Henry Miller (1891-1980)



      It is surely not necessary to introduce Henry Miller. But his special relationship to John Cowper is perhaps not too well known. Their first meeting is mentioned in JCP in New York, but the exact date is not known, somewhere around 1916-1917, and probably at Cooper Union, according to John Cowper.
      Powys had a lasting influence on Miller's writing style, on his way of incorporating literature. Thus Powys wrote to a young man who had just written his first "fan" letter to him:
My dear Ron Hall your letter is a marvel. I've not only never had one in the least like it but I've never seen one like it. I do thank you for it, Ron, from what's left of my heart in my old age. I feel just as you do about Henry Miller. He was a boy... when we met in New York and let me tell you Ron and you will easily believe it that his sudden quite recent not a year ago it was re-appearance in my life, tho' only in our letters to each other, has been the most exciting stimulus and the most proud delight of my old age — Yes! I feel towards him exactly as you do though I am half a century older than you; but I am still just the same sort of hero-worshipper of the kind of geniuses that have that sort of cosmic spirit that is so hard to define as I was when I was your age.
John Cowper Powys, Letters to Henry Miller, Introduction, Village Press, 1975)

(NB: the French edition of this book, Correspondance Privée, ed. Criterion, 1994, is interesting because it includes in reply the 42 letters by Henry Miller, which the translator of these Letters, Nordine Haddad, found in the National Library of Wales.)

      In one of the very first letters they exchanged, one can see already the confidence and interest John Cowper felt for Henry Miller:
Dear Henry and I do beg you to say my dear John, I have already got deep into your writings tho' in the manner of a weak-winged old bird flying low over the waves and every now and then disappearing in them and then flying again & then just floating & letting the waves carry me up & down.(May 22, 1950, Letters to Henry Miller)


Now that I have found him again, now that I hear from him regularly, it is as if I had recovered my youth. He is still "the master" to me. His words, even today, have the power of bewitching me. At this very moment I am deep in his Autobiography, a most nourishing, stimulating book of 652 close-packed pages. It is the sort of biography I revel in, being utterly frank, truthful, sincere, and containing a superabundant wealth of trivia (most illuminating!) as well as the major events, or turning points, in one's life. (Henry Miller, The Books in my Life)
Henry Miller by Carl van Vechten
(American History Collection, Library of Congress)

      The two men met again once, when Miller, accompanied by Eve, came to see John Cowper and Phyllis at the end of June 1953 at Corwen, during their tour of Europe. And Ron Hall, the "young fan" mentioned by John Cowper, reminiscing about this meeting exclaims:
What differences! What kinship! They share 'an ATLANTEAN secret— perhaps that of a much deeper comradeship', (words of a letter today from the friend who keeps me informed about Henry Miller) 'the awareness inside both of their skulls, one Iberian, and one Germanic! of a listening-in to the great heartbeat of the cosmic mystery — All or Nothing — and the realisation perhaps in their daily musings of the absurdity of catching the mystery of IT all in words and yet passing clues, indications to those who from every conceivable background had sensed the magical transmutation possibilities in themselves and could nod and understand the rumblings, the fumblings, the stumblings of their most articulate participants in the vaudeville-burlesque of the whole cosmogonic show!
(John Cowper Powys, Letters to Henry Miller, Introduction)