History of Literature

English literature



The Old English period

The early Middle English period

The later Middle English and early Renaissance periods

The Renaissance period: 1550–1660

Elizabethan and early Stuart drama

Effect of religion and science on early Stuart prose

The Restoration

The 18th century

The 18th century. The novel

The Romantic period

The later Romantics

The Post-Romantic and Victorian eras

Late Victorian literature

The 20th century. The Modernist revolution

The literature of World War I and the interwar period

Literature after 1945. Fiction. Poetry

Literature after 1945. Drama. The 21st century


English literature


The 20th century


The literature of World War I and the interwar period


Rupert Brooke
Siegfried Sassoon
Isaac Rosenberg
Wilfred Owen
Aldous Huxley
Noel Coward
Ford Madox Ford
John Cowper Powys
Lytton Strachey
Virginia Woolf 
"Jacob's Room"
Katherine Mansfield
Dorothy Richardson
Rebecca West
Jean Rhys
Evelyn Waugh
Lewis Grassic Gibbon
Graham Greene
George Orwell  "Nineteen Eighty-Four"
Elizabeth Bowen
W.H. Auden
C. Day-Lewis
Louis MacNeice
Stephen Spender
Christopher Isherwood
David Gascoyne
Dylan Thomas  "Poems"
Henry Green
Patrick Hamilton
Alun Lewis
Keith Castellain Douglas




The impact of World War I upon the Anglo-American Modernists has been noted. In addition the war brought a variety of responses from the more-traditionalist writers, predominantly poets, who saw action. Rupert Brooke caught the idealism of the opening months of the war (and died in service); Siegfried Sassoon and Ivor Gurney caught the mounting anger and sense of waste as the war continued; and Isaac Rosenberg (perhaps the most original of the war poets), Wilfred Owen, and Edmund Blunden not only caught the comradely compassion of the trenches but also addressed themselves to the larger moral perplexities raised by the war (Rosenberg and Owen were killed in action).

It was not until the 1930s, however, that much of this poetry became widely known. In the wake of the war the dominant tone, at once cynical and bewildered, was set by Aldous Huxley’s satirical novel Crome Yellow (1921). Drawing upon Lawrence and Eliot, he concerned himself in his novels of ideas—Antic Hay (1923), Those Barren Leaves (1925), and Point Counter Point (1928)—with the fate of the individual in rootless modernity. His pessimistic vision found its most complete expression in the 1930s, however, in his most famous and inventive novel, the anti-utopian fantasy Brave New World (1932), and his account of the anxieties of middle-class intellectuals of the period, Eyeless in Gaza (1936).


Rupert Brooke

born Aug. 3, 1887, Rugby, Warwickshire, Eng.
died April 23, 1915, Skyros, Greece

English poet, a wellborn, gifted, handsome youth whose early death in World War I contributed to his idealized image in the interwar period. His best-known work is the sonnet sequence 1914.

At school at Rugby, where his father was a master, Brooke distinguished himself as a cricket and football (soccer) player as well as a scholar. At King’s College, Cambridge, where he matriculated in 1906, he was prominent in the Fabian (Socialist) Society and attracted innumerable friends. He studied in Germany and traveled in Italy, but his favourite pastime was rambling in the countryside around the village of Grantchester, which he celebrated in a charming and wildly irrational panegyric, “The Old Vicarage, Grantchester” (1912). In 1911 his Poems were published. He spent a year (1913–14) wandering in the United States, Canada, and the South Seas. With the outbreak of World War I, he received a commission in the Royal Navy. After taking part in a disastrous expedition to Antwerp that ended in a harrowing retreat, he sailed for the Dardanelles, which he never reached. He died of septicemia on a hospital ship off Skyros and was buried in an olive grove on that island.

Brooke’s wartime sonnets, 1914 (1915), brought him immediate fame. They express an idealism in the face of death that is in strong contrast to the later poetry of trench warfare. One of his most popular sonnets, “The Soldier,” begins with the familiar lines:

If I should die, think only this of me:

That there’s some corner of a foreign field

That is for ever England.



Siegfried Sassoon

born Sept. 8, 1886, Brenchley, Kent, Eng.
died Sept. 1, 1967, Heytesbury, Wiltshire

English poet and novelist, known for his antiwar poetry and for his fictionalized autobiographies, praised for their evocation of English country life.

Sassoon enlisted in World War I and was twice wounded seriously while serving as an officer in France. It was his antiwar poetry, such as The Old Huntsman (1917) and Counterattack (1918), and his public affirmation of pacifism, after he had won the Military Cross and was still in the army, that made him widely known. His antiwar protests were at first attributed to shell shock, and he was confined for a time in a sanatorium, where he met and influenced another pacifist soldier-poet, Wilfred Owen, whose works he published after Owen was killed at the front. His autobiographical works include The Memoirs of George Sherston, 3 vol. (1928–36), and Siegfried’s Journey, 3 vol. (1945), and more of his poems were published as Collected Poems (1947) and The Path to Peace (1960). His later poetry was increasingly devotional.



Isaac Rosenberg

Isaac Rosenberg (25 November 1890 – 1 April 1918) was an English poet of the First World War who was considered to be one of the greatest of all English war poets. His "Poems from the Trenches" are recognised as some of the most outstanding written during the First World War.

Isaac Rosenberg was born in Bristol in 1890 to Barnet and Annie Rosenberg, who had fled Devinsk in Lithuania to escape anti-Jewish pogroms. In 1897 the family moved to 47 Cable Street in a poor district of the East End of London, and one with a strong Jewish community. He attended St. Paul's School around the corner in Wellclose Square, until his family (of Russian descent) moved to Stepney in 1900, so he could experience Jewish schooling. He left school at the age of fourteen and became an apprentice engraver.

He was interested in both poetry and visual art, and managed to find the finances to attend the Slade School. During his time at Slade School, Rosenberg notably studied alongside David Bomberg, Mark Gertler, Stanley Spencer, Paul Nash, Edward Wadsworth and Dora Carrington. He was taken up by Laurence Binyon and Edward Marsh, and began to write poetry seriously, but he suffered from ill-health.

Afraid that his chronic bronchitis would worsen, Rosenberg hoped to try and cure himself by emigrating to the warmer climate of South Africa, where his sister Mina lived.

He wrote the poem On Receiving News of the War in Cape Town, South Africa. While others wrote about war as patriotic sacrifice, Rosenberg was critical of the war from its onset. However, in order to find a "job" and be able to help support his mother, Rosenberg returned to England in October 1915 and enlisted in the army. He was assigned to the 12th Suffolk Folk Regiment, a 'bantam' battalion (men under 5'3"). After turning down an offer to become a lance corporal, Private Rosenberg was later transferred to the 11th Battalion, The King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment (KORL). He was sent to the Somme on the Western Front in France where, having just finished night patrol, he was killed at dawn on April 1, 1918; there is a dispute as to whether his death occurred at the hands of a sniper or in close combat. In either case, Fampoux is the name of the town where he died. He was first buried in a mass grave, but in 1926, his remains were identified and reinterred, not in England, but at Bailleul Road East Cemetery, Plot V, St. Laurent-Blangy, Pas de Calais, France.

In The Great War and Modern Memory, Paul Fussell's landmark study of the literature of the First World War, Fussell identifies Rosenberg's Break of Day in the Trenches as "the greatest poem of the war."



Wilfred Owen

born March 18, 1893, Oswestry, Shropshire, Eng.
killed in action Nov. 4, 1918, France

English poet noted for his anger at the cruelty and waste of war and his pity for its victims. He also is significant for his technical experiments in assonance, which were particularly influential in the 1930s.

Owen was educated at the Birkenhead Institute and matriculated at the University of London; after an illness in 1913 he lived in France. He had already begun to write and, while working as a tutor near Bordeaux, was preparing a book of “Minor Poems—in Minor Keys—by a Minor,” which was never published. These early poems are consciously modeled on those of John Keats; often ambitious, they show enjoyment of poetry as a craft.

In 1915 Owen enlisted in the British army. The experience of trench warfare brought him to rapid maturity; the poems written after January 1917 are full of anger at war’s brutality, an elegiac pity for “those who die as cattle,” and a rare descriptive power. In June 1917 he was wounded and sent home. While in a hospital near Edinburgh he met the poet Siegfried Sassoon, who shared his feelings about the war and who became interested in his work. Reading Sassoon’s poems and discussing his work with Sassoon revolutionized Owen’s style and his conception of poetry. Despite the plans of well-wishers to find him a staff job, he returned to France in August 1918 as a company commander. He was awarded the Military Cross in October and was killed a week before Armistice Day.

Published posthumously by Sassoon, Owen’s single volume of poems contains the most poignant English poetry of the war. His collected poems, edited by C. Day-Lewis, were published in 1964; his collected letters, edited by his younger brother Harold Owen and John Bell, were published in 1967.




Aldous Huxley


born July 26, 1894, Godalming, Surrey, Eng.
died Nov. 22, 1963, Los Angeles

English novelist and critic gifted with an acute and far-ranging intelligence. His works were notable for their elegance, wit, and pessimistic satire.

Aldous Huxley was a grandson of the prominent biologist T.H. Huxley and was the third child of the biographer and man of letters Leonard Huxley. He was educated at Eton, during which time he became partially blind owing to keratitis. He retained enough eyesight to read with difficulty, and he graduated from Balliol College, Oxford, in 1916. He published his first book in 1916 and worked on the periodical Athenaeum from 1919 to 1921. Thereafter he devoted himself largely to his own writing and spent much of his time in Italy until the late 1930s, when he settled in California.

Huxley established himself as a major author in his first two published novels, Crome Yellow (1921) and Antic Hay (1923); these are witty and malicious satires on the pretensions of the English literary and intellectual coteries of his day. Those Barren Leaves (1925) and Point Counter Point (1928) are works in a similar vein. Huxley’s deep distrust of 20th-century trends in both politics and technology found expression in Brave New World (1932), a nightmarish vision of a future society in which psychological conditioning forms the basis for a scientifically determined and immutable caste system. The novel Eyeless in Gaza (1936) continues to shoot barbs at the emptiness and aimlessness experienced in contemporary society, but it also shows Huxley’s growing interest in Hindu philosophy and mysticism as a viable alternative. Many of his subsequent works reflect this preoccupation, notably The Perennial Philosophy (1946).

Huxley’s most important later works are The Devils of Loudun (1952), a brilliantly detailed psychological study of a historical incident in which a group of 17th-century French nuns were allegedly the victims of demonic possession; and The Doors of Perception (1954), a book about Huxley’s experiences with the hallucinogenic drug mescaline. The author’s lifelong preoccupation with the negative and positive impacts of science and technology on 20th-century life make him one of the representative writers and intellectuals of that century.


Huxley’s frank and disillusioned manner was echoed by the dramatist Noël Coward in The Vortex (1924), which established his reputation; by the poet Robert Graves in his autobiography, Good-Bye to All That (1929); and by the poet Richard Aldington in his Death of a Hero (1929), a semiautobiographical novel of prewar bohemian London and the trenches. Exceptions to this dominant mood were found among writers too old to consider themselves, as did Graves and Aldington, members of a betrayed generation. In A Passage to India (1924), E.M. Forster examined the quest for and failure of human understanding among various ethnic and social groups in India under British rule. In Parade’s End (1950; comprising Some Do Not, 1924; No More Parades, 1925; A Man Could Stand Up, 1926; and Last Post, 1928) Ford Madox Ford, with an obvious debt to James and Conrad, examined the demise of aristocratic England in the course of the war, exploring on a larger scale the themes he had treated with brilliant economy in his short novel The Good Soldier (1915). And in Wolf Solent (1929) and A Glastonbury Romance (1932), John Cowper Powys developed an eccentric and highly erotic mysticism.

These were, however, writers of an earlier, more confident era. A younger and more contemporary voice belonged to members of the Bloomsbury group. Setting themselves against the humbug and hypocrisy that, they believed, had marked their parents’ generation in upper-class England, they aimed to be uncompromisingly honest in personal and artistic life. In Lytton Strachey’s iconoclastic biographical study Eminent Victorians (1918), this amounted to little more than amusing irreverence, even though Strachey had a profound effect upon the writing of biography; but in the fiction of Virginia Woolf the rewards of this outlook were both profound and moving. In short stories and novels of great delicacy and lyrical power, she set out to portray the limitations of the self, caught as it is in time, and suggested that these could be transcended, if only momentarily, by engagement with another self, a place, or a work of art. This preoccupation not only charged the act of reading and writing with unusual significance but also produced, in To the Lighthouse (1927), The Waves (1931)—perhaps her most inventive and complex novel—and Between the Acts (1941), her most sombre and moving work, some of the most daring fiction produced in the 20th century.

Woolf believed that her viewpoint offered an alternative to the destructive egotism of the masculine mind, an egotism that had found its outlet in World War I, but, as she made clear in her long essay A Room of One’s Own (1929), she did not consider this viewpoint to be the unique possession of women. In her fiction she presented men who possessed what she held to be feminine characteristics, a regard for others and an awareness of the multiplicity of experience; but she remained pessimistic about women gaining positions of influence, even though she set out the desirability of this in her feminist study Three Guineas (1938). Together with Joyce, who greatly influenced her Mrs. Dalloway (1925), Woolf transformed the treatment of subjectivity, time, and history in fiction and helped create a feeling among her contemporaries that traditional forms of fiction—with their frequent indifference to the mysterious and inchoate inner life of characters—were no longer adequate. Her eminence as a literary critic and essayist did much to foster an interest in the work of other female Modernist writers of the period, such as Katherine Mansfield (born in New Zealand) and Dorothy Richardson.


Noël Coward

born December 16, 1899, Teddington, near London, England
died March 26, 1973, St. Mary, Jamaica

English playwright, actor, and composer best known for highly polished comedies of manners.

Coward appeared professionally as an actor from the age of 12. Between acting engagements he wrote such light comedies as I’ll Leave It to You (1920) and The Young Idea (1923), but his reputation as a playwright was not established until the serious play The Vortex (1924), which was highly successful in London. In 1925 the first of his durable comedies, Hay Fever, opened in London. Coward ended the decade with his most popular musical play, Bitter Sweet (1929).

Another of his classic comedies, Private Lives (1930), is often revived. It shares with Design for Living (1933) a worldly milieu and characters unable to live with or without one another. His patriotic pageant of British history, Cavalcade (1931), traced an English family from the time of the South African (Boer) War through the end of World War I. Other successes included Tonight at Eight-Thirty (1936), a group of one-act plays performed by Coward and Gertrude Lawrence, with whom he often played. He rewrote one of the short plays, Still Life, as the film Brief Encounter (1946). Present Laughter (1939) and Blithe Spirit (1941; filmed 1945; musical version, High Spirits, 1964) are usually listed among his better comedies.

In his plays Coward caught the clipped speech and brittle disillusion of the generation that emerged from World War I. His songs and revue sketches also struck the world-weary note of his times. Coward had another style, sentimental but theatrically effective, that he used for romantic, backward-glancing musicals and for plays constructed around patriotism or some other presumably serious theme. He performed almost every function in the theatre—including producing, directing, dancing, and singing in a quavering but superbly timed and articulate baritone—and acted in, wrote, and directed motion pictures as well.

Coward’s Collected Short Stories appeared in 1962, followed by a further selection, Bon Voyage, in 1967. Pomp and Circumstance (1960) is a light novel, and Not Yet the Dodo (1967) is a collection of verse. His autobiography through 1931 appeared as Present Indicative (1937) and was extended through his wartime years in Future Indefinite (1954); a third volume, Past Conditional, was incomplete at his death. Among his more notable songs are “Mad Dogs and Englishmen,” “I’ll See You Again,” “Some Day I’ll Find You,” “Poor Little Rich Girl,” “Mad About the Boy,” and “Marvellous Party.”

Coward was knighted in 1970. He spent his last years chiefly in the Caribbean and Switzerland. One of his previously unpublished plays, The Better Half, last performed in 1922 and thought to have been lost, was rediscovered in 2007. That same year a collection of his letters was published as The Letters of Noël Coward.



Ford Madox Ford

born Dec. 17, 1873, Merton, Surrey, Eng.
died June 26, 1939, Deauville, Fr.

English novelist, editor, and critic, an international influence in early 20th-century literature.

The son of a German music critic, Francis Hueffer, and a grandson of Ford Madox Brown, one of the Pre-Raphaelite painters, Ford grew up in a cultured, artistic environment. At 18 he wrote his first novel, The Shifting of Fire (1892). His acquaintance with Joseph Conrad in 1897 led to their collaboration in The Inheritors (1901) and Romance (1903). In 1908 he founded the English Review, publishing pieces by the foremost contemporary British authors and also by the then-unknown D.H. Lawrence, Wyndham Lewis, Ezra Pound, and H.M. Tomlinson. At the same time, Ford produced works of his own: a trilogy of historical novels about the ill-fated Catherine Howard and novels of contemporary life in which he experimented with technique and style. It was not until The Good Soldier (1915), considered by many to be his best work, that he matched an assured, controlled technique with powerful content. This work skillfully reveals the destructive effects of contradictory sexual and religious impulses upon a quartet of upper-middle-class characters.

Ford took part in World War I, in which he was gassed and shell-shocked. Afterward he changed his name from Hueffer to Ford and tried farming in Sussex and Left Bank life in Paris. While in Paris he edited the Transatlantic Review (January 1924–January 1925), which published works by James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway.

In his long literary career Ford had fruitful contacts with most of the important writers of the day and is remembered for his generous encouragement of younger writers. Of more than 70 published works, those on which his reputation rests are The Good Soldier and the tetralogy Parade’s End (1950; comprising Some Do Not [1924], No More Parades [1925], A Man Could Stand Up [1926], and Last Post [1928]). During his last years, which he spent in France and the United States, Ford produced important works of criticism, reminiscences, and a major novel, The Rash Act (1933), in which he continued his lifelong exploration of questions of identity and inheritance.



John Cowper Powys

born October 8, 1872, Shirley, Derbyshire, England
died June 17, 1963, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Merioneth, Wales

Welsh novelist, essayist, and poet, known chiefly for his long panoramic novels, including Wolf Solent (1929), A Glastonbury Romance (1932), and Owen Glendower (1940). He was the brother of the authors T.F. Powys and Llewelyn Powys.

Educated at Sherborne School and the University of Cambridge, Powys was a university extension lecturer for about 40 years, 30 of them in the United States. His works include a striking Autobiography (1934) and books of essays, among them The Meaning of Culture (1930), The Pleasures of Literature (1938), and The Art of Growing Old (1943).



Lytton Strachey

born March 1, 1880, London
died Jan. 21, 1932, Ham Spray House, near Hungerford, Berkshire, Eng.

English biographer and critic who opened a new era of biographical writing at the close of World War I. Adopting an irreverent attitude to the past and especially to the monumental life-and-letters volumes of Victorian biography, Strachey proposed to write lives with “a brevity which excludes everything that is redundant and nothing that is significant.” He is best known for Eminent Victorians—short sketches of the Victorian idols Cardinal Manning, Florence Nightingale, Thomas Arnold, and Gen. Charles “Chinese” Gordon.

After studying at Cambridge (1899–1903), Strachey lived in London, where he became a leader in the artistic, intellectual, and literary Bloomsbury group. He published critical writings, especially on French literature, but his greatest achievement was in biography. After Eminent Victorians (1918) and Queen Victoria (1921), he wrote Elizabeth and Essex (1928) and Portraits in Miniature (1931). Treating his subjects from a highly idiosyncratic point of view, he was fascinated by personality and motive and delighted in pricking the pretensions of the great and reducing them to somewhat less than life-size. His aim was to paint a portrait; and though this led to caricature and sometimes, through tendentious selection of material, to inaccuracy, he taught biographers a sense of form and of background, and he sharpened their critical acumen.

His defects as a biographer arose mainly from his limited vision of life. He saw politics largely as intrigue, religion as a ludicrous anachronism, and personal relations as life’s supremely important facet. Though bitterly attacked during his lifetime and after, Strachey remains a phenomenon in English letters and a preeminent humorist and wit.






Virginia Woolf

"Jacob's Room"


original name in full Adeline Virginia Stephen

born Jan. 25, 1882, London, Eng.
died March 28, 1941, near Rodmell, Sussex

English writer whose novels, through their nonlinear approaches to narrative, exerted a major influence on the genre.

While she is best known for her novels, especially Mrs. Dalloway (1925) and To the Lighthouse (1927), Woolf also wrote pioneering essays on artistic theory, literary history, women’s writing, and the politics of power. A fine stylist, she experimented with several forms of biographical writing, composed painterly short fictions, and sent to her friends and family a lifetime of brilliant letters.

Early life and influences
Born Virginia Stephen, she was the child of ideal Victorian parents. Her father, Leslie Stephen, was an eminent literary figure and the first editor (1882–91) of the Dictionary of National Biography. Her mother, Julia Jackson, possessed great beauty and a reputation for saintly self-sacrifice; she also had prominent social and artistic connections, which included Julia Margaret Cameron, her aunt and one of the greatest portrait photographers of the 19th century. Both Julia Jackson’s first husband, Herbert Duckworth, and Leslie’s first wife, a daughter of the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, had died unexpectedly, leaving her three children and him one. Julia Jackson Duckworth and Leslie Stephen married in 1878, and four children followed: Vanessa (born 1879), Thoby (born 1880), Virginia (born 1882), and Adrian (born 1883). While these four children banded together against their older half siblings, loyalties shifted among them. Virginia was jealous of Adrian for being their mother’s favourite. At age nine, she was the genius behind a family newspaper, the Hyde Park Gate News, that often teased Vanessa and Adrian. Vanessa mothered the others, especially Virginia, but the dynamic between need (Virginia’s) and aloofness (Vanessa’s) sometimes expressed itself as rivalry between Virginia’s art of writing and Vanessa’s of painting.

The Stephen family made summer migrations from their London town house near Kensington Gardens to the rather disheveled Talland House on the rugged Cornwall coast. That annual relocation structured Virginia’s childhood world in terms of opposites: city and country, winter and summer, repression and freedom, fragmentation and wholeness. Her neatly divided, predictable world ended, however, when her mother died in 1895 at age 49. Virginia, at 13, ceased writing amusing accounts of family news. Almost a year passed before she wrote a cheerful letter to her brother Thoby. She was just emerging from depression when, in 1897, her half sister Stella Duckworth died at age 28, an event Virginia noted in her diary as “impossible to write of.” Then in 1904, after her father died, Virginia had a nervous breakdown.

While Virginia was recovering, Vanessa supervised the Stephen children’s move to the bohemian Bloomsbury section of London. There the siblings lived independent of their Duckworth half brothers, free to pursue studies, to paint or write, and to entertain. Leonard Woolf dined with them in November 1904, just before sailing to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to become a colonial administrator. Soon the Stephens hosted weekly gatherings of radical young people, including Clive Bell, Lytton Strachey, and John Maynard Keynes, all later to achieve fame as, respectively, an art critic, a biographer, and an economist. Then, after a family excursion to Greece in 1906, Thoby died of typhoid fever. He was 26. Virginia grieved but did not slip into depression. She overcame the loss of Thoby and the “loss” of Vanessa, who became engaged to Bell just after Thoby’s death, through writing. Vanessa’s marriage (and perhaps Thoby’s absence) helped transform conversation at the avant-garde gatherings of what came to be known as the Bloomsbury group into irreverent, sometimes bawdy repartee that inspired Virginia to exercise her wit publicly, even while privately she was writing her poignant Reminiscences—about her childhood and her lost mother—which was published in 1908. Viewing Italian art that summer, she committed herself to creating in language “some kind of whole made of shivering fragments,” to capturing “the flight of the mind.”

Early fiction
Virginia Stephen determined in 1908 to “re-form” the novel by creating a holistic form embracing aspects of life that were “fugitive” from the Victorian novel. While writing anonymous reviews for the Times Literary Supplement and other journals, she experimented with such a novel, which she called Melymbrosia. In November 1910, Roger Fry, a new friend of the Bells, launched the exhibit “Manet and the Post-Impressionists,” which introduced radical European art to the London bourgeoisie. Virginia was at once outraged over the attention that painting garnered and intrigued by the possibility of borrowing from the likes of artists Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso. As Clive Bell was unfaithful, Vanessa began an affair with Fry, and Fry began a lifelong debate with Virginia about the visual and verbal arts. In the summer of 1911, Leonard Woolf returned from the East. After he resigned from the colonial service, Leonard and Virginia married in August 1912. She continued to work on her first novel; he wrote the anticolonialist novel The Village in the Jungle (1913) and The Wise Virgins (1914), a Bloomsbury exposé. Then he became a political writer and an advocate for peace and justice.

Between 1910 and 1915, Virginia’s mental health was precarious. Nevertheless, she completely recast Melymbrosia as The Voyage Out in 1913. She based many of her novel’s characters on real-life prototypes: Lytton Strachey, Leslie Stephen, her half brother George Duckworth, Clive and Vanessa Bell, and herself. Rachel Vinrace, the novel’s central character, is a sheltered young woman who, on an excursion to South America, is introduced to freedom and sexuality (though from the novel’s inception she was to die before marrying). Woolf first made Terence, Rachel’s suitor, rather Clive-like; as she revised, Terence became a more sensitive, Leonard-like character. After an excursion up the Amazon, Rachel contracts a terrible illness that plunges her into delirium and then death. As possible causes for this disaster, Woolf’s characters suggest everything from poorly washed vegetables to jungle disease to a malevolent universe, but the book endorses no explanation. That indeterminacy, at odds with the certainties of the Victorian era, is echoed in descriptions that distort perception: while the narrative often describes people, buildings, and natural objects as featureless forms, Rachel, in dreams and then delirium, journeys into surrealistic worlds. Rachel’s voyage into the unknown began Woolf’s voyage beyond the conventions of realism.

Woolf’s manic-depressive worries (that she was a failure as a writer and a woman, that she was despised by Vanessa and unloved by Leonard) provoked a suicide attempt in September 1913. Publication of The Voyage Out was delayed until early 1915; then, that April, she sank into a distressed state in which she was often delirious. Later that year she overcame the “vile imaginations” that had threatened her sanity. She kept the demons of mania and depression mostly at bay for the rest of her life.

In 1917 the Woolfs bought a printing press and founded the Hogarth Press, named for Hogarth House, their home in the London suburbs. The Woolfs themselves (she was the compositor while he worked the press) published their own Two Stories in the summer of 1917. It consisted of Leonard’s Three Jews and Virginia’s The Mark on the Wall, the latter about contemplation itself.

Since 1910, Virginia had kept (sometimes with Vanessa) a country house in Sussex, and in 1916 Vanessa settled into a Sussex farmhouse called Charleston. She had ended her affair with Fry to take up with the painter Duncan Grant, who moved to Charleston with Vanessa and her children, Julian and Quentin Bell; a daughter, Angelica, would be born to Vanessa and Grant at the end of 1918. Charleston soon became an extravagantly decorated, unorthodox retreat for artists and writers, especially Clive Bell, who continued on friendly terms with Vanessa, and Fry, Vanessa’s lifelong devotee.

Virginia had kept a diary, off and on, since 1897. In 1919 she envisioned “the shadow of some kind of form which a diary might attain to,” organized not by a mechanical recording of events but by the interplay between the objective and the subjective. Her diary, as she wrote in 1924, would reveal people as “splinters & mosaics; not, as they used to hold, immaculate, monolithic, consistent wholes.” Such terms later inspired critical distinctions, based on anatomy and culture, between the feminine and the masculine, the feminine being a varied but all-embracing way of experiencing the world and the masculine a monolithic or linear way. Critics using these distinctions have credited Woolf with evolving a distinctly feminine diary form, one that explores, with perception, honesty, and humour, her own ever-changing, mosaic self.

Proving that she could master the traditional form of the novel before breaking it, she plotted her next novel in two romantic triangles, with its protagonist Katharine in both. Night and Day (1919) answers Leonard’s The Wise Virgins, in which he had his Leonard-like protagonist lose the Virginia-like beloved and end up in a conventional marriage. In Night and Day, the Leonard-like Ralph learns to value Katharine for herself, not as some superior being. And Katharine overcomes (as Virginia had) class and familial prejudices to marry the good and intelligent Ralph. This novel focuses on the very sort of details that Woolf had deleted from The Voyage Out: credible dialogue, realistic descriptions of early 20th-century settings, and investigations of issues such as class, politics, and suffrage.

Woolf was writing nearly a review a week for the Times Literary Supplement in 1918. Her essay Modern Novels (1919; revised in 1925 as Modern Fiction) attacked the “materialists” who wrote about superficial rather than spiritual or “luminous” experiences. The Woolfs also printed by hand, with Vanessa Bell’s illustrations, Virginia’s Kew Gardens (1919), a story organized, like a Post-Impressionistic painting, by pattern. With the Hogarth Press’s emergence as a major publishing house, the Woolfs gradually ceased being their own printers.

In 1919 they bought a cottage in Rodmell village called Monk’s House, which looked out over the Sussex Downs and the meadows where the River Ouse wound down to the English Channel. Virginia could walk or bicycle to visit Vanessa, her children, and a changing cast of guests at the bohemian Charleston and then retreat to Monk’s House to write. She envisioned a new book that would apply the theories of Modern Novels and the achievements of her short stories to the novel form. In early 1920 a group of friends, evolved from the early Bloomsbury group, began a “Memoir Club,” which met to read irreverent passages from their autobiographies. Her second presentation was an exposé of Victorian hypocrisy, especially that of George Duckworth, who masked inappropriate, unwanted caresses as affection honouring their mother’s memory.

In 1921 Woolf’s minimally plotted short fictions were gathered in Monday or Tuesday. Meanwhile, typesetting having heightened her sense of visual layout, she began a new novel written in blocks to be surrounded by white spaces. In On Re-Reading Novels (1922), Woolf argued that the novel was not so much a form but an “emotion which you feel.” In Jacob’s Room (1922) she achieved such emotion, transforming personal grief over the death of Thoby Stephen into a “spiritual shape.” Though she takes Jacob from childhood to his early death in war, she leaves out plot, conflict, even character. The emptiness of Jacob’s room and the irrelevance of his belongings convey in their minimalism the profound emptiness of loss. Though Jacob’s Room is an antiwar novel, Woolf feared that she had ventured too far beyond representation. She vowed to “push on,” as she wrote Clive Bell, to graft such experimental techniques onto more-substantial characters.

Major period
At the beginning of 1924, the Woolfs moved their city residence from the suburbs back to Bloomsbury, where they were less isolated from London society. Soon the aristocratic Vita Sackville-West began to court Virginia, a relationship that would blossom into a lesbian affair. Having already written a story about a Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf thought of a foiling device that would pair that highly sensitive woman with a shell-shocked war victim, a Mr. Smith, so that “the sane and the insane” would exist “side by side.” Her aim was to “tunnel” into these two characters until Clarissa Dalloway’s affirmations meet Septimus Smith’s negations. Also in 1924 Woolf gave a talk at Cambridge called Character in Fiction, revised later that year as the Hogarth Press pamphlet Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown. In it she celebrated the breakdown in patriarchal values that had occurred “in or about December, 1910”—during Fry’s exhibit “Manet and the Post-Impressionists”—and she attacked “materialist” novelists for omitting the essence of character.

In Mrs. Dalloway (1925), the boorish doctors presume to understand personality, but its essence evades them. This novel is as patterned as a Post-Impressionist painting but is also so accurately representational that the reader can trace Clarissa’s and Septimus’s movements through the streets of London on a single day in June 1923. At the end of the day, Clarissa gives a grand party and Septimus commits suicide. Their lives come together when the doctor who was treating (or, rather, mistreating) Septimus arrives at Clarissa’s party with news of the death. The main characters are connected by motifs and, finally, by Clarissa’s intuiting why Septimus threw his life away.

Woolf wished to build on her achievement in Mrs. Dalloway by merging the novelistic and elegiac forms. As an elegy, To the Lighthouse—published on May 5, 1927, the 32nd anniversary of Julia Stephen’s death—evoked childhood summers at Talland House. As a novel, it broke narrative continuity into a tripartite structure. The first section, “The Window,” begins as Mrs. Ramsay and James, her youngest son—like Julia and Adrian Stephen—sit in the French window of the Ramsays’ summer home while a houseguest named Lily Briscoe paints them and James begs to go to a nearby lighthouse. Mr. Ramsay, like Leslie Stephen, sees poetry as didacticism, conversation as winning points, and life as a tally of accomplishments. He uses logic to deflate hopes for a trip to the lighthouse, but he needs sympathy from his wife. She is more attuned to emotions than reason. In the climactic dinner-party scene, she inspires such harmony and composure that the moment “partook, she felt,…of eternity.” The novel’s middle “Time Passes” section focuses on the empty house during a 10-year hiatus and the last-minute housecleaning for the returning Ramsays. Woolf describes the progress of weeds, mold, dust, and gusts of wind, but she merely announces such major events as the deaths of Mrs. Ramsay and a son and daughter. In the novel’s third section, “The Lighthouse,” Woolf brings Mr. Ramsay, his youngest children (James and Cam), Lily Briscoe, and others from “The Window” back to the house. As Mr. Ramsay and the now-teenage children reach the lighthouse and achieve a moment of reconciliation, Lily completes her painting. To the Lighthouse melds into its structure questions about creativity and the nature and function of art. Lily argues effectively for nonrepresentational but emotive art, and her painting (in which mother and child are reduced to two shapes with a line between them) echoes the abstract structure of Woolf’s profoundly elegiac novel.

In two 1927 essays, The Art of Fiction and The New Biography, she wrote that fiction writers should be less concerned with naive notions of reality and more with language and design. However restricted by fact, she argued, biographers should yoke truth with imagination, “granite-like solidity” with “rainbow-like intangibility.” Their relationship having cooled by 1927, Woolf sought to reclaim Sackville-West through a “biography” that would include Sackville family history. Woolf solved biographical, historical, and personal dilemmas with the story of Orlando, who lives from Elizabethan times through the entire 18th century; he then becomes female, experiences debilitating gender constraints, and lives into the 20th century. Orlando begins writing poetry during the Renaissance, using history and mythology as models, and over the ensuing centuries returns to the poem The Oak Tree, revising it according to shifting poetic conventions. Woolf herself writes in mock-heroic imitation of biographical styles that change over the same period of time. Thus, Orlando: A Biography (1928) exposes the artificiality of both gender and genre prescriptions. However fantastic, Orlando also argues for a novelistic approach to biography.

In 1921 John Maynard Keynes had told Woolf that her memoir “on George,” presented to the Memoir Club that year or a year earlier, represented her best writing. Afterward she was increasingly angered by masculine condescension to female talent. In A Room of One’s Own (1929), Woolf blamed women’s absence from history not on their lack of brains and talent but on their poverty. For her 1931 talk Professions for Women, Woolf studied the history of women’s education and employment and argued that unequal opportunities for women negatively affect all of society. She urged women to destroy the “angel in the house,” a reference to Coventry Patmore’s poem of that title, the quintessential Victorian paean to women who sacrifice themselves to men.

Having praised a 1930 exhibit of Vanessa Bell’s paintings for their wordlessness, Woolf planned a mystical novel that would be similarly impersonal and abstract. In The Waves (1931), poetic interludes describe the sea and sky from dawn to dusk. Between the interludes, the voices of six named characters appear in sections that move from their childhood to old age. In the middle section, when the six friends meet at a farewell dinner for another friend leaving for India, the single flower at the centre of the dinner table becomes a “seven-sided flower…a whole flower to which every eye brings its own contribution.” The Waves offers a six-sided shape that illustrates how each individual experiences events—including their friend’s death—uniquely. Bernard, the writer in the group, narrates the final section, defying death and a world “without a self.” Unique though they are (and their prototypes can be identified in the Bloomsbury group), the characters become one, just as the sea and sky become indistinguishable in the interludes. This oneness with all creation was the primal experience Woolf had felt as a child in Cornwall. In this her most experimental novel, she achieved its poetic equivalent. Through To the Lighthouse and The Waves, Woolf became, with James Joyce and William Faulkner, one of the three major English-language Modernist experimenters in stream-of-consciousness writing.

Late work
From her earliest days, Woolf had framed experience in terms of oppositions, even while she longed for a holistic state beyond binary divisions. The “perpetual marriage of granite and rainbow” Woolf described in her essay The New Biography typified her approach during the 1930s to individual works and to a balance between writing works of fact and of imagination. Even before finishing The Waves, she began compiling a scrapbook of clippings illustrating the horrors of war, the threat of fascism, and the oppression of women. The discrimination against women that Woolf had discussed in A Room of One’s Own and Professions for Women inspired her to plan a book that would trace the story of a fictional family named Pargiter and explain the social conditions affecting family members over a period of time. In The Pargiters: A Novel-Essay she would alternate between sections of fiction and of fact. For the fictional historical narrative, she relied upon experiences of friends and family from the Victorian Age to the 1930s. For the essays, she researched that 50-year span of history. The task, however, of moving between fiction and fact was daunting.

Woolf took a holiday from The Pargiters to write a mock biography of Flush, the dog of poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Lytton Strachey having recently died, Woolf muted her spoof of his biographical method; nevertheless, Flush (1933) remains both a biographical satire and a lighthearted exploration of perception, in this case a dog’s. In 1935 Woolf completed Freshwater, an absurdist drama based on the life of her great-aunt Julia Margaret Cameron. Featuring such other eminences as the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and the painter George Frederick Watts, this riotous play satirizes high-minded Victorian notions of art.

Meanwhile, Woolf feared she would never finish The Pargiters. Alternating between types of prose was proving cumbersome, and the book was becoming too long. She solved this dilemma by jettisoning the essay sections, keeping the family narrative, and renaming her book The Years. She narrated 50 years of family history through the decline of class and patriarchal systems, the rise of feminism, and the threat of another war. Desperate to finish, Woolf lightened the book with poetic echoes of gestures, objects, colours, and sounds and with wholesale deletions, cutting epiphanies for Eleanor Pargiter and explicit references to women’s bodies. The novel illustrates the damage done to women and society over the years by sexual repression, ignorance, and discrimination. Though (or perhaps because) Woolf’s trimming muted the book’s radicalism, The Years (1937) became a best seller.

When Fry died in 1934, Virginia was distressed; Vanessa was devastated. Then in July 1937 Vanessa’s elder son, Julian Bell, was killed in the Spanish Civil War while driving an ambulance for the Republican army. Vanessa was so disconsolate that Virginia put aside her writing for a time to try to comfort her sister. Privately a lament over Julian’s death and publicly a diatribe against war, Three Guineas (1938) proposes answers to the question of how to prevent war. Woolf connected masculine symbols of authority with militarism and misogyny, an argument buttressed by notes from her clippings about aggression, fascism, and war.

Still distressed by the deaths of Roger Fry and Julian Bell, she determined to test her theories about experimental, novelistic biography in a life of Fry. As she acknowledged in The Art of Biography (1939), the recalcitrance of evidence brought her near despair over the possibility of writing an imaginative biography. Against the “grind” of finishing the Fry biography, Woolf wrote a verse play about the history of English literature. Her next novel, Pointz Hall (later retitled Between the Acts), would include the play as a pageant performed by villagers and would convey the gentry’s varied reactions to it. As another holiday from Fry’s biography, Woolf returned to her own childhood with A Sketch of the Past, a memoir about her mixed feelings toward her parents and her past and about memoir writing itself. (Here surfaced for the first time in writing a memory of the teenage Gerald Duckworth, her other half brother, touching her inappropriately when she was a girl of perhaps four or five.) Through last-minute borrowing from the letters between Fry and Vanessa, Woolf finished her biography. Though convinced that Roger Fry (1940) was more granite than rainbow, Virginia congratulated herself on at least giving back to Vanessa “her Roger.”

Woolf’s chief anodyne against Adolf Hitler, World War II, and her own despair was writing. During the bombing of London in 1940 and 1941, she worked on her memoir and Between the Acts. In her novel, war threatens art and humanity itself, and, in the interplay between the pageant—performed on a June day in 1939—and the audience, Woolf raises questions about perception and response. Despite Between the Acts’s affirmation of the value of art, Woolf worried that this novel was “too slight” and indeed that all writing was irrelevant when England seemed on the verge of invasion and civilization about to slide over a precipice. Facing such horrors, a depressed Woolf found herself unable to write. The demons of self-doubt that she had kept at bay for so long returned to haunt her. On March 28, 1941, fearing that she now lacked the resilience to battle them, she walked behind Monk’s House and down to the River Ouse, put stones in her pockets, and drowned herself. Between the Acts was published posthumously later that year.

Woolf’s experiments with point of view confirm that, as Bernard thinks in The Waves, “we are not single.” Being neither single nor fixed, perception in her novels is fluid, as is the world she presents. While Joyce and Faulkner separate one character’s interior monologues from another’s, Woolf’s narratives move between inner and outer and between characters without clear demarcations. Furthermore, she avoids the self-absorption of many of her contemporaries and implies a brutal society without the explicit details some of her contemporaries felt obligatory. Her nonlinear forms invite reading not for neat solutions but for an aesthetic resolution of “shivering fragments,” as she wrote in 1908. While Woolf’s fragmented style is distinctly Modernist, her indeterminacy anticipates a postmodern awareness of the evanescence of boundaries and categories.

Woolf’s many essays about the art of writing and about reading itself today retain their appeal to a range of, in Samuel Johnson’s words, “common” (unspecialized) readers. Woolf’s collection of essays The Common Reader (1925) was followed by The Common Reader: Second Series (1932; also published as The Second Common Reader). She continued writing essays on reading and writing, women and history, and class and politics for the rest of her life. Many were collected after her death in volumes edited by Leonard Woolf.

Virginia Woolf wrote far more fiction than Joyce and far more nonfiction than either Joyce or Faulkner. Six volumes of diaries (including her early journals), six volumes of letters, and numerous volumes of collected essays show her deep engagement with major 20th-century issues. Though many of her essays began as reviews, written anonymously to deadlines for money, and many include imaginative settings and whimsical speculations, they are serious inquiries into reading and writing, the novel and the arts, perception and essence, war and peace, class and politics, privilege and discrimination, and the need to reform society.

Woolf’s haunting language, her prescient insights into wide-ranging historical, political, feminist, and artistic issues, and her revisionist experiments with novelistic form during a remarkably productive career altered the course of Modernist and postmodernist letters.

Panthea Reid


Indeed, as a result of late 20th-century rereadings of Modernism, scholars now recognize the central importance of women writers to British Modernism, particularly as manifested in the works of Mansfield, Richardson, May Sinclair, Mary Butts, Rebecca West (pseudonym of Cicily Isabel Andrews), Jean Rhys (born in the West Indies), and the American poet Hilda Doolittle (who spent her adult life mainly in England and Switzerland). Sinclair, who produced 24 novels in the course of a prolific literary career, was an active feminist and an advocate of psychical research, including psychoanalysis. These concerns were evident in her most accomplished novels, Mary Olivier: A Life (1919) and Life and Death of Harriett Frean (1922), which explored the ways in which her female characters contributed to their own social and psychological repression. West, whose pen name was based on one of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s female characters, was similarly interested in female self-negation. From her first and greatly underrated novel, The Return of the Soldier (1918), to later novels such as Harriet Hume (1929), she explored how and why middle-class women so tenaciously upheld the division between private and public spheres and helped to sustain the traditional values of the masculine world. West became a highly successful writer on social and political issues—she wrote memorably on the Balkans and on the Nürnberg trials at the end of World War II—but her public acclaim as a journalist obscured during her lifetime her greater achievements as a novelist.

In her 13-volume Pilgrimage (the first volume, Pointed Roofs, appeared in 1915; the last, March Moonlight, in 1967), Richardson was far more positive about the capacity of women to realize themselves. She presented events through the mind of her autobiographical persona, Miriam Henderson, describing both the social and economic limitations and the psychological and intellectual possibilities of a young woman without means coming of age with the new century. Other women writers of the period also made major contributions to new kinds of psychological realism. In Bliss and Other Stories (1920) and The Garden Party and Other Stories (1922), Mansfield (who went to England at age 19) revolutionized the short story by rejecting the mechanisms of plot in favour of an impressionistic sense of the flow of experience, punctuated by an arresting moment of insight. In Postures (1928, reprinted as Quartet in 1969), Voyage in the Dark (1934), and Good Morning, Midnight (1939), Rhys depicted the lives of vulnerable women adrift in London and Paris, vulnerable because they were poor and because the words in which they innocently believed—honesty in relationships, fidelity in marriage—proved in practice to be empty.

Creating heavily symbolic novels based on the quest-romance, such as Ashe of Rings (1925) and Armed with Madness (1928), Butts explored a more general loss of value in the contemporary wasteland (T.S. Eliot was an obvious influence on her work), while Doolittle (whose reputation rested upon her contribution to the Imagist movement in poetry) used the quest-romance in a series of autobiographical novels—including Paint It Today (written in 1921 but first published in 1992) and Bid Me to Live (1960)—to chart a way through the contemporary world for female characters in search of sustaining, often same-sex relationships. Following the posthumous publication of her strikingly original prose, Doolittle’s reputation was revised and enhanced.


Katherine Mansfield


pseudonym of Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp, married name Kathleen Mansfield Murry

born Oct. 14, 1888, Wellington, N.Z.
died Jan. 9, 1923, Gurdjieff Institute, near Fontainebleau, France

New Zealand-born English master of the short story, who evolved a distinctive prose style with many overtones of poetry. Her delicate stories, focused upon psychological conflicts, have an obliqueness of narration and a subtlety of observation that reveal the influence of Anton Chekhov. She, in turn, had much influence on the development of the short story as a form of literature.

After her education (in Wellington and London), Katherine Mansfield left New Zealand at the age of 19 to establish herself in England as a writer. Her initial disillusion appears in the ill-humoured stories collected in In a German Pension (1911). Until 1914 she published stories in Rhythm and The Blue Review, edited by the critic and essayist John Middleton Murry, whom she married in 1918 after her divorce from George Bowden. The death of her soldier brother in 1915 shocked her into a recognition that she owed what she termed a sacred debt to him and to the remembered places of her native country. Prelude (1918) was a series of short stories beautifully evocative of her family memories of New Zealand. These, with others, were collected in Bliss (1920), which secured her reputation and is typical of her art.

In the next two years Mansfield did her best work, achieving the height of her powers in The Garden Party (1922), which includes “At the Bay,” “The Voyage,” “The Stranger” (with New Zealand settings), and the classic “Daughters of the Late Colonel,” a subtle account of genteel frustration. The last five years of her life were shadowed by tuberculosis. Her final work (apart from unfinished material) was published posthumously in The Dove’s Nest (1923) and Something Childish (1924).

From her papers, Murry edited the Journal (1927, rev. ed. 1954), and he also published with annotations her letters to him (1928, rev. ed. 1951). Her collected letters were edited by Vincent O’Sullivan and Margaret Scott (1984–2008); Scott also edited Mansfield’s notebooks (1997).




Dorothy Richardson

in full Dorothy Miller Richardson, married name Dorothy Odle

born May 17, 1873, Abingdon, Berkshire, Eng.
died June 17, 1957, Beckenham, Kent

English novelist, an often neglected pioneer in stream-of-consciousness fiction.

Richardson passed her childhood and youth in secluded surroundings in late Victorian England. After her schooling, which ended when, in her 17th year, her parents separated, she engaged in teaching, clerical work, and journalism. In 1917 she married the artist Alan Elsden Odle. She commands attention for her ambitious sequence novel Pilgrimage (published in separate volumes—she preferred to call them chapters—as Pointed Roofs, 1915; Backwater, 1916; Honeycomb, 1917; The Tunnel, 1919; Interim, 1919; Deadlock, 1921; Revolving Lights, 1923; The Trap, 1925; Oberland, 1927; Dawn’s Left Hand, 1931; Clear Horizon, 1935; the last part, Dimple Hill, appeared under the collective title, four volumes, 1938).

Pilgrimage is an extraordinarily sensitive story, seen cinematically through the eyes of Miriam Henderson, an attractive and mystical New Woman. Although the length of the work and the intense demand it makes on the reader have kept it from general popularity, it is a significant novel of the 20th century, not least for its attempt to find new formal means by which to represent feminine consciousness.



Rebecca West

born Dec. 21, 1892, London, Eng.
died March 15, 1983, London

British journalist, novelist, and critic, who was perhaps best known for her reports on the Nürnberg trials of war criminals (1945–46).

West was the daughter of an army officer and was educated in Edinburgh after her father’s death in 1902. She later trained in London as an actress (taking her pseudonym from a role that she had played in Henrik Ibsen’s play Rosmersholm).

From 1911 West became involved in journalism, contributing frequently to the left-wing press and making a name for herself as a fighter for woman suffrage. In 1916 she published a critical biography of Henry James that revealed something of her lively intellectual curiosity, and she then embarked on a career as a novelist with an outstanding—and Jamesian—novel, The Return of the Soldier (1918). Describing the return of a shell-shocked soldier from World War I, the novel subtly explores questions of gender and class, identity and memory. Her other novels include The Judge (1922), Harriet Hume (1929), The Thinking Reed (1936), The Fountain Overflows (1957), and The Birds Fall Down (1966). In 1937 West visited Yugoslavia and later wrote Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, 2 vol. (1942), an examination of Balkan politics, culture, and history. In 1946 she reported on the trial for treason of William Joyce (“Lord Haw-Haw”) for The New Yorker magazine. Published as The Meaning of Treason (1949; rev. ed., 1965), it examined not only the traitor’s role in modern society but also that of the intellectual and of the scientist. Later she published a similar collection, The New Meaning of Treason (1964). Her brilliant reports on the Nürnberg trials were collected in A Train of Powder (1955). West was created a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1959. During West’s lifetime, her novels attracted much less attention than did her social and cultural writings, but, at the end of the 20th century, feminist critics argued persuasively that her fiction was formally as inventive as that of her female modernist contemporaries.

Rebecca West: A Celebration, a selection of her works, was published in 1977, and her personal reflection on the turn of the 20th century, 1900, was published in 1982. Selected Letters of Rebecca West, edited by Bonnie Kime Scott, was published in 2000. The critic and author Anthony West was the son of Dame Rebecca and the English novelist H.G. Wells.




Jean Rhys

born Aug. 24, 1890, Roseau, Dominica, Windward Islands, West Indies
died May 14, 1979, Exeter, Devon, Eng.

West Indian novelist who earned acclaim for her early works set in the bohemian world of Europe in the 1920s and ’30s but who stopped writing for nearly three decades, until she wrote a successful novel set in the West Indies.

The daughter of a Welsh doctor and a Creole mother, Rhys lived and was educated in Dominica until she went to London at the age of 16 and worked as an actress before moving to Paris. There she was encouraged to write by the English novelist Ford Madox Ford. Her first book, a collection of short stories, The Left Bank (1927), was followed by such novels as Postures (1928), After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie (1931), Voyage in the Dark (1934), and Good Morning, Midnight (1939).

After moving to Cornwall she wrote nothing until her remarkably successful Wide Sargasso Sea (1966), a novel that reconstructed the earlier life of the fictional character Antoinette Cosway, who was Mr. Rochester’s mad first wife in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Tigers Are Better-Looking, with a Selection from the Left Bank (1968) and Sleep It Off Lady (1976), both short-story collections, followed. Smile Please, an unfinished autobiography, was published in 1979.

The 1930s

World War I created a profound sense of crisis in English culture, and this became even more intense with the worldwide economic collapse of the late 1920s and early ’30s, the rise of fascism, the Spanish Civil War (1936–39), and the approach of another full-scale conflict in Europe. It is not surprising, therefore, that much of the writing of the 1930s was bleak and pessimistic: even
Evelyn Waugh’s sharp and amusing satire on contemporary England, Vile Bodies (1930), ended with another, more disastrous war.

Divisions of class and the burden of sexual repression became common and interrelated themes in the fiction of the 1930s. In his trilogy A Scots Quair (Sunset Song [1932], Cloud Howe [1933], and Grey Granite [1934]), the novelist Lewis Grassic Gibbon (pseudonym of James Leslie Mitchell) gives a panoramic account of Scottish rural and working-class life. The work resembles Lawrence’s novel The Rainbow in its historical sweep and intensity of vision. Walter Greenwood’s Love on the Dole (1933) is a bleak record, in the manner of Bennett, of the economic depression in a northern working-class community; and Graham Greene’s It’s a Battlefield (1934) and Brighton Rock (1938) are desolate studies, in the manner of Conrad, of the loneliness and guilt of men and women trapped in a contemporary England of conflict and decay. A Clergyman’s Daughter (1935) and Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936), by George Orwell, are evocations—in the manner of Wells and, in the latter case unsuccessfully, of Joyce—of contemporary lower-middle-class existence, and The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) is a report of northern working-class mores. Elizabeth Bowen’s Death of the Heart (1938) is a sardonic analysis, in the manner of James, of contemporary upper-class values.


Evelyn Waugh


in full Evelyn Arthur St. John Waugh

born October 28, 1903, London, England
died April 10, 1966, Combe Florey, near Taunton, Somerset

English writer regarded by many as the most brilliant satirical novelist of his day.

Waugh was educated at Lancing College, Sussex, and at Hertford College, Oxford. After short periods as an art student and schoolmaster, he devoted himself to solitary observant travel and to the writing of novels, soon earning a wide reputation for sardonic wit and technical brilliance. During World War II he served in the Royal Marines and the Royal Horse Guards; in 1944 he joined the British military mission to the Yugoslav Partisans. After the war he led a retired life in the west of England.

Waugh’s novels, although their material is nearly always derived from firsthand experience, are unusually highly wrought and precisely written. Those written before 1939 may be described as satirical. The most noteworthy are Decline and Fall (1928), Vile Bodies (1930), Black Mischief (1932), A Handful of Dust (1934), and Scoop (1938). A later work in that vein is The Loved One (1948), a satire on the morticians’ industry in California.

During the war Waugh’s writing took a more serious and ambitious turn. In Brideshead Revisited (1945) he studied the workings of providence and the recovery of faith among the members of a Roman Catholic landed family. (Waugh was received into the Roman Catholic Church in 1930.) Helena, published in 1950, is a novel about the mother of Constantine the Great, in which Waugh re-created one moment in Christian history to assert a particular theological point. In a trilogy—Men at Arms (1952), Officers and Gentlemen (1955), and Unconditional Surrender (1961)—he analyzed the character of World War II, in particular its relationship with the eternal struggle between good and evil and the temporal struggle between civilization and barbarism.

Waugh also wrote travel books; lives of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1928), Edmund Campion (1935), and Ronald Knox (1959); and the first part of an autobiography, A Little Learning (1964). The Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, edited by Michael Davie and first published in 1976, was reissued in 1995. A selection of Waugh’s letters, edited by Mark Amory, was published in 1980.



Lewis Grassic Gibbon

pseudonym of James Leslie Mitchell

born Feb. 13, 1901, Hillhead of Segget, Auchterless, Aberdeenshire, Scot.
died Feb. 7, 1935, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, Eng.

Scottish novelist whose inventive trilogy published under the collective title A Scots Quair (1946) made him a significant figure in the 20th-century Scottish Renaissance.

Mitchell quit school at the age of 16 and worked as a junior reporter in Aberdeen and Glasgow before joining the Royal Army Service Corps in 1919. He was stationed at various posts in the Middle East. Discharged in 1923, he reenlisted in the Royal Air Force and worked as a clerk in England for six years. His first book, a work of nonfiction, was published in 1928. He published 17 more books—including fiction, short stories, and history—before his death six years later. With the exception of his trilogy and a book on Scotland (written with poet Hugh MacDiarmid), these books were published under his real name.

Gibbon published Sunset Song—the first and perhaps best book of his famous trilogy—in 1932. It is notable for its masterful recreation of the rhythms and ring of Scots without resort to dialect spellings and Scots vocabulary. He followed Sunset Song with Cloud Howe (1933) and Grey Granite (1934). The novels follow the protagonist Chris Guthrie from her youth in the prewar Scottish countryside through postwar depression and economic and social crises; taken together they trace early 20th-century Scottish life in all “its sourness, its harshness, in its beauty, and its sorrow.” Of Gibbon’s other works, only the quasi-autobiographical novel The Thirteenth Disciple (1931) and the novel Spartacus (1933) are of lasting interest.



Graham Greene


in full Henry Graham Greene

born Oct. 2, 1904, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, Eng.
died April 3, 1991, Vevey, Switz.

English novelist, short-story writer, playwright, and journalist whose novels treat life’s moral ambiguities in the context of contemporary political settings.

His father was the headmaster of Berkhamsted School, which Greene attended for some years. After running away from school, he was sent to London to a psychoanalyst in whose house he lived while under treatment. After studying at Balliol College, Oxford, Greene converted to Roman Catholicism in 1926, partly through the influence of his future wife, Vivien Dayrell-Browning, whom he married in 1927. He moved to London and worked for The Times as a copy editor from 1926 to 1930. His first published work was a book of verse, Babbling April (1925), and upon the modest success of his first novel, The Man Within (1929), he quit The Times and worked as a film critic and literary editor for The Spectator until 1940. He then traveled widely for much of the next three decades as a freelance journalist, searching out locations for his novels in the process.

Greene’s first three novels are held to be of small account. He began to come into his own with a thriller, Stamboul Train (1932; also entitled Orient Express), which plays off various characters against each other as they ride a train from the English Channel to Istanbul. This was the first of a string of novels that he termed “entertainments,” works similar to thrillers in their spare, tough language and their suspenseful, swiftly moving plots, but possessing greater moral complexity and depth. Stamboul Train was also the first of Greene’s many novels to be filmed (1934). It was followed by three more entertainments that were equally popular with the reading public: A Gun for Sale (1936; also entitled This Gun For Hire; filmed 1942), The Confidential Agent (1939; filmed 1945), and The Ministry of Fear (1943; filmed 1945). A fifth entertainment, The Third Man, which was published in novel form in 1949, was originally a screenplay for a classic film directed by Carol Reed.

One of Greene’s finest novels, Brighton Rock (1938; filmed 1948), shares some elements with his entertainments—the protagonist is a hunted criminal roaming the underworld of an English sea resort—but explores the contrasting moral attitudes of its main characters with a new degree of intensity and emotional involvement. In this book, Greene contrasts a cheerful and warm-hearted humanist he obviously dislikes with a corrupt and violent teenage criminal whose tragic situation is intensified by a Roman Catholic upbringing. Greene’s finest novel, The Power and the Glory (1940; filmed 1962), has a more directly Catholic theme: the desperate wanderings of a priest who is hunted down in rural Mexico at a time when the church is outlawed there. The weak and alcoholic priest tries to fulfill his priestly duties despite the constant threat of death at the hands of a revolutionary government.

Greene worked for the Foreign Office during World War II and was stationed for a while at Freetown, Sierra Leone, the scene of another of his best-known novels, The Heart of the Matter (1948; filmed 1953). This book traces the decline of a kind-hearted British colonial officer whose pity for his wife and mistress eventually leads him to commit suicide. The End of the Affair (1951; filmed 1999) is narrated by an agnostic in love with a woman who forsakes him because of a religious conviction that brings her near to sainthood.

Greene’s next four novels were each set in a different Third World nation on the brink of political upheaval. The protagonist of A Burnt-Out Case (1961) is a Roman Catholic architect tired of adulation who meets a tragic end in the Belgian Congo shortly before that colony reaches independence. The Quiet American (1956; filmed 1958 and 2002) chronicles the doings of a well-intentioned American government agent in Vietnam in the midst of the anti-French uprising there in the early 1950s. Our Man in Havana (1958; filmed 1959) is set in Cuba just before the communist revolution there, while The Comedians (1966; filmed 1967) is set in Haiti during the rule of François Duvalier. Greene’s last four novels, The Honorary Consul (1973; filmed 1983), The Human Factor (1978; filmed 1979), Monsignor Quixote (1982), and The Tenth Man (1985), represent a decline from the level of his best fiction.

The world Greene’s characters inhabit is a fallen one, and the tone of his works emphasizes the presence of evil as a palpable force. His novels display a consistent preoccupation with sin and moral failure acted out in seedy locales characterized by danger, violence, and physical decay. Greene’s chief concern is the moral and spiritual struggles within individuals, but the larger political and social settings of his novels give such conflicts an enhanced resonance. His early novels depict a shabby Depression-stricken Europe sliding toward fascism and war, while many of his subsequent novels are set in remote locales undergoing wars, revolutions, or other political upheavals.

Despite the downbeat tone of much of his subject matter, Greene was in fact one of the most widely read British novelists of the 20th century. His books’ unusual popularity is due partly to his production of thrillers featuring crime and intrigue but more importantly to his superb gifts as a storyteller, especially his masterful selection of detail and his use of realistic dialogue in a fast-paced narrative. Throughout his career, Greene was fascinated by film, and he often emulated cinematic techniques in his writing. No other British writer of this period was as aware as Greene of the power and influence of cinema.

Greene published several collections of short stories, among them Nineteen Stories (1947; revised as Twenty-One Stories, 1954). Among his plays are The Living Room (performed 1952) and The Potting Shed (1957). His Collected Essays appeared in 1969. A Sort of Life (1971) is a memoir to 1931, to which Ways of Escape (1980) is a sequel. A collection of his film criticism is available in Mornings in the Dark: The Graham Greene Film Reader (1993). In 2007 a selection of his letters was published as Graham Greene: A Life in Letters. The unfinished manuscript The Empty Chair, a murder mystery that Greene began writing in 1926, was discovered in 2008; it was serialized the following year.





George Orwell

"Nineteen Eighty-Four"


British author
pseudonym of Eric Arthur Blair
born 1903, Motīhāri, Bengal, India
died Jan. 21, 1950, London

English novelist, essayist, and critic famous for his novels Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen Eighty-four (1949), the latter a profound anti-Utopian novel that examines the dangers of totalitarian rule.

Born Eric Arthur Blair, Orwell never entirely abandoned his original name, but his first book (Down and Out in Paris and London) appeared as the work of George Orwell (the surname he derived from the beautiful River Orwell in East Anglia). In time his nom de plume became so closely attached to him that few people but relatives knew his real name was Blair. The change in name corresponded to a profound shift in Orwell’s life-style, in which he changed from a pillar of the British imperial establishment into a literary and political rebel.

He was born in Bengal, into the class of sahibs. His father was a minor British official in the Indian civil service; his mother, of French extraction, was the daughter of an unsuccessful teak merchant in Burma. Their attitudes were those of the “landless gentry,” as Orwell later called lower-middle-class people whose pretensions to social status had little relation to their income. Orwell was thus brought up in an atmosphere of impoverished snobbery. After returning with his parents to England, he was sent in 1911 to a preparatory boarding school on the Sussex coast, where he was distinguished among the other boys by his poverty and his intellectual brilliance. He grew up a morose, withdrawn, eccentric boy, and he was later to tell of the miseries of those years in his posthumously published autobiographical essay, Such, Such Were the Joys (1953).

Orwell won scholarships to two of England’s leading schools, Winchester and Eton, and chose the latter. He stayed from 1917 to 1921. Aldous Huxley was one of his masters, and it was at Eton that he published his first writing in college periodicals. Instead of accepting a scholarship to a university, Orwell decided to follow family tradition and, in 1922, went to Burma as assistant district superintendent in the Indian Imperial Police. He served in a number of country stations and at first appeared to be a model imperial servant. Yet from boyhood he had wanted to become a writer, and when he realized how much against their will the Burmese were ruled by the British, he felt increasingly ashamed of his role as a colonial police officer. Later he was to recount his experiences and his reactions to imperial rule in his novel Burmese Days and in two brilliant autobiographical sketches, “Shooting an Elephant” and “A Hanging,” classics of expository prose.

In 1927 Orwell, on leave to England, decided not to return to Burma, and on Jan. 1, 1928, he took the decisive step of resigning from the imperial police. Already in the autumn of 1927 he had started on a course of action that was to shape his character as a writer. Having felt guilty that the barriers of race and caste had prevented his mingling with the Burmese, he thought he could expiate some of his guilt by immersing himself in the life of the poor and outcast people of Europe. Donning ragged clothes, he went into the East End of London to live in cheap lodging houses among labourers and beggars; he spent a period in the slums of Paris and worked as a dishwasher in French hotels and restaurants; he tramped the roads of England with professional vagrants and joined the people of the London slums in their annual exodus to work in the Kentish hopfields.

These experiences gave Orwell the material for Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), in which actual incidents are rearranged into something like fiction. The book’s publication in 1933 earned him some initial literary recognition. Orwell’s first novel, Burmese Days (1934), established the pattern of his subsequent fiction in its portrayal of a sensitive, conscientious, and emotionally isolated individual who is at odds with an oppressive or dishonest social environment. The main character of Burmese Days is a minor administrator who seeks to escape from the dreary and narrow-minded chauvinism of his fellow British colonialists in Burma. His sympathies for the Burmese, however, end in an unforeseen personal tragedy. The protagonist of Orwell’s next novel, A Clergyman’s Daughter (1935), is an unhappy spinster who achieves a brief and accidental liberation in her experiences among some agricultural labourers. Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936) is about a literarily inclined bookseller’s assistant who despises the empty commercialism and materialism of middle-class life but who in the end is reconciled to bourgeois prosperity by his forced marriage to the girl he loves.

Orwell’s revulsion against imperialism led not only to his personal rejection of the bourgeois life-style but to a political reorientation as well. Immediately after returning from Burma he called himself an anarchist and continued to do so for several years; during the 1930s, however, he began to consider himself a socialist, though he was too libertarian in his thinking ever to take the further step—so common in the period—of declaring himself a communist.

Orwell’s first socialist book was an original and unorthodox political treatise entitled The Road to Wigan Pier (1937). It begins by describing his experiences when he went to live among the destitute and unemployed miners of northern England, sharing and observing their lives; it ends in a series of sharp criticisms of existing socialist movements. It combines mordant reporting with a tone of generous anger that was to characterize Orwell’s subsequent writing.

By the time The Road to Wigan Pier was in print, Orwell was in Spain; he went to report on the Civil War there and stayed to join the Republican militia, serving on the Aragon and Teruel fronts and rising to the rank of second lieutenant. He was seriously wounded at Teruel, damage to his throat permanently affecting his voice and endowing his speech with a strange, compelling quietness. Later, in May 1937, after having fought in Barcelona against communists who were trying to suppress their political opponents, he was forced to flee Spain in fear of his life. The experience left him with a lifelong dread of communism, first expressed in the vivid account of his Spanish experiences, Homage to Catalonia (1938), which many consider one of his best books.

Returning to England, Orwell showed a paradoxically conservative strain in writing Coming Up for Air (1939), in which he uses the nostalgic recollections of a middle-aged man to examine the decency of a past England and express his fears about a future threatened by war and fascism. When war did come, Orwell was rejected for military service, and instead he headed the Indian service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). He left the BBC in 1943 and became literary editor of the Tribune, a left-wing socialist paper associated with the British Labour leader Aneurin Bevan. At this period Orwell was a prolific journalist, writing many newspaper articles and reviews, together with serious criticism, like his classic essays on Charles Dickens and on boys’ weeklies and a number of books about England (notably The Lion and the Unicorn, 1941) that combined patriotic sentiment with the advocacy of a libertarian, decentralist socialism very much unlike that practiced by the British Labour Party.

In 1944 Orwell finished Animal Farm, a political fable based on the story of the Russian Revolution and its betrayal by Joseph Stalin. In this book a group of barnyard animals overthrow and chase off their exploitative human masters and set up an egalitarian society of their own. Eventually the animals’ intelligent and power-loving leaders, the pigs, subvert the revolution and form a dictatorship whose bondage is even more oppressive and heartless than that of their former human masters. (“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”) At first Orwell had difficulty finding a publisher for this small masterpiece, but when it appeared in 1945 Animal Farm made him famous and, for the first time, prosperous.

Animal Farm was one of Orwell’s finest works, full of wit and fantasy and admirably written. It has, however, been overshadowed by his last book, Nineteen Eighty-four (1949), a novel he wrote as a warning after years of brooding on the twin menaces of Nazism and Stalinism. The novel is set in an imaginary future in which the world is dominated by three perpetually warring totalitarian police states. The book’s hero, the Englishman Winston Smith, is a minor party functionary in one of these states. His longing for truth and decency leads him to secretly rebel against the government, which perpetuates its rule by systematically distorting the truth and continuously rewriting history to suit its own purposes. Smith has a love affair with a like-minded woman, but then they are both arrested by the Thought Police. The ensuing imprisonment, torture, and reeducation of Smith are intended not merely to break him physically or make him submit but to root out his independent mental existence and his spiritual dignity until he can love only the figure he previously most hated: the apparent leader of the party, Big Brother. Smith’s surrender to the monstrous brainwashing techniques of his jailers is tragic enough, but the novel gains much of its power from the comprehensive rigour with which it extends the premises of totalitarianism to their logical end: the love of power and domination over others has acquired its perfected expression in the perpetual surveillance and omnipresent dishonesty of an unassailable and irresistible police state under whose rule every human virtue is slowly being suborned and extinguished. Orwell’s warning of the potential dangers of totalitarianism made a deep impression on his contemporaries and upon subsequent readers, and the book’s title and many of its coined words and phrases (“Big Brother is watching you,” “newspeak,” “doublethink”) became bywords for modern political abuses.

Orwell wrote the last pages of Nineteen Eighty-four in a remote house on the Hebridean island of Jura, which he had bought from the proceeds of Animal Farm. He worked between bouts of hospitalization for tuberculosis, of which he died in a London hospital in January 1950.

George Woodcock



Elizabeth Bowen


born June 7, 1899, Dublin, Ire.
died Feb. 22, 1973, London, Eng.

British novelist and short-story writer who employed a finely wrought prose style in fictions frequently detailing uneasy and unfulfilling relationships among the upper-middle class. The Death of the Heart (1938), the title of one of her most highly praised novels, might have served for most of them.

Bowen was born of the Anglo-Irish gentry and spent her early childhood in Dublin, as related in her autobiographical fragment Seven Winters (1942), and at the family house she later inherited at Kildorrery, County Cork. The history of the house is recounted in Bowen’s Court (1942), and it is the scene of her novel The Last September (1929), which takes place during the troubles that preceded Irish independence. When she was 7, her father suffered a mental illness, and she departed for England with her mother, who died when Elizabeth was 12. An only child, she lived with relatives on the Kentish coast.

With a little money that enabled her to live independently in London and to winter in Italy, Bowen began writing short stories at 20. Her first collection, Encounters, appeared in 1923. It was followed in 1927 by The Hotel, which contains a typical Bowen heroine—a girl attempting to cope with a life for which she is unprepared. The Last September (1929) is an autumnal picture of the Anglo-Irish gentry. The House in Paris (1935), another of Bowen’s highly praised novels, is a story of love and betrayal told partly through the eyes of two children.

During World War II, Bowen worked for the Ministry of Information in London and served as an air raid warden. Her novel set in wartime London, The Heat of the Day (1949), is among her most significant works. The war also forms the basis for one of her collections of short stories, The Demon Lover (1945; U.S. title, Ivy Gripped the Steps). Her essays appear in Collected Impressions (1950) and Afterthought (1962). Bowen’s last book, Pictures and Conversations (1975), is an introspective, partly autobiographical collection of essays and articles. Love’s Civil War: Elizabeth Bowen and Charles Ritchie: Letters and Diaries 1941–1973 (edited by Victoria Glendinning), a record of Bowen’s lengthy affair with a Canadian diplomat, was published in 2009. The work, which features her letters and his diaries, provides insight into Bowen’s sometimes tumultuous personal life.

Yet the most characteristic writing of the decade grew out of the determination to supplement the diagnosis of class division and sexual repression with their cure. It was no accident that the poetry of W.H. Auden and his Oxford contemporaries C. Day-Lewis, Louis MacNeice, and Stephen Spender became quickly identified as the authentic voice of the new generation, for it matched despair with defiance. These self-styled prophets of a new world envisaged freedom from the bourgeois order being achieved in various ways. For Day-Lewis and Spender, technology held out particular promise. This, allied to Marxist precepts, would in their view bring an end to poverty and the suffering it caused. For Auden especially, sexual repression was the enemy, and here the writings of Sigmund Freud and D.H. Lawrence were valuable. Whatever their individual preoccupations, these poets produced in the very play of their poetry, with its mastery of different genres, its rapid shifts of tone and mood, and its strange juxtapositions of the colloquial and esoteric, a blend of seriousness and high spirits irresistible to their peers.

The adventurousness of the new generation was shown in part by its love of travel (as in Christopher Isherwood’s novels Mr. Norris Changes Trains [1935] and Goodbye to Berlin [1939], which reflect his experiences of postwar Germany), in part by its readiness for political involvement, and in part by its openness to the writing of the avant-garde of the Continent. The verse dramas coauthored by Auden and Isherwood, of which The Ascent of F6 (1936) is the most notable, owed much to Bertolt Brecht; the political parables of Rex Warner, of which The Aerodrome (1941) is the most accomplished, owed much to Franz Kafka; and the complex and often obscure poetry of David Gascoyne and Dylan Thomas owed much to the Surrealists. Even so, Yeats’s mature poetry and Eliot’s Waste Land, with its parodies, its satirical edge, its multiplicity of styles, and its quest for spiritual renewal, provided the most significant models and inspiration for the young writers of the period.

The writing of the interwar period had great breadth and diversity, from Modernist experimentation to new documentary modes of realism and from art as propaganda (particularly in the theatre) to conventional fiction, drama, and poetry produced for the popular market. Two trends stand out: first, the impact of film on the writing of the decade, not least on styles of visual realization and dialogue, and, second, the ubiquitous preoccupation with questions of time, on the psychological, historical, and even cosmological levels. As the world became less stable, writers sought both to reflect this and to seek some more-fundamental grounding than that provided by contemporary circumstances.


W.H. Auden

born Feb. 21, 1907, York, Yorkshire, Eng.
died Sept. 29, 1973, Vienna, Austria

English-born poet and man of letters who achieved early fame in the 1930s as a hero of the left during the Great Depression. Most of his verse dramas of this period were written in collaboration with Christopher Isherwood. In 1939 Auden settled in the United States, becoming a U.S. citizen.

In 1908 Auden’s family moved to Birmingham, where his father became medical officer and professor in the university. Since the father was a distinguished physician of broad scientific interests and the mother had been a nurse, the atmosphere of the home was more scientific than literary. It was also devoutly Anglo-Catholic, and Auden’s first religious memories were of “exciting magical rites.” The family name, spelled Audun, appears in the Icelandic sagas, and Auden inherited from his father a fascination with Iceland.

His education followed the standard pattern for children of the middle and upper classes. At 8 he was sent away to St. Edmund’s preparatory school, in Surrey, and at 13 to a public (private) school, Gresham’s, at Holt, in Norfolk. Auden intended to be a mining engineer and was interested primarily in science; he specialized in biology. By 1922 he had discovered his vocation as a poet, and two years later his first poem was published in Public School Verse. In 1925 he entered the University of Oxford (Christ Church), where he established a formidable reputation as poet and sage, having a strong influence on such other literary intellectuals as C. Day Lewis (named poet laureate in 1968), Louis MacNeice, and Stephen Spender, who printed by hand the first collection of Auden’s poems in 1928. Though their names were often linked with his as poets of the so-called Auden generation, the notion of an “Auden Group” dedicated to revolutionary politics was largely a journalistic invention. Upon graduating from Oxford in 1928, Auden, offered a year abroad by his parents, chose Berlin rather than the Paris by which the previous literary generation had been fascinated. He fell in love with the German language and was influenced by its poetry, cabaret songs, and plays, especially those by Bertolt Brecht. He returned to become a schoolmaster in Scotland and England for the next five years.

In his Collected Shorter Poems Auden divides his career into four periods. The first extends from 1927, when he was still an undergraduate, through The Orators of 1932. The “charade” Paid on Both Sides, which along with Poems established Auden’s reputation in 1930, best reveals the imperfectly fused but fascinating amalgam of material from the Icelandic sagas, Old English poetry, public-school stories, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud and other psychologists, and schoolboy humour that enters into all these works. The poems are uneven and often obscure, pulled in contrary directions by the subjective impulse to fantasy, the mythic and unconscious, and the objective impulse to a diagnosis of the ills of society and the psychological and moral defects of the individuals who constitute it. Though the social and political implications of the poetry attracted most attention, the psychological aspect is primary. The notion of poetry as a kind of therapy, performing a function somehow analogous to the psychoanalytical, remains fundamental in Auden.

The second period, 1933–38, is that in which Auden was the hero of the left. Continuing the analysis of the evils of capitalist society, he also warned of the rise of totalitarianism. In On This Island (1937; in Britain, Look, Stranger!, 1936) his verse became more open in texture and accessible to a larger public. For the Group Theatre, a society that put on experimental and noncommercial plays in London, he wrote first The Dance of Death (a musical propaganda play) and then three plays in collaboration with Christopher Isherwood, Auden’s friend since preparatory school: The Dog Beneath the Skin (1935), The Ascent of F 6 (1936), and On the Frontier (1938). Auden also wrote commentaries for documentary films, including a classic of that genre, Night Mail (1936); numerous essays and book reviews; and reportage, most notably on a trip to Iceland with MacNeice, described in Letters from Iceland (1937), and a trip to China with Isherwood that was the basis of Journey to a War (1939). Auden visited Spain briefly in 1937, his poem Spain (1937) being the only immediate result; but the visit, according to his later recollections, marked the beginning both of his disillusion with the left and of his return to Christianity. In 1936 he married Erika Mann, the daughter of the German novelist Thomas Mann, in order to provide her with a British passport. When he and Isherwood went to China, they crossed the United States both ways, and on the return journey they both decided to settle there. In January 1939, both did so.

In the third period, 1939–46, Auden became an American citizen and underwent decisive changes in his religious and intellectual perspective. Another Time (1940) contains some of his best songs and topical verse, and The Double Man (containing “New Year Letter,” which provided the title of the British edition; 1941) embodies his position on the verge of commitment to Christianity. The beliefs and attitudes that are basic to all of Auden’s work after 1940 are defined in three long poems: religious in the Christmas oratorio For the Time Being (1944); aesthetic in the same volume’s Sea and the Mirror (a quasi-dramatic “commentary” on William Shakespeare’s The Tempest); and social-psychological in The Age of Anxiety (1947), the “baroque eclogue” that won Auden the Pulitzer Prize in 1948. Auden wrote no long poems after that.

The fourth period began in 1948, when Auden established the pattern of leaving New York City each year to spend the months from April to October in Europe. From 1948 to 1957 his summer residence was the Italian island of Ischia; in the latter year he bought a farmhouse in Kirchstetten, Austria, where he then spent his summers. In The Shield of Achilles (1955), Homage to Clio (1960), About the House (1965), and City Without Walls (1969) are sequences of poems arranged according to an external pattern (canonical hours, types of landscape, rooms of a house). With Chester Kallman, an American poet and close friend who lived with him for more than 20 years, he rehabilitated the art of the opera libretto. Their best-known collaborations are The Rake’s Progress (1951), for Igor Stravinsky; Elegy for Young Lovers (1961) and The Bassarids (1966), for Hans Werner Henze; and Love’s Labour’s Lost for Nicolas Nabokov. They also edited An Elizabethan Song Book (1956). In 1962 Auden published a volume of criticism, The Dyer’s Hand, and in 1970 a commonplace book, A Certain World. He spent much time on editing and translating, notably The Collected Poems of St. John Perse (1972). In 1972 Auden transferred his winter residence from New York City to Oxford, where he was an honorary fellow at Christ Church College. Of the numerous honours conferred on Auden in this last period, the Bollingen Prize (1953), the National Book Award (1956), and the professorship of poetry at Oxford (1956–61) may be mentioned.

In the early 1930s W.H. Auden was acclaimed prematurely by some as the foremost poet then writing in English, on the disputable ground that his poetry was more relevant to contemporary social and political realities than that of T.S. Eliot and William Butler Yeats, who previously had shared the summit. By the time of Eliot’s death in 1965, however, a convincing case could be made for the assertion that Auden was indeed Eliot’s successor, as Eliot had inherited sole claim to supremacy when Yeats died in 1939.

Auden was, as a poet, far more copious and varied than Eliot and far more uneven. He tried to interpret the times, to diagnose the ills of society and deal with intellectual and moral problems of public concern. But the need to express the inner world of fantasy and dream was equally apparent, and, hence, the poetry is sometimes bewildering. If the poems, taken individually, are often obscure—especially the earlier ones—they create, when taken together, a meaningful poetic cosmos with symbolic landscapes and mythical characters and situations. In his later years Auden ordered the world of his poetry and made it easier of access; he collected his poems, revised them, and presented them chronologically in two volumes: Collected Shorter Poems 1927–57 (1967) and Collected Longer Poems (1969).

Monroe K. Spears



C. Day-Lewis


born April 27, 1904, Ballintubbert, County Leix, Ire.
died May 22, 1972, Hadley Wood, Hertfordshire, Eng.

one of the leading British poets of the 1930s; he then turned from poetry of left-wing political statement to an individual lyricism expressed in more traditional forms.

The son of a clergyman, Day-Lewis was educated at the University of Oxford and taught school until 1935. His Transitional Poem (1929) had already attracted attention, and in the 1930s he was closely associated with W.H. Auden (whose style influenced his own) and other poets who sought a left-wing political solution to the ills of the day. Typical of his views at that time is the verse sequence The Magnetic Mountain (1933) and the critical study A Hope for Poetry (1934).

Day-Lewis was Clark lecturer at the University of Cambridge in 1946; his lectures there were published as The Poetic Image (1947). In 1952 he published his verse translation of Virgil’s Aeneid, which was commissioned by the BBC. He also translated Virgil’s Georgics (1940) and Eclogues (1963). He was professor of poetry at Oxford from 1951 to 1956. The Buried Day (1960), his autobiography, discusses his acceptance and later rejection of communism. Collected Poems appeared in 1954. Later volumes of verse include The Room and Other Poems (1965) and The Whispering Roots (1970). The Complete Poems of C. Day-Lewis was published in 1992.

At his death he was poet laureate, having succeeded John Masefield in 1968. Under the pseudonym of Nicholas Blake he also wrote detective novels, including Minute for Murder (1948) and Whisper in the Gloom (1954).



Louis MacNeice

born Sept. 12, 1907, Belfast, Ire.
died Sept. 3, 1963, London, Eng.

British poet and playwright, a member, with W.H. Auden, C. Day-Lewis, and Stephen Spender, of a group whose low-keyed, unpoetic, socially committed, and topical verse was the “new poetry” of the 1930s.

After studying at the University of Oxford (1926–30), MacNeice became a lecturer in classics at the University of Birmingham (1930–36) and later in Greek at the Bedford College for Women, London (1936–40). In 1941 he began to write and produce radio plays for the British Broadcasting Corporation. Foremost among his fine radio verse plays was the dramatic fantasy The Dark Tower (1947), with music by Benjamin Britten.

MacNeice’s first book of poetry, Blind Fireworks, appeared in 1929, followed by more than a dozen other volumes, such as Poems (1935), Autumn Journal (1939), Collected Poems, 1925–1948 (1949), and, posthumously, The Burning Perch (1963). An intellectual honesty, Celtic exuberance, and sardonic humour characterized his poetry, which combined a charming natural lyricism with the mundane patterns of colloquial speech. His most characteristic mood was that of the slightly detached, wryly observant, ironic and witty commentator. Among MacNeice’s prose works are Letters from Iceland (with W.H. Auden, 1937) and The Poetry of W.B. Yeats (1941). He was also a skilled translator, particularly of Horace and Aeschylus (Agamemnon, 1936).



Stephen Spender

in full Sir Stephen Harold Spender

born February 28, 1909, London, England
died July 16, 1995, London

English poet and critic, who made his reputation in the 1930s with poems expressing the politically conscience-stricken, leftist “new writing” of that period.

A nephew of the Liberal journalist and biographer J.A. Spender, he was educated at University College School, London, and at University College, Oxford. While an undergraduate he met the poets W.H. Auden and C. Day-Lewis, and during 1930–33 he spent many months in Germany with the writer Christopher Isherwood. Among important influences shown in his early volumes—Poems (1933), Vienna (1934), Trial of a Judge, a verse play (1938), and The Still Centre (1939)—were the poetry of the German Rainer Maria Rilke and of the Spaniard Federico García Lorca. Above all, his poems expressed a self-critical, compassionate personality. In the following decades Spender, in some ways a more personal poet than his early associates, became increasingly more autobiographical, turning his gaze from the external topical situation to the subjective experience. His reputation for humanism and honesty is fully vindicated in subsequent volumes—Ruins and Visions (1942), Poems of Dedication (1947), The Edge of Being (1949), Collected Poems (1955), Selected Poems (1965), The Generous Days (1971), and Dolphins (1994).

From the 1940s Spender was better known for his perceptive criticism and his editorial association with the influential reviews Horizon (1940–41) and Encounter (1953–67) than he was as a poet. Spender’s prose works include short stories (The Burning Cactus, 1936), a novel (The Backward Son, 1940), literary criticism (The Destructive Element, 1935; The Creative Element, 1953; The Making of a Poem, 1955; The Struggle of the Modern, 1963), an autobiography (World Within World, 1951; reissued 1994), and uncollected essays with new commentary (The Thirties and After, 1978).

During World War II Spender was a member of the National Fire Service (1941–44). After the war he made several visits to the United States, teaching and lecturing at universities, and in 1965 he became the first non-American to serve as poetry consultant to the Library of Congress (now poet laureate consultant in poetry), a position he held for one year. In 1970 he was appointed professor of English at University College, London; he became professor emeritus in 1977. Spender was knighted in 1983, and he made headlines in 1994 and 1995 when he brought a highly publicized plagiarism suit against novelist David Leavitt; the latter was accused of having borrowed material from Spender’s autobiography for his novel While England Sleeps. Leavitt ultimately revised his work, but not before a vitriolic airing of the controversy in the pages of the leading journals in London and New York.




Christopher Isherwood

born Aug. 26, 1904, High Lane, Cheshire, Eng.
died Jan. 4, 1986, Santa Monica, Calif., U.S.

Anglo-American novelist and playwright best known for his novels about Berlin in the early 1930s.

After working as a secretary and a private tutor, Isherwood gained a measure of coterie recognition with his first two novels, All the Conspirators (1928) and The Memorial (1932). During the 1930s he collaborated with his friend W.H. Auden on three verse dramas, including The Ascent of F6 (1936). But it had been in 1929 that he found the theme that was to make him widely known. Between 1929 and 1933 he lived in Berlin, gaining an outsider’s view of the simultaneous decay of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Nazism. His novels Mr. Norris Changes Trains (1935; The Last of Mr. Norris) and Goodbye to Berlin (1939), which were later published together as The Berlin Stories, established his reputation as an important writer and inspired the play I Am a Camera (1951; film 1955) and the musical Cabaret (1966; film 1972). These books are detached but humorous studies of dubious characters leading seedy expatriate lives in the German capital. In 1938 Isherwood published Lions and Shadows, an amusing and sensitive account of his early life and friendships while a student at the University of Cambridge.

The coming of World War II saw not merely a change of outlook in Isherwood’s writing but also a permanent change of domicile. He immigrated to the United States in 1939 and settled in southern California, where he taught and wrote for Hollywood films. He was naturalized in 1946. It was also in 1939 that Isherwood turned to pacifism and the self-abnegation of Indian Vedānta, becoming a follower of Swami Prabhavananda. In the following decades, Isherwood produced several works on Vedānta and translations with Prabhavananda, including one of the Bhagavadgītā.

Isherwood’s postwar novels continued to demonstrate his personal style of fictional autobiography. A Single Man (1964), a brief but highly regarded novel, presents a single day in the life of a lonely, middle-aged homosexual. His avowedly autobiographical works include a self-revealing memoir of his parents, Kathleen and Frank (1971); a retrospective biography of himself in the 1930s, Christopher and His Kind (1977); and a study of his relationship with Prabhavananda and Vedānta, My Guru and His Disciple (1980).

From 1953 on, Isherwood lived with a companion, Don Bachardy, a painter and portraitist, and both later became involved in homosexual-rights causes.



David Gascoyne

born October 10, 1916, Harrow, Middlesex, England
died November 25, 2001, Newport, Isle of Wight

English poet deeply influenced by the French Surrealist movement of the 1930s.

Gascoyne’s first book of poems, Roman Balcony, appeared in 1932 when he was only 16, and his only novel, Opening Day, appeared the next year. The royalty advance for Opening Day enabled him to visit Paris, which encouraged a passionate interest in Surrealism. His important introductory work, A Short Survey of Surrealism (1935), and his verses Man’s Life Is This Meat (1936) were milestones of the movement in England. Poems, 1937–42 (1943) marked the beginning of his religious verse and contains some of his finest poems, among them his noted good-bye to the 1930s—“Farewell Chorus.” Night Thoughts, a long, semidramatic poem, was broadcast in 1955 and published the next year.

Gascoyne’s early poetry bears the Surrealist impress boldly, and, through his translations of works by Salvador Dalí and André Breton and his critical writings, he did much to make the movement known in Britain. Gascoyne’s Collected Poems 1988 (1988) is a revised and enlarged version, with autobiographical introduction, of a volume first published in 1965. His Collected Verse Translations, chiefly from the French, was released in 1970. Paris Journal, 1937–1939 (1978) and Journal 1936–37 (1980), jointly published as Collected Journals, 1936–42 in 1991, record the political and artistic movements of the late 1930s.



Dylan Thomas


British author
in full Dylan Marlais Thomas
born October 27, 1914, Swansea, Glamorgan [now in Swansea], Wales
died November 9, 1953, New York, New York, U.S.

Welsh poet and prose writer whose work is known for its comic exuberance, rhapsodic lilt, and pathos. His personal life, especially his reckless bouts of drinking (he died of an overdose of alcohol), was notorious.

Thomas spent his childhood in southwestern Wales. His father taught English at the Swansea grammar school, which in due course the boy attended. Because Dylan’s mother was a farmer’s daughter, he had a country home he could go to when on holiday. His poem “Fern Hill” (1946) describes its joys.

Although he edited the school magazine, contributing poetry and prose to it, Thomas did badly at school since he was always intellectually lazy with regard to any subject that did not directly concern him. His practical knowledge of English poetry was enormous, however. He had begun writing poems at a very early age, and scholars have shown that the bulk of his poetic output was completed, at least in embryonic form, by the time he moved to London at the age of 21. At age 16 he left school to work as a reporter on the South Wales Evening Post.

Thomas’s first book, 18 Poems, appeared in 1934, and it announced a strikingly new and individual, if not always comprehensible, voice in English poetry. His original style was further developed in Twenty-Five Poems (1936) and The Map of Love (1939). Thomas’s work, in its overtly emotional impact, its insistence on the importance of sound and rhythm, its primitivism, and the tensions between its biblical echoes and its sexual imagery, owed more to his Welsh background than to the prevailing taste in English literature for grim social commentary. Therein lay its originality. The poetry written up to 1939 is concerned with introspective, obsessive, sexual, and religious currents of feeling; and Thomas seems to be arguing rhetorically with himself on the subjects of sex and death, sin and redemption, the natural processes, creation and decay. The writing shows prodigious energy, but the final effect is sometimes obscure or diffuse.

Thomas basically made London his home for some 10 years from about 1936. In 1937 he married the Irishwoman Caitlin Macnamara, with whom he had two sons and a daughter. He had become famous in literary circles, was sociable, and was very poor, with a wife and growing family to support. His attempts to make money with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and as a film scriptwriter were not sufficiently remunerative. He wrote film scripts during World War II, having been excused from military service owing to a lung condition. Unfortunately, he was totally lacking in any sort of business acumen. He fell badly behind with his income tax returns, and what money he managed to make was snatched from him, at source, by the British Exchequer. He took to drinking more heavily and to borrowing from richer friends. Still, he continued to work, though in his maturity the composition of his poems became an ever-slower and more painstaking business.

The poems collected in Deaths and Entrances (1946) show a greater lucidity and confirm Thomas as a religious poet. This book reveals an advance in sympathy and understanding due, in part, to the impact of World War II and to the deepening harmony between the poet and his Welsh environment, for he writes generally in a mood of reconciliation and acceptance. He often adopts a bardic tone and is a true romantic in claiming a high, almost priestlike function for the poet. He also makes extensive use of Christian myth and symbolism and often sounds a note of formal ritual and incantation in his poems. The re-creation of childhood experience produces a visionary, mystical poetry in which the landscapes of youth and infancy assume the holiness of the first Eden (“Poem in October,” “Fern Hill”); for Thomas, childhood, with its intimations of immortality, is a state of innocence and grace. But the rhapsodic lilt and music of the later verse derives from a complex technical discipline, so that Thomas’ absorption in his craft produces verbal harmonies that are unique in English poetry.

Meanwhile the London or London-based atmosphere became increasingly dangerous and uncongenial both to Thomas and to his wife. As early as 1946 he was talking of emigrating to the United States, and in 1947 he had what would seem to be a nervous breakdown but refused psychiatric assistance. He moved to Oxford, where he was given a cottage by the distinguished historian A.J.P. Taylor. His trips to London, however, principally in connection with his BBC work, were grueling, exhausting, and increasingly alcoholic. In 1949 Taylor’s wife financed the purchase of a cottage, the Boat House, Laugharne, and Thomas returned to Wales. In the following year his first American tour was arranged, and for a while it seemed as if a happy compromise had been arranged between American money and Welsh tranquillity.

The prose that Thomas wrote is linked with his development as a poet, and his first stories, included in The Map of Love and A Prospect of the Sea (1955), are a by-product of the early poetry. But in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog (1940), the half-mythical Welsh landscapes of the early stories have been replaced by realistically and humorously observed scenes. A poet’s growing consciousness of himself, of the real seriousness hidden behind his mask of comedy, and of the world around him is presented with that characteristic blend of humour and pathos which is later given such lively expression in his “play for voices,” Under Milk Wood (1954). This play, which evokes the lives of the inhabitants of a small Welsh town, shows Thomas’s full powers as an artist in comedy; it is richly imaginative in language, dramatic in characterization, and fertile in comic invention.

Under Milk Wood was presented at the Poetry Center in New York City in 1953, and its final version was broadcast by the BBC in 1954. In 1952 Thomas published his Collected Poems, which exhibited the deeper insight and superb craftsmanship of a major 20th-century English poet. The volume was an immediate success on both sides of the Atlantic. But, because of the insistence of the Inland Revenue, his monetary difficulties persisted. He coped with his exhausting American tours by indulging in reckless drinking bouts. There were far too many people who seem to have derived pleasure from making the famous poet drunk. His personal despair mounted, his marriage was in peril, and at last, while in New York City and far from his Welsh home, he took such an overdose


The literature of World War II (1939–45)

The outbreak of war in 1939, as in 1914, brought to an end an era of great intellectual and creative exuberance. Individuals were dispersed; the rationing of paper affected the production of magazines and books; and the poem and the short story, convenient forms for men under arms, became the favoured means of literary expression. It was hardly a time for new beginnings, although the poets of the New Apocalypse movement produced three anthologies (1940–45) inspired by Neoromantic anarchism. No important new novelists or playwrights appeared. In fact, the best fiction about wartime—Evelyn Waugh’s Put Out More Flags (1942), Henry Green’s Caught (1943), James Hanley’s No Directions (1943), Patrick Hamilton’s The Slaves of Solitude (1947), and Elizabeth Bowen’s The Heat of the Day (1949)—was produced by established writers. Only three new poets (all of whom died on active service) showed promise: Alun Lewis, Sidney Keyes, and Keith Douglas, the latter the most gifted and distinctive, whose eerily detached accounts of the battlefield revealed a poet of potential greatness. Lewis’s haunting short stories about the lives of officers and enlisted men are also works of very great accomplishment.

It was a poet of an earlier generation, T.S. Eliot, who produced in his Four Quartets (1935–42; published as a whole, 1943) the masterpiece of the war. Reflecting upon language, time, and history, he searched, in the three quartets written during the war, for moral and religious significance in the midst of destruction and strove to counter the spirit of nationalism inevitably present in a nation at war. The creativity that had seemed to end with the tortured religious poetry and verse drama of the 1920s and ’30s had a rich and extraordinary late flowering as Eliot concerned himself, on the scale of The Waste Land but in a very different manner and mood, with the well-being of the society in which he lived.

Hugh Alistair Davies


Henry Green

born Oct. 29, 1905, near Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, Eng.
died Dec. 13, 1973, London

novelist and industrialist whose sophisticated satires mirrored the changing class structure in post-World War II English society. After completing his education at Eton and Oxford, he entered the family business, an engineering firm in Birmingham; he worked his way up to become the firm’s managing director in London. During this time he produced his laconically titled social comedies, Blindness (1926), Living (1929), Party Going (1939), Caught (1943), Loving (1945), Back (1946), Concluding (1948), Nothing (1950), and Doting (1952). Underlying the pleasant surfaces of the novels are disturbing and enigmatic perceptions. An early autobiography, Pack My Bag, was published in 1943.



Patrick Hamilton

born March 17, 1904, Hassocks, Sussex, Eng.
died Sept. 23, 1962, Sheringham, Norfolk

English playwright and novelist, notable for his capture of atmosphere and the Cockney dialect traditionally associated with the East End of London.

Hamilton began acting in 1921 and then, fascinated by theatrical melodrama, took to writing. He became known with the novel Craven House (1926). A number of successful motion pictures were based on works by Hamilton. His play Rope (first performed 1929; U.S. title Rope’s End) was made into a film by Alfred Hitchcock under the title Rope (1948). His play Gaslight was phenomenally successful; first performed in London in 1938, it was later produced in New York City under the title Angel Street. Two film adaptations were made: the first was British-made, released in 1940 as Gaslight and rereleased in the United States in 1952 as Angel Street; and the second, released in 1944 in the United States as Gaslight and in Great Britain as Murder in Thornton Square, was directed by George Cukor and starred Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. From Hamilton’s novel Hangover Square (1941), the motion picture of the same title (1945) was made.

Hamilton also wrote novels portraying the unpleasantness of the modern city: The Midnight Bell (1929) and The Plains of Cement (1934), both included in the volume Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky (1935).



Alun Lewis

born July 1, 1915, Aberdare, Glamorganshire, Wales
died March 5, 1944, Goppe Pass, Arakan, Burma [Myanmar]

at his early death one of the most promising Welsh poets, who described his experiences as an enlisted man and then an officer during World War II.

The son of a schoolmaster, Lewis grew up in a mining valley of South Wales, where he forged a bond of sympathy with the impoverished coal miners. Scholarships enabled him to attend the universities of Aberystwyth and Manchester. He worked as a schoolteacher before entering the army shortly after the outbreak of the war. Most of the poems in Raiders’ Dawn (1942) are about army life in training camps in England, as are the short stories in The Last Inspection (1942). Ha! Ha! Among the Trumpets (1945) contains the verse he wrote after leaving England for military duty in the East, where he was killed. Letters from India (1946) and Selected Poetry and Prose (1966) were also published posthumously.



Keith Castellain Douglas

born , Jan. 20, 1920, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, Eng.
died June 9, 1944, Normandy, Fr.

British poet who is remembered for his irony, eloquence, and fine control in expressing the misery and waste of war, to which he was to fall victim.

Douglas’ education at Oxford University was cut short by the outbreak of war. By 1941 he was serving as a tank commander in North Africa, where some of his most powerful poems were written (Alamein to Zem-Zem, 1946). He was moved back to Britain in 1944 to take part in the D-Day invasion; he fell in combat in Normandy on his third day there. His posthumous Collected Poems (1951) enhanced his reputation as a war poet, but in 1964 Ted Hughes’s edition of Douglas’ Selected Poems established him as a poet of universal significance.



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