James Blair Leishman was born on 8 May 1902. Educated at Rydak School and St John's College, Oxford, he was appointed Assistant Lecturer in 1928, then promoted to Lecturer and Senior Lecturer in English Literature at University College, Southampton. In 1946 he was appointed Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Oxford, where he remained until his death on 14 August 1963.
His publications include The Metaphysical Poets: Donne, Herbert, Vaughan, Traherne (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1934); The Monarch of Wit: An Analytical and Comparative Study of the Poetry of John Donne, (London: Hutchinson, 1951); Selected Poems of Friedrich Hölderlin: The German Text, Translated with an Introduction and Notes by J.B. Leishman (London: Hogarth Press, 1954); Poems 1906 to 1926 by Rainer Maria Rilke Translated by J.B. Leishman (London: Hogarth Press, 1957); Selected Works by Rainer Maria Rilke [Vol. 2 Poetry] Translated by J.B. Leishman (London: Hogarth Press, 1960); Themes and Variations in Shakespeare’s Sonnets, (London: Hutchinson, 1961); Duino Elegies: The German Text by Rainer Maria Rilke with an English Translation, Introduction and Commentary by J.B. Leishman and Stephen Spender (London: Hogarth Press, 1963); The Art of Marvell's Poetry (London, Hutchinson, 1968).