|Birth Day:||February 28, 1909|
|Death Date:||Jul 16, 1995 (age 86)|
As per our current Database, Stephen Spender died on Jul 16, 1995 (age 86).
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He studied at University College, Oxford, but never graduated.
Spender began work on a novel in 1929, which was not published until 1988, under the title The Temple. The novel is about a young man who travels to Germany and finds a culture at once more open than England's, particularly about relationships between men, and shows frightening anticipations of Nazism that are confusingly related to the very openness that the main character admires. Spender wrote in his 1988 introduction:
Spender was discovered by T.S. Eliot, an editor at Faber & Faber, in 1933.
In 1933, Spender fell in love with Tony Hyndman, and they lived together from 1935 to 1936. In 1934, Spender had an affair with Muriel Gardiner. In a letter to Christopher Isherwood in September 1934, he wrote, "I find boys much more attractive, in fact I am rather more than usually susceptible, but actually I find the actual sexual act with women more satisfactory, more terrible, more disgusting, and, in fact, more everything". In December 1936, shortly after the end of his relationship with Hyndman, Spender fell in love with and married Inez Pearn after an engagement of only three weeks. The marriage broke down in 1939. In 1941, Spender married Natasha Litvin, a concert pianist. The marriage lasted until his death. Their daughter, Lizzie, is married to the Australian actor and comedian Barry Humphries, and their son, Matthew Spender, is married to the daughter of the Armenian artist Arshile Gorky.
After he was no longer left-wing, he was one of those who wrote of their disillusionment with communism in the essay collection The God that Failed (1949), along with Arthur Koestler and others. It is thought that one of the big areas of disappointment was the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union, which many leftists saw as a betrayal. Like W. H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood and several other outspoken opponents of fascism in the 1930s, Spender did not see active military service in World War II. He was initially graded "C" upon examination because of his earlier colitis, poor eyesight, varicose veins and the long-term effects of a tapeworm in 1934. However, he contrived by pulling strings to be re-examined and was upgraded to "B", which meant that he could serve in the London Auxiliary Fire Service. Spender spent the winter of 1940 teaching at Blundell's School, having taken the position that had been left vacant by Manning Clark, who returned to Australia as a consequence of the war to teach at Geelong Grammar.
In 1936, he became a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain. Harry Pollitt, its head, invited him to write for the Daily Worker on the Moscow Trials. In late 1936, Spender married Inez Pearn, whom he had only recently met at an Aid to Spain meeting. She is described as 'small and rather ironic' and 'strikingly good-looking'. In 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, the Daily Worker sent him to Spain on a mission to observe and report on the Soviet ship Komsomol, which had sunk while carrying Soviet weapons to the Second Spanish Republic. Spender travelled to Tangier and tried to enter Spain via Cadiz, but was sent back. He then travelled to Valencia, where he met Ernest Hemingway and Manuel Altolaguirre. (Tony Hyndman, alias Jimmy Younger, had joined the International Brigades, which were fighting against Francisco Franco's forces in the Battle of Guadalajara.) Pollitt told Spender "to go and get killed; we need a Byron in the movement". Spender was imprisoned for a while in Albacete. In Madrid, he met André Malraux; they discussed Gide's Retour de l'U.R.S.S.. Because of medical problems, he went back to England and bought a house in Lavenham. In 1939, he divorced.
His 1938 translations of works by Bertolt Brecht and Miguel Hernández appeared in John Lehmann's New Writing.
The Soviet artist Wassily Kandinsky created an etching for Spender, Fraternity, in 1939.
He felt close to the Jewish people; his mother, Violet Hilda Schuster, was half-Jewish (her father's family were German Jews who converted to Christianity, and her mother came from an upper-class family of Catholic German, Lutheran Danish and distant Italian descent). Spender's second wife, Natasha, whom he married in 1941, was also Jewish. In 1942, he joined the fire brigade of Cricklewood and Maresfield Gardens as a volunteer. Spender met several times with the poet Edwin Muir.
Spender's sexuality has been the subject of debate. Spender's seemingly changing attitudes have caused him to be labelled bisexual, repressed, latently homophobic or simply something complex that resists easy labelling. Many of his friends in his earlier years were gay. Spender had many affairs with men in his earlier years, most notably with Hyndman, who was called "Jimmy Younger" in his memoir World Within World. After his affair with Muriel Gardiner, he shifted his focus to heterosexuality, but his relationship with Hyndman complicated both that relationship and his short-lived marriage to Inez Pearn. His marriage to Natasha Litvin in 1941 seemed to have marked the end of his romantic relationships with men but not the end of all homosexual activity, as his unexpurgated diaries have revealed. Subsequently, he toned down homosexual allusions in later editions of his poetry. The following line was revised in a republished edition: "Whatever happens, I shall never be alone. I shall always have a boy, a railway fare, or a revolution" to "Whatever happens, I shall never be alone. I shall always have an affair, a railway fare, or a revolution". Nevertheless, he was a founding member of the Homosexual Law Reform Society, which lobbied for the repeal of British sodomy laws. Spender sued author David Leavitt for allegedly using his relationship with "Jimmy Younger" in Leavitt's While England Sleeps in 1994. The case was settled out of court with Leavitt removing certain portions from his text.
With Cyril Connolly and Peter Watson, Spender co-founded Horizon magazine and served as its editor from 1939 to 1941. From 1947 to 1949, he went to the US several times and saw his friends Auden and Isherwood. He was the editor of Encounter magazine from 1953 to 1966 but resigned after it emerged that the Congress for Cultural Freedom, which published the magazine, was covertly funded by the CIA. Spender always insisted that he was unaware of the ultimate source of the magazine's funds. Spender taught at various American institutions and accepted the Elliston Chair of Poetry at the University of Cincinnati in 1954. In 1961, he became professor of rhetoric at Gresham College, London.
He was appointed the 17th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1965.
Spender was born in Kensington, London, to journalist Harold Spender and Violet Hilda Schuster, a painter and poet, of German Jewish heritage. He went first to Hall School in Hampstead and then at 13 to Gresham's School, Holt and later Charlecote School in Worthing, but he was unhappy there. On the death of his mother, he was transferred to University College School (Hampstead), which he later described as "that gentlest of schools". Spender left for Nantes and Lausanne and then went up to University College, Oxford (much later, in 1973, he was made an honorary fellow). Spender said at various times throughout his life that he never passed any exam. Perhaps his closest friend and the man who had the biggest influence on him was W. H. Auden, who introduced him to Christopher Isherwood. The earliest version of Poems written by Auden was handprinted by Spender. He left Oxford without taking a degree and in 1929 moved to Hamburg. Isherwood invited him to come to Berlin. Every six months, Spender went back to England.
Spender wrote China Diary with David Hockney in 1982, published by Thames and Hudson art publishers in London.
Spender was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) at the 1962 Queen's Birthday Honours, and knighted in the 1983 Queen's Birthday Honours.
At a ceremony commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion on 6 June 1984, US President Ronald Reagan quoted from Spender's poem "The Truly Great" in his remarks:
On 16 July 1995, Spender died of a heart attack in Westminster, London, aged 86. He was buried in the graveyard of St Mary on Paddington Green Church, in London.
The Stephen Spender Trust is a registered charity that was founded to widen the knowledge of 20th-century literature, with a particular focus on Spender's circle of writers, and to promote literary translation. The trust's activities include poetry readings; academic conferences; a seminar series in partnership with the Institute of English Studies; an archive programme in conjunction with the British Library and the Bodleian; work with schools via Translation Nation; the Guardian Stephen Spender Prize, an annual poetry translation prize established in 2004; and the Joseph Brodsky/Stephen Spender Prize, a worldwide Russian–English translation competition.
Currently, Stephen Spender is 112 years, 6 months and 25 days old. Stephen Spender will celebrate 113th birthday on a Monday 28th of February 2022.
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