Stallworthy, Jon (Howie) 1935-
STALLWORTHY, Jon (Howie) 1935-
PERSONAL: Born January 18, 1935, in London, England; son of Sir John Arthur (a surgeon and educator) and Margaret Wright (Howie) Stallworthy; married Gillian Meredith Waldock, June 25, 1960; children: Jonathan Meredith, Philippa Margaret, Nicolas Kyd. Education: Magdalen College, Oxford, B.A., 1958, B.Litt., 1961, and M.A.; also studied in Dublin, Ireland. Religion: Church of England.
ADDRESSES: Home—Long Farm, Elsfield Rd., Old Marston, Oxford OX3 0PR, England. Offıce—Wolfson College, Oxford University, Oxford OX2 6UD, England.
CAREER: Oxford University Press, Oxford, England, editor, 1959-71, deputy academic publisher, 1972-77, editor of Clarendon Press, 1974-77; Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, John Wendell Anderson Professor of English Literature, 1977-86; Oxford University, Oxford, reader, 1986-92, professor of English literature, 1992-2000, fellow of Wolfson College, 1986-92, senior fellow, 2000—. British Academy, Chatterton Lecturer, 1970; Oxford University, visiting fellow of All Souls College, 1971-72. Trustee of the estate of Wilfred Owen. Military service: British Army, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, 1953-55; served in Nigeria; became lieutenant.
MEMBER: British Academy (fellow), Royal Society of Literature (fellow), Vincent's Club (Oxford, England).
AWARDS, HONORS: Newdigate Prize, 1958, for "The Earthly Paradise"; Duff Cooper Memorial Prize, 1974, W. H. Smith and Son Literary Award, 1975, and E. M. Forster Award National Institute and American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1976, all for Wilfred Owen: A Biography; Southern Arts Literature Prize, 1998, for Louis MacNeice; D.Univ., University of Surrey.
Between the Lines: W. B. Yeats's Poetry in the Making, Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), 1963.
Vision and Revision in Yeats's Last Poems, Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), 1963.
Wilfred Owen: A Biography, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1974.
Poets of the First World War, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1974.
Singing School: The Making of a Poet (autobiography), John Murray (London, England), 1998.
Contributor to periodicals, including New York Times, London, Critical Quarterly, Review of English Studies, Times Literary Supplement, and Review of English Literature.
Stallworthy's work is collected at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, England.
The Earthly Paradise, privately printed (Oxford, England), 1958.
The Astronomy of Love, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1961.
Out of Bounds, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1963.
The Almond Tree, Turret Books (London, England), 1967.
A Day in the City, Exeter Books (Exeter, England), 1967.
Root and Branch, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1969.
Positives, Dolmen Press (Dublin, Ireland), 1969.
A Dinner of Herbs, Rougemont Press (Exeter, England), 1970.
Hand in Hand, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1974.
The Apple Barrel: Selected Poems, 1955-1963, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1974.
A Familiar Tree, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1978.
The Anzac Sonata: New and Selected Poems, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1986, W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 1987.
The Guest from the Future, Perpetua Press (London, England), 1989.
Rounding the Horn: Collected Poems, Carcanet Press (Manchester, England), 1998.
Contributor of poetry to magazines.
Yeats: Last Poems; A Casebook, Macmillan (London, England), 1968, Aurora (Nashville, TN), 1970.
(With Alan Brownjohn and Seamus Heaney) NewPoems, 1970-1971, Hutchinson (London, England), 1971.
(And author of introduction) The Penguin Book ofLove Poetry, Allen Lane (London, England), 1973, published as A Book of Love Poetry, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1974.
(And author of introduction) The Complete Poems andFragments of Wilfred Owen, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1983, in two volumes, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1984.
The Oxford Book of War Poetry, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1984.
(And author of introduction) The Poems of WilfredOwen, Hogarth Press (London, England), 1985, W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 1986.
(And author of introduction) A Book of Love Poetry, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1986.
(And author of introduction) First Lines: Poems Written in Youth, from Herbert to Heaney, Carcanet Press (London, England), 1987.
Henry Reed, Collected Poems, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1991.
War Poems of Wilfred Owen, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1994.
The Norton Anthology of Poetry, W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 4th edition (with Margaret Ferguson and Mary Jo Salter), 1996, 7th edition (with M. H. Abrams and others), 2000.
Editor, Workshop, summer, 1968.
(With Jerzy Peterkiewicz and Burns Singer) Jerzy Peterkiewicz and Burns Singer, editors, Five Centuries of Polish Poetry, 1450-1970, enlarged edition, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1970.
(With Peter France) Alexander Blok, The Twelve, andOther Poems, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1970, published as Selected Poems, Penguin (New York, NY), 1974, reprinted, Carcanet Press (Manchester, England), 2000.
Boris Pasternak, Selected Poems, Allen Lane (London, England), 1982.
SIDELIGHTS: A departure from his previous volumes of poetry and criticism, Jon Stallworthy's study Wilfred Owen: A Biography retraces the brief life of the English poet who was killed in action some seven days before the end of World War I. Now regarded as one of his country's finest war poets, Owen was an "unmistakably adolescent" Romanticist until the last months of his life, commented the Listener's Denis Thomas; his current reputation is derived from a legacy of thirty or so poems he wrote as he reflected on scenes of death and mutilation he witnessed on the front. In order to discover what prewar experiences might have influenced Owen's work, Stallworthy sought out the poet's few remaining relatives and friends and analyzed numerous letters, unpublished manuscripts, and even annotations the young soldier had made in his favorite books. The resulting biography, many critics noted, provides a welcome and warmly sympathetic synthesis of the numerous portraits of Owen that have appeared in the decades since his death.
Several reviewers, including one from the New Yorker, pointed out that the three-volume memoir of Owen's brother Harold has "already provided a basis that no formal biographer is likely to surpass." Others, like Kingsley Amis, writing in the Observer, noted favorably Stallworthy's "fully detailed, irreplaceable biography" and its many "additions to our knowledge of the period." The Sewanee Review critic commented that the author's "superb and exemplary narrative" is such "a model of intelligent selectivity and balance. . . . Stallworthy gives us all the relevant facts and details of Owen's life without lapsing into the conventional gestures of judgmental intrusion."
Several critics, however, would have preferred to see the author do a bit more interpreting. Though the Encounter's Philip Larkin believed Stallworthy does a good job of sorting his material and arranging it in a manner the reviewer described as "alert, unprejudiced and vivid," Larkin nevertheless observed: "Where [Stallworthy's] book is less satisfactory is in its lack of emphases and its general suspension of judgment on the kind of person we now know Owen to have been, and how this new knowledge relates to his work. The evidence is there, but perhaps through the very scrupulousness that ensures its accurate presentation Stallworthy refrains from interpreting it." In particular, some reviewers pointed to Stallworthy's discussion of the poet's work as well as his restrained approach to the subject of Owen's "latent homosexuality" as areas that might have been explored in more detail.
Regarding Owen's apparent homosexuality, for example, Thomas remarked that it is a topic Stallworthy "does not shrink from, but on which he does not enlarge." Bernard Jones, commenting in Books and Bookmen, speculated that the author felt bound to discuss Owen's extremely close relationship with his mother in terms of homosexuality, since "modern psychological thinking would have it that such relationships drive the young persons into homosexuality. . . . Earlier generations, however, found nothing strange in such relationships nor in homosexuality itself. . . . [Thus, it appears that Stallworthy] is so much of his own time that he fails to bring Owen's values to the reading of Owen's words." Amis, for one, seemed glad to see that Stallworthy downplays the subject. "No doubt this is the wisest course," he stated, "especially since I should guess Mr. Stallworthy shares my own conviction that those feelings never ran as far as being translated into practice. Their presence in Owen, however, deserves recognition, because . . . they were an essential part of his artistic nature, causing him perhaps to experience a peculiar agony on the battlefield and to convey a peculiar tenderness in his work."
Stallworthy's criticism of the poems, which the New York Review of Books's Karl Miller characterizes as "sensible but rather unforthcoming," strikes a few reviewers as inadequate. Calvin Bedient of the New York Times Book Review, for instance, labels it "sparse," and both Jones and Amis wish Stallworthy had devoted more time and effort to discussing the technical aspects of Owen's poetry. Remarks Amis: "Stallworthy's critical comments are both sensitive and sensible, but he has little to say about Owen's major technical innovation, the use of chime or pararhyme or consonantal rhyme or alliterative assonance." Jones, too, believes that "the whole question of Owen's technical virtuosity called for a more sustained examination than it has received. . . . Stallworthy may have been inhibited here by [previous studies], but the subject is not one that is easily exhausted. . . . Likewise there is still much noting to be done of affinities with other poets."
For the most part, though, reviewers felt Stallworthy includes the appropriate amount of critical interpretation in his biography. Jeffrey Meyers of Commonweal noted that the author, "himself a considerable poet and experienced soldier, provides a sensitive reading of the poems, emphasizes Owen's development and shows how he evolved from the derivative . . . to the confident and characteristic." The Sewanee Review critic pointed out that "the critical materials are not defensive; nor are they advertisements for Owen's work. . . . Stallworthy simply assumes that Owen is a poet of the first rank and devotes his central critical attention to the way in which the poems were composed and the materials out of which they were made."
In short, concluded Jones, Wilfred Owen "is a model of self-effacement in the service of a fine poet. Here and there it will probably betray the time and society in which it was composed, . . . but there can be little doubt that the book belongs with the first rank of biographical works and that it can be studied profitably by any one who cares to know Wilfred Owen and his work. . . . Stallworthy's biography is a brilliant attempt to convey a portrait of a shy poet whose private world confronted unafraid the breaking of nations. It is a book of quality that is not equalled once a year, a book that leaves one feeling for the Owens."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Poets, 7th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2001.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 40: Poets of Great Britain and Ireland since 1960, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1985, pp. 547-557.
Stallworthy, Jon, Singing School: The Making of a Poet, John Murray (London, England), 1998.
Books, October, 1988, review of Wilfred Owen: A Biography, p. 19.
Books and Bookmen, June, 1969; September, 1976; October, 1976.
Books in Canada, November, 1995, review of Louis MacNeice, p. 24.
British Book News, June, 1987, review of First Lines: Poems Written in Youth, from Herbert to Heaney, p. 370; November, 1987, review of Wilfred Owen, p. 720.
Choice, December, 1995, review of Louis MacNeice, p. 621.
Christian Science Monitor, February 6, 1987, review of A Book of Love Poetry, p. B7.
Commonweal, May 23, 1975, Jeffrey Meyers, review of Wilfred Owen.
Contemporary Literature, summer, 1979, article by Harry Marten; winter, 1980.
Encounter, March, 1975, Philip Larkin, review of Wilfred Owen.
Guardian Weekly, February 21, 1993, review of Wilfred Owen, p. 28; February 19, 1995, review of Louis MacNeice, p. 28.
Kliatt Young Adult Paperback Guide, January, 1989, review of First Lines, p. 27.
Library Journal, September 15, 1987, review of The Anzac Sonata: New and Selected Poems, p. 84; November 1, 2002, Paolina Taglienti, review of Great Poets of World War I, pp. 90-91.
Listener, January 9, 1975, Denis Thomas, review of Wilfred Owen; March 15, 1979.
London, October, 1969.
London Review of Books, March 9, 1995, review of Louis MacNeice, p. 3; March 4, 1999, review of Singing School: The Making of a Poet and Rounding the Horn: Collected Poems, p. 23.
New Leader, January 11, 1988, Phoebe Pettingell, review of First Lines, p. 18.
New Republic, August 12, 1996, review of Louis MacNeice, p. 27.
New Statesman, February 28, 1969; July 5, 1974; November 8, 1974.
New Statesman and Society, February 17, 1995, Patricia Craig, review of Louis MacNeice, p. 37.
New Yorker, January 26, 1976, review of Wilfred Owen. New York Review of Books, October 16, 1975, Karl Miller, review of Wilfred Owen; November 16, 1995, review of Louis MacNeice, p. 52.
New York Times, May 29, 1987, review of First Lines, p. 21.
New York Times Book Review, September 14, 1975, Calvin Bedient, review of Wilfred Owen; April 1, 1979; October 2, 1988, review of First Lines, p. 38.
Notes and Queries, December, 1997, Philip Cox, review of The Norton Anthology of Poetry, p. 576.
Observer (London, England), November 10, 1974, Kingsley Amis, review of Wilfred Owen; May 1, 1994, review of The Oxford Book of War Poetry, p. 26; February 12, 1995, review of Louis MacNeice, pp. 18, 20.
Plum Review, fall-winter, 1992, Sophie Ahmeen, interview with Jon Stallworthy.
Poetry, November, 1975.
Punch, February 26, 1969; April 15, 1987, review of First Lines, p. 37.
Saturday Review, July 26, 1975.
School Librarian, November, 1988, review of First Lines, p. 155.
School Library Journal, November, 1987, review of First Lines, p. 124.
Sewanee Review, summer, 1976, review of Wilfred Owen.
Spectator, November 30, 1974; February 11, 1995, review of Louis MacNeice, p. 32; January 9, 1999, review of Singing School, p. 36.
Times Educational Supplement, August, 1976, Jon Stallworthy, "Playing with Words"; August 7, 1987, review of First Lines, p. 16; March 10, 1995, review of Louis MacNeice, p. 13.
Times Literary Supplement, April 24, 1969; August 9, 1974; November 15, 1974; July 4, 1980; October 3, 1986, review of The Anzac Sonata, p. 1118; February 17, 1995, review of Louis MacNeice, p. 3; January 8, 1999, Peter MacDonald, review of Singing School and Rounding the Horn, p. 23.
Virginia Quarterly Review, autumn, 1969; spring, 1979.
Washington Post Book World, August 3, 1975; September 18, 1988, review of First Lines, p. 12; July 23, 1995, review of Louis MacNeice, p. 4.
Whole Earth Review, fall, 1995, Elizabeth Thompson, review of The Oxford Book of War Poetry, p. 77.*