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This report is taken from PN Review 144, Volume 28 Number 4, March - April 2002.

David Gascoyne (1916-2001) Stephen Stuart-Smith

The following address was given at David Gascoyne's funeral at Northwood Parish Church, Isle of Wight, on 6 December 2001

You couldn't possibly invent a life-story like David Gascoyne's. Not even the most fanciful of scriptwriters could devise such a heady mixture of drama, celebrity, romance, and survival - survival against all the odds.

The elements are familiar to you all: the musically gifted child singing the services at Salisbury; the teenage poet and novelist astonishing his contemporaries by his assurance and originality; the English voice of the Surrealists, through his translations and his Short Survey; co-organiser of the 1936 Surrealist exhibition; broadcaster in Barcelona for the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War. Already the story is remarkable, yet by this point, of course, David Gascoyne was only twenty-one. His reputation was already established, as was his passion for French culture and his contacts with some of the legendary artistic figures of the time - André Breton, Max Ernst and Salvador Dalí among them.

Then, in the war years, publication of his Poems 1937-1942, a collection in which he set aside his Surrealist mask and emerged as one of the greatest religious poets of the century. The lover of the metaphysical poets, especially George Herbert and Henry Vaughan, found his own idiom and created something utterly memorable with it, reflecting the insecurity of an individual in the midst of unimaginable suffering.

The next stage in the story, from the ...

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