Christopher Caudwell, pseudonym of Christopher St John Sprigg Biography
(1907–37), pseudonym of Christopher St John Sprigg, Yorkshire Observer, The Airship
British critic, born in Putney; at the age of 15 he became a reporter on the Yorkshire Observer. Having become interested in aviation, he moved to London as a writer on aeronautics, producing numerous books, which include The Airship (1931) and Let's Learn To Fly (1937). These and his detective stories, among which are Fatality in Fleet Street (1933) and The Perfect Alibi (1934), were published under his original name. In 1935 he joined the Communist Party, adopting his pseudonym and moving to London's East End to renounce his bourgeois identity. He contributed criticism and polemical pieces to Left Review, urging writers to political activity. In 1936 he joined the International Brigade, and was killed in Spain in the following year. The first British Marxist critic (see Marxist Literary Criticism) of note, he outlined his theory of poetry as a product of man's struggle with his environment in Illusion and Reality (1937), which quickly established his posthumous reputation. His other works of criticism include Studies in a Dying Culture (1938), in which G. B. Shaw, T. E. Lawrence, and Sigmund Freud are among his subjects, and Further Studies in a Dying Culture (1949; edited by Edgell Rickword). His poetry was featured in New Verse. Collected Poems, edited by Alan Young, was published in 1986. While pieces like ‘Heil Baldwin’ are bluntly effective as political satire, elsewhere his verse emanates a powerful imaginative disquiet exemplified by the frequently anthologized ‘The Progress of Poetry’.