year left Bowen distraught. By now, Bowen's Court was a huge drain on her resources and she channelled her energies into lecture tours and journalism in order to make enough money to keep up the house. In 1959, Bowen sold her family home to a neighbouring farmer, who apparently promised to look after it; within months of the purchase, however, the house had been bulldozed, bringing to a brutal end her family's long association with the property. Rather than mourn its loss, she viewed its destruction as symbolic of the end of the Anglo-Irish way of life. Bowen returned to England, and lived out her final years in Hythe, Kent, where she finished her final novel, Eva Trout, or, Changing Scenes (1965).
2 Clarence TerraceThe plaque to the Anglo-Irish novelist Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973) was installed at 2 Clarence Terrace, Regents Park, her home for seventeen years and the place in which she wrote her most celebrated works, The Death of the Heart (1938) and The Heat of the Day (1949).
"An Intuitive Writer"
Dr Susan Skedd, Blue Plaques Historian, said:
"Elizabeth Bowen is a fascinating figure within Anglo-Irish writing, who described herself as 'an intuitive writer, once concerned with place'; in The Heat of the Day, she produced one of the most compelling portraits of life in London during the Blitz."