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Papers of Stephen Spender


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The archive comprises Stephen Spender's journals as well as poetry, prose, drama and fiction drafts, art, and personal and business correspondence.


  • Creation: 1917-2004, n.d.


24.31 Linear metres (221 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Conditions Governing Access

Some material is closed.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright remains invested with the creators and their heirs. Permission must be sought from the copyright owners for any non-academic or commercial use of copies of the archive.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. Spender 5, fols. 1-2].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Spender 1-370, MS. Photogr. a. 42, MSS. Photogr. c. 564-567, MS. Photogr. d. 192.

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 6531


The archive of the poet, writer and literary critic Sir Stephen Spender (1909-1995).

Biographical / Historical

Sir Stephen Spender (1909-1995), poet, playwright, author and critic, began his literary career as one of the 'Auden Group' (comprising Oxford poets Spender, Louis MacNeice, W.H. Auden and Cecil Day-Lewis and the Cambridge-educated novelist Christopher Isherwood). He spent time in Germany alongside Isherwood, and was briefly involved in the Spanish Civil War. In December 1936 he married Inez Maria Pearn (1914–1977), a modern languages postgraduate at Oxford. They divorced by 1941 and Spender married Natasha Litvin (1919-2010), a concert pianist, with whom he had two children.

Disqualified (by health and age) from fighting in World War II, he became a fireman in London with the Auxiliary Fire Service while also editing the literary magazine Horizon. After the war, Spender earned a living chiefly as a lecturer and university professor in America, and as literary editor of the journal Encounter. He continued to publish poetry, drama, novels, short stories, essays and literary criticism as well as autobiographical works including World Within World (1951).

Alongside Spender's writing career, he campaigned against censorship and the persecution of writers, founding the Writers and Scholars Educational Trust, which became Index on Censorship. He was knighted in 1983.

See also the Dictionary of National Biography entry for Spender, and Stephen Spender, the Authorized Biography by John Sutherland (2005).


The Spender archive was organised by John Byrne at the behest of Lady Natasha Spender (beginning in 1998) while the papers were held by the Spender family.The papers are, therefore, here arranged largely as deposited, in the order created by John Byrne, with numbered volumes of journals, poetry, prose, drama and fiction, and correspondence arranged by correspondent. Correspondence has been further sorted chronologically within the correspondent sequences, although photocopies of letters held elsewhere have been left in order as deposited. Please note that there is no MS. Spender 167.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Deposited September 2010 by Natasha, Lady Spender, and accepted by HM Government in Lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to the Bodleian Library, 2012.

Related Materials

See also a photocopied unpublished typescript of Spender's unfinished novel Miss Pangbourne at MS. Eng. c. 8258.


  • Feigal, Lara and Sutherland, John (eds.), New Selected Journals 1939-1995, 2012.
  • Goldsmith, John (ed.), Stephen Spender, Journals 1939-1983, 1985
  • Kulkarni, Hemant Balvantrao, Stephen Spender: An Annotated Bibliography, 1976
  • Spender, Stephen, New Collected Poems, 2004
  • Sutherland, John, Stephen Spender, The Authorized Biography, 2004
Catalogue of Stephen Spender archive, 1917-2004
Finding aid prepared by Finding aid prepared by Charlotte McKillop-Mash
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom