Books: Humble Pie

WORLD WITHIN WORLD (312 pp.)—Stephen Spender — Harcourt, Brace ($3.50).

Ever since Jean-Jacques Rousseau set the style with his gloom-drenched Confessions, it has been widely taken for granted that no autobiography is really honest unless it is unremittingly conscience-stricken. When a poet such as Britain's Stephen Spender prefaces the story of his life with the statement: "I have tried to be as truthful as I can," readers can be pretty sure that the author is going to whip himself naked through the streets at the tail of his art.

Poet Spender felt miserable almost from the day he was born. When he...

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