Stephen Spender, Journals 1939-1983, Signed Presentation (Foyles Literary Luncheon)
[Signed by Stephen Spender] Spender, Stephen. Journals 1939-1983. Book and dust jacket are both in very good condition. Book is warmly inscribed, “For Moira Lister. With thanks for reading the poem so beautifully. Stephen Spender. Foyles Literary Luncheon, April 86.” Tipped in to the front free endpaper is the photocopy of the poem read at the luncheon, “The Truly Great,” as well as a list of the VIPs at the luncheon, which included the ambassadors of Sweden, Greece, and France, Kingsley Amis, and Sir Isaiah Berlin. Edited by John Goldsmith.
In Matthew Spender’s 2015 memoir, A House on St John’s Wood, he writes that his father—Stephen—thought of himself as poet (as did the world), but he was “in fact … a politician, and a brilliant one.” That is very much evidence in these journals in which Stephen Spender applies his poet’s mind and mastery of the English language to the temporal world. The journal documents a fascinating transformation, as Spender’s 1930s-era idealism morphs into not cynicism but self-deprecating pragmatism. With cameos by some of the most interesting personalities of that era, including Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy, W.H. Auden, Francis Bacon, Philippe and Pauline de Rothschild, Cecil Beaton, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and Cecil Beaton, et al.
“Being a minor poet is like being minor royalty, and no one, as a former lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret once explained to me, is [as] happy as that.”