Malcolm Lowry

Clarence Malcolm Lowry (1909 – 1957) was an English poet and novelist who is best known for his 1947 novel Under the Volcano, which was voted No. 11 in the Modern Library 100 Best Novels list.

Early years in England
Lowry was born in New Brighton, Wirral, UK, the fourth son of Evelyn Boden and Arthur Lowry, a cotton broker with roots in Cumberland. He was educated at The Leys School in Cambridge and St Catharine's College, Cambridge. In 1912, the family moved to Caldy on another part of the Wirral peninsula. Their home was mock Tudor estate on two acres with a tennis court, small golf course and a maid, a cook and a nanny. Lowry was said to have felt neglected by his mother, and was closest to his brother. He began drinking at 14.
At age 15 Lowry won the junior golf championship at the famed Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake. His father expected him to go to Cambridge and enter the family business, but Malcolm wanted to experience the world and convinced his father to let him work as a deckhand on a ship to the Far East. In May 1927 his parents drove him to the Liverpool waterfront and, while the local press watched, waved goodbye as he set sail on the freighter S.S. Pyrrhus. The five months at sea gave him stories to incorporate into his first novel, Ultramarine.

In autumn 1929 he enrolled at Cambridge to placate his parents. He spent little time at the university, but excelled in writing, graduating in 1931 with a 3rd class honours degree in English. During his first term, his roommate, Paul Fitte, committed suicide. Fitte had wanted a homosexual relationship which Lowry refused. Lowry felt responsible for his death and was haunted by it for the rest of his life.
The twin obsessions which would dominate his life, alcohol and literature, were firmly in place. Lowry was already well travelled; besides his sailing experience, he 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. He met his first wife, Jan Gabrial, in Spain. They were married in France in 1934. Theirs was a turbulent union, especially due to his drinking, and because she was upset about homosexuals being attracted to him.
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. It exemplifies Lowry's method as a writer, which involved drawing heavily upon the 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.

S.S. Pyrrhus was a British Steam Passenger Ship built in 1914 of 7,418 tons and owned by the Ocean Steamship Co Ltd. In 1940 when on route from CLYDE and LIVERPOOL for MANILA carrying general cargo, 4000 tons, whiskey, golf clubs, cotton goods, she was torpedoed by U-37 and sunk. 8 crew members were lost from a total crew of 81 and 5 naval personnel.
Dylan Thomas (1914 – 1953) was a Welsh poet and writer, whose works include the poems "Do not go gentle into that good night" and "And death shall have no dominion"; the 'play for voices' Under Milk Wood; and stories and radio broadcasts such as A Child's Christmas in Wales and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog. He became widely popular in his lifetime, and remained so after his premature death at the age of 39 in New York City, but had by then acquired a reputation, which he encouraged, as a "roistering, drunken and doomed poet".

Subscribe to the blog to read the classics of literature.