Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: British, Irish, & Commonwealth Poets)
Stephen Harold Spender was born in London on February 28, 1909. His father was Harold Spender, a noted journalist and lecturer, and his mother was Violet Hilda Schuster Spender, a painter and poet. The death of Spender’s mother when he was fifteen and of his father two years later, in 1926, brought the four children, of whom he was the second-oldest, under the care of his maternal grandmother, a pair of spinster great-aunts, and an uncle.
After attending University College School in London, Spender went to University College, Oxford, in 1928, leaving in 1930 without a degree. Having begun to write poetry in childhood and having determined to be a poet, he sought out the somewhat older W. H. Auden even before beginning at Oxford. Their friendship, marked by a mutual awareness of their differences in temperament and outlook, apparently developed rapidly; Spender himself published Auden’s first book of poems in 1928 on the same handpress he used to bring out his own first book. He spent the summer vacation of 1929 in Germany, meeting many young Germans and observing social and political developments that would set the stage for the next decade.
The 1930’s were a time of tremendous literary activity for the young Spender, periodically punctuated by travels throughout Europe. He achieved prominence as a leading member of the group of rising young writers clustered around Auden. Although Spender has claimed a singular position among the Auden...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Stephen Howard Spender was the second of Edward Harold and Violet Hilda Schuster Spender’s four children. His father, who died when Spender was seventeen, was a journalist and public speaker. His mother suffered from nervous ailments, most likely manic depression. She died before her husband; the children were left to the care of two great-aunts and an uncle.
Before his father’s death, Spender earned money by printing medicinal labels on his own press. He collected his poems when he was eighteen and printed them on his press as Nine Experiments, by S.H.S.: Being Poems Written at the Age of Eighteen (1928). Two years later, he printed W. H. Auden’s first collection, Poems (1930).
From 1928 until 1930, Spender attended Oxford University, where he formed a close bond with Auden. He left a year short of completing his baccalaureate. The group of poets with whom Spender is most often associated was referred to as the Auden group, although this was a loose fraternity of writers who held no meetings, did not necessarily know one another, and were dissimilar in many respects. Others prominent in the group were C. Day Lewis, Louis MacNeice, and Christopher Isherwood.
Isherwood wooed Spender away from Oxford short of a degree, urging him to come to Germany, at that time bristling with intellectual excitement overshadowed only slightly by the specter of Fascism. Spender mingled happily in the homosexual society of...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Stephen Spender was a worthy but not a great talent. He was right for his time. With the amelioration of the political conditions about which he wrote most fluently in the 1930’s, he found his circle of topics narrowing. Spender overcame this problem by plunging into a broad range of literary activities. As an anthologist, editor, translator, and literary and social critic, he made a continuing contribution to literature. That he is likely to be remembered primarily as a poet is somewhat ironic, because it is in areas other than poetry that he made his most lasting contributions.
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Stephen Harold Spender, one of the best lyrical poets and most ardent political writers of the 1930’s, later became an important literary critic, essayist, and journalist. He was born in London on February 28, 1909, the second of four children. Because both of his parents, Edward Harold Spender and Violet Hilda Schuster Spender, died when he was a teenager, his maternal grandmother, Hilda Schuster, played a significant role in his upbringing. In his perceptive autobiography, World Within World, Spender characterized his unhappy youth as a “humorless adolescence.” In 1928, Spender published his first volume of poetry, Nine Experiments, by S. H. S., and entered University College, Oxford. There he felt like an outsider, cut off from the “hearties and aesthetes” who populated his college. He fell in love with one of the “hearties,” I. A. R. Hyndman. Perhaps because of Spender’s unhappy youth, his work is characterized by its onlooker’s viewpoint and its sympathy for the underdog.
The verses that Spender wrote between 1928 and 1930 (published under the title Twenty Poems in 1930) show the influence of his Oxford environment, especially that of his friend W. H. Auden and the members of his literary circle, which included Cecil Day Lewis, Louis MacNeice, Christopher Isherwood, and Edward Upward. Because Spender had an inherited income of three hundred pounds a year, he was financially independent and, therefore, able...
(The entire section is 832 words.)
Stephen Spender was born on February 28, 1909, in London. The son of a journalist, he grew up steeped in the art of writing. Spender was educated at University College, Oxford, but left the university without taking a degree. His life as a poet and writer began in the 1920s while he was at Oxford, where he surrounded himself with respected writers, such as W. H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood, Cecil Day Lewis, and Louis MacNeice. Spender was also closely associated with the literary giants Virginia Woolf and T. S. Eliot. In fact, the two are often referred to as Spender's surrogate parents.
Spender took a particularly keen interest in politics and was a self-proclaimed socialist and pacifist. His early poetry was often inspired and fueled by social protest. In 1937, he served for a short time in the International Brigades, an international force of volunteers dedicated to protecting the Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War. Spender explored the experiences of the war in Poems for Spain (1939), which he edited with John Lehmann, and in Ruins and Visions (1942), a collection of his own poems spanning the years 1934 to 1942.
Although Spender was associated with the Socialist and Communist movements, he eventually became disillusioned with their ideologies. He expressed much of his dissent and frustration with the politics of the 1930s and 1940s through his poetry and essays as well as in his autobiography, World within...
(The entire section is 517 words.)