Because World Within World details Stephen Spender’s life only to his thirtieth year, readers hoped for a second autobiographical volume from him, but he never wrote that volume. Possibly Journals, 1939-1983, along with Letters to Christopher, with its addenda of journal entries, were Spender’s way of adding more autobiographical information to the published material about his life.
A major portion of the journals is concerned with the period from the end of World War II (1945) to the early 1950’s, when the author was moving toward the life of editor and international lecturer that would fill much of his time in the decades ahead. Reprinted in this volume is his diary recounting the dissolution of his marriage and the beginning of World War II. This diary was consciously written for publication, as a considerable number of entries in the journal seem to have been.
Perhaps Spender, badly stung by criticism of his poetry and other writing, appreciated the journal form because it gave him freedom to express himself with little regard to maintaining the sustained form required of poetry or the novel. The Spender that emerges from this collection of journal entries is more a man capitalizing on past recognition than one who is still involved in creating new poems or exploring fresh modes of expression. As in his autobiography, Spender is dependably candid, although he is guarded in talking about his homosexual...
(The entire section is 478 words.)