Caudwell Christopher

Christopher Caudwell

Born Christopher St. John Sprigg in Putney on October 20th 1907, he was educated at Benedictine School, Ealing. Aged 16, he began work as a reporter for the Yorkshire Observer and stayed there for three years. Returning to London, he joined a firm of aeronautical publishers, as an editor. Whilst there, he invented an infinitely variable gear, the designs of which were published in a technical journal. His attracted a great deal of interest from experts in the field. Before he was 25 he had published no less than five aeronautical textbooks, seven detective novels, along with poems and short stories.

Under the name of Christopher Caudwell, he published his first serious novel, `This My Hand’ in May 1935. Over the preceding half year, he had begun an intensive study of Marxism, leading to the draft of his work `Illusion and Reality’, a study of the objective basis to poetry. He moved to Poplar and joined the Communist Party in late 1935.

After a period in France, to observe the work of the popular Front, he returned to writing. As a key figure in the Poplar branch of the Party, he was involved in raising funds for an ambulance for Spain in November 1936 and Caudwell drove it there himself. After handing it over, he joined the International Brigade.

He became a machine gun instructor, was delegate to a group political section of the Brigade and joint editor of a wall newspaper.

Caudwell, as posterity knows him, was killed in action at Jarama on February 12th 1937. With great bravery, he remained alone covering the retreat of his outnumbered section, with Moorish troops only 30 yards away, firing a machine gun to the last.

Four of his books were posthumously published, `Illusion and Reality’, `Studies in a Dying Culture’, `Poems’ and `The Crisis in Physics’.

Details extracted from a biographical note by `GT’ in Illusion and Reality, Lawrence and Wishart (1946).


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