Stephen Spender, the son of a journalist, was born in London in 1909. He was educated at University College, Oxford, where he met W. H. Auden. Spender left university without taking a degree and went to Berlin in 1930. Poems appeared in 1933.
Spender took a keen interest in politics and declared himself to be a socialist and pacifist. In 1937 he went with the International Brigades to the Spanish Civil War. Harry Pollitt, head of the Communist Party, told Spender "to go and get killed; we need a Byron in the movement." Spender relived his experiences of the war in Poems from Spain (1939) and Runes and Visions (1941).
In 1941 Spender married the pianist Natasha Litvin. During the Second World War he enlisted in the London Fire Service. Spender also co-edited Horizon (1939-41) with Cyril Connolly and later edited Encounter (1953-66).
After the war, Spender joined Unesco as a globe-trotting cultural emissary. He also worked for the Congress for Cultural Freedom, for International PEN, and the British Council.
Books by Spender include Poems of Dedication (1947), The Edge of Being (1949), an autobiography, World Within World (1951), The Creative Element (1953), The Struggle of the Modern (1963), The Generous Days (1969) and Love-Hate Relations (1974).
In 1970 Spender became Professor of English at University College in London, a post he held for seven years. Stephen Spender died in 1995.