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Stephen Spender Trust archive programme

The archive programme has been overseen by Lady Spender (Stephen Spender’s widow), Professor John Sutherland, emeritus Lord Northcliffe Professor of English at University College London, who is Stephen Spender’s authorised biographer, and by Professor Warwick Gould, Director of the Institute of English Studies at the University of London.

Stephen Spender's archive, which will be joined in due course by Natasha Spender's archive, is available to readers in the University of Oxford's Bodleian Library. For more information about the Stephen Spender archive, please search the catalogue or

The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin also holds a substantial collection of Stephen Spender's manuscripts and correspondence.

Work to date

Essays and journalism

In May 2002 the Trust presented the British Library with a collection of Stephen Spender’s published prose. Representing around one million words of mainly essays and journalism, this collection covers 1924–94. It was compiled by postgraduates, financed by a grant from the British Academy, and was supervised academically by Professor John Sutherland and by Lady Spender. The 821 items, from 79 published sources in Britain, Europe and the USA, are catalogued chronologically and also alphabetically by source.

Brutal Hurry: New Selected Journals 1939–95

These journals cover the years from the Second World War to Stephen Spender’s death in 1995. Edited by Natasha Spender, John Sutherland and Lara Feigel, they will be published by Faber.


Spender centenary reading, The Chapel, University College, Oxford, October 2009

The readers at the Oxford centenary reading on Tuesday 13 October were Fleur Adcock, Grey Gowrie and Craig Raine. Grey Gowrie taught alongside Stephen Spender at University College, London in the early 70s, while Craig Raine was for many years his editor at Faber, so both began their readings with some personal anecdotes. With thanks to the Master of University College, Sir Ivor Crewe, and to the Institute of English Studies, at the School of Advanced Study, University of London.

Spender centenary symposium, the Institute for English Studies, University of London, February 2009

Papers at the conference organised by the Institute of English Studies on 27 February 2009 explored Stephen Spender’s poetry, fiction and non-fiction, and his relationship to the political and historical developments of his time; they also reassessed his achievement in the light of recent archival research and new critical perspectives. The speakers were John Sutherland, Barbara Hardy, Valentine Cunningham, Peter McDonald, Mark Rawlinson, Alan Jenkins, Stephen Romer and Michael Scammell.

Spender centenary reading, The Royal Institution, February 2009

The readers at the Royal Institution’s in the Royal Institution’s splendid 450-seater Faraday Theatre on the evening of 26 February were Grey Gowrie, Tony Harrison, Seamus Heaney, Barry Humphries, Poet Laureate Andrew Motion and Natasha Spender. The 90-minute programme was devised by Lord Gowrie and was supported by the University of London’s John Coffin Memorial Bequest. The event was jointly organised with the Institute of English Studies, at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. To listen to a recording of the evening, click here.

Auden centenary reading, Shaw Theatre, February 2007

On 21 February 2007 (the 100th anniversary of W. H. Auden’s birth) a reading of Auden’s poetry was held at the Shaw Theatre, the result of a collaboration between the Trust and the British Library. Lady Spender, who knew Auden well, selected the readers (all poets themselves): James Fenton, John Fuller, Grey Gowrie, Andrew Motion, Sean O’Brien, Peter Porter and – in recognition of the years Auden spent in the United States – American poet and academic Richard Howard; the programme was devised by Lord Gowrie, a founding member of the Stephen Spender Memorial Trust and an Auden scholar, and featured poems predominantly from the 1930s and 40s, as well as ‘Auden in Milwaukee’, written by Stephen Spender in 1940.

Spender reading, South Bank, May 2004

In May 2004, three of the Trust’s Committee members – Seamus Heaney, Tony Harrison and Harold Pinter 𔃉 generously agreed to celebrate the publication of Spender’s New Collected Poems with a reading of his poetry and some of their own. They were joined by Jill Balcon (widow of Stephen Spender’s friend, C. Day Lewis) and Vanessa Redgrave. The 90-minute programme was devised by Lady Spender and directed by Joe Harmston; all 900 seats of the Queen Elizabeth Hall sold out.

Symposium, Institute for English Studies, University of London, January 2001

The Institute for English Studies, University of London, hosted a successful one-day symposium in January 2001 on Stephen Spender and his Circle in the l930s with contributions on Edward Upward, Isherwood, Auden, Spender and MacNeice, with an unpublished article on these poets written in the Thirties by Isaiah Berlin; the speakers were a combination of those who knew Spender and his circle at first hand and scholars working on them today.


The Stephen Spender Collection, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin

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 consists 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.

Manuscript Holdings of the Watkinson Library

Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut

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 (January 1996 to 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.

Online publications


A literary e-journal from Random House

Oxford Poetry

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.

Roland Collection Literary Interviews on Video

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

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

Essay on Spender from University of Pennsylvania

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.