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Malcolm Lowry


Malcolm Lowry was born in 1909 in New Brighton, Cheshire. After leaving school, he sailed as a cabin boy to the Far East and used this as basis for his first novel – Ultramarine. It was on this trip that he started seriously drinking, an affliction that was to remain with him for the rest of his life. After spending some time in Bonn – where he discovered German expressionist cinema, which was to appear in Under the Volcano – he returned to London to study for his Cambridge entrance exams. It was here that he first discovered Conrad Aiken. He persuaded Aiken to be his tutor and he went to Boston, where he spent the summer with Aiken. In October he went up to Cambridge where he studied English, though spent much of his time writing Ultramarine, which was accepted as his thesis. It was to be published by Chatto and Windus but the manuscript was lost. It was eventually published by Cape in 1933 but had little success.

After university he lived a bohemian and alcoholic life, supported by his father, till he met Jan Gabrial, an American, whom he married in 1933. She soon left him to return to her parents in New York. He followed her but matters did not improve and he even spent two weeks at Bellevue psychiatric hospital, which became the basis for his posthumously published novel, Lunar Caustic. The couple went to Los Angeles to find work as script writers but, when that didn’t work, they went to Mexico, ending up in Cuernavaca. Lowry was by now working on his masterpiece, Under the Volcano, but also suffering from his alcohol problems and marital problems. Jan finally left in 1937. His father helped clear his debts and he moved to Los Angeles, where he met Margerie Bonner. They moved to Canada and finally married when he was divorced from Jan. This was one of the few times in his adult life that he was not drinking. He kept on working on Under the Volcano, though it was rejected by various publishers. After their house burned down, they moved back to Los Angeles, where he started drinking again. They moved to Mexico before returning to Canada. Meanwhile, Under the Volcano had found a publisher. Lowry was drinking heavily but the couple travelled around Europe. Meanwhile, his health was deteriorating and he spent some time in a psychiatric hospital. He was still writing but did not complete another novel before his death in 1957 in England from an overdose of gin and barbiturates.

Books about Malcolm Lowry

Gordon Bowker: Pursued by Furies: A Life of Malcolm Lowry
Douglas Day: Lowry, a Biography
Jan Gabrial: Inside the Volcano: My Life with Malcolm Lowry

Other links

Malcolm Lowry
Through a glass darkly (his life and work)
A rare eruption (his life and work)
Malcolm Lowry’s Mysterious Death (1957)
Day of the Dead (Malcolm Lowry’s mysterious demise)
Volcano: An Inquiry into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry (a film of his life)
Malcolm Lowry (he’s a rock band)
Malcolm Lowry (he’s a cocktail!)


1933 Ultramarine
1947 Under the Volcano
1961 Hear Us O Lord from Heaven Thy Dwelling Place
1962 Selected Poems
1962 Collected Poetry of Malcolm Lowry
1968 Lunar Caustic
1968 Dark as the Grave wherein my Friend is Laid
1970 October Ferry to Gabriola
1976 Notes On A Screenplay For F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender Is The Night
2007 The Voyage That Never Ends
2015 In Ballast to the White Sea