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Spender, Stephen, 1909-1905

The collection of books and manuscripts by Stephen (Harold) Spender (1909-95), the English poet, critic and editor, was purchased by the Ransom Center directly from the author over a number of years, beginning in July 1960. Additions to the collection were made from the T.E. Manley Library.

The collection consist of manuscript materials for 245 separately titled works. The majority of the manuscripts are of individual poems, but there are also diaries, prose notebooks and works of criticism. Among the more extensive manuscripts are The Dead Island; Ruins and Visions; and Trial of a Judge. The manuscript materials are recorded in detail in H.B. Kulkarni. Stephen Spender Works and Criticism: An Annotated Bibliography (1976).

Letters by Spender total 480, including those to George Barker (14 letters); Elizabeth Bowen (12); Dorothy Brett (18); John Lehmann (112); Lady Ottoline Morrell (27); and Edith Sitwell (44). Among the 194 letters written to Spender are those from Walter de la Mare (15); John Lehmann (100); and Virginia Woolf (20). The A.D. Peters Literary Agency files contain 2,769 pieces of correspondence and 93 financial statements concerning Spender's literary activities for the years 1943 to 1963.

The collection of books by and about Spender totals approximately 200 volumes and includes a copy of his scarce first book, Nine Experiments: Poems Written at the Age of Eighteen (1928), one of about 30 copies printed by Spender on a hand press. The copy in the Ransom Center is in its original wrappers and was previously owned by Spender's sister-in-law, Erika Spender. Books by Spender include numerous presentation copies from the libraries of Elizabeth Bowen, Nancy Cunard, Wyndham Lewis, Frederic Prokosch, Anne Sexton, Edith Sitwell, Evelyn Waugh and Virginia Woolf.

The Iconography Collection holds portraits of Spender by Feliks Topolski and Robert Buhler (1969).

For additional materials by or relating to Spender, see the following collections: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.; Elizabeth Hardwick; David Hare; Robert Guy Howarth; Michael Josselson; Francis Henry King; The London Review; Hugo Manning; Nimbus; Derek Parker; John Pudney; and Eric Walter White.

Spender, Stephen, 1909-1905

The bulk of the collection (2 boxes of papers) consists of letters from Spender to Mary Elliott between July 1939 and February 1952. Also included are letters to Elliott from Inez Spender (Spender's first wife), Charles Madge and Kathleen Madge. The correspondence relates mainly to Spender's estrangement and eventual divorce from Inez Spender, although there is mention of conditions in wartime Britain as well. Includes 6 typescript poems of Spender and 31 typescript poems of Charles Madge. Arranged and inventoried.

A supplement to this collection consists of letters (Jan. 1996 through April 1996) to and from David Elliott, son of Mary Elliott and donor of the collection, regarding his recollections of life as a young child in Patterdale, England. The David Elliott correspondence illumines relationships among the persons represented in the Spender collection, providing a helpful context. Arranged.


A literary e-journal from Random House

Vol XI No 1: Auden, Spender and MacNeice (Spring 2000)

Stephen Spender (editor 1929, 1930) (OCEL) (OCTCP)

Poet, critic, editor and translator; at Oxford, secretary of the University English Club. Hand-printed a booklet of Auden's early poems, now a rare collector's item, as is his own first book of Twenty Poems, a limited edition printed by Blackwell's in his final undergraduate year.

1928: "Quixote on Time"; "Voyage"
1929: "Marston, dropping it in the grate, broke his pipe"; "Lying awake at night"; "Hearing from its cage"; "Acts thrust beyond the boundary of mere wishing"
1930: "Souvenir du Londres"; "The Swan"; "The Faces of Living Friends I see on Water"; "Now You've no Work, Like a Rich Man"; "Because I Love You So"
I.3: Interview by Peter McDonald
XI.1: Chapter X of Instead of Death [1928 novel]
XI.1: "Introduction" by Natasha Spender to Instead of Death by Stephen Spender

Europe Has a Mission

From a lecture on Europe given by Stephen Spender in Vienna, 1956.

Stephen Spender with Al Alvarez

-- The role of creative-writing courses
-- Twentieth-century English poetry
-- The poet with a sacred mission
-- Characteristics of the American poet
-- Friendship with WH Auden

[Download (MPEG1 - 7.29 M) or view instant streaming options.]

Spender's Lives, by Ian Hamilton

Excerpts from an article by Hamilton, in The New Yorker, February 28, 1994, hosted on a University of Pennsylvania site concerning "The Literature & Culture of the American 1950s".

For further information about the history or aims of the Trust, please contact:

Robina Pelham Burn, Director
Stephen Spender Memorial Trust
20 Kimbolton Road, Bedford, MK40 2NR

The director can also be contacted by email at:

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