Dicky Spender's War-Time Letters To Sell At Auction

War Poet

First Posted: 5/03/2012 07:41 Updated: 5/03/2012 08:16   PA

The papers of Second World War poet Richard (Dicky) Spender are expected to fetch up to £6,000 when they go under the hammer at Bonhams this month.

Compared with First World War sonnet writer Rupert Brooke, Spender was already a published poet in The Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Observer when he was killed in 1943 aged 21.

The letters of the soldier-poet, who was struck down while leading his men into action in Tunisia, are said to show a combination of high spirits in the face of the horror of war and practical common sense.

Writing to his parents, he advised: "There is no need to bother your heads about my skin. Just keep well yourselves, Old Folks, & keep the Home Fires switched on."

To his brother he gave a more sober assessment of the conflict however.

In a letter penned four days before his untimely death he wrote: "This place is absolute hell. Everybody gets knocked off amid scenes of utter wet cold misery, & still up we come for another bloodbath."

Spender published one well-received book of poems during his lifetime, called Laughing Blood, but his reputation rests mainly on the mature works he wrote in Tunisia in the months leading up to his death.

The Times Literary Supplement wrote in its obituary of him: "Those familiar with the work of the young soldier-poet will be aware of the loss his death must mean to English literature."

His papers will be sold at auction in London on 27 March.

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Filed by Sam Parker  |