Eden Phillpotts

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Eden Phillpotts
Picture of Eden Phillpotts.jpg
Born(1862-11-04)4 November 1862
Mount Abu, Rajasthan, India
Died29 December 1960(1960-12-29) (aged 98)
Broad Clyst, Devon
ChildrenAdelaide Phillpotts
RelativesHenry Phillpotts (great-uncle)
James Surtees Phillpotts (second cousin)

Eden Phillpotts (4 November 1862 – 29 December 1960) was an English author, poet and dramatist. He was born in Mount Abu, India, was educated in Plymouth, Devon, and worked as an insurance officer for ten years before studying for the stage and eventually becoming a writer.[1]


Eden Phillpotts was a great-nephew of Henry Phillpotts, Bishop of Exeter. His father Henry Phillpotts was a son of the bishop's younger brother Thomas Phillpotts. James Surtees Phillpotts the reforming headmaster of Bedford School was his second cousin.[2]

Eden Phillpotts was born on 4 November 1862 at Mount Abu in Rajasthan. His father Henry was an officer in the Indian Army, while his mother Adelaide was the daughter of an Indian Civil Service officer posted in Madras, George Jenkins Waters.[3]

Henry Phillpotts died in 1865, leaving Adelaide a widow at the age of 21. With her three small sons, of whom Eden was the eldest, she returned to England and settled in Plymouth.[4]

Phillpotts was educated at Mannamead School in Plymouth. At school he showed no signs of a literary bent. In 1879, aged 17, he left home and went to London to earn his living. He found a job as a clerk with the Sun Fire Office.[3][4]

Phillpotts' ambition was to be an actor and he attended evening classes at a drama school for two years. He came to the conclusion that he would never make a name as an actor but might have success as a writer. In his spare time out of office hours he proceeded to create a stream of small works which he was able to sell. In due course he left the insurance company to concentrate on his writing, while also working part-time as assistant editor for the weekly Black and White magazine.[3][4]

Eden Phillpotts maintained a steady output of three or four books a year for the next half century. He produced poetry, short stories, novels, plays and mystery tales. Many of his novels were about rural Devon life and some of his plays were distinguished by their effective use of regional dialect.

Eden Phillpotts died at his home in Broadclyst near Exeter, Devon, on 29 December 1960.

Personal life[edit]

Phillpotts was for many years the President of the Dartmoor Preservation Association and cared passionately about the conservation of Dartmoor. He was an agnostic and a supporter of the Rationalist Press Association.[5]

Phillpotts was a friend of Agatha Christie, who was an admirer of his work and a regular visitor to his home. She dedicated her 1932 novel Peril at End House to Phillpotts, and in her autobiography, she expressed gratitude for his early advice on fiction writing and quoted some of it. Jorge Luis Borges was another Phillpotts admirer.[6] Borges mentioned him numerous times, wrote at least two reviews of his novels, and included him in his "Personal Library", a collection of works selected to reflect his personal literary preferences.[7]

Philpotts allegedly sexually abused his daughter Adelaide. In a 1976 interview for a book about her father, Adelaide described an incestuous "relationship" with him that she says lasted from the age of five or six until her early thirties, when he remarried. When she herself finally married at the age of 55 her father never forgave her, and never communicated with her again.[8]


Phillpotts wrote a great many books with a Dartmoor setting. One of his novels, Widecombe Fair, inspired by an annual fair at the village of Widecombe-in-the-Moor, provided the scenario for his comic play The Farmer's Wife (1916). It went on to become a 1928 silent film of the same name, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It was followed by a 1941 remake, directed by Norman Lee and Leslie Arliss. It became a BBC TV drama in 1955, directed by Owen Reed. Jan Stewer played Churdles Ash.[9] The BBC had broadcast the play in 1934.

He co-wrote several plays with his daughter Adelaide Phillpotts,[10] The Farmer's Wife and Yellow Sands (1926);[11] she later claimed their relationship was incestuous.[12][8] Eden is best known as the author of many novels, plays and poems about Dartmoor. His Dartmoor cycle of 18 novels and two volumes of short stories still has many avid readers despite the fact that many titles are out of print.

Philpotts also wrote a series of novels, each set against the background of a different trade or industry. Titles include: Brunel's Tower (a pottery) and Storm in a Teacup (hand-papermaking). Among his other works is The Grey Room, the plot of which is centred on a haunted room in an English manor house. He also wrote a number of other mystery novels, both under his own name and the pseudonym Harrington Hext. These include: The Thing at Their Heels, The Red Redmaynes, The Monster, The Clue from the Stars, and The Captain's Curio. The Human Boy[13] was a collection of schoolboy stories in the same genre as Rudyard Kipling's Stalky & Co., though different in mood and style. Late in his long writing career he wrote a few books of interest to science fiction and fantasy readers, the most noteworthy being Saurus, which involves an alien reptilian observing human life.

Eric Partridge praised the immediacy and impact of his dialect writing.[14]




Short Fiction Books




  • In Sugar-Cane Land (1890)
  • My Garden (1906)
  • Dance of the Months. [Sketches of Dartmoor and poems.] (1911)
  • My Shrubs (1915)
  • My Devon Year (1916)
  • One Hundred Pictures from Eden Phillpotts / Selected by L.H. Brewitt (1919)
  • A West Country Pilgrimage (1920) [Essays and verse.]
  • A West Country Sketch Book (1928) Essays from Dance of the Months and A West Country Pilgrimage with one new essay.
  • Essays in Little (1931)
  • Handmade Paper: Its Method of Manufacture as Described in the Novel "Storm in a Teacup" (1932)
  • A Year with Bisshe-Bantam (1934)
  • A Mixed Grill (1940) Essays.
  • From the Angle of 88 (1951)
  • Selected Letters (1984)


  • Three plays: The shadows; The mother; The secret woman (1913)
  • Circe's Island and The Girl & The Faun (1925)
  • The Complete Human Boy. Comprising "The Human Boy," "The Human Boy Again," "The Human Boy and the War," "The Human Boy's Diary," "From the Angle of Seventeen," Etc. (1930)
  • West Country Plays (1933) [Buy a Broom and A Cup of Happiness.]
  • The Book of Avis: A Trilogy Comprising Bred in the Bone, Witch's Cauldron, A Shadow Passes [1936]


  1. ^ "PHILLPOTTS, Eden". Who's Who. Vol. 59. 1907. p. 1396.
  2. ^ Phillpotts Genealogy, Percy Phillpotts, 1910 (manuscript in family possession)
  3. ^ a b c Dictionary of National Biography, article by Thomas Moult
  4. ^ a b c Eden Phillpotts, From the Angle of 88, 1952
  5. ^ "...among the honorary associates of the [Rationalist Press] Association, past and present, are distinguished names such as...Eden Phillpotts." Quoted in Lord Snell, Men, Movements And Myself (p. 156), J.M. Dent and Sons, 1936.
  6. ^ Jorge Luis Borges: Conversations. University Press of Mississippi, 1998. Page 218.
  7. ^ "Jorge Luis Borges Personal Library Collection". personallibrarieslibrary.com. Retrieved 28 February 2018.
  8. ^ a b James Y. Dayananda, 'Phillpotts , (Mary) Adelaide Eden (1896–1993)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Sept 2012 accessed 9 May 2017
  9. ^ "The Farmer's Wife (TV Movie 1955) - IMDb". IMDb.
  10. ^ Head, Dominic, ed. (2006). The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English. Cambridge University Press. p. 868. ISBN 978-0-521-83179-6.
  11. ^ I. Ousby ed., The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English (1995) p. 735
  12. ^ Johnson, George M. (1995). Late-Victorian and Edwardian British Novelists: First series. Gale Research Incorporated. ISBN 9780810357143.
  13. ^ Philpotts, Eden; The Human Boy; Pub: Harper & Brothers, 1899.
  14. ^ Eric Partridge, Usage and Abusage (1964) p. 96
  15. ^ Phillpotts, Eden (1900). Sons of the Morning. Putnam. Retrieved 17 June 2008.
  16. ^ Eden Phillpotts; Adelaide Eden Phillpotts; Adelaide Ross (1932). The Good Old Days: A Comedy in Three Acts. Duckworth.

Further reading[edit]

  • Day, Kenneth F. (1981). Eden Phillpotts on Dartmoor. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. ISBN 978-0-7153-8118-2.
  • The New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature, George Watson, Ian R. Willison CUP Archive, 1987

External links[edit]