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From Soup to Fish

Andrew O’Hagan: The Spender Marriage, 17 December 2015

A House in St John’s Wood: In Search of My Parents 
by Matthew Spender.
William Collins, 448 pp., £25, August 2015, 978 0 00 813206 4
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... 1990s, when literary parties were more fun, or I was more fun, I used occasionally to see Stephen Spender: there he was, the establishment on quivering legs, queer as a chocolate orange but safely married. (When I spoke to him, I discovered he could flirt with his eyes shut.) Frank Kermode, a great friend to this paper but never knowingly ...

Old Ladies

D.A.N. Jones, 20 August 1992

Dear Departed: A Memoir 
by Marguerite Yourcenar, translated by Maria Louise Ascher.
Aidan Ellis, 346 pp., £18, April 1992, 0 85628 186 7
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Anna, Soror 
by Marguerite Yourcenar, translated by Walter Kaiser.
Harvill, 256 pp., £7.99, May 1992, 0 00 271222 9
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That Mighty Sculptor, Time 
by Marguerite Yourcenar, translated by Walter Kaiser.
Aidan Ellis, 224 pp., £18, June 1992, 9780856281594
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Coming into the End Zone: A Memoir 
by Doris Grumbach.
Norton, 256 pp., £13.95, April 1992, 0 393 03009 1
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Anything Once 
by Joan Wyndham.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 178 pp., £15.95, March 1992, 9781856191296
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Within Tuscany 
by Matthew Spender.
Viking, 366 pp., £16.99, April 1992, 0 670 83836 5
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... She goes to parties with his rather pre-war friends, Cyril Connolly, Arthur Koestler, Stephen Spender. She has an affair with Lucian Freud, she visits Oxford, becomes pregnant and marries into a more modern set: her husband, a friend of Ken Tynan and Kingsley Amis, has to be indoctrinated into her mother’s religion by the time-honoured Father ...

A Great Big Silly Goose

Seamus Perry: Characteristically Spenderish, 21 May 2020

Poems Written Abroad: The Lilly Library Manuscript 
by Stephen Spender.
Indiana, 112 pp., £27.99, July 2019, 978 0 253 04167 8
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... Stephen​ Spender had spent two terms as an undistinguished student at University College, Oxford, before he finally met W.H. Auden. It was not for want of trying. Michael, Spender’s elder brother, an insufferable turbo-brain at Balliol, had known Auden at school and kept in touch, but refused to arrange an introduction for Stephen, fearing, as Spender later put it, that ‘in producing me he would be playing the weakest card in his hand ...

That’s what Wystan says

Seamus Perry, 10 May 2018

Early Auden, Later Auden: A Critical Biography 
by Edward Mendelson.
Princeton, 912 pp., £27.95, May 2017, 978 0 691 17249 1
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... What​ became of his face? In his memorial address Stephen Spender, who had known Auden since they were undergraduates, contrasted the young man, Nordic and brilliant, with a ‘second image of Wystan … of course one with which you are all familiar: the famous poet with the face like a map of physical geography, criss-crossed and river-run and creased with lines ...

On the Feast of Stephen

Karl Miller: Spender’s Journals, 30 August 2012

New Selected Journals, 1939-95 
by Stephen Spender and Lara Feigel, edited by John Sutherland.
Faber, 792 pp., £45, July 2012, 978 0 571 23757 9
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... Stephen Spender was a visitor to the city of Hamburg both before the war and after, when he played a part in the work of occupation and recovery. He was well on his way to being the noted ex-communist poet, whose lyricism of the left spoke up in praise of pylons and the landing aeroplane, gliding over the suburbs, ‘more beautiful and soft than any moth ...

Stainless Splendour

Stefan Collini: How innocent was Stephen Spender?, 22 July 2004

Stephen SpenderThe Authorised Biography 
by John Sutherland.
Viking, 627 pp., £25, May 2004, 0 670 88303 4
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... When Stephen Spender’s son Matthew was ten years old, he caught his hand in a car door. ‘The event,’ John Sutherland writes, ‘recalled other tragedies in the boy’s little life; the running over, for example, of his dog Bobby – a "rather lugubrious looking spaniel” and a present from his godmother, Edith Sitwell ...

Main Man

Michael Hofmann, 7 July 1994

Walking Possession: Essays and Reviews 1968-1993 
by Ian Hamilton.
Bloomsbury, 302 pp., £20, May 1994, 0 7475 1712 6
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Gazza Italia 
by Ian Hamilton.
Granta, 188 pp., £5.99, May 1994, 0 14 014073 5
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... the nasty label ‘confessional’. A bit of 1910, a bit of 1960, and a bit of 1860 in the stately Matthew Arnold (Hamilton’s current subject as a biographer) crumble of the lines. They are physical, without losing themselves in materialist drift; scenic without being pretty; verbally effective but not finical or clever for the sake of it. Thought wrestles ...
... give figurative painting seriousness and weight. As it is, Wyndham Lewis’s portrait of Stephen Spender upstages a row of portraits by Lamb, Coldstream and John because of its linear clarity and bite, and a Matthew Smith holds your eye by force of juicy paint and saturated colour alone. Yet thin paint in the work of ...

A Susceptible Man

Ian Sansom: The Unhappy Laureate, 4 March 1999

Living in Time: The Poetry of C. Day Lewis 
by Albert Gelpi.
Oxford, 246 pp., £30, March 1998, 0 19 509863 3
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... country clay. The poet wrote until his dying day. The final nail in the coffin came from Stephen Spender, Day Lewis’s old friend and longest surviving hydra head of Roy Campbell’s monstrous ‘MacSpaunday’, who admitted, writing in 1992 at the time of the long-awaited publication of Day Lewis’s Complete Poems, that while he admired the poet’s ...

Prime Ministers’ Pets

Robert Blake, 10 January 1983

Benjamin Disraeli Letters: Vol. I 1815-1834, Vol. II 1835-1837 
edited by J.A.W. Gunn, John Matthews, Donald Schurman and M.G. Wiebe.
Toronto, 482 pp., £37.50, June 1982, 0 8020 5523 0
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The Gladstone Diaries: with Cabinet Minutes and Prime Ministerial Correspondence, Vol. VII, January 1869-June 1871, Vol. VIII, July 1871-December 1874 
edited by H.C.G. Matthew.
Oxford, 641 pp., £35, September 1982, 0 19 822638 1
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Disraeli 
by Sarah Bradford.
Weidenfeld, 432 pp., £14.95, October 1982, 0 297 78153 7
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Gladstone: Vol. I 1809-1865 
by Richard Shannon.
Hamish Hamilton, 580 pp., £18, November 1982, 0 241 10780 6
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H.H. Asquith: Letters to Venetia Stanley 
edited by Michael Brock and Eleanor Brock.
Oxford, 676 pp., £19.50, November 1982, 0 19 212200 2
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... prove anything. That is equally true of Gladstone. The seventh and eighth volume of Dr Colin Matthew’s learned and authoritative edition of the Diaries of that extraordinary figure reveal a very strange relationship between the Prime Minister and a high-class ex-courtesan called Mrs Thistlethwaite, who had become a convert to ...

Many Andies

Andrew O’Hagan, 16 October 1997

Shoes, Shoes, Shoes 
by Andy Warhol.
Bulfinch Press, 35 pp., $10.95, May 1997, 0 8212 2319 4
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Style, Style, Style 
by Andy Warhol.
Bulfinch Press, 30 pp., $10.95, May 1997, 0 8212 2320 8
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Who is Andy Warhol? 
edited by Colin MacCabe, Mark Francis and Peter Wollen.
BFI, 162 pp., £40, May 1997, 9780851705880
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All Tomorrow’s Parties: Billy Name’s Photographs of Andy Warhol’s Factory 
by Billy Name.
frieze, 144 pp., £19.95, April 1997, 0 9527414 1 5
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The Last Party: Studio 54, Disco and the Culture of the Night 
by Anthony Haden-Guest.
Morrow, 404 pp., $25, April 1996, 9780688141516
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... without a secret,’ said Truman Capote; ‘the Ecce Homo of modern exhibitionism,’ said Stephen Spender. For his own part, Warhol was intensely reasonable: ‘I just want to be a machine,’ he said. There were many Andies: the Andy who brought cruelty back into art; the Andy who worried about ‘boy trouble’; the Andy who saw to the heart of ...

The Great Mary

Dinah Birch, 13 September 1990

Mrs Humphry Ward: Eminent Victorian, Pre-Eminent Edwardian 
by John Sutherland.
Oxford, 432 pp., £16.99, August 1990, 0 19 818587 1
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... No Arnold can write a novel; if they could, I should have done it.’ That was Matthew Arnold’s reaction to his niece’s first significant attempt at fiction, Miss Bretherton, published in 1884. It can’t have been very encouraging. But Mary Ward was used to the magisterial arrogance of the Arnold men. Her father, Tom Arnold, had demolished the prosperity of his family and the happiness of his wife by his conversions and unconversions and reconversions to and from the Catholic faith ...

Nudge-Winking

Terry Eagleton: T.S. Eliot’s Politics, 19 September 2002

The ‘Criterion’: Cultural Politics and Periodical Networks in Interwar Britain 
by Jason Harding.
Oxford, 250 pp., £35, April 2002, 9780199247172
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... Eliot derived his poetics from the French Symbolists, so that it was impossible for him to follow Matthew Arnold in finding a solution to spiritual turbulence in poetry as such. The language of poetry cannot deliver a solution of this kind, indeed cannot even comment authoritatively on such a condition, since to be persuasive – which is to say, for ...

The Price

Dan Jacobson: The concluding part of Dan Jacobson’s interview with Ian Hamilton, 21 February 2002

... the CIA involvement in its finances, another idea came up. Some of those figures like Stephen Spender, Frank Kermode and Stuart Hampshire wanted to start a counter-magazine.I don’t think ‘Encounter’ had folded by then. No, it hadn’t but Spender had left. Spender was a big ...

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