Violet Powell

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Anthony Powell with Violet on their wedding day in 1934

Lady Violet Georgiana Powell (née Pakenham; 13 March 1912 – 12 January 2002) was a writer and critic. Her husband was author Anthony Powell.

Life and career[edit]

Lady Violet was the third daughter of Thomas Pakenham, 5th Earl of Longford, and Mary Pakenham, Countess of Longford (daughter of Victor Child-Villiers, 7th Earl of Jersey). She was educated at St Margaret's School, Bushey.[1]

Lady Violet was a member of a literary family; her brothers were Edward Pakenham and Frank Pakenham, while her sisters included the novelist and biographer Lady Pansy Lamb and the historian Lady Mary Clive. She was herself a distinguished memoirist and biographer. Her The Life of a Provincial Lady (1988), on the life of E. M. Delafield, has been called by one critic "one of the best literary biographies of a British writer in the twentieth century".[2] Those who knew the couple well believed that Lady Violet made significant contributions to the richness, depth and polish of her husband's work.[2] She also wrote a biography of the English novelist Flora Annie Steel.[3]


She is generally taken to be the model for the character of Isobel Tolland in her husband's novel sequence A Dance to the Music of Time.[1]


Some of her books are:

  • The Album of Anthony Powell's Dance to the Music of Time
  • A Compton-Burnett Compendium
  • A Jane Austen Compendium: The Six Major Novels
  • The Constant Novelist: A Study of Margaret Kennedy, 1896–1967
  • Flora Annie Steel: Novelist of India
  • The Irish Cousins: The Books and Background of Somerville and Ross
  • The Life of a Provincial Lady: A Study of E.M. Delafield and Her Works
  • Margaret, Countess of Jersey: A Biography
  • A Substantial Ghost: The Literary Adventures of Maude ffoulkes


  1. Five Out of Six: An Autobiography (a reference to her birth order amongst her siblings)
  2. Within the Family Circle: An Autobiography
  3. The Departure Platform: An Autobiography
  4. A Stone in the Shade: Last Memoirs[4]

Personal life[edit]

She married Anthony Powell (21 December 1905 – 28 March 2000) on 1 December 1934 at All Saints Anglican Church, Ennismore Gardens, Knightsbridge; they had two children, Tristram and John.[1]


  1. ^ a b c "Lady Violet Powell". 15 January 2002. Retrieved 15 September 2014.
  2. ^ a b Nicholas Birns, Understanding Anthony Powell (2004), p. 7
  3. ^ Mannsaker, Frances M. (Autumn 1982). "Flora Annie Steel, Novelist of India by Violet Powell". Victorian Studies. 26 (1): 105–106. doi:10.2307/3827506. JSTOR 3827506.
  4. ^ Taylor, D.J. (10 August 2013). "A Stone in the Shade, by Violet Powell - review". Spectator. Retrieved 15 September 2014.