(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

The word often and accurately used in descriptions of Nicholas Blake’s twenty mystery novels is “literate.” He started writing mysteries in the period known as the Golden Age of the form in Great Britain, a period with such thoughtful and articulate practitioners as Michael Innes, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, and Margery Allingham. Blake excelled in his dual role as poet and mystery writer, producing, in the estimation of some critics, better mysteries than poems. His poetic talents undoubtedly influenced his novels, whether detective stories, thrillers, or crime novels. In the quantity and quality of literary allusion, in the diversity of characterization and physical description, and in the overt use of his own personal experience, Blake was of the class of writers who raised the standards of mystery fiction.

Other literary forms

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Cecil Day Lewis’s fiction can easily be placed into three categories, the first being the novels published prior to World War II: The Friendly Tree (1936), Starting Point (1937), and Child of Misfortune (1939). Then, under the pseudonym of Nicholas Blake, he became a significant contributor to the popular genre of detective fiction. Finally, there are two pieces of juvenile fiction. Day Lewis’s output was, however, not confined to fiction and poetry. He also produced a large body of literary criticism, editorial projects, and translations.


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Cecil Day Lewis was the most conscientious poet laureate in England’s history—even surpassing Alfred, Lord Tennyson in his conception of the laureate’s responsibilities. During his tenure, from 1968 until his death in 1972, a period in which he suffered from illness, Day Lewis produced a lengthy list of poems on national and topical themes, a majority of which stand on their own poetic merits, as opposed to personal and shallow tributes to specific royal personages. Indeed, during his period as the nation’s laureate, Day Lewis underscored his own importance as a contributor to English poetry, as one who understood and accepted the tradition of English poetry and significantly enlarged upon it.

Day Lewis’s poetic achievement was marked by a flexible attitude toward the political and social temper of his times. He never withdrew to some private shelter to ponder future poetical-political courses of action or to brood over loss or misfortune. On the contrary, he viewed poetry as being exceedingly public and the poet as being the property of that public. Thus, he tried to share himself and his work with as many people as possible through books of and about poetry for children, through lectures and radio broadcasts about poetry, and through societies and festivals for advancing the general state of the poetic art. Particularly in the later stages of his career when he served as laureate, Day Lewis spent almost as much time writing and talking about...

(The entire section is 454 words.)


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Bayley, John. The Power of Delight: A Lifetime in Literature—Essays, 1962-2002. New York: W. W. Norton, 2005. The collected essays of this major critic feature one on Blake (C. Day Lewis) and his use of pastiche, both in poetry and in fiction. Index.

Daiches, David. Poetry and the Modern World: A Study of Poetry in England Between 1900 and 1939. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1940. Daiches devotes a full chapter to Day Lewis and the problems facing the poet: how to face the disintegrating civilization after World War I? What audience would a poet write for? Instead of turning to mysticism or religion as did William Butler Yeats and T. S. Eliot, Day Lewis seeks a singleness of personality in revolutionary hope and mature self-understanding. A major study of this important poet.

Day-Lewis, Sean. Day-Lewis: An English Literary Life. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1980. The first son of Blake wrote this year-by-year biography of his father within a decade of his father’s death. Family members and friends contributed material to an objective but intimate portrait of the poet. Both the poetry publications and the crime novels under the name Nicholas Blake are discussed.

Gelpi, Albert. Living in Time: The Poetry of C. Day Lewis. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. A full-length critical study of the works of Day Lewis and a record of his poetry within the literary ferment of the...

(The entire section is 640 words.)