Centenary of Christopher Caudwell Christopher St John Sprigg on the day he left for Spain

Christopher St John Sprigg / Christopher Caudwell

Christopher St John Sprigg was born in London in 1907, descended from several generations of journalists, educated in catholic schools. He left school and started work as a journalist at 15. He also wote detective thrillers, aeronautics text books, poetry, plays, short stories and a novel. He read voluminously in philosophy, sociology, anthropology, psychology, history, politics, linguistics, mathematics, economics, physics, biology, neurology, literature and literary criticism and much more besides. In 1934, at the age of 27, Sprigg became interested in marxism and began to study it with extraordinary intensity, discovering that it provided the key to the synthesis he was seeking. He wrote his first marxist book Illusion and Reality in 1935 and then moved to Poplar and joined the communist party. He threw himself into all party tasks: fly-posting, street corner speaking, selling The Daily Worker, battling with blackshirts, facing battering and arrest. He contined to write - everything from minutes of party meetings to theoretical works of astonishing erudition. When the Spanish civil war broke out, the Poplar branch raised money for an ambulance and he volunteered to drive it to Spain. On arrival, he joined the international brigades. At the battle of Jarama, he was killed in action. He was last seen firing a machine gun, covering the retreat of his comrades. He was not yet 30. His marxist writings were published posthumously under the name of Christopher Caudwell, a name he had decided to use for his serious works, so as not to ruin his reputation as a writer of thrillers. His marxist works were: Illusion and Reality, Studies and Further Studies in a Dying Culture, The Crisis in Physics, Romance and Realism, Heredity and Development.

There was a centenary conference / celebration for Christopher Caudwell on 20 October 2007 in London sponsored by the Marx Memorial Library.

scenes from centenary conference

The following papers and performances were presented at it:

Helena Sheehan   Caudwell and the philosophical landscape of the century

Anindya Raychaudhury  Caudwell and colonialism: birth and growth of a home-spun marxist

Margaret Kinsman  Sprigg and the neglected detective novels

Robert Sullivan  This My Hand, the first Caudwell publication

Michael Sanders  Productive problems and clotted social history: reading chartist poetry through llusion and Reality

Edith Hall  Caudwell and the Greek and Latin classics

The Strawberry Thieves (socialist choir)

Karl Dallas  The phlogiston effect: Caudwell's Illusion and Reality

David Margolies Caudwell's lasting achievement

The Internationale


Sprigg / Caudwell bibliography

Texts by Caudwell on the web:

Studies in a Dying Culture

Reality: a study in bourgeois philosophy
Liberty: a study in bougeois illusion
Pacifism and violence: a study in bourgeois ethics

Texts about Caudwell on the web:

EP Thompson Caudwell
Francis Mulhern The Marxist Aesthetics of Christopher Caudwell
Helena Sheehan Caudwell from Marxism and the Philosophy of Science
Ellen Sypher Christopher Caudwell: his aesthetics and film
John Corcoran Where Caudwell died

E-mail: helena.sheehan@dcu.ie