Cecil Day Lewis Biography


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Nicholas Blake was born Cecil Day-Lewis in Ballintubbert, Ireland, on April 27, 1904, the only son of the Reverend F. C. Day-Lewis and Kathleen Blake Squires. After the death of his mother in 1908, his aunt helped to rear him, following his father, an Irish Protestant clergyman, as he moved from one London parish to another. Blake attended Sherborne School and Wadham College, Oxford University, where he received a master’s degree.

He taught at various schools from 1927 until 1935, running into trouble with school administrators because of his leftist political views. He married Constance Mary King, the daughter of one of his former teachers, in 1928, and the couple had two sons. Desperately in need of more money, Blake, who had read many mysteries himself, wrote and published his first one, A Question of Proof, in 1935. He was a member of the Communist Party in Great Britain from 1935 to 1938, and though he never resigned from it, his political views changed, particularly after the Spanish Civil War. He worked for the Ministry of Information during World War II and was made a commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1950.

Blake divorced his first wife in 1951 and the same year married Jill Balcon, with whom he had a son and a daughter. His professional reputation remained high: He held the position of professor of poetry at Oxford University (1951-1956) and director of the publishing firm Chatto and Windus (1954-1972). He was the Charles Eliot Norton professor of poetry at Harvard University (1964-1965), and finally, poet laureate of England, from 1968 until his death in 1972.


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Cecil Day Lewis (Cecil Day-Lewis) was born in 1904 at Ballintubbert, Queen’s County, in Ireland, where his father, the Reverend F. C. Day-Lewis, served as a curate. His mother, Kathleen Blake Squires, claimed distant relationship to Oliver Goldsmith, while the poet himself once reported a connection between his grandmother and the family of William Butler Yeats. The original name of the paternal family had been, simply, Day; the family later acquired the Lewis and then carried both names in hyphenated form. However, the poet discarded the hyphen for the purpose of practicing what he termed, in his autobiographical The Buried Day (1960), “inverted snobbery.”

In 1907, when Day Lewis was only three years of age, the family severed its Irish connection and moved to England; by age six, the youngster had achieved some competence as a writer of verse. His pursuit of formal learning took him first to Sherborne School (Dorsetshire), then to Wadham College, Oxford, where he developed a particular interest in Latin poetry. He published Beechen Vigil, and Other Poems while still an undergraduate, and spent the years between his departure from Oxford and the onset of World War II writing poetry and teaching English in a number of public schools in England and Scotland: Summer Fields, Oxford (1927-1928); Larchfield, Helensburgh, on the Firth of Clyde (1928-1930)—where he was succeeded by W. H. Auden; and Cheltenham College, Gloucestershire...

(The entire section is 524 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Cecil Day Lewis (originally Day-Lewis) was a leading figure among the young British poets who in the 1930’s were concerned chiefly with themes of social protest, and his reputation both in that unsettled decade and after was solid and secure. He was born on April 27, 1904, in Ballintubbert, Ireland; his father was an English clergyman, his mother a descendant of Oliver Goldsmith. She died while he was still young, leaving him with an emotionally demanding father. During his childhood the family returned to England. Day Lewis began to write verses when he was six, and at the Sherbourne School he was several times awarded its poetry prize. At Wadham College, Oxford, he first became affiliated with the literary group which included W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender, Louis MacNeice, and others. With Auden he edited the 1927 volume of Oxford Poetry. In 1928 he married Constance King, with whom he had two sons, Sean and Nicholas. He and his wife were divorced in 1951.{$S[A]Lewis, Cecil Day;Day Lewis, Cecil}{$S[A]Blake, Nicholas;Day Lewis, Cecil}

Leftist in politics, the group with which Day Lewis was associated engaged in violent and often obscure protest against conditions of the 1930’s, primarily in the areas of social class and politics. Their poetry, however, was often characterized by esoteric imagery and private allusion, so that many readers found themselves bewildered by verse that ranged in style from the gravely satirical to the frivolously diffuse....

(The entire section is 526 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical 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.)