Denton Welch

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Denton Welch
Denton Welch, Self-Portrait.jpg
Self-portrait, c. 1940–1942, in the National Portrait Gallery, London
Born Maurice Denton Welch
(1915-03-29)29 March 1915
Died 30 December 1948(1948-12-30) (aged 33)
Middle Orchard, Crouch, near Sevenoaks, Kent
Nationality English
Occupation Writer, painter

Maurice Denton Welch (29 March 1915 – 30 December 1948)[1] was an English writer and painter, admired for his vivid prose and precise descriptions.


Welch was born in Shanghai to Arthur Joseph Welch, a wealthy English rubber merchant, and his American wife, Rosalind Bassett.[1] Welch spent his childhood in China – he recorded this in his fictionalised autobiography of his early years, Maiden Voyage (1943). With the help and patronage of Edith Sitwell and John Lehmann this became a small but lasting success and made for him a distinct and individual reputation. It was followed by the novel In Youth is Pleasure (1944), a study of adolescence, and by Brave and Cruel (1949), short stories. An unfinished autobiographical novel A Voice Through a Cloud was published posthumously in 1950.

Welch did not set out to be a writer. After leaving Repton, he studied art at Goldsmiths' in London with the intention of becoming a painter.[2] At the age of twenty,[1] he was hit by a car while cycling in Surrey and suffered a fractured spine. Although he was not paralysed, he suffered severe pain and complications, including spinal tuberculosis that ultimately led to his early death.

His literary work, intense and introverted, includes insightful portraits of his friends, and minutely observed portraits of the English countryside during World War II. A close attention to aesthetics, be it in human behaviour, physical appearance, clothing, art, architecture, jewellery, or antiques, is also a recurring concern in his writings. Shorter works include an essay on the painter Walter Sickert which, published originally in The London Magazine brought him to the notice of Sitwell. He continued occasionally to paint; there is a fine self-portrait (in the National Portrait Gallery), and some intricate line illustrations in the early editions of his books.

William S. Burroughs cited Welch as the writer who most influenced his own work[3] and dedicated his novel The Place of Dead Roads to him.



  1. ^ a b c De-la-Noy, Michael. "Welch, (Maurice) Denton". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/38116.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ John Lewis (1994). Such Things Happen: the life of a typographer. Stowmarket, Suffolk: Unicorn Press. p. 34. ISBN 0-906290-06-6. 
  3. ^ W. S. Burroughs, The Cat Inside, Penguin Books, 2002, p. 67
  • De-la-Noy, Michael, The Making of a Writer (1984).
  • Methuen-Campbell, James, Denton Welch, Writer and Artist (Carlton-in-Coverdale: Tartarus Press, 2002) ISBN 1-872621-60-0 and (2003) ISBN 1-86064-924-6

External links[edit]