1995-07-16

STEPHEN SPENDER, the English poet died (b. 1909) A poet, novelist and essayist who concentrated on themes of social injustice and the class struggle in his work, Spender’s sexuality has been the subject of debate. Spender’s seemingly changing attitudes towards homosexuality and heterosexuality have caused him to be labeled bisexual, repressed, latently homophobic, or simply someone so complex as to resist easy labeling.

Many of his friends in his earlier years were Gay. Spender himself had many affairs with men in his earlier years, most notably with Tony Hyndman (who is called “Jimmy Younger” in his memoir World Within World). Following his affair with Muriel Gardiner he shifted his focus to heterosexuality, though his relationship with Hyndman complicated both this relationship and his short-lived marriage to Inez Maria Pearn (1936-39).

His marriage to concert pianist Natasha Litvin in 1941 seems to have marked the end of his romantic relationships with men. Subsequently, he toned down homosexual allusions in later editions of his poetry.

The following line was revised in a republished edition:

Whatever happens, I shall never be alone. I shall always have a boy, a railway fare, or a revolution.

It was later revised to read:

Whatever happens, I shall never be alone. I shall always have an affair, a railway fare, or a revolution.

Spender sued author David Leavitt for allegedly using his relationship with “Jimmy Younger” in Leavitt’s While England Sleeps in 1994. The case was settled out of court with Leavitt removing certain portions from his text.