Eden Phillpotts was born in Rajputana, India, on 4 November 1862. He came to southwest England to live at age three when his father, Captain Henry Phillpotts, died in 1865. His mother, Adelaide Waters Phillpotts, saw that Phillpotts received an education in local schools. In his free time, Phillpotts explored the countryside of Dartmoor in what was the beginning of a lifelong love for the area.
Traveling to London at age seventeen, Phillpotts worked as a clerk for an insurance company and found a passion for theatre. His first ambition was to become an actor, but he soon realized he wasn't suited for it. Instead he decided to become a writer. His first publication was a poem called "The Witches' Cauldron," soon followed by various articles, reviews, and short stories (some of which dealt with his beloved Dartmoor). He also began working on plays and novels. Within a few years of leisure-time writing, Phillpotts was earning a respectable sum from his works.
He continued his employment, though after ten years in the insurance company, Phillpotts went to work editing for a weekly periodical, Black and White. This he did for only three days of the week. The other four were for writing. In 1891 he published Children of the Mist, the first of what would eventually be eighteen Dartmoor novels, called the Dartmoor Cycle. His love of Dartmoor manifests in his work, and his carefully detailed descriptions of life and social issues of the region caused his biographer Thomas Moult to say, "What Thomas Hardy did for Dorset, Phillpotts did for Dartmoor."
Phillpotts wrote other books as well, including historical and detective novels. Over a fifty-year period he produced three to four books a year. He became acquainted with many other authors of his day, including Arthur Conan Doyle, Henry James, and George Bernard Shaw, and collaborated with some of them, including Arnold Bennett and Jerome K. Jerome. Despite the literary culture in London, however, Phillpotts returned home after twenty years to the region so strongly characterized in his best-known novels.
It is estimated that Phillpotts wrote 250 books, articles, and plays in his long lifetime, including twenty-two volumes of poetry. He lived in Dartmoor for sixty more years, writing much of the time. He died on 29 December 1960 at his home near Exeter and his ashes were interred on Dartmoor.