Letter: C. Day Lewis to Richard Church

Scope and Content

Includes a handwritten letter relating to poetry from Cecil Day-Lewis to Richard Church.

Administrative / Biographical History

Cecil Day-Lewis was born on 27 April 1904 in Ballintubbert, Queen's County (now County Laois), Ireland, the son of Kathleen Blake and Rev. Frank Cecil Day-Lewis. The 'Day-Lewis' surname had been chosen by Cecil Day-Lewis' father, as a combination of his biological and adoptive fathers' surnames. In 1906 his mother died and the family was moved to London. He studied first at Sherborne School and then at Wadham College, Oxford, where he became friends with W.H. Auden, with whom he edited Oxford Poetry 1927. Day-Lewis' first book of poems, Beechen Vigil, had also been published two years previously.

In 1928, he married Constance Mary King and began working as a schoolmaster. Beginning in 1935, to supplement their income, Day-Lewis started his series of mystery novels, writing under the pseudonym Nicholas Blake. The mystery novels featured the character of Nigel Strangeways, an amateur investigator and gentleman detective, and ran to nineteen books.

During the Second World War he worked for the Ministry of Information whilst his poetry began to move away from the influence of Auden. It has been suggested that his greatest work was that of Word Over All, which was published in 1943. Following the end of the war, he initially worked for Chatto & Windus publishers as a director and senior editor before becoming a lecturer at Cambridge University in 1946. He then moved to a position as Professor of Poetry at Oxford University, lecturing there between 1951 and 1956, and then to Harvard University as Norton Professor between 1962 and 1963. In 1968 he was appointed Poet Laureate and remained in the post until his death in 1972. Day-Lewis was also a vice-president of the Royal Society of Literature, a Member of the Irish Academy of Letters, chairman of the Arts Council Literature Panel and a Professor of Rhetoric at Gresham College, London.

His first marriage ended in 1951 after his affair with novelist Rosamond Lehmann during the 1940s, and later in 1951 he married his second wife, actress Jill Balcon. He had two children from both marriages, including actor Daniel Day-Lewis. Cecil Day-Lewis died on 22 May 1972 from pancreatic cancer.

Richard Thomas Church was born on 26 March 1893 in London. He went to school in Dulwich and later worked as a civil servant. In 1933, he left the civil service to work as a journalist and reviewer, whilst also submitted poems to various periodicals including the Clarion. He wrote arguably his most famous poem 'Mud' in 1935 and acted as director of the Oxford Festival of Spoken Poetry during the 1930s. He also served as a literary editor for the New Leader, magazine of the Independent Labour Party.

In 1955, Church published the first volume of his three part autobiography, which won the Sunday Times Prize for Literature. The second volume was published in 1957 with the third volume following in 1964. Richard Church was awarded the honour of Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 1957. He died on 4 March 1972.

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Custodial History

Purchased 1968