The MacSpaunday beast

The MacSpaunday beast. Courtesy Reeding Lessons: The Henry Reed research blog.

The Auden Group is the name given to a group of British and Irish writers active in the 1930s that included W.H. Auden , Louis MacNeice, Cecil Day-Lewis, Stephen Spender, Christopher Isherwood, and sometimes Edward Upward and Rex Warner. They were sometimes called simply the Thirties poets (see References).


Although many newspaper articles and a few books appeared about the "Auden Group", the existence of the group was essentially a journalistic myth, a convenient label for poets and novelists who were approximately the same age, who had been educated at Oxford and Cambridge, who had known each other at different times, and had more or less left-wing views ranging from MacNeice's political skepticism to Upward's committed communism.

The "group" was never together in the same room; the 4 poets, Auden, Day-Lewis, MacNeice, and Spender, were in the same room only once in the 1930's, for a BBC broadcast in 1938 of modern poets (also including Dylan Thomas and others who were not associated with the "Auden Group"). This event was so insignificant that Day-Lewis evidently forgot it had occurred when he wrote in his autobiography The Buried Day that the 4 were first together in 1953.

The connections between individual writers, as friends and collaborators, were, however, real. Auden and Isherwood produced 3 plays and a travel book. Auden and MacNeice collaborated on a travel book. As undergraduates, Auden and Day-Lewis wrote a brief introduction to the annual Oxford Poetry. Auden dedicated books to Isherwood and Spender. Day-Lewis mentioned Auden in a poem. But the whole group never operated as such.


"MacSpaunday" was a name invented by Roy Campbell, in his Talking Bronco (1946), to designate a composite figure made up of the four poets:

Campbell, in common with much literary journalism of the period, imagined that the 4 were a group of like-minded poets, although they shared little but left-wing views in the broadest sense of the word. Campbell elsewhere implied that the 4 were homosexual, but MacNeice and Day-Lewis were entirely heterosexual.

In later years the term was sometimes used neutrally, as a synonym for the "Thirties poets" or "the New Poetry of the 1930s".

See alsoEdit


  • Carter, Ronald (1984), ed. Thirties poets: the "Auden Group": a casebook. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-29329-0.
  • Poster, Jem (1993). The thirties poets. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press. ISBN 0-335-09663-8

External linksEdit

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