Bowen, Elizabeth (1899–1973) By Weihl, Harrington
Born Elizabeth Dorothea Cole Bowen in Dublin, Ireland, on 7 June 1899, the influential and celebrated Anglo-Irish author Elizabeth Bowen produced a body of work that initially comprised fiction (novels and short stories) and later historical essays and memoirs. While growing up, Bowen spent her summers at Bowen’s Court in Kildorrery, County Cork, the family home of her father, the barrister Henry Charles Cole Bowen. Beginning in 1905 Henry Bowen suffered from a series of nervous breakdowns that resulted in him being hospitalised. On the recommendation of her father’s doctors, Bowen and her mother Florence moved away and relocated to Hythe, on the Kent coast, in 1907. The pair then moved constantly around England and Ireland, living in coastal houses with a succession of relatives and friends until 1912, when Florence died of cancer. Following her mother’s death, when she was not attending boarding school at Downe House in Kent, Bowen was cared for by various aunts and family friends. After finishing school in 1917, she worked in a hospital where she cared for shell-shocked veterans of the First World War. After the war, Bowen attended the London County Council School of Art; while attending art school, she also wrote, eventually leaving off the visual arts and turning her attention entirely to writing.