John Gawsworth

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Terence Ian Fytton Armstrong (29 June 1912 – 23 September 1970), better known as John Gawsworth (and also sometimes known as T. I. F. Armstrong), was a British writer, poet and compiler of anthologies, both of poetry and of short stories. He also used the pseudonym Orpheus Scrannel (alludes to Milton's Lycidas). He became the king of Redonda in 1947 and became known as King Juan I.

Early life[edit]

Armstrong grew up in Colville Gardens, Notting Hill, and at number 40 Royal Crescent, Holland Park, London.[1] He was educated at Merchant Taylors' School.[2]


As a very young man he moved in London literary circles championing more traditional verse and writing against modernism. He ran the Twyn Barlwm Press, a small press publishing some well-known poets, its title inspired by the mountain Twyn Barlwm in South Wales, beloved by one of his literary idols Arthur Machen. Machen was one of the remaining writers of the 1890s he admired and befriended. Gawsworth's longest piece of written work was a biography of Machen, but he could find no publisher for it in the thirties. It was finally published by Tartarus Press in 2005.[3]

Other writers Gawsworth admired were Edgar Jepson and M. P. Shiel, whose literary executor he would later become.

In 1931 he had the poem In Winter by W. H. Davies privately printed in a limited edition of 290 numbered copies, illustrated by Edward Carrick and all individually signed by Davies. A further special limited edition of 15 were printed on handmade paper and also hand-coloured by Carrick.[4] Three companion titles appeared in similar editions at the same time: In Spring by Edith Sitwell, In Summer by Edmund Blunden and In Autumn by Herbert Palmer.

He gave Hugh MacDiarmid a roof over his head in London in 1934 (MacDiarmid returned the compliment in When the Rat-Race Is Over; an essay in honour of the fiftieth birthday of John Gawsworth (1962)). At this time he was very much involved in compiling story collections, generally of the fiction of the supernatural. Poetry collections of this time were Lyrics to Kingcup (1932), Mishka and Madeleine. A Poem Sequence for Marcia (1932), Poems 1930–1932 (1936), New Poems 1939. Later he published through the Richards Press.

He met and befriended the young Lawrence Durrell in 1932, when Gawsworth was living in Denmark Street. He made friends as well as enemies (Dylan Thomas, George Woodcock) throughout literary London.


During World War II, he served in the Royal Air Force as an aircraftsman in North Africa. As one of the Cairo poets, he made a more serious name for himself, being part of the Salamander group. Later he returned to a picturesque eccentricity as a Fitzrovian. His Collected Poems appeared in 1949. A later volume is Toreros (1990).

The Known Signatures anthology (reactionary, quite literally) was prompted by the Michael Roberts New Country collection. The Edwardian Poetry Book One (1936) (edited anonymously) and Neo-Georgian Poetry 1936–1937 (edited anonymously by Gawsworth [5]) are extraordinary for their retrospective vision.

King of Redonda[edit]

As literary executor to M. P. Shiel, Armstrong also inherited the throne of the Kingdom of Redonda styling himself H.M. Juan I.[6] The independent publisher Jon Wynne-Tyson became Gawsworth's literary executor in 1970, also becoming H.M. Juan II. But Wynne-Tyson "abdicated" in favour of the Spanish novelist and translator Javier Marías— H.M. Xavier I – who became both Shiel's and Gawsworth's literary executor.

According to John Sutherland's Lives of the Novelists, "the excessively minor poet John Gawsworth" kept the ashes of M. P. Shiel "in a biscuit tin on his mantelpiece, dropping a pinch as condiment into the food of any particularly honoured guest".

Poets in Known Signatures (1932)[edit]

Edmund BlundenA. E. CoppardW. H. DaviesLord Alfred DouglasErnest DowsonJohn DrinkwaterJohn Freeman – John Gawsworth – Wilfrid GibsonJohn GrayLionel JohnsonHugh MacDiarmidRichard MiddletonHarold MonroHerbert PalmerEdith SitwellLeonard StrongEdward ThomasTheodore Wratislaw

Poets in Edwardian Poets (1936)[edit]

Roy CampbellFrederick CarterWilfred Rowland ChildeFrank Eyre – John Gawsworth – Michael JusteHugh MacDiarmidHamish MacLarenMary Francis McHughR. L. MégrozE. H. W. MeyersteinHerbert PalmerRuth PitterTristram RaineyA. S. J. TessimondE. H. VisiakAnna Wickham


  1. ^ Richard Tames, The Notting Hill & Holland Park Book Past and Present, Historical Publications, 2004.
  2. ^ Jon Wynne-Tyson, "Armstrong, Terence Ian Fitton (1912–1970)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, January 2006, accessed 7 February 2011.
  3. ^ John Gawsworth, THE LIFE OF ARTHUR MACHEN. Review reprinted from Times Literary Supplement.
  4. ^ Harlow, S. (1993), W. H. Davies – a Bibliography, Winchester: Oak Knoll Books, St. Paul's Bibliographies. ISBN 1-873040-00-8.
  5. ^ Rogers, Timothy, editor. Georgian Poetry 1911-1922: The Critical Heritage (London, Henley and Boston: Routlege & Kegan Paul, 1977), p.11
  6. ^ Wynne-Tyson, Jon, "Two Kings of Redonda: M. P. Shiel and John Gawsworth", Books at Iowa, no. 36 (April 1982): 15–22.

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