Peter McDonald

The Purring Poet

Cecil Day-Lewis: A Life


Continuum 352pp £20 order from our bookshop

Cecil Day-Lewis’s father, a clergyman who early on made the move sideways and upwards from the Church of Ireland to the Church of England (taking with him the infant poet), was particular about his outfits. Installed in a fashionable part of London, the Revd Frank Day-Lewis made sure that his top hats and tail coats came from Vanheem & Wheeler, tailors to the clerical elite. He was perhaps in better sartorial than spiritual order, though: as Peter Stanford observes of Day-Lewis père, ‘His attachment to the incidentals of ordained life became ever more marked, the outward signs compensating potentially for a loss of inner grace.’ That his only son should end up as Poet Laureate would no doubt have pleased the clerical dandy, as well as impressing his parishioners; but there is also a sense in which C Day-Lewis’s career parallels that of his father, the cultivation of trappings serving to disguise, for a time at least, uncertainty about the ‘inner grace’ of a real poetic talent.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Lecture on war and peace in 19th-century Europe by Professor Sir Richard Evans, Thurs 25 Oct, 6.30pm Europe House… ,
    • 'Why, throughout the world, are so many people fascinated by the fiction and reality of espionage? And why of all p… ,
    • . here on books, Muriel Spark and life's tangled dance ,
    • RT : There aren't enough aggressive subtitles these days: ,
    • Churchill's on the cover of the October edition of the magazine. Piers Brendon reviews two new books about the Brit… ,
    • 'Readers have no more power to predict where the next story is going to take them than the prisoners had to determi… ,
    • 'Ho was no Soviet or Chinese puppet. He was a nationalist first and foremost. Had the Americans just realised this.… ,