Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

Only by Failure: The Many Faces of the Impossible Life of Terence Gray (Salt Modern Lives) Paperback – 1 Nov 2004

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

See all formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price
New from Used from
click to open popover

Special offers and product promotions

Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.

Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Salt Publishing; 1st Trade Paperback edition (1 Nov. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844710041
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844710041
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,652,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • Would you like to tell us about a lower price?
    If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?

  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product description


Absolutely invaluable for anyone interested in theatre of the inter-war period. The family background and detailing of Gray's struggles at school, and his sudden prowess as an Egyptologist, are not without interest or relevance, and nor is his transformation in later life into Wei Wu Wei, a distinguished Zen Buddhist. (Steve Nicholson English Studies XIV Modern Literature )

Paul Cornwell's full-length and readable biography is a very welcome arrival. (Steve Nicholson English Studies XIV Modern Literature )

Anglo-Irish plutocrat, the owner of Zarathustra, the horse that won the Gold Cup at Ascot in 1956, a recognized yet mysterious figure on that account in the Kildare Club and the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, a sage who now has international fame under the name Wei Wu Wei, one of the leading lights of the theatre over in Britain under the name Terence Gray, a person who was half-forgotten in Ireland and in Britain until a biography was published last year under the marvellous title Only by Failure: the Many Faces of the Impossible Life of Terence Gray. (Gabriel Rosenstock The Irish Times )


Only by creativity and the risk of failure can one succeed. This book is the first attempt to trace the life of Terence Gray, a man who always wanted to hide behind masks and pseudonyms, whose death, in 1987 at the age of 93, was (therefore) not noted despite a life of great variety and achievement. He is only known today by brief references in theatre books and under his pseudonym of Wei Wu Wei. The son of Irish aristocrats, Gray was born in Suffolk and came to Wandlebury near Cambridge before leaving for short spells at Eton and Magdalene College, Cambridge. He was a Red Cross ambulance-driver in France and Italy and an air-mechanic for the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War. He became an Egyptologist, historian and author of plays during the Twenties before opening the Festival Theatre in Cambridge in 1926 with a sensational production of the Oresteia in Egyptian-style on a redesigned open stage and with the new electric lighting from Germany and with choreography by Ninette de Valois. The Royal Ballet of today has its roots in performances of the de Valois school and her arrangement of movement for plays at the Festival Theatre.

Over seven years Gray achieved an international reputation, until eventually his little empire crumbled, culminating with the conflict between his own views and those of the student critics of the Cambridge Review. At just thirty-eight his creative life seemed to come to an end and, humiliated by a satirical revue put on by the Cambridge Footlights, he departed for the South of France to run the family vineyard and the racehorses which were kept in England and Ireland. His horse Zarathrustra won the Ascot Gold Cup in 1956 and the following year he married a Russian princess from Georgia. His new life really began in 1958 when he looked up at the stars and decided to become a mystic. Under the name of Wei Wu Wei, Gray published the first of eight books in his own personal style of Zen Buddhism.

See all Product description

Customer reviews

Share your thoughts with other customers
See all 1 customer reviews

Top customer reviews

23 April 2014
Format: Paperback|Verified Purchase

Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com

Amazon.com: 2.1 out of 5 stars 2 reviews
1.0 out of 5 starsDisappointing
28 November 2014 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback|Verified Purchase
9 people found this helpful.
3.0 out of 5 starsThe person behind Wei Wu Wei
10 February 2018 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback

Where's My Stuff?

Delivery and Returns

Need Help?