Montagu Slater

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Montagu Slater
Born Charles Montagu Slater
September 23, 1902
Millom, Cumberland, England, United Kingdom
Died December 19, 1956(1956-12-19) (aged 54)
United Kingdom
Occupation Poet, novelist, playwright, librettist
Genre Poetry, fiction, theatre, opera

Charles Montagu Slater (23 September 1902 – 19 December 1956) was an English poet, novelist, playwright and librettist.

Slater, born in Millom, Cumberland, was selected by Benjamin Britten as librettist for his opera Peter Grimes, which was based on "Letter XXII: Peter Grimes" in George Crabbe's poem The Borough.

For the libretto, Slater eschewed the traditional five-stress line form of English rhyming or blank verse in favour of a more modern and conversational four stress line with rhyming couplets. He argued that contemporary listeners were accustomed to assonance and consonantal rhyme but it could also be argued that this form of 'rough' rhyme was common in early English drama and that Slater was restoring it to the stage, rather than inventing something new. Slater's original libretto, which he published himself (to the annoyance of Britten and Peter Pears, who had made a number of amendments to it before the opera was staged), is cast in three acts. It omits the repetitions necessary in the actual opera.

Slater was involved, with Britten and W. H. Auden, in many of the John Grierson documentaries, such as Coal Face. He wrote the scripts for several films, including The Brave Don't Cry (1952), about a mining disaster.[1] Britten dedicated his Temporal Variations for oboe and piano to Slater, and his Ballad of Heroes to Slater and his wife Enid.

Montagu Slater was known for his left wing political writings and communist sympathies in addition to his creative works. He wrote the miners' strike drama Stay Down, Miner (1937). He died in London.

The literary papers and correspondence of Montagu Slater are held at the University of Nottingham.


  1. ^ "BFI Screenonline: Brave Don't Cry, The (1952)". Retrieved 30 July 2015. 

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