19 MARCH 1965, Page 23

A House and its Heads

Bowen's Court. By Elizabeth Bowen. (Long- mans, 42s.) FIRST published in 1942, Miss Bowen's account of her family's connection with Ireland, which stretches over three centuries, is the sort of thing that used to be compiled by one's grand- uncle and printed for private circulation; but Miss Bowen is a writer, so that her act of familial piety has a larger significance. The story begins with the Cromwellian Colonel Bowen's arrival in 1649. although. the house one reads about was not built until 1775—a good, solid, uncompromis- ing Georgian affair, set in the rolling limestone country of north-east Cork, between the Black- water and the Ballyhoura Mountains.

BoWen's Court failed by thirteen years to cele- brate its bicentenary. Miss Bowen returned to live there in 1952, but circumstances compelled her to sell it seven years later. The purchaser found it an uneconomical proposition, and in 1962 the house was demolished. The best pages in this book, which would otherwise have re- mained a quiet family chronicle like hundreds of others, albeit more gracefully written, are those added by Miss Bowen to the present edition. Since 1942 her husband has died and the home she loved has been destroyed. During her seven years as chatelaine she entertained in- numerable lively guests who mingled happily with the family ghosts, and in her proudly serene final paragraph she gently dismisses any need for rash sympathy: There is a sort of perpetuity about livingness, and it is part of the character of Bowen's Court to be, in sometimes its silent way, very much alive.