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Spender, Sir Stephen (1909-1995)  
page: 1  2  

In the late 1930s, Spender directed his energies to leftist political causes, joining the Communist Party in 1937, serving as a journalist in the Spanish Civil War, and writing left-wing essays, including Forward from Liberalism (1937) and The New Realism (1939).

Announcing his decision to become a Communist, Spender wrote that "the most important political aim of our time should be the United Front," aligning the communist movements in the Soviet Union, Spain, and France. The same image--a "united front"--informs the description in Journals 1939-1983 of the Freundschaft ideal, in which two men "face the world together."

Spender divorced in 1939, and two years later married Natasha Litvin, a concert pianist; two children, Matthew and Lizzie, were born in 1945 and 1951. Some critics have concluded that he repudiated his homosexuality when he rejected Tony Hyndman in 1936 and opted for a life as husband and father; others, however, see him as a complex man who resists easy labeling.

Two of Spender's poems selected for inclusion in the Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse--"How strangely this sun reminds me of my love!" and "To T.A.R.H. [Tony Hyndman]"--were both printed in Collected Poems 1925-1953, but removed from the latest and final edition of Collected Poems 1925-1985.

It hardly needs to be said that conditions in the 1930s--whether in Berlin, Barcelona, or London--were dangerous for homosexuals. That Spender writes as openly as he does about his relationship with his "German friend" Hellmut, or about his "agonized" concern for Tony's well-being during the Spanish Civil War, whether that concern was motivated by a sense of guilt or responsibility, demonstrates courage that few writers of Spender's generation and reputation can claim.

G. Patton Wright

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Kulkarni, H. B. Stephen Spender: Works and Criticism: An Annotated Bibliography. New York: Garland, 1976.

Leavitt, David. "Did I Plagiarize His Life?" New York Times Magazine (April 3, 1994): 36-37.

Leeming, David. Stephen Spender: A Life in Modernism. New York: Henry Holt, 1999.

Spender, Stephen. "My Life Is Mine: It Is Not David Leavitt's." New York Times Book Review (Sept. 4, 1994): 10-12.


    Citation Information
    Author: Wright, G. Patton  
    Entry Title: Spender, Sir Stephen  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated December 20, 2004  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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