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.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Her favourite design included a body in the shape of a horse, with a steam engine inside ... The passenger would t… ,
    • Sign up to our email newsletter below! Get free articles, highlights from the archive, and chances to win theatre… ,
    • RT : Founded in 1979, is a trusted independent source for reviews of new books across a variety of genres. A… ,
    • RT : Here we are - "Shelf Indulgence" by Ed Potten, a wonderful read, well worth your time: @Lit_Review,
    • 'Like going to a party hoping to get away as quickly as politeness allowed and at 4am finding myself still engrosse… ,
    • 'Neville never shed his sense of being the junior, and perhaps least-deserving Chamberlain.' From the archive, Mic… ,
    • 'The erecting and immediate destruction of a series of straw men rather detracts from what is for the most part an… ,