Spender, Sir Stephen

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Spender, Sir Stephen

Sir Stephen Spender, 1909–95, English poet and critic, b. London. His early poetry—like that of W. H. Auden, C. Day Lewis, and Louis MacNeice, 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.

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).

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