Spender, Sir Stephen


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Spender, Sir Stephen,

1909–95, English poet and critic, b. London. His early poetry—like that of W. H. AudenAuden, W. H.
(Wystan Hugh Auden) , 1907–73, Anglo-American poet, b. York, England, educated at Oxford. A versatile, vigorous, and technically skilled poet, Auden ranks among the major literary figures of the 20th cent.
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, C. Day LewisDay Lewis, C.
(Cecil Day Lewis), 1904–72, English author, b. Ireland. While he was still at Oxford, he became associated with a group of leftist poets led by W. H. Auden. After graduation he taught at various schools until 1935 and then decided to devote himself to writing.
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, and Louis MacNeiceMacNeice, Louis
, 1907–63, Irish poet b. Belfast. Educated at Oxford, he became a classical scholar and teacher and later was a producer and traveled the world for the British Broadcasting Corporation.
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, with whom he became associated at Oxford—was inspired by social protest. His autobiography, World within World (1951), is a re-creation of much of the political and social atmosphere of the 1930s. A member of the political left wing during this early period, he was one of those who wrote of their disillusionment with communism in the essay collection The God that Failed (1949). His passionate and lyrical verse, filled with images of the modern industrial world yet intensely personal, is collected in such volumes as Twenty Poems (1930), The Still Centre (1939), Poems of Dedication (1946), Collected Poems, 1928–1953 (1955), Selected Poems (1964), The Generous Days (1971), and Collected Poems 1928–1985 (1986). The Destructive Element (1935), The Creative Element (1953), The Making of a Poem (1955), and Love–Hate Relations (1974) contain literary and social criticism. His other works include short stories, the novel The Backward Son (1940), translations such as Schiller's Mary Stuart (1959), and sociological studies like The Year of the Young Rebels (1969). He was coeditor of the magazines Horizon with Cyril Connolly (1939–41) and Encounter (1953–66). Spender was knighted in 1983.

Bibliography

See his Journals, 1939–83 (1986, ed. by J. Goldsmith) and Letters to Christopher (1980, ed. by L. Bartlett); A House in St. John's Wood, memoir by his son M. Spender (2015); biography by J. Sutherland (2004); studies by A. K. Weatherhead (1975), S. N. Pandey (1982), and S. Sternlicht (1992).