Maurice Denton Welch was an English-American author and painter with a tragic destiny. An accident left him semi-invalid in his youth, and he subsequently died at the age of 33. Denton’s literary legacy is autobiographical. The extent to which Welch's work is autobiography or fiction has been much debated.
William S. Burroughs cited Welch as the writer who most influenced his work and dedicated his novel The Place of Dead Roads (1983) to him.
Maurice Denton Welch was born in Shanghai. His British father was a wealthy member of the business community. His American mother, née Rosalind Bassett, was a devout Christian Scientist. Denton’s early years were spent traveling with his mother. She remained a significant influence and presence in his creative output, despite her death from nephritis when Denton was eleven years old.
At the age of nine, he attended day school in England, and at the age of eleven, he began his hated boarding school education. Some of his school experiences are brightly described in short stories and Maiden Voyage (1943), his first novel.
Denton Welch had no intention of becoming a writer. In April 1933, Denton enrolled in Goldsmiths college to study art. But at age 20, Welch was hit by a car while cycling in July 1935.
As a result, he was seriously injured and temporarily paralyzed. Welch suffered from severe bladder pain and complications, as well as spinal tuberculosis, which eventually led to his early death.
Unable to return to his studies, Denton settled in the Kent countryside and started to write. His works drew the attention of contemporary literary celebs, most notably Edith Sitwell. Many of his short stories and essays have been published in various magazines.
Denton Welch is the author of three novels and several dozen short stories. His work is distinguished by his attention to the minutiae of life, particularly the English countryside during World War II. Some critics describe his prose as Proustian.
In 1951, English composer Howard Ferguson arranged Welch's five poems (included in A Last Sheaf) into a song cycle for voice and piano entitled Discovery.
The majority of his surviving art is held by the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas (which owns Denton’s copyright) and in private collections. However, a self-portrait hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London, and his oil painting “Harvest” hangs in the Tate Modern.