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C Day-Lewis by Peter Stanford


C Day-Lewis by Peter Stanford

How unfair , wrote one national newspaper in 1951, 'that accomplishments enough to satisfy the pride of six men should be united in Mr Day-Lewis.' Poet, translator of classical texts, novelist, detective writer (under the pen-name Nicholas Blake), performer and, at that time, Professor of Poetry at Oxford, C. Day-Lewis had many careers all at once. This first authorised biography tells the private story behind the many headlines that this handsome, charming Anglo-Irish Poet Laureate generated in his lifetime. With unparalleled access to Day-Lewis' archives and the recollections of first-hand witnesses, Peter Stanford traces the link between life and art to reassess the work of a poet lauded in his lifetime but whose literary reputation has latterly become a matter of controversy, with Westminster Abbey refusing him the place in Poets' Corner traditionally allotted to Poets Laureate. Day-Lewis first made his name as one of the 'poets of the thirties', launching a communist-influenced poetic revolution alongside WH Auden and Stephen Spender that aspired to spark wholesale political change to face down fascism. In the 1940s, 'Red Cecil', as he had become known, broke with communism and Auden and went on to produce some of his most popular and enduring verse, prompted by his long love affair with the novelist Rosamond Lehmann. Torn between her and his wife, he reflected on his double life in verse and became for some the supreme poet of the divided heart. Later, with his second wife, the actress Jill Balcon, he promoted poetry with a series of popular recitals and radio and television programmes. Together, they had two children, Tamasin and Daniel, later an Oscar-winning actor. Day-Lewis was always pulled between a fulfilling domestic life and a restless desire to explore. His travels, exploration of his Irish roots and his infidelities are all part of the rich and many-faceted life that Peter Stanford describes. It is, however, as a poet that he is best remembered and the poetry itself, often autobiographical, forms an integral part of this intriguing and long-overdue biography.


Article mentions book--Tim Walker Sunday Telegraph

listed in The Mail on Sunday mentioned.--Private Eye Title mention in Esquire Magazine Article mentions book--, Sunday Telegraph

Mention in The Independent--, Mentioned in article by Peggy Poole in Writing Magazine, 2008. This is an excellent biography, which succeeds in getting the balancing act between a consideration ot the writer as a man and as an artist Reviewed by Simon Turner on, May 2008 Peter Stanford's useful book assembles a vast amount of background detail. Reviewed by Neil Powell, Times Literary Supplement, 2007. mentioned.--, Mention in The Bookseller--, Mention in The Independent--Sanford Lakoff Article mentions book--Sanford Lakoff Sunday Telegraph

Peter Stanford's new biography argues against what the author sees as the current undervaluation of the poet...Behind such stuff is a personal life rich in incident, and Stanford tells its story efficiently, leaving any matters of judgement, good or bad, to the reader. Literary Review--Sanford Lakoff Literary Review

Stanford makes a careful assessment of Day-Lewis's development as a poet through this first part of his life, writing well about Auden's influence and about the ambition to use poetry as both 'an instrument of social change
and a means of bringing

'order to self-consciousness'. He does well, too, in mapping the ways that political interests created problems for his writing as well as driving it forward. Andrew Motion, The Guardian--Sanford Lakoff This is an intelligent, fair, well-written biography. Becis Hillier, The Daily Telegraph--Sanford Lakoff The Daily Telegraph

Readers of Peter Stanford's shrewd and conscientious biography are given every chance to reasses Day Lewis's works. The Sunday Times--Sanford Lakoff Sunday Times

Mention in The Bookseller--Sanford Lakoff Stanford likes and respects his subject...and thats what really counts in a biography, along with sympathetic understanding - which he also has. It succeeds in relating the work to the life in an exemplary manner. The Tablet--Sanford Lakoff The American Spectator

Catches [Day-Lewis'] charm. Much more importantly it helps the reader to sympathise with and understand his poetry. P.J. Kavanagh, The Spectator--Sanford Lakoff The Spectator

mentioned.--Sanford Lakoff Mentioned in Camden New Journal/ Islington Tribune.--Sanford Lakoff Peter Stanford has managed a magnificent balance of public and private personae with the added bonus of shrewd critical appraisal of the poems. It is a rare acheivement in a literary biography. Yorkshire Post--Sanford Lakoff Yorkshire Post

It is Stanford's huge accomplishment in this excellent biography that he gives due weight to all aspects of this multifarious man...Stanford suceeds in his aim of returning a neglected figure to public attention, and sheds new light on many key literary and political issues of his age. Michael Arditti, The Independent--Sanford Lakoff Independent, The

From Standford's sympathetic biography, Day-Lewis emerges as a loveable, charismatic man who wrote some beautiful poems. Mavis Campion--Sanford Lakoff [This] amiable and authoritative biography by Peter Stanford [results in] this memorable and often moving portrait. The Catholic Herald--Sanford Lakoff The Catholic Herald

Peter Stanford, an established biographer and writers on religion (one of his books is The Devil: A Biography) has here produced a well-rounded, beautifully written, and thoroughly researched biography. As Day-Lewis was such an overwhelmingly personal poet, Stanford weaves a significant quantity of the poetry into his biography, even providing the occasional element of critical analysis as well. The result is a sympathetic and gripping portrait of a fascinating man and influential poet who, it is to be hoped, will begin to garner the critical attention he most richly deserves...Stanford has performed a marvelous service in helping to recover the life and poetry of an unfairly neglected poet and in the process celebrates a strand of twentieth-century poetry that stands as an alternative to Modernism. -Kevin J. Gardner, Religion and the Arts, 2008 He tells the story with a lucid command of narrative and an understated wit.

London Review of Books--Sanford Lakoff'

About the Author

Peter Stanford is a writer, journalist and broadcaster. He is a former editor of the Catholic Herald and his books include Heaven: A Traveller's Guide to the Undiscovered Country (HarperCollins 2002), The Devil (Heinemann 1996), and the polemical Catholics and Sex which became an award-winning four-part Channel 4 series in 1992.

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Book Info

Publication date

27th May 2007


Peter Stanford

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Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd. an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing PLC


376 pages


Biography: literary
Literary studies: poetry & poets
Literary studies: from c 1900 -



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