Sprigge, Cecil and Sylvia (writers)

Reference: MS 1703Date: c.1908-c.1973Extent: c.240 files

Cecil Sprigge born in London in 1896, was the eldest child of Sir Samuel Squire Sprigge, Editor of The Lancet. Cecil obtained a King’s scholarship to Eton College in 1910 and, while there, a scholarship to King’s College, Cambridge. During the First World War he enlisted first in the Army and later in the Royal Navy and saw service in France and Eastern Waters. After the war, and while studying in France and Italy, he gradually took to journalism and in 1923 was appointed Rome correspondent of the Manchester Guardian. After the breakdown of his first marriage, Cecil Sprigge married in 1934, Sylvia, daughter of George Saunders, a prominent Berlin correspondent of The Times and herself Manchester Guardian correspondent in Italy from 1943 to 1953.

Cecil Sprigge’s incisive and highly critical articles on Fascist Italy for the Manchester Guardian attracted Benito Mussolini’s attention. In 1928, the journalist was summoned in Rome to the presence of the Duce. After this meeting, Sprigge was moved to Berlin, with frequent and special assignments to other countries.

Sprigge was appointed City editor of the Manchester Guardian in 1929, a post he retained until 1938 when he was appointed Director of the BBC Italian Service from 1938 to 1941. In 1943 he joined Reuters Agency, for which he went to Italy together with his wife Sylvia as a war correspondent and post-war reorganizer. In 1946 he served in Germany for a year as Head of the British Government Public Relations and Information Services Control, while Sylvia remained in Italy to cover the transition from the régime to the Republic.

Among Cecil Sprigge’s publications were: Karl Marx, a short biography (1938); The Development of Modern Italy (1943); Benedetto Croce: Man and Thinker (1952). He also translated a large selection of Benedetto Croce’s writings (OUP, 1951). Cecil and Sylvia Sprigge’s experiences in the most turbulent years of European history led them to take an active part in the organization of the Société Européenne de Culture (founded in 1950 in Venice) as the leading members of the English section. Cecil and Sylvia never hid their anti-fascist feelings and after the war they flung themselves with passion and appreciation into the rebuilding of a nation they deeply loved.

During his years as Italian correspondent for the Manchester Guardian, Cecil developed a long-lasting friendship with the Italian philosopher Benedetto Croce. This friendship allowed Cecil to meet several Italian writers, intellectuals and political organizers of Liberal inclinations such as Franco Mattioli, Giovanni Amendola, Luigi Salvatorelli and Mario Vinciguerra. The Sprigges became instrumental in developing intellectual salons where Anglo-American writers and journalists would meet and exchange views with the local intelligentsia in Naples, Rome and Florence. In 1953, Sylvia and Cecil decided to move back to London and their home became an obligatory stop for all the Italian writers and intellectuals coming to the UK.

[Information adapted from the exhibition curated by Dr Daniela La Penna, Ester Lo Biundo and Mila Milani (Department of Languages and Cultures, University of Reading), February-March 2014. Part of the AHRC-funded project Mapping Literary Space: Intellectuals, Journals and Publishing Firms in Italy 1940-1960.]

The material collected by both Cecil and Sylvia Sprigge contains personal papers, such as address books, diaries, notebooks and photographs; correspondence; manuscripts, plays and lectures written by both Cecil and Sylvia and a large collection of newscuttings including from Italian publications.

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