Anthony Powell, chronicler of Time, dies at 94

The novelist Anthony Powell, the last member of one of Britain's most celebrated literary generations, died yesterday at his home in Somerset.

Powell, 94, was one of a group of writers that flourished in a Britain that has long disappeared and which included Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, John Betjeman, George Orwell and W H Auden.

Yesterday his editor at publishers William Heinemann, Ravi Mirchandani, said he considered Powell to be one of the "greatest English writers of the 20th century". He added: "I am a great fan. Evelyn Waugh would be the most obvious comparison, though he is no longer as well read as he was 30 years ago.

"I think he was an excellent observer of English society or else one part of English society. He was very well connected both in a literary sense as well as socially."

Described as a social comic novelist, Powell's most famous work was the 12-volume novel sequence, A Dance to the Music of Time. The work, which was adapted for television three years ago, was a detailed examination of the life of an English aristocratic family stretching from the First World War to the 1970s. It was famous for the character Widmerpool, ruthlessly ambitious and disliked but still something of an irresistible anti-hero.

While the sequence was praised for capturing a sense of time passing - an achievement compared by some reviewers to that of Proust - Powell had said that he chose to use the same characters as a means of conserving imaginative energy. The novels appeared at less than two-yearly intervals. "I didn't want to run out of steam, which I felt would be easy to do," he once said.

Educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford, where he obtained a third class degree in history, he went on to work at the publishers Duckworth. It was this firm that published his first four novels, which established his reputation.

After the Second World War, during which Powell was an officer with the Welch Regiment, he worked as a literary journalist, first with Punch and later The Daily Telegraph. He resigned from the latter after a less than warm review of his prose style in that newspaper by Auberon Waugh.

Yesterday, Mr Waugh, editor of The Literary Review, said any animosity had been overplayed. "I was not a colossal fan of his but he gave lots of pleasure to a lot of people," he said. "I always found him a bit precious but I defer to him for keeping going for such a long time and bringing pleasure to a lot of people."

While his novels were generally well appreciated by reviewers, in more recent years it was a collection of his journals that created the most interest. Throughout them he sprayed a stream of acidic comments about his contemporaries: Laurie Lee was "utterly unreadable", Graham Greene "absurdly overrated", while Virginia Woolf was a "dreadful woman ... humourless, envious, spiteful".

Powell, who had two sons, moved to Somerset in 1952 where he and his wife, Lady Violet Pakenham, lived in the Regency country house, The Chantry. It was there that he died, his wife of 66 years at his side. "He had suffered a series of strokes in recent years and had been rather immobile but it was something he bore with great fortitude," she said. "It is very sad. That is all I can say."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
    France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

    Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

    Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
    'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

    Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

    Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing