Eden Philpotts Bibliography Template

Eden Henry Phillpotts
Born4 November 1862
Mount Abu, Rajasthan, India
Died29 December 1960
Broad Clyst, Devon

Eden Phillpotts (4 November 1862 – 29 December 1960) was an English author, poet and dramatist. He was born in Mount Abu, India, was educated in Plymouth, Devon, and worked as an insurance officer for 10 years before studying for the stage and eventually becoming a writer.[1]


Eden Phillpotts was a great-nephew of Henry Phillpotts, Bishop of Exeter. His father Henry Phillpotts was a son of the bishop’s younger brother Thomas Phillpotts. James Surtees Phillpotts the reforming headmaster of Bedford School was his second cousin.[2]

Eden Phillpotts was born on 4 November 1862 at Mount Abu in Rajasthan. His father Henry was an officer in the Indian Army, while his mother Adelaide was the daughter of an Indian Civil Service officer posted in Madras, George Jenkins Waters.[3]

Henry Phillpotts died in 1866, leaving Adelaide a widow at the age of 21. With her three small sons, of whom Eden was the eldest, she returned to England and settled in Plymouth.[4]

Phillpotts was educated at Mannamead School in Plymouth. At school he showed no signs of a literary bent. In 1879, aged 17, he left home and went to London to earn his living. He found a job as a clerk with the Sun Fire Office.[3][4]

Phillpotts’ ambition was to be an actor and he attended evening classes at a drama school for two years. He came to the conclusion that he would never make a name as an actor but might have success as a writer. In his spare time out of office hours he proceeded to create a stream of small works which he was able to sell. In due course he left the insurance company to concentrate on his writing, while also working part-time as assistant editor for the weekly Black and White Magazine.[3][4]

Eden Phillpotts maintained a steady output of three or four books a year for the next half century. He produced poetry, short stories, novels, plays and mystery tales. Many of his novels were about rural Devon life and some of his plays were distinguished by their effective use of regional dialect.

Eden Phillpotts died at his home in Broadclyst near Exeter, Devon, on 29 December 1960.


Phillpotts was for many years the President of the Dartmoor Preservation Association and cared passionately about the conservation of Dartmoor. He was an agnostic and a supporter of the Rationalist Press Association.[5]

Phillpotts was a friend of Agatha Christie, who was an admirer of his work and a regular visitor to his home. Jorge Luis Borges was another admirer.[6] Borges mentioned him numerous times, wrote at least two reviews of his novels, and included him in his "Personal Library", a collection of works selected to reflect his personal literary preferences.[7]

Philpotts appears to have had a long incestuous relationship with his daughter Adelaide. In a 1976 interview for a book about her father, Adelaide describes an incestuous relationship with him that she says lasted from the age of five or six until her early thirties, when he remarried. When she herself finally married at the age of 55 her father never forgave her, and never communicated with her again.[8]


Phillpotts wrote a great many books with a Dartmoor setting. One of his novels, Widecombe Fair, inspired by an annual fair at the village of Widecombe-in-the-Moor, provided the scenario for his comic play The Farmer's Wife. It went on to become a silent movie of the same name, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and filmed in 1927. (The cast included Jameson Thomas, Lillian Hall-Davis, Gordon Harker and Gibb McLaughlin.)

He co-wrote several plays with his daughter Adelaide Phillpotts,[9]The Farmer's Wife (1924) and Yellow Sands (1926);[10] she later claimed their relationship was incestuous.[11][8] Eden is best known as the author of many novels, plays and poems about Dartmoor. His Dartmoor cycle of 18 novels and two volumes of short stories still has many avid readers despite the fact that many titles are out of print.

Philpotts also wrote a series of novels, each set against the background of a different trade or industry. Titles include: Brunel's Tower (a pottery) and Storm in a Teacup (hand-papermaking). Among his other works is The Grey Room, the plot of which is centered on a haunted room in an English manor house. He also wrote a number of other mystery novels, both under his own name and the pseudonym Harrington Hext. These include: The Thing at Their Heels, The Red Redmaynes, The Monster, The Clue from the Stars, and The Captain's Curio. The Human Boy[12] was a collection of schoolboy stories in the same genre as Rudyard Kipling's Stalky & Co., though different in mood and style. Late in his long writing career he wrote a few books of interest to science fiction and fantasy readers, the most noteworthy being Saurus, which involves an alien reptilian observing human life.

Eric Partridge praised the immediacy and impact of his dialect writing.[13]




  • Three plays: The shadows; The mother; The secret woman (1913)
  • Circe's Island and The Girl & The Faun (1925)
  • The Complete Human Boy. Comprising "The Human Boy," "The Human Boy Again," "The Human Boy and the War," "The Human Boy's Diary," "From the Angle of Seventeen," Etc. (1930)
  • West Country Plays (1933) [Buy a Broom and A Cup of Happiness.]
  • The Book of Avis: A Trilogy Comprising Bred in the Bone, Witch's Cauldron, A Shadow Passes [1936]


Further reading[edit]

  • Day, Kenneth F. (1981). Eden Phillpotts on Dartmoor. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. ISBN 0-7153-8118-0. 
  • The New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature, George Watson, Ian R. Willison CUP Archive, 1987

External links[edit]

  1. ^"PHILLPOTTS, Eden". Who's Who. Vol. 59. 1907. p. 1396. 
  2. ^Phillpotts Genealogy, Percy Phillpotts, 1910 (manuscript in family possession)
  3. ^ abcDictionary of National Biography, article by Thomas Moult
  4. ^ abcEden Phillpotts, From the Angle of 88, 1952
  5. ^"...among the honorary associates of the [Rationalist Press] Association, past and present, are distinguished names such as...Eden Phillpotts." Quoted in Lord Snell, Men, Movements And Myself (p. 156), J.M. Dent and Sons, 1936.
  6. ^Jorge Luis Borges: Conversations. University Press of Mississippi, 1998. Page 218.
  7. ^"Jorge Luis Borges Personal Library Collection". personallibrarieslibrary.com. Retrieved 28 February 2018. 
  8. ^ abJames Y. Dayananda, ‘Phillpotts , (Mary) Adelaide Eden (1896–1993)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Sept 2012 accessed 9 May 2017
  9. ^Head, Dominic (ed.) (2006). The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English. Cambridge University Press. p. 868. ISBN 978-0-521-83179-6. 
  10. ^I. Ousby ed., The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English (1995) p. 735
  11. ^Johnson, George M. (1995). Late-Victorian and Edwardian British Novelists: First series. Gale Research Incorporated. ISBN 9780810357143. 
  12. ^Philpotts, Eden; The Human Boy; Pub: Harper & Brothers, 1899.
  13. ^Eric Partridge, Usage and Abusage (1964) p. 96
  14. ^Phillpotts, Eden (1900). Sons of the Morning. Putnam. Retrieved 2008-06-17. 
  15. ^Eden Phillpotts; Adelaide Eden Phillpotts; Adelaide Ross (1932). The Good Old Days: A Comedy in Three Acts. Duckworth. 

            In addition to providing its inhabitants with land for agriculture and pasturing, Dartmoor has been the Southwest of England’s historic hub for industrial work –in the form of metal extraction– for thousands of years.  The lengthy history of mining, particularly tinning, as part of the landscape and culture on Dartmoor has left significant impact on its inhabitants, as is evidenced in Sabine Baring–Gould’s work Dartmoor Idylls.  Baring-Gould’s stories are steeped in the country’s extraction history and repeatedly references both physical features of the landscape involved with the extraction of tin and the lives of miners.  Even today the ruins of blowing houses– the buildings that housed the melting process by which tin ore was smelted– remain on the moors, as does folklore associated with the industry, such as Baring-Gould recorded.  Throughout Idylls, specifically in the stories “Little Dixie” and “Jolly Lane Cot”, which depict details about a miner’s life and travail, Baring-Gould’s writing, drawn from folk stories and cultural history, subtly emphasizes the importance of mining as a shaper of both Dartmoor’s people and the land itself. 

     Tin has been of particular importance to all of western civilization since prehistoric times for its alloying properties: when melted and mixed with copper, it forms the alloy bronze, and its extraction and use brought about a major development in human history– the Bronze Age.  It is believed that the tin–rich land, and the trade industry which prospered based on it, is what made the Southwestern part of England appealing to the Romans.  Written record of tinning in the Southwest dates from as early as 1198, evidenced in a document on the conditions of Stanneries– the districts into which Devon and Cornwall were divided that contained tin mining and smelting facilities under jurisdiction of the Stannary Courts (Worth, 272).  These Stannary Courts were developed in the 13th century to deal specifically with tin mining concerns and codes with a  separate legislative system granted to Devon miners by the crown; they remained active as an entity separate from Common Law until 1836 (Brooke, 9). 


            Despite the size of the districts, which split mining in all of Devon and Cornwall into four parts based on these courts, tin was really only mined on Dartmoor, and therefore the Stanneries were in towns on the moor– Chagford, Ashburton, Plympton, and Tavistock.  The power and importance these towns had for the economic wealth on Dartmoor, grown out of the mining industries, was so strong that they were and continue to be the largest towns on the Moor.  In each of these towns, after tin and other metal from the district was brought up and smelted in the town’s blowing house, it was taken for ‘coinage’, weighed and a percentage of its worth was taxed to the crown dependent on that weight, a tax that was paid by its owner (Newman, 8).  Other places important to the tin industry on the Dartmoor were Crockerntor, an outcropping of granite in the middle of Dartmoor where ‘Great Courts’ or parliaments of Stannary Law were held, and the Stannary gaol in Lydford. 


            Most of these place names appear frequently in Dartmoor Idylls: for example,Tavistock is the setting of “Goosie-Vair”; “Snaily House” begins at a crossing in the road “that crosses Dartmoor from Moretonhampstead [N.B. where a mine stood] to Tavistock… one branch goes north-east to Moreton, the other south-east to Ashburton,” (Baring-Gould 69);  “Little Dixie” is set near Lydford, “the nearest village with a church” (125), and in “Jonas Coaker”, Jonas was “the rate collector for the parish of Lydford, the largest parish in England, that comprises within its bounds the major portion of Dartmoor, in fact nearly 57,000 acres.” (151).


            Extracting the tin from the land of Dartmoor left some notable changes to the landscape, as well as the amassing of folkloric names and tales over time.  Underground mining likely began around 1500, but one of the primary means of extracting metals, dating back to prehistoric tinning, was not mining but streamworking or streaming.  Deposits of tin oxide, called cassiterite, dislodged by the powerful weather of the moors, were transported and separated out into the gravel of the river beds; tinners would sift this gravel through running water, which pulled off the lighter bits of rock and left the notably heavier tin ore behind, (Newman 12).  In order to stream for tin, the ground near a portion of river lowest to sea level, usually chosen next to a steep incline, had to be changed and broken up, so that the water spilt across it and ran off a breast– the ledge off of which the water flowed–in such a way as to wash away the light sediment and leave the ore behind.   The streamers would then toss the left over unwanted sediment, or stent, into linear heaps to the side of their small flooded section of ground,(Hitchen and Drew).  




In Baring-Gould’s “John and Joan”, it is one of these medieval stream works, “‘Old Men’s Washings,’ a gully where, in ancient times, tinners had streamed for metal” (32), which would have been a dangerous obstacle for Joan to avoid during her trek through the snowstorm.  In “Jolly Lane Cot”, George Hannaford is a worker at a mine in Swincombe, which had tin streamworks along the Swincombe River.  In “Little Dixie”, Young Oliver leaves Doe Tor to work at Mary Tavy on the moor, a mine which “yielded silver-lead” (126), or lead, silver and zinc and was worked up until 1870.   The engine house of Mary Tavy still stands on the open moor as a striking testament to the mines there, as do ancient tracks which cut into the land: “Not all the streams encountered [on Dartmoor] may prove natural watercourses; one which contours a hillside is far more likely to be a leat cut either for man’s immediate needs or for industrial purposes.  Following such a leat may bring one to an abandoned mine….” (Harris, 14).  In fact many of the tracks for hiking or driving across the open moorland are remnants of old tinners’ routes.   Baring-Gould’s Dartmoor Idylls is thus subtly saturated with the history of mining, which once granted Dartmoor industrial power; despite the pastoral and even rustic sense his collection of stories imparts, the influence this once-major industry had on both the physical landscape and its occupants is undeniable.  Mining in Idylls is still a strong choice professionally for several of Baring-Gould’s characters, though even as he was recording these stories active mining on Dartmoor was sucking its last gasps.  In his archaic, almost anachronistic portrayal of life on Dartmoor, Baring-Gould does homage to the presence of cultural history from the Moor rather than its changing present, but in that choice, has a rich tradition from which to draw– one that still endears itself to readers now.


© Copyright Anna Hale 2007



Dartmoor Productivity

In medieval times tin was still in great demand throughout England for its crucial role in making pewter, the alloy of tin and lead, which had become a highly desirable material for domestic house wares, such as cups, bowls, and utensils, (Newman, 6).  Tinning on Dartmoor reached its peak yield around between 1520 and 1530: in 1524 564,288 pounds of tin were extracted! (Worth 287).  There was a sharp decline in the tin mining for the next 70 odd years, and during the 1640s, a time of Civil War in England, tinning stopped almost entirely.  Thereafter, only smaller amounts of tin were dug in Dartmoor except for one year, 1706, in which 123,636 pounds were brought up, (Worth 288).  There was a slight increase during the Napoleonic Wars period, coupled with the approaching industrial aged, due to innovations of plating iron with tin, but tinning on Dartmoor continued to dwindle.  In the 19th century tin was required with the development of canning foods, but Dartmoor was by this time no longer a center for its production: smelting on the moor was finished by the beginning of the 19th century, and in 1838 an Act was passed which abolished the need to pay dues on coinage, (Harris, 44).  No tin has been mined in Devon since 1930, due to the cheaper cost of imports from other global mines in places such as Malaysia (Ibid). 


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