Various attempts have been made to lift the reputation of Cecil Day-Lewis since his death 35 years ago, but none of them has met with much success. The poet, who was esteemed as a member of the “Macspaunday” group in the 1930s, who achieved wide popular success during the 40s, who was professor of poetry at Oxford in the 50s, and poet laureate for the last four years of his life, has lost his general readership and failed to stir significant interest in the academies. He is by no means the first writer to suffer such a fall from favour, and he won’t be the last, but his case is a spectacular one. Has he been unfairly treated? [The begetter of poetry | Review | Guardian Unlimited Books]
Can we tell at a glance if his judgment about the reception of Day-Lewis is correct?
Appears so. Maybe Day-Lewis is now most often invoked as the father of actor Daniel Day-Lewis?
And what about his MacSpaunday colleagues? This expression (coined by Roy Campbell) pulled together Louis MacNeice, Stephen Spender, W.H. Auden and Day-Lewis. Checking their time-lines shows strong ongoing interest in Auden (also the subject of a Guardian review on Saturday), but less strong interest in the others (maybe a little upward tick in MacNeice?).
Northrop Frye famously complained about the state of literary criticism, which operated like a stock exchange in which the stock of authors was seen to rise and fall driven by the whims of literary “chit-chat”. This may be the tool to track that stock!
Incidentally, Day-Lewis also wrote mystery fiction under the name Nicholas Blake.
This is getting addictive 😉 Maybe I will resist further posts on Worldcat Identities for a while.
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