Theodore Spencer, ca. 1940s.
Photographer unknown; Theodore Spencer Journals, Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

Theodore Spencer


Theodore Spencer (1902–49), poet and critic, taught at Harvard from 1927; as Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory from 1946. Co-editor of A Garland for John Donne 1631–1931 (Cambridge, Mass., 1931), for which TSE wrote ‘Donne in Our Time’; author of Shakespeare and the Nature of Man (Lowell Lectures on Shakespeare [delivered1942], 1951). TSE wrote on 30 May 1939 to T. R. Henn – Spencer had applied for a Cambridge University Lectureship –

‘I imagine that Theodore Spencer is so well-known to most of the English lecturers in Cambridge that any testimonial from me should be superfluous. Also, it is only fair to say that Spencer is a close personal friend of mine, and that I may be biased in his favour … I have a very high opinion indeed of Spencer’s abilities. I did not meet everyone even in the English department at Harvard, but I have no reason to believe that there was anyone there of greater ability or greater gifts for teaching. I saw enough of his relations with the students whom he tutored (that was before he had been made an assistant professor) to say that no one could have devoted more zeal than he to work with individuals, or with better effect. He was very popular with the undergraduates, and it was by his initiative and under his direction that the members of Eliot House started their productions of Elizabethan plays, which became a rather important college event.’