E. S. Drower

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Ethel Stefana Drower
Born(1879-12-01)1 December 1879
Died27 January 1972(1972-01-27) (aged 92)
Spouse(s)Edwin Drower
ChildrenMargaret Stefana Drower, William Mortimer Drower, Denys Drower
Scientific career
FieldsMandaic studies, cultural anthropology, novelist

Ethel Stefana Drower (née Stevens; full name: Ethel Mary Stefana Drower;[1] 1 December 1879 – 27 January 1972) was a British cultural anthropologist, orientalist and novelist who studied the Middle East and its cultures.[2] She was and is still considered one of the primary specialists on the Mandaeans, and was the dedicated collector of Mandaean manuscripts.[3]


Drower was the daughter of a clergyman. In 1906, she was working for Curtis Brown, a London literary agency when she signed Arthur Ransome to write Bohemia in London.

In 1911, she married Edwin Drower and after his knighthood became Lady Drower. As E. S. Stevens, she wrote a series of romantic novels for Mills & Boon and other publishers. In 1921, she accompanied her husband to Iraq where Sir Edwin Drower was adviser to the Justice Minister from 1921 to 1947.[2] Among her grandchildren was the campaigning journalist Roly Drower.

Her works include the comprehensive description and display of the last practising gnostic Mandaeans' rituals, rites, and customs in The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran: Their Cults, Customs, Magic, Legends, and Folklore, The Canonical Prayerbook of the Mandaeans (a translation of the Qolusta), The Secret Adam (Mandaeans), and The Peacock Angel (novel about the Yezidis),[4] editions of unique manuscripts such as astronomical divinations (omen) (The Book of the Zodiac) and magical texts (A Book of Black Magic;[5] A Phylactery for Rue),[6] and relevant translations of Mandaean religious works.[2]

Before her scholarly activity, "Already under her maiden name of Ethel Stefana Stevens, Lady Drower had been fired by the romance of the Orient; between 1909 and 1927 she published 13 novels, and she was the author of two delectable books of travel."[7][2]

She received several honours for her scholarly contributions: an honorary DLitt from Oxford University, an honorary DD from Uppsala University; she was made an honorary fellow of the School of Oriental and African Studies of London University, and was awarded the Lidzbarski gold medal for her work on the Mandaeans and their literary transmission on 1 October 1964.[8][2]

Drower Collection[edit]

The Drower Collection (DC), held at the Bodleian Library in Oxford University, is the most extensive collection of Mandaean manuscripts. The collection consists of 55 manuscripts.[9]

Drower donated MSS. Drower 1-53 to the Bodleian Library in 1958. MS. Drower 54 was given to the library by Lady Drower in 1961, and MS. Drower 55 was added in 1986.[1]


Works as E. S. Stevens[edit]

  • The Veil: A Romance of Tunis, New York, F.A. Stokes, 1909.
  • The Mountain of God, London, Mills & Boon, 1911.
  • Two works reviewing the Baháʼí Faith in 1911 - "Abbas Effendi: His Personality, Work, and Followers" in Fortnightly Review,[10] and "The Light in the Lantern" in Everybody's Magazine.[11]
  • The Long Engagement, New York, Hodder & Stoughton, 1912.
  • The Lure, New York, John Lane, 1912.
  • Sarah Eden, London, Mills & Boon, 1914.
  • Allward, London, Mills & Boon, 1915.
  • "--And What Happened", London, Mills & Boon, 1916.
  • The Safety Candle, London, Cassell and Company, 1917.
  • Magdalene: A Study in Methods, London, Cassell, 1919.
  • By Tigris and Euphrates, London, Hurst & Blackett, 1923.
  • Sophy: A Tale of Baghdad, London, Hurst & Blackett, 1924.
  • Cedars, Saints and Sinners in Syria, London, Hurst & Blackett, 1926.
  • The Losing Game, London, Hurst & Blackett, 1926.
  • Garden of Flames, New York, F.A. Stokes, 1927.
  • Ishtar, London, Hurst & Blackett, 1927.
  • Folk-Tales of Iraq, set down and translated from the vernacular by E. S. Stevens, New York, B. Blom, 1971.

Works as E. S. Drower[edit]

Translations as E. S. Drower[edit]


  1. ^ a b Mandaean manuscripts given by Lady Ethel May Stefana Drower. Archives Hub.
  2. ^ a b c d e Christa Müller-Kessler, Drower [née Stevens], Ethel May Stefana, Lady Drower, in New Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 16 (Oxford, 2004), pp. 193–194. [1]
  3. ^ Today stored as Drower Collection (DC) in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. A comprehensive list is found in E. S. Drower, A Mandæan Bibliography, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland 1953, pp. 34–39.
  4. ^ Rudolf Macuch, Lady Ethel Stefana Drower, Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 124, 1974, pp. 6–12.
  5. ^ E. S. Drower, A Mandæan Book of Black Magic, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland 1943, pp. 149–181
  6. ^ E. S. Drower, A Phylactery for Rue. (An Invocation of the Personified Herb), Orientalia N.S. 15, 1946, pp. 324–346.
  7. ^ J. B. Segal, Obituary: Ethel Stefana, Lady Drower, in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 35, 1972, p. 621.
  8. ^ Mitteilungen des Komitees für die Lidzbarski-Stiftung, in Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 114, 1964, p. *10*.
  9. ^ Buckley, Jorunn Jacobsen (2002). The Mandaeans: ancient texts and modern people. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-515385-5. OCLC 65198443.
  10. ^ Abbas Effendi: His personality, work, and followers, by E. S. Stevens, The Fortnightly Review, New series vol 95, no 534, 1 June 1911, pp. 1067–1084
  11. ^ The light in the lantern, by Ethel Stefana Stevens, Everybody's Magazine, vol 24, no 6, Dec 1911, pp. 755– 786

External links[edit]