Malcolm Lowry: Difference between revisions

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*''Dark as the Grave wherein my Friend is Laid'' (1968)
*''Dark as the Grave wherein my Friend is Laid'' (1968)
*''[[October Ferry to Gabriola]]'' (1970)
*''[[October Ferry to Gabriola]]'' (1970)
*''[[The Collected Poetry of Malcolm Lowry]]'' (1992) edited by Kathleen Scherf
*''The Voyage That Never Ends'' (2007), selected stories, poems, and letters; edited by [[Michael Hofmann]]
==Further reading==
==Further reading==

Revision as of 15:11, 13 January 2011

Malcolm Lowry
Malcolm Lowry in 1946.jpg
Malcolm Lowry, aged 37.
Occupation Novelist, poet
Literary movement Modernism
Notable works Ultramarine (1933), Under the Volcano (1947), Hear Us O Lord from Heaven Thy Dwelling Place (1961), Lunar Caustic (1968), Dark as the Grave wherein my Friend is Laid (1968), October Ferry to Gabriola (1970)
Spouse Jan Gabrial (1934-1937)
Margerie Bonner (1940-1957 (his death))

Clarence Malcolm Lowry (28 July 1909 – 26 June 1957) was a British poet and novelist who was best known for his novel, Under the Volcano, which was voted #11 in the Modern Library 100 Best Novels list.


Lowry was born in New Brighton, in the English county of Cheshire (now Merseyside), and was educated at The Leys School and St Catharine's College, Cambridge. By the time he graduated in 1931, the twin obsessions which would dominate his life — alcohol and literature — were firmly in place. Lowry was already well travelled, having sailed to the Far East as a deck hand on the Pyrrhus between school and university and made visits to America and Germany between terms. After Cambridge, Lowry lived briefly in London, existing on the fringes of the vibrant Thirties literary scene and meeting Dylan Thomas, among others. Next, he moved to France, where he married his first wife, Jan Gabrial, in 1934. Theirs was a turbulent union, and, after an estrangement, Lowry followed her to New York (where he entered Bellevue Hospital in 1936 following an alcohol-induced breakdown) and then to Hollywood, where he tried screenwriting.

The couple moved to the Mexican city of Cuernavaca in late 1936, in a final attempt to salvage their marriage. They failed, however, and in late 1937, Lowry, alone in Oaxaca, entered another period of dark alcoholic excess, culminating in his being deported from the country. In 1939, he moved to Canada, and the following year he married his second wife, actress and writer Margerie Bonner. The couple lived and wrote in a squatter's shack on the beach near Dollarton in British Columbia, north of Vancouver. Margerie was an entirely positive influence, editing Lowry's work skillfully and making sure that he ate as well as drank (she drank too). The couple travelled to Europe, America and the Caribbean, and while Lowry continued to drink heavily, this seems to have been a relatively peaceful and productive period. It would last until 1954, when a final nomadic period ensued, embracing New York, London and other places.

Lowry died in a boarding house the village of Ripe, East Sussex, where he was living with his wife. Certainly alcohol, and possibly an overdose of sleeping pills, contributed to what the coroner recorded as "death by misadventure." Lowry is buried in the churchyard of St.John the Basptist.


Lowry published little during his lifetime, in comparison with the extensive collection of unfinished manuscripts he left. Of his two novels, Under the Volcano (1947) is now widely accepted as his masterpiece and one of the great works of the 20th century (number 11 on the Modern Library's 100 Best Novels of the 20th century.[1]) It exemplifies Lowry's method as a writer, which involved drawing heavily upon autobiographical material and imbuing it with complex and allusive layers of symbolism. Under the Volcano depicts a series of complex and unwillingly destructive relationships and is set against a rich evocation of Mexico.

Ultramarine (1933), written while Lowry was still an undergraduate, follows a young man's first sea voyage and his determination to gain the crew's acceptance.

A collection of short stories, Hear Us, O Lord from Heaven Thy Dwelling Place (1961) was published after Lowry's death. The scholar and poet Earle Birney edited Selected Poems of Malcolm Lowry (1962). He also collaborated with Lowry's widow in editing the novella Lunar Caustic (1968) for re-publication. It is a conflation of several earlier pieces concerned with Bellevue Hospital, which Lowry was in the process of rewriting as a complete novel. With Douglas Day, Lowry's first biographer, Lowry's widow has also completed and edited the novels Dark as the Grave Wherein my Friend Is Laid (1968) and October Ferry to Gabriola (1970) from Lowry's manuscripts.

The Selected Letters of Malcolm Lowry, edited by his widow and Harvey Breit, was released in 1965, followed in 1995-6 by the two volume Sursam Corda! The Collected Letters of Malcolm Lowry, edited by Sherrill E. Grace. Scholarly editions of Lowry's final work in progress, La Mordida and his screen adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night have also been issued.

Volcano: An Inquiry into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry (1976) is an Oscar-nominated National Film Board of Canada documentary produced by Donald Brittain and Robert A. Duncan and directed by Brittain and John Kramer.[2] It opens with the inquest into Lowry's "death by misadventure," and then moves back in time to trace the writer's life. Selections from Lowry's novel are read by Richard Burton amid images shot in Mexico, the United States, Canada and England.[3]


Posthumous releases

  • Hear Us O Lord from Heaven Thy Dwelling Place (1961)
  • Selected Poems of Malcolm Lowry (1962)
  • Lunar Caustic (1968)
  • Dark as the Grave wherein my Friend is Laid (1968)
  • October Ferry to Gabriola (1970)

Further reading



  1. ^ "Modern Library 100 Best Novels". Modern Library. Retrieved 2008-03-13. 
  2. ^ Volcano: An Inquiry into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry
  3. ^ IMDb
  4. ^ "Volcano: An Inquiry into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry". Documentary film. National Film Board of Canada. 1976. Retrieved 2009-03-31. 


  • Asals, Frederick, The making of Malcolm Lowry's Under the volcano (University of Georgia: Athens, 1997)
  • Bareham, Tony, Modern Novelists: Malcolm Lowry (St Martins: New York, 1989)
  • Bowker, Gordon, ed, Malcolm Lowry Remembered (Ariel: London, 1985)
  • Bradbrook, M.C., Malcolm Lowry: His Art and Early Life (CUP: Cambridge, 1974)
  • Cross, Richard K., Malcolm Lowry: a preface to his fiction (Athlone Press: London, 1980)
  • Hochschild, Adam, Finding the Trapdoor: Essays, Portraits, Travels, pp. 265-73, "The Private Volcano of Malcolm Lowry," (Syracuse University Press: Syracuse, 1997)
  • Miller, David, Malcolm Lowry and the voyage that never ends (Enitharmon Press: London, 1976)
  • Smith, Anne, The art of Malcolm Lowry (Vision: London, 1978)
  • Stevenson, Randall, The British Novel Since the Thirties (Batsford: London, 1986)
  • Vice, Sue, Malcolm Lowry eighty years on (St. Martins Press: New York, 1989)
  • Woolmer, J. Howard, Malcolm Lowry: a bibliography (Woolmer/Brotherson: Pennsylvania, 1983)

External links