I took a flyer on this book because I know the poet,  and no where in the book could I figure out if they are one and the same as the poet died in 1963 and the book was published in 1964.  Perhaps it is a coincidence? 

  I had to read a  biography on him by Jon Stallworthy 1 Stallworthy, Jon, Louis MacNeice, W.W. Norton & Co., 1995 pg. 462.  Stallworthy is also the editor for Norton of The Norton Anthology of Poetry.    to find that out they are the same man.  It was completed after his death by his “loyal friend and  [literary] executor, E.R. Dodds” 2 ibid. pg  463

Read more: C689 Louis MacNeice & his Book on Astrology


A lonely childhood I was born in Belfast between the mountain and gantries To the hooting of lost sirens and the clang of trams: Thence to Smoky Garrick in County Antrim. Where the bottle-neck harbour cólicas the mud which jams. The little boats beneath the Norman castle. The pier shining with lumps of crystal salt; The Scotch Quarter was a line of residential houses But the Irish Quarter was a slum for the blind and halt.
‘Carrickfergus’, CP, p. 69  

MacNeice was born in Belfast in September 12, 1907, the son of a schoolteacher who was heart sick that her father had recently died, and an ambitious Anglican clergyman . (“I could hear his voice below in the study,” MacNeice writes of a boyhood memory of his father, “intoning away, communing with God.”)

He was christened Frederick, after the grandfather who left the Catholic Church for the Church of Ireland, because it allowed their priests to marry; Louis, for a family friend.  He was called Freddie until entering Oxford when he changed it.  Shortly after his birth, his father got a post in County Antrim at St. Nicholas Church, but it was problematic as the parishioners did want an “outsider” and Louis’s mother, Lilly, felt this keenly and probably transmitted this melancholy to her children because her son’s poetry is all about loss and loneliness, but also because it was thought at the time, that his birth had caused his mother’s uterine tumours and subsequent death from them

MacNeice’s mother leaves

“My mother became steadily more ill,” MacNeice says in his memoir, until “at last she went away [August 25th 1913 to a recuperative house in Dublin] ; the last I can remember of her at home was her walking up and down the bottom path of the garden . . . talking to my sister Elizabeth, and weeping.” When she bordered the train to Dublin, her children never saw her again.  She would die there next Christmas.  

          The  MacSpauldings 

The intervening years were difficult and lonely until he went to  Oxford, distinguished himself in the Classics,  meeting  and befriended   W.H. Auden, Stephen Spender and Cecil Day-Lewis (father of the actor Daniel Day-Lewis)in a group called the McSpauldings. Pairings are important in the arts.  Outside of the enigmatic Homer every artist has a fellow with whom he bounce off ideas, argue,  and discuss his ideas.  Some are quite famous, Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, Rodgers and Hammerstein,  Oscar Wilde and John Ruskin.  Other not so much like Shakespeare and Will Kempe, but they are always there, for the need to debate and examine one’s thoughts is key to the artistic process.  While the actual work is produced solitary and alone, the prelude is done via another’s insight.

 In 1930, he married Giovanna Marie Therese Babette Ezra (she was called Mary), who was the stepdaughter of J.D. Beazley the greatest classical scholar of his generation.  He accepted a post as classics lecturer at the University of Birmingham, and then in 1936 went on to teach Greek at Bedford College for Women, University of London.  But Mary left, she deserted him and their son for a a lover and never not return. 

While there, he had an affair Eleanor Clarke, who was married woman. and wrote Meeting Point.  Like the relationship, it too is failed, but still considered among his best.   Chart for Louis MacNeice, poet

                        The lonely years

And there was another, mimicking the first, a beautiful fellow writer, married and thus safe while he mourned the loss of Mary.  It is through these poems that MacNeice masters loneliness, like a monk a hair shirt, which is far different from mere solitariness, because the lonely want to be otherwise, while the solitary are not interested.  The lonelies reach out and MacNeice’s best work is full of longing, but I sense he is pulling our leg, because despite all the yearnings for another, they are always like ice cream in summer, one has to eat it fast before it melts away.  Hence his work with Auden, Letters from Iceland filled with prose and poetry  in 1937.

In the end, all these interludes, women, travel  are just ephemeral  getaways that last for the duration of the trip to fill up the time.  His  poetry is like that too, interludes that fill the Spaces, making way for Grace.  3 Cardinal Woolsey c. 1530 .
He died from pneumonia a few days before his birthday, September 3 1963.  The Astrology book was among the many unfinished manuscripts he left behind.  Another thing that he and Jones have in common, besides getting their oeuvre, at least in part for Jones, housed at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.  If you are in the vicinity, and like MacNeice’s poetry or Jones’s astrological works, drop in; it’s worth your time.


  • 1
    Stallworthy, Jon, Louis MacNeice, W.W. Norton & Co., 1995 pg. 462.  Stallworthy is also the editor for Norton of The Norton Anthology of Poetry. 
  • 2
    ibid. pg  463
  • 3
    Cardinal Woolsey c. 1530
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