Back to Christmas Fun, 1932

Henry Moore and Stephen Spender

Sir Stephen Spender was born 28 February 1909. Today would have been his 110th birthday. 

Stephen Spender was best known for his poetry, but was also a key author and socialist social commentator of his day. Spender and Moore moved in very similar circles in London during the 1930s, sharing mutual friends such as Benjamin Britten and T.S. Eliot. However, their personal relationship actually began in a very interesting way: 

"I first met Henry Moore in 1933. He was 34, 10 years my senior. I think we were introduced by Herbert Read, whom I had met some months earlier after the publication of my first volume of poems. Shortly after meeting Henry, I was asked by the editor of a literary periodical, the London Mercury, whether I would sit for an artist who was doing a series of portrait drawings of young writers for them. I said that I would only let the London Mercury publish a drawing of me if it was by Henry Moore. This was impertinent. When they approached Henry he was amused and agreed. I sat several times for him. He had the idea of doing these studies of my head from different angles, on the basis of which he would make a cubistic drawing which combined all these. After one or two attempts he abandoned this idea and sent the London Mercury one of the studies which they published." - Stephen Spender, 'In Irina's Garden', page 29. 

The two men remained close friends for the rest of Moore's life, regularly meeting with their families. After Moore's death in 1986, Stephen Spender delivered a memorial address at Westminster Abbey on 18 November of that year. In this address Spender remarked: 

"He was a wonderful friend, who made life-long friendships, as many of you who are here will know well, because you are among them. In the fifty-odd years of our friendship he changed less than anyone I can think of, except in the outward external circumstances of his life, and they changed more than any of my friends. He had the simplicity of achievement and the happy wellbeing of unending work of the kind which is not just work but making things."