John Edgell Rickword (October 22, 1898 – March 15, 1982) was an English poet and critic, and journalist and literary editor. He became one of the leading communist intellectuals active in the 1930s.
He was born in Colchester, Essex. He served as an officer in the British Army in World War I, being awarded a Military Cross. He was a published war poet. He went up to the University of Oxford in 1919, (where he knew Edmund Blunden, Vivian de Sola Pinto, A. E. Coppard, Louis Golding, and Alan Porter), staying only four terms reading French literature, and leaving when he married. He did, though, appear the Oxford Poetry 1921 anthology, with Blunden, Golding, Porter, Robert Graves, Richard Hughes, and Frank Prewett.
He then took up literary work in London. He reviewed for the Times Literary Supplement, which led to his celebrated review of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. J. C. Squire published him in the London Mercury, and Desmond MacCarthy as literary editor of the New Statesman gave him work. He started the Calendar of Modern Letters literary review, now highly regarded, in March 1925. It lasted until July 1927, assisted by Douglas Garman and then Bertram Higgins, and contributions from his cousin C. H. Rickword. The Scrutinies books of collected pieces from it was a great success. Its undoubted influence as a precursor of later criticism was very marked in the early days of Scrutiny, the magazine founded a few years later by F. R. Leavis and Q. D. Leavis. Rickword also did write for that publication.
He joined the Communist Party in the early 1930s, and became increasingly active in political work during the period of the Spanish Civil War; while still writing poetry. He was friendly with Randall Swingler, the ‘official’ poetry voice of the Party, and with Jack Lindsay, his only real rival as a theoretician. He was closely connected with the leading cultural figures on the hard Left, such as Mulk Raj Anand, Ralph Fox, Julius Lipton, A. L. Morton, Sylvia Townsend Warner and Alick West. At that time he was a co-founder of the Left Review, which he edited.
Later he became Editor of Our Time, the Communist review, from 1944 to 1947, working with David Holbrook.
Edgell’s publications include:
`Behind the Eyes’ (1921) poems
`Rimbaud: The Boy and the Poet’ (1924)
`Invocation to Angels’ (1928) poems
`Scrutinies By Various Writers’ (1928) editor
`Scrutinies – Volume II’ (1931) editor
`Love One Another’ (1929)
`Poet Under Saturn: The Tragedy of Verlaine by Marcel Coulon’ (1932) translator
`A handbook of freedom: a record of English democracy through twelve centuries’ (1939) co-editor with Jack Lindsay
`Collected Poems’ (1947)
`Radical Squibs and Loyal Ripostes: a collection of satirical pamphlets of the Regency period 1819-1821′ (1971) editor
`Essays and Opinions Volume 1: 1921-31′ (1974) edited by Alan Young
`Literature and Society: Essays and Opinions Vol.2 1931-1978′ (1978)
`Twittingpan and Some Others’ (1981) poems
`Fifty Poems: A Selection by Edgell Rickword’
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