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Malcolm Lowry

A guide to accessing materials by and about the 20th century writer Malcolm Lowry.

Malcolm Lowry Biography

Malcolm Lowry passport photo.
Malcolm Lowry Passport Photo
BC 1614-020

Clarence Malcolm Boden Lowry was born on July 28, 1909, in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England, to parents Arthur Lowry and Evelyn Boden Lowry. He was the youngest of their four sons, preceded by brothers Russell, Wilfrid, and Stuart Lowry.

From 1924 to 1927, Lowry attended the Leys Public School, and it was here his writing career began. He published several short stories, among other non-fiction writing, in the school’s publication, the Leys Fortnightly. After graduating from the Leys School, Lowry joined the crew of a merchant ship bound for Asia and the subcontinent; while he only worked on the S.S. Pyrrhus for six months, the experience formed the foundation for his first book, Ultramarine. After his brief career at sea, Lowry attended Cambridge University, graduating in 1932 with a Bachelor’s degree in English.

Lowry traveled for several months in France and Spain during 1933. He met his first wife, Jan Gabrial, during this tour while in Spain visiting Conrad Aiken. Lowry’s first book, Ultramarine, was also published in this year. In early 1934, Lowry and Gabrial were married, and the couple moved from continental Europe to the United States where, between 1934 and late 1936, they would live in several cities, including New York City, Los Angeles, and San Diego. In late 1936, they settled in Cuernavaca, Mexico, where Lowry began work on his second and more famous novel, Under the Volcano. Lowry remained in Mexico until July 1938, though his relationship and cohabitation with Gabrial ended in late 1937 (they were not formally divorced until 1940). In July 1938, Lowry left Mexico for Los Angeles, where he stayed for most of a year; during this stay in the United States, he met second wife Margerie Bonner Lowry. Lowry left Los Angeles for Dollarton, British Columbia, Canada, in July 1939 and was joined soon after by Margerie.

Malcolm and Margerie Lowry on the dock at Dollarton.
Malcolm and Margerie Lowry on the dock at Dollarton
BC 1614-475

Malcolm and Margerie Lowry resided primarily in Dollarton between 1940 and 1954,with short excursions to the United States, Mexico, and Europe throughout. During the Dollarton years, Lowry completed work on and published his second book, Under the Volcano, in 1947, and began work on and published many short stories, poems, and essays. Lowry’s third novel, October Ferry to Gabriola, a short story collection titled Hear Us O Lord From Heaven Thy Dwelling Place, and fourth novel, Dark as the Grave Wherein my Friend is Laid, were also begun during the Dollarton years, though all would be completed and published posthumously through the efforts of Margerie. The Lowry’s left Dollarton for the final time in August 1954 and travelled through the United States, from Los Angeles to New York City, back to Europe; late 1954 and early 1955 were spent in Italy before the couple returned to Lowry’s birth country, England, where they settled in Ripe, Sussex. Lowry and Margerie remained in England until Lowry’s death on June 27, 1957.


Malcolm Lowry at UBC

UBC began collecting materials related to Malcolm Lowry with the first deposit of his papers with Rare Books and Special Collections by his widow, Margerie Lowy, in 1961. Since that initial deposit, UBC has collected published and archival materials by and about Malcolm Lowry from a variety of friends and family of the Lowrys, Lowry scholars and collectors, and auctions. The breadth and depth of UBC’s collection of Malcolm Lowry materials draws scholars and enthusiasts from around the world. Prominent among them is UBC's own Professor Emeritus Dr. Sherrill E. Grace, who published the collected letters of Malcolm Lowry in her book, Sursum Corda!: The Collected Letters of Malcolm Lowry. UBC has also sent representatives to several Malcolm Lowry conferences, including the 1984 London Conference on Malcolm Lowry.

Malcolm Lowry, Margerie, and friends at Dollarton.
Malcolm Lowry, Margerie, and friends at Dollarton
BC 1614-669

UBC’s Malcolm Lowry holdings are divided between the circulating collections of the UBC Library, UBC Open Collections, Rare Books and Special Collections, and University Archives. In the Library's circulating collection, one can find published works by Malcolm Lowry, including Under the Volcano and his collected letters, published works of criticism about Lowry’s works. UBC Open Collections holds a collection of theses and dissertations pertaining to Malcolm Lowry’s life and works. RBSC holds the Malcolm Lowry Manuscripts Collection and several other collections, fonds, and papers relating to Lowry. RBSC also holds Lowry’s Personal Library Collection, as well as a small collection of published works by Lowry, including a clothbound hardcover first edition of Ultramarine, which are too rare, fragile, or valuable to be in regular circulation.


Resources About Lowry

Library Collection Highlights