"Greetings to the solitary. Friends, fellow beings you are not strangers
to us. We are closer to one another than we realize. Let us remember one another
at night, even though we do not know each other's names."
(from Night Thoughts, 1956)
David Gascoyne was born in 1916 in Harrow, Middlesex, and educated at
Salisbury Cathedral School and the Regent Street Polytechnic, London.
His first collection of poetry, Roman Balcony and Other Poems was
published when he was sixteen, and in 1933 Cobden-Sanderson brought out
his novel Opening Day. Both books are remarkable achievements for
an adolescent, and they were followed by the equally striking poetry
collections Man's Life Is This Meat (1936) and Hoelderlin's
Madness (1938), which established his reputation as one of the most
original voices of the 1930s. Gascoyne was among the earliest champions
of Surrealism: in 1935 his A Short Survey of Surrealism was
published, and in the next year he was one of the organisers of the
London International Surrealist Exhibition. From this period, and
during his time living in France in 1937-39, date his friendships with
Dali, Max Ernst, Andre Breton, Paul Eluard and Pierre Jean Jouve. As
well as becoming internationally celebrated as a poet - especially
after publication of his Poems 1937-1942, with its Graham
Sutherland images - Gascoyne became highly regarded as a translator,
notably of Hoelderlin and of the leading French Surrealists.
After the war Gascoyne again lived in France (1947-48 and 1953-64),
partly in Paris and partly in Provence. He consolidated his reputation
with A Vagrant and Other Poems (1950), and with Night
Thoughts (1956), commissioned by Douglas Cleverdon for BBC Radio.
His Collected Poems, published by Oxford University Press in
1965, were reprinted six times. In 1994 Enitharmon published a
substantial volume of Selected Poems.
David Gascoyne lived with his wife, Judy, at Northwood on the Isle
of Wight. In 1996 he was made a Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts
et Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture for his lifelong services
to French Literature. He died on 25 November 2001 at the age of 85.