Glastonbury Romance, A
A Glastonbury Romance
the most widely read of John Cowper Powys's novels, first published in New York in 1932. Vividly pictorial and of a rich thematic and imaginative texture, the work runs to over 1,100 pages in standard editions. Some forty principal characters manifest the variousness of human life in its emotional, social, and, most importantly, spiritual aspects. As the book's central symbol, the Holy Grail denotes the essential substance of faith underlying all forms of religious belief. The narrative concerns events in Glastonbury following the founding by John Geard, a man with a ‘superhuman mania for heightened life’, of a spiritual cult fusing elements of paganism and Christianity. He is opposed by Philip Crow, whose pursuit of power is antithetical to all the Grail represents. The book ends with Crow's downfall and the death of Geard, who drowns in pursuit of higher levels of experience in the apocalyptic final chapter entitled ‘The Flood’. A Glastonbury Romance is highly regarded for the powerful combination of drama and sensitivity characterizing its emotional and psychological realism. Its metaphysical content, centring on the need for a singleness of vision encompassing all physical and spiritual experience, tends to provoke the vague rhetoric of mystical assertion which has been a factor in the decline of Powys's reputation.