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literary landscapes

The peaceful seclusion of our almost-untouched coastal valley attracts writers and artists who are inspired and urged into playfulness and creativity by its beauty and tranquillity.

Jack Butler Yeats (writer, artist, brother of W. B. Yeats) and his family;  Poet Laureate & author John Masefield; on the fringes of Bloomsbury, Beryl de Zoete - writer, dance critic, orientalist, traveller & translator who worked with Walter Spies in Indonesia and reputedly belly-danced for the King of Morocco.

Jack Butler Yeats, Irish Impressionist artist, writer & playwright and his wife Cottie, a Devon-born artist, lived in the valley for thirteen years and were visited by poets, writers, and artists.

Including John Masefield, future Poet Laureate, J.B. Yeats & Masefield shared a passion for tales of piracy, the sea, & nature.  Many of Masefield’s poems are dedicated to Yeats, some are dedicated to the valley itself.  Masefield’s children’s novel, Jim Davis, a tale of highwaymen, smugglers & derring-do is set here.

Notable visitors included W.B. Yeats and J.M. Synge (Playboy of The Western World), a key figure along with WB Yeats and Lady Gregory in the Irish literary renaissance.

In the 1950s, our Rose Cottage was owned by Beryl de Zoete.  On the fringes of the Bloomsbury Set, she lived with her partner, Arthur Waley, translator of Chinese and Japanese poetry and close friend of T.S. Eliot, at 50 Gordon Square near the Woolfs.  Like many of her Bloomsbury peers, they 'lived in Squares and loved in triangles'. 

Beryl was Oxford educated, independent minded, multilingual & a trained ballerina. She was close to the Elmhirsts of Dartington Hall near Totnes and helped establish their experimental School of Dance.  In the Thirties, Beryl helped bring Jewish dancers to Dartington Hall from Europe.  A writer, dance critic for national newspapers & dance ethnographer, she travelled alone when it was not usual, working with Walter Spies in documenting Balinese dancing.

As well as being the first translator of Italo Svevo’s novels, Beryl wrote too; her Dance and Magic Drama in Ceylon, is still the key text on Sri Lankan dance. 

Other Local Writers

Michael Morpurgo has written extensively about Devon events and landscapes in his novels.  Adolphus Tips is set around Slapton during Operation Tiger when the area was given six weeks to evacuate in 1943 before being used by British and American troops, using live ammunition, to rehearse for the D-Day landings.  Troops were based here in the valley.  They used its hills for assault practice.

AA Milne had a holiday cottage nearby, and poet Alice Oswald lives and writes in the Dart Valley.  And above the Dart at Greenway Agatha Christie wrote many of her detective novels. 


copyright © 2024 Christine Cooke
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