Cecil Day Lewis

Poet Laureate

Day Lewis was born on April 27, 1904, in Ballin Ireland, the only child of the Rev. F. C. Day Lewis.

When Cecil was 4, his mother died and the family moved to England. He was educated at Sherborne School on a scholarship and was an exhibitioner at Wadham College, Oxford.

In his youth Day-Lewis adopted communist views, becoming a member of the Communist party from 1935 to 1938, and his early poetry was marked by didacticism and a preoccupation with social themes. He served as a partisan in the Republican Army during the Spanish Civil War, but after the late 1930s he gradually became disillusioned.

Of necessity he taught at various schools until 1935, when he began to give full time to writing, editing, and political activity. It was during this period that he taught at Larchfield School in Helensburgh, later Larchfield Academy and now Lomond School. During the 1930s he was a friend of W. H. Auden, who also taught at Larchfield, and Stephen Spender, sharing their leftist political views.

Lewis had written poetry seriously since he was 6 and in 1927 had been co-editor of Oxford Poetry. But his financial independence was achieved through his detective stories, which have been highly praised and have been regarded by some critics as achievements on a par with his poetry. He said of them that they release "a spring of cruelty" that is in all men.

During 1941-1946 Lewis was editor of books and pamphlets for the Ministry of Information. In 1946 he was appointed Clark lecturer at Trinity College, Cambridge, and in 1951 professor of poetry at Oxford.

In 1964-1965 he was the Charles Eliot Norton professor of poetry at Harvard. After 1962 he was a member of the Arts Council; he was a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Society of Arts.

Throughout his career Lewis published poetry, an increasing amount of criticism, and detective stories signed Nicholas Blake. In 1964 he edited the amended edition of one of his spiritual ancestors-The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen. In 1968 Lewis was appointed poet laureate

Day Lewis's two marriages yielded five children, including triple Best Actor Academy Award-winning Daniel Day Lewis, food writer and journalist Tamasin Day Lewis, and TV critic and writer Sean Day Lewis.

Cecil Day Lewis died in Hadley Wood, Hertfordshire, England on May 22, 1972.