Hugh Sykes Davies
Davies, born in Yorkshire in 1909, was an English poet, novelist and Communist who was one of a small group of 1930s British surrealists. He was a student at Cambridge University, where he co-edited a student magazine called `Experiment’, with William Empson. He spent some time in Paris during the 1930s and was one of the organisers of the London International Surrealist Exhibition in 1936.
Davies was selected to stand as a Communist candidate in the general election scheduled for 1940, which was cancelled due because of World War II and is said to have been a firm and loyal Communist for a quarter of a century. In a television program in the 1970s, dealing with Soviet spies, he hinted strongly he had been as much a communist traitor in the 1930s as his friends Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean but was not widely believed.
Pic: Hugh Sykes Davies
He appears to have left the Party not long after the 1956 events in Hungary. But, it is said that this was not the trigger, apparently he defended this in a public speech. His reasons were never quite explained. Although, seemingly, he was by now horrified by intrusive strikes and progressive education! He kept up a connection with the left by opposing nuclear armaments.
He numbered T. S. Eliot, I. A. Richards, Anthony Blunt, Wittgenstein and Salvador Dali as personal friends. At one stage he had Malcolm Lowry declared his ward in an attempt to stop Lowry’s drinking. Davies’ poems were mostly published in avant garde magazines and were not collected during his lifetime. A Fellow of St. John’s College, Cambridge, and a lecturer in the Faculty of English at that University, he edited the anthology `The Poets and their Critics’ and was well-known as a critic and a novelist in the 1960s. His novels include `Full Fathom Five’ (1956) and `The Papers of Andrew Melmoth’ (1960) and he died in 1984.