Among the eight cases of love letters and communist writings left behind by Thomas Wintringham - Gresham's old boy, World War I veteran, National Strike hero, editor of the Left Review, commander of the International Brigade, lady's man, and minor poet - Wintringham's would-be biographer Adam Sisman recently discovered a small red exercise book containing twenty-two poems written out in black ink. On the title page were the words: `A THIRD GARLAND OF POESY / written by W. H. Auden / November 1923 -'. Questions surround the little book, but there can be no doubt that every word in it is written by Auden in his own schoolboy hand. Ten of the poems appear in Auden's Juvenilia; twelve are previously unknown. And characteristically for Auden, the ten poems that have been published include in the notebook new lines and even whole new stanzas, while the new poems include a few passages and images already familiar from other early pieces.
The title, `A Third Garland of Poesy', implies that Auden already had written out a first and a second notebook. Moreover, in the upper right hand corner of the plain red cover he scratched in black ink, `Vol. III'. His preferred roman numerals and the distinctively spiky, uneven handwriting are the wobbly hallmark of the orderly and ambitious mind which, at sixteen, was already numbering the volumes of his collected works. Possibly `Vol. I' of these schoolboy works is the blue marbled notebook, now in the Bodleian, which Auden inscribed for and gave to his mother. Hers includes some poems that predate the Wintringham notebook by as much as a year or more, and the inscription and opening pages in the Constance Auden notebook are written in what appears to be more immature handwriting than that in the Wintringham notebook. As might be the case for the first book in what perhaps Auden only later came to think of as a series, his mother's notebook is not numbered. Nor does it have a title, although like the Wintringham notebook, it does have a verse epigraph: four lines from J. C. Squire on the title page of the Wintringham notebook, and four from Robert Louis Stevenson at the front of the Constance Auden notebook. But while Auden evidently began writing out the poems in his mother's notebook well before he began the Wintringham notebook, he also continued to write in her notebook, adding new poems and revising old ones, long after he stopped writing in the other. Probably Auden began working on the Wintringham notebook at about the time he dated it, November 1923, and he may have continued to write in it until as late as February 1924. Possibly he gave the notebook away around that time, and no longer had access to it, as he presumably would have had to his mother's notebook at home. His mother's notebook contains four of the same poems as the Wintringham notebook, but it contains many more poems, both earlier and later pieces. Her collection of loose folios, apparently sent home with letters from school, includes six other poems that are also in the Wintringham notebook. The poems in the Wintringham notebook are not all fair copies; indeed, some show signs of being much worked on and reconsidered. Auden may have begun copying what he thought were finished compositions into the notebook and then made changes even as he was writing them out. Thus, the poems are not final drafts, but they also are almost certainly not first drafts. And the poems that also appear in the Constance Auden notebook are probably earlier versions than hers.
As a choice of Auden's verse, the Wintringham notebook gives the impression of being more deliberately planned than the Constance Auden one. Possibly this is because the contents were produced over a period of only a few months. Auden appears to have gone on adding to his mother's notebook - perhaps intermittently between absences at school - and its contents, like the loose folios she and other, later correspondents preserved, are something of a haphazard and lucky residue. The poems he chose for the Wintringham notebook have the effect of delineating a particular stage in Auden's development when he had cut himself off from home and from his mother's strong early influence; as a group, these poems emanate the precocious and perhaps assumed persona of a self-consciously knowing, seasoned young man, alone in the world, both physically and emotionally. There is almost nothing in the notebook that suggests the relation of a child to its family; the poet speaks as an autonomous individual among other individuals, his peers, his fellow men. Some of the poems Auden copied out into the notebook he gave his mother probably reflect shared tastes and interests as well as reminiscences; a few seem childish. By contrast, among the poems Auden chose for his `Third Garland' there are none, for instance, about magic, elves, or fairyland. All of the poems in the Wintringham notebook are about real landscapes and personal emotions. The early poetic influences are still evident - for instance Keats, Davies, de la Mare, and especially Wordsworth - but Auden had immersed himself in Hardy during the summer of 1923, and the charming, open and sentimental prettiness of his earliest style had already disappeared. The poems in the Wintringham notebook have a dark vein of bitterness and disillusion, and a quality of detachment, both in tone and in choice of theme.
The obsessive and apparently sourceless sense of guilt evident in so much of Auden's early work is recapitulated in a few of the poems, for instance in the tellingly titled `The Grief Without a Name'. In another, `The Hill', Auden's nameless dread is symbolized, characteristically, by the landscape he associated in later work with his mother's body. `The Hill' uses the same rugged topographical features as appear in `The Road's Your Place' (printed in Juvenilia) - features which beckon and threaten at the same time. In `The Hill' the climbing poet's efforts of imagination are thwarted by a precipice rather than the `three tall crags' which overshadow him in `The Road's Your Place':
On night in my dream-laden mind
I saw a hill both tall and fair
I scaled its pleasant slopes to find
A jagged precipice hung there
So when I scan the good, the ill
This life I trip so gaily now
There comes to mind that lone green hill
With the precipice on its brow
Some of the poems in the Wintringham notebook are more buoyant and self-confident, even if they are bitter in tone. Many are about love, and three are about the experience of falling in love - or at least about being overwhelmed by a powerful schoolboy crush. The dedication of one of these poems, `Revelation (To C. J. H.)', insists that Auden was describing actual and not imaginary feelings:
How little I had guessed it dearest friend
Till you unlocked for me the door
And showed your soul's white lambent flame within
Even love too great for speech.
I was ashamed because I knew that you were beautiful
And I had not seen it
This world is such a cold and lonely place
Fail not whatever ill may come
Fail not, burn on, e'en though you be consumed
If needs must be, cast all your life,
Your soul away to feed that flame.
That men may see the fire
And warm their hearts at it.
Auden mentioned a boy called Hales in a letter to his parents sent from Gresham's in October 1923: "Hales is reading a paper on `Elgar' today. It ought to be quite good I think." Christopher John Hales was a year older than Auden (born 5 May 1906) and came to Gresham's from Writtle, near Chelmsford, Essex, in summer term 1917.
He had a younger brother, Edward (Teddy) Hales, also at the school, and an elder brother, Hubert Hales, who attended Eton and became Director of Music at Gresham's after Walter Greatorex retired. In World Within World, Stephen Spender recounts how his own elder brother, Michael Spender, introduced him to Hales Major (as Christopher Hales was known at school) in the Gresham's dining hall, where Hales "was playing the Death March of Saul on a rickety upright piano...He was a pleasant-looking boy with an oval face, dark eyes, and hair done rather eccentrically, with a fringe" (327). Although Hales "laughed and laughed" on meeting "Spender Minor", Spender describes him as "naturally kind" (329).
As the paper on Elgar seems to promise, Hales went on to become a professional musician. He was primarily a cellist, and after he left Gresham's in 1924, he studied at the Royal College of Music and later in Paris; then he taught at Uppingham amd eventually became an examiner for Trinity College of Music, travelling all over the world to set music exams. Christopher Hales never married, and a niece, Penny Souster, was not aware growing up that he ever had a particular friend or partner of either sex. She is unsurprised by the idea that Auden may have been in love with her uncle; Hales would have been, she says, a good-looking teenager, dark and dark-eyed, with an oval face - as Spender noticed. Hales's sister-in-law, Peggy Hales (Penny Souster's mother) recalls that Hales set great store by his schoolboy friendship with Auden, and the family still possess a copy of Hardy's Wessex Tales which Auden inscribed as a gift for Hales the summer after Hales had left Gresham's: "C. J. H. / H. d. d. / W. H. A. / 30/9/24." (H. d. d. is for the Latin Hoc donum dedit, literally "this gift gave", so that the inscription, with its English style date, may be read, "To Christopher John Hales this gift was given by Wystan Hugh Auden 30 September 1924".) No other mementoes of Auden survive among Hales's papers.
`Revelation' and another of the love poems, `Transfiguration', both describe the discovery of love in terms suitable to a mystical experience or religious conversion - a strategy that Auden was to use again much later when he came to write (less turgidly) about the major romantic experiences of his adult life:
This world can never be the same
Since you have been she cannot be so base
The skies are bluer than they were before
No grass was ever half so green
Every bird sings louder because it sings of you
Every leaf trembling on the spreading branches, cries all is well
Every drop of Dew reflects - some of your beauty
Every door and every window whispers a message of you.
Lo I will cast off evil
All my dark desires, all my conceit, all my pettinesses
They shall fall away like the sepals of an opening flower
And I shall stand purged of all my weaknesses
Naked and sunkist
And I shall follow you in the distance
Down mountain valleys with dashing streams and bare stark crags
On past sleeping farms and great wide meadows
Where cows stare after us, and the laugh of the children playing there
Rings happier at the sight.
On past deep mill pools and foaming weirs, with willow fringed islets
Where one may hear Pan piping.
On over the lawns of life and the woods of Death
To the Place that Is
And then suddenly you shall turn
And we shall look one another in the face
And we shall learn what can never be told
And the stars shall go down behind the hills rejoicing.
A number of the poems show revealing connections to Auden's mature work, reaffirming the coherence of Auden's poetic imagination over the length of his career. For instance, the moon which in the 1933 poem `A Summer Night' looks from its distant vantage point on the variety of humanity and its works, appears already in `The Moon and the Earth' written about ten years earlier:
The moon looks down
On wooded hills and grassy plots
And on the town
Over a maze of chimney pots
`A strange world that, men say, that's dead
And cold; these million years. All life has fled'
The moon goes muttering on her way
`A strange world that which does not know
It died a million years ago'
The same moon noticing a deserted world, emptied of life and meaning, appeared also in Auden's 1925 poem, `The Dark Fiddler', and again in `Humpty Dumpty' written in the summer of 1926. But by 1933 Auden was to have corrected the Romantic fallacy that the moon could be conscious of, or care about, the world. In `A Summer Night', the same moon stares `blankly', for in truth she obeys only physical laws: `To gravity attentive, she / Can notice nothing here.' The poet or mankind must now do the noticing. While the resources available to Auden's imagination remained in some sense constant, he used them differently over the years, as his poetic purpose evolved and changed, and these newly discovered very early poems clarify the trajectory of his thought.
The last poem in the Wintringham notebook, `The Old Mine', is printed in two other versions in the Juvenilia: `The Old Lead-mine' - three stanzas, conjecturally dated February 1924 - and `The Old Mine' - two stanzas, conjecturally dated 1924 or 1925. The Wintringham version is probably the earliest, and it is certainly the longest, offering a previously unknown second stanza for a total of four stanzas:
This is the place where man has laid his hand
To tear from these dark hills his gold
He found it not, they say, but left his brand
Of greed upon the spot for all men to behold.
A rotting waterwheel stands gaunt and stark
Against the skyline of the moors
The vacant windows stare out grim and dark
Moss grows on the wet stone of the old washing floors
I peered a moment down the open shaft,
Gloomy and black; I dropped a stone
A distant splash - a whispering - a laugh
The icy hands of fear weighed heavy on the bone
I turned and travelled quickly down the track
Which grass will cover by and by,
Down the lonely valley; once I looked back
And saw a waste of stones against an angry sky.
Evidently Auden progressively shortened and simplified this poem over a period, probably, of some months. First, he dropped the stanza which appears second in the Wintringham notebook - resulting in the three stanza version called `The Old Lead-mine'. He may have set greatest store by this three stanza version, for he left at least three copies of it. In addition to the copy he wrote out in his mother's notebook, he gave or possibly dictated another to Michael Davidson (probably it was Davidson who produced the typed copy), and he gave a third to Christopher Isherwood. Nevertheless, some time afterwards he wrote out a new two stanza version in his mother's notebook, revising the first and last stanzas and dropping the stanza which appears third in the Wintringham version. The two stanza version exists only in the Constance Auden notebook, and it is significant that Auden made no mark to cancel the longer three stanza version also in the notebook. Still, it seems incredible that the two stanzas he dropped were the most intense and troubled in the poem and contained the very themes to which he would return immensely productively in later years.
Auden first reused the experience of dropping a stone down a mine shaft in his 1930 poem `Get there if you can and see the land you once were proud to own'. Later and more importantly, in the famous Rookhope passage of `New Year Letter', he described it as the seminal event of his conscious creative life: `There I dropped pebbles, listened, heard / The reservoir of darkness stirred /.../ And I was conscious of my guilt' (Collected Poems, 228). The imagery from the abandoned Wintringham stanza, describing the threatening waterwheel and the ruined washing floors does not reappear in `New Year Letter', but Auden had already excavated and transformed the material from this stanza for another poem evoking a crucial transition in his life, `The Watershed': `Who stands, the crux left of the watershed,/ On the wet road between the chafing grass / Below him sees dismantled washing floors'. With its insistently meaningful title (added some years after composition), the poem has come to be recognized as the one in which Auden himself felt he had first discovered his poetic voice. As Edward Mendelson has pointed out, `The Watershed' is the earliest of Auden's poems which he chose to reprint in the second edition of Poems (1933) and in subsequent collections. In a 1927 letter to Isherwood, Auden referred to a draft of `The Watershed' as `Rookhope', tying it to the location about which he later wrote the important passage in `New Year Letter'. Now the Wintringham version of `The Old Mine' permits us to observe more closely the way in which the two pieces of poetry may have emerged from a single youthful experience.
Auden's adolescent determination to achieve technical discipline appears to have been fuelled in part by a need to shape and control, even to suppress, disturbing passions or fears. The real subject of `The Old Mine' vanished along with the cuts he made during 1924 and perhaps 1925; the final two stanza version of the poem is accomplished, but also slight and conventional. The strong emotions presented in the earlier version of the poem may have seemed embarrassing to the schoolboy soon headed for Oxford; he was shortly to be insisting that good poetry is classic and austere. When Auden wrote about this sacred landscape again only a few years later in `The Watershed', a covert anxiety re-emerged in the poem, but his language was obscure and he had so successfully detached himself from the private themes of `The Watershed' that such questions as `Who is speaking?' and `Who is the figure in the poem?' have become a constant topic of critical discussion. The reference to the mine shaft in `Get there if you can and see the land you once were proud to own' is equally impersonal. But by the 1940s - far removed in time and place from the landscape that he loved, and finally at ease with the self-consciousness into which that landscape had delivered him - Auden delved fearlessly into the experience again, unearthed the deeply personal subject matter of these early poems, and newly ornamented and set them forth in `New Year Letter'as his `symbol of us all' (Collected Poems, 227).
As for the little red notebook, questions remain. Why was it among Wintringham's papers? Shared experiences and interests make it plausible that Auden and Wintringham may some time have met - both were Gresham's old boys, both participated in the upheaval of the General Strike in 1926, both were associated with the causes of the Left during the 1930s and especially with the Spanish Republicans - but there is no evidence to prove such a meeting ever occurred, and certainly nothing suggests the two ever were close enough friends for Auden to have given Wintringham a notebook. In general Auden gave notebooks to close and important friends. By the mid-1930s, Auden, a published poet of some renown, probably was not handing out copies of his schoolboy verses. In 1940 when his mother entrusted her collection of his early verses to E. R. Dodds, she felt obliged to write a note specifying the poems not be given to Auden: she seemed to fear he might destroy them. The Wintringham notebook almost certainly left Auden's hands within a few years of the time that he dated it - by the end of 1925, or even well before. At Christmas 1925, after a term in Oxford, Auden gave Christopher Isherwood a sheaf of poems that still included pieces written at Gresham's, but by early 1926 his style was to have changed completely and already that summer, the work he was sending Isherwood and showing to other friends and contemporaries no longer included any poems in his schoolboy style.
Auden did give a relatively early notebook to his Gresham's friend T. O. Garland sometime during 1936, possibly a few months before he left for Spain in mid-January 1937. But it was a notebook he had begun using in 1928, the year he left Oxford and a year after he had already begun to write in his earliest adult style. Peggy Garland, Garland's wife at the time, recalls that Auden was still jotting in the notebook when he arrived with it one day at their Hampstead house, and John Whitehead, who has written an article about the notebook, affirms that the last poem in it is headed 1936. Auden had been fond of Tom Garland for a long time, and according to Peggy Garland his affection was at least partly homosexual. Perhaps while at Gresham's Auden had punningly titled the 1923 Wintringham notebook, and maybe earlier notebooks, a `Garland of Poesy' with the intention of presenting one to Garland, head of Farfield house, rugby half, and, Auden later said, a born leader. But Peggy Garland feels certain that the gift of the notebook in 1936 was entirely unplanned. She remembers Auden showing it to Garland who liked some lines in it, "The friends of the born nurse / Are always getting worse." Garland was a doctor, and he and Auden agreed the lines reflected a psychological conviction they shared - that those who are too well cared for have no need to get better - so Auden gave him the notebook on the spot. Peggy Garland explains that both men were then fascinated by Jung; they took her along to a lecture Jung gave in London around this time. Auden, she reflects, already was famous and realized he was giving Garland something of value, but she retained the impression that living in one room as he then did, Auden really did not have anywhere to keep all his possessions and seemed quite happy to part with something. She also considers that she knew or knew of many of Auden's friends of the period - for he lodged with the Coldstreams just around the corner and lunched with the Garlands most Sundays - and she doubts Tom Wintringham was among them. Indeed, though Wintringham's 1929 book about Spain, English Captain, mentions many writers, it does not mention Auden.
The simplest explanation of the present evidence is that Wintringham obtained the little red book through Michael Davidson, a mutual friend, possibly in the late 1920s or in the early 1930s. Auden may have been entirely unaware of this. In The World, the Flesh and Myself, Davidson recounts his involvement with Wintringham and other communist writers in the founding of The Left Review. This took place in October 1934. Adam Sisman conjectures Davidson and Wintringham may have known each other much earlier, as both were motorcycle despatch writers for the army during the Great War; in any case, both were communists, both were journalists, and they were friends and colleagues by the early 1930s. Davidson's friendship with Auden is described in my textual note to Auden's Juvenilia: they met in 1922 or 1923 when Davidson was working in Norwich for The Eastern Daily Press, and they exchanged frequent letters. (During this period, Wintringham was working for the communist party newspaper, The Daily Worker.) Like Wintringham, Davidson was about ten years older than Auden. Auden sent Davidson his poems, and Davidson sent Auden recently published volumes of contemporary verse. The correspondence continued until at least 1925, even after Davidson moved to London in 1924, and even though the friendship, erotically charged on Davidson's side, was forced underground when Mrs. Auden found out about it and she and the school authorities forbad it. Davidson helped Auden with his work, typing out some of his poems, commenting and suggesting revisions - much as Isherwood was later to do - and the pair evidently worked together on a numbered sequence of what they presumably felt were Auden's best pieces. As has become well known, in the summer or early autumn of 1923, Davidson submitted Auden's poem `Woods in Rain' to the fourth volume of Public School Verse without telling Auden (it was published in 1924).
Long before Auden became famous, Davidson was obviously proud of their friendship, and there is at least one other instance of his showing Auden's work around without telling Auden. While Auden was an undergraduate in Oxford, Davidson gave some of his poems to Auden's Christ Church contemporary Stanley Fisher. It is clear Auden never knew about this, because in the late 1960s when Fisher wrote to Auden asking if he might publish a little piece about the poems, Auden wrote back expressing his surprise to discover the poems still existed. In his `Auden's Juvenilia', Fisher explained:
I happened to meet Davidson in 1927 when he was working for the O.U.P. at Oxford and he invited me to tea to see his collection of Auden's poems. When I arrived I found a note of apology - he had gone to Berlin -; but he left such typescript copies of Wystan's poems as he possessed, and one autographed poem... (Notes and Queries, n.s. 21, no. 10 [October 1974]. pp 370-373.)
These and other items Fisher preserved were later given to the Christ Church library. By Davidson's account, the rest of his Auden poems (probably he kept other autograph ones) were lost in Berlin when he subsequently had to flee the Nazis in 1933. Nevertheless, it seems possible that the little red exercise book had also been in Davidson's collection (the date, November 1923, may even mark the height of the friendship, just after Auden learned `Woods in Rain' had been accepted by Public School Verse and proudly wrote home from Gresham's telling his parents), and that at some time before the collecton was lost in 1933, Davidson gave, or perhaps loaned, the little red exercise book to Wintringham just as he gave the other poems to Fisher. Wintringham might first have saved the little book precisely because it was not his; he would have been intending to return it to Davidson. Later, of course, he would have gone on saving it because Auden's mature work was to capture the attention of their whole epoch.
If this is Auden's Third Garland, where is his first garland (if the first is not the one he gave his mother) and his second? Possibly any remaining notebooks of his early verse were lost, somewhat fittingly, in Berlin in 1933. On the other hand, maybe Davidson gave poems to other acquaintances as well and these will be found one day in an English attic. Then again, perhaps Davidson is not the link to Wintringham at all, and an altogether different story remains to be told.
With thanks to Tom Braun, Peggy Garland, Peggy Hales, Christopher Phipps, John Rayner, Penny Souster and John Whitehead.
Katherine Bucknell edited and introduced W. H. Auden's Juvenilia: Poems 1922-1928. Her edition of Christopher Isherwood's Diaries, Volume 1: 1939-1960 was published by Methuen in October.
Next summer I hope to complete a doctoral thesis which treats, in part, the poetry Auden wrote as a result of his foreign travel before the War. One of the more complex poems of his Berlin period was "It was Easter as I walked in the public gardens", or "1929" as he came to call it. I offer these thoughts on the poem in the hope that I might benefit from any comments that Society members may be able to offer me. I would also be interested to hear from anyone who disagrees with my interpretation.
"1929" developed from simple beginnings. It began life as just another Berlin poem, addressed to Isherwood, as were several of Auden's poems of this time. The draft version, written in a holograph notebook kept in the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library, shows that what became the first of the four parts began as a stand-alone poem dedicated to Christopher - a sort of epigraph to "the new play that I have started writing". This was to be The Reformatory, a play that Auden and Isherwood rewrote in collaboration later in 1929 as The Enemies of a Bishop, or, Die When I Say When: A Morality in Four Acts, of which Edward Mendelson was to say, in his introduction to The English Auden, "The title is unfortunately the play's high point".
The first part of the poem - "It was Easter as I walked in the public gardens" - is familiar Berlin territory, with references to lovers, Lane's teachings and Groddeck's psychologies counterpoised by the Christian ethos as exemplified by the celebrations of Easter and Christmas. But as the poem grew, it developed. In 1970, John Fuller in his Reader's Guide described it as elaborating into "an organised meditative framework, with its four parts corresponding roughly with the four seasons, [about] Auden's central theory of social and psychological death and rebirth". Mendelson suggested in Early Auden that, as the poem developed, its structure became a problem:
The separate poems were each internally consistent, but the sequence as a whole begins with unequivocal hopes for the mind's weaning from nature and ends by calling for the opposite, the mind's dissolution in death...it says nothing of how the new year might be different. The novelty predicted at the end is contradicted by the recurring seasonal cycle affirmed by the rest of the poem.
Stan Smith (W. H. Auden ) acknowledges the dissonance between the first two sections (metaphors of weaning) and the last parts (metaphors of drowning). He sees the cause of this dichotomy, not in Auden changing his poetic goals, seeking by October 1929 (when he completed the poem) "a new unity and a new love", but in the financial crisis which was precipitated in October 1929. He reads "This is the dragon's day, the devourer's" as symbolic of economic events beginning to dictate human feelings: a sort of pre-war "Grub First, Then Ethics".
But perhaps this seeks to gloss the poem by transporting future events backwards in time. Auden did not call his poem "1929" until he included it in his 1945 collection. He was unlikely to have been so prescient as to have seen the economic writing on the wall during 1929 as he wrote the poem. Nothing else that Auden wrote at the time, including his letters, suggested that the Wall Street Crash was a seminal event for him. If Auden did intend his title to have a meaning other than simply designating that year in his life, it is surely a case of Auden rewriting his text at a later date, after the significance of the Crash and its economic effects had been established. He often engaged in this form of deconstruction, the plurality of meanings he invoked being symbolic, perhaps, of his divided self. The shifting metaphors that Mendelson spots may emanate from Auden's fractured psyche; though it would be natural to expect such a rhetorical divergence in a poem whose individual parts were only made to cohere in retrospect. In any case, accepting that the poem has analogies to the cycle of the seasons and to the events of Christ's life, one would expect metaphors of growth to be surmounted by metaphors of death.
The poem is replete with references to Auden's sojourn in Berlin. His boyfriends, Kurt Groote and Gerhart Meyer, are mentioned by name. The published version suggests a possible reference in the opening stanza to Auden's Easter 1929 trip to Hamburg with Meyer. Auden noted in his 1929 Berlin journal that Meyer behaved with great tenderness to "that little weeping whore in Hamburg". Possibly Meyer's is the "fresh hand with fresh power" with whom Auden "came at once/Where solitary man sat weeping on a bench". But in manuscript the "fresh hand" was intended to refer to someone else as it was followed by an apparent quotation - " ` Je suis trés curieux de connaître le petit Calab' " - a line Auden excised in his draft. The crying man of the published poem is Layard, the friend in the second stanza whose "analysis of his own failure" is "Listened to at intervals throughout the winter/At different hours and in different rooms". In a 1929 journal Auden wrote that he was thinking about Layard (who had just attempted suicide) while he waited for Meyer to meet him at the station en route to Hamburg. He also noted, two days later, that "John looked awful, like an embryo chicken" when he visited him in hospital with Layard's mother. This experience and others further convinced Auden of the Groddeckian premise that body and mind are under joint control, "Making choice seem a necessary error", though the relevance of this phrase to Groddeck's teaching may be fortuitous - unless Auden was aware of his work as early as 1927 - because the entire seven-line stanza, with one change, is shoe-horned in from an earlier poem, "Out of sight assuredly, not out of mind".
The manuscript draft offers many valuable hints to the development of "1929" in its cancelled lines. When Auden first composed the lines "Man's opposite strivings for entropic peace/Retreat to lost homes or advance to new", he specified that the method of advancement was via " `The North West Passage' ". The implication is that both The Reformatory and this, originally dedicatory, poem were intended to explore the concept of the "Truly Weak Man" as expounded by Isherwood; the man who undertakes "The Test", a perilous journey taken (either in reality or metaphorically) to disguise from himself and others his underlying cowardice and insecurity. In retrospect one can see that the completed poem can be interpreted as expounding this theme, both its cyclical nature and its "drowning" conclusion - "deep in the clear lake/The lolling bridegroom, beautiful, there" - suggesting the probable result of North-West Passage exploration. The seasonality theme itself, which clearly developed as the poem was written - and has an inevitability which relates to the historical determinism Auden was to espouse in the mid-Thirties - is foreshadowed in other lines excised in the draft (for example, lines 60-61 of the first section originally read "Now at this season, as in buds...Life quickens and with life, poetry"). The omitted lines 50-1 confirm that the theme of the play was to be summarised by the two retained lines which follow: "The death by cancer of a once hated master/A friend's analysis of his own failure". It is ironic that they were retained, perhaps, since the play was stillborn.
In the second poem of the "1929" sequence, the discussion of unity versus dualism in mind and body continues in a Lawrentian pastiche of weaning and nurture. There are also references to the civil strife in Berlin that spring, so prevalent apparently that Auden grew bored by it all and acted perversely - "I was angry, said I was pleased" - when he was told about police brutality. However, in manuscript it appears that Auden intended to communicate a different reaction, one that he possibly misinterpreted when he came to revise the entire poem for publication. "I was carried away, said I was pleased" suggests that Auden was excited by his friend's rhetoric and became an advocate of the impending civil unrest.
Unity is not to be achieved, Auden admits, by being "Perfunctorily affectionate in hired room". Mind and body must co-exist or "disease, madness and death" ensue. Auden illustrates this with a complicated simile about a man returning from Africa to his wife in Wales (itself awkwardly extracted from an earlier poem "No, not from this life"). This complicated and unsatisfactory section, overloaded with gerunds and understaffed with definite or indefinite articles, concludes uncertainly that there is an "absolute unity of evening" which should be achievable.
In the third poem of the "1929" sequence the unity debate continues. Auden has left Berlin now and is at his parent's cottage in the Lake District: "In month of August to a cottage coming". The poem continues to be unusually autobiographical (although less so than in manuscript, where nine excised lines [5-13] relate specifically to his sojourn at his parent's cottage at Wescoe). The second stanza of the original poem, published in Poems (1930), read:
Being alone, the frightened soul
Returns to this life of sheep and hay
No longer his: he every hour
Moves further from this and must so move,
As child is weaned from his mother and leaves home
But taking the first steps falters, is vexed
By opposite strivings for entropic peace,
Retreat to lost home or advance to new,
Happy only to find home, a place
Where no tax is levied for being there.
The second edition of Poems (1933) omitted lines 7-8 above and placed a comma after "vexed"; Mendelson's English Auden (1977) publishes the latter version. Omission of these lines simplifies the sentence but tends to leave the words "is vexed" high and dry, their meaning severely reduced without the autobiographical clarification, which, as we have seen earlier, relates to "The Test". But their omission also simplifies the sequence and clarifies the predominantly pagan, determinist theme. Further evidence of Auden's later attempts at thematic unification of "1929" can be seen in his omission of the autobiographical lines 48-58 of the original manuscript. These lines suggested that Auden "climbed the stairs to a dreaming sleep". Sleep was:
...a device of nature's
Her kindly forethought that we find ourselves at death
Not helplessly strange to the new conditions[.]
A later revision, written in different ink on the recto page facing the above version, eliminates the personal experience and emphasises the seasonality of nature - and its inevitability:
See winter, winter for earth and us,
A forethought of death that we may find ourselves at death
Not helplessly strange to the new conditions.
Later in the poem, a greater irrelevance is retained, the oft-used "See frozen buzzard flipped down the weir/And carried out to sea" which Isherwood so disliked in another poem, turning up once again like a bad penny. In fact the retention of this undergraduate extravagance seems more perverse in that the second line is not in the manuscript draft; probably Auden only half-remembered at the time the lines Isherwood apparently persuaded him to strike out a year earlier.
In the final poem of the "1929" sequence a tenuous circle is squared. It is now "time for the destruction of error". A reference to John xii. 24: "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit" in Auden's "death of the grain" - possibly a reference to Gide's Si le Grain ne Meurt as well - is expanded into the death of everything "our death, death of the old gang". If unity is achievable, it happens through cyclical rebirth; with, as yet, no hope of a Christian saviour to offer another alternative to the inevitable fresh "weaning-drowning" cycle. Fuller has pointed out that the omission of sixteen lines of the original Poems text does nothing to clarify Auden's parallel assertion that real love needs death and rebirth too. The second missing section in particular (originally placed immediately before the last stanza) is a disappointing omission, because it seemed to provide the link between the Berlin-based casual relationships of "It was Easter..." (i.e. the first poem of the sequence) and the need for death and rebirth:
For this is how it ends,
The account of growing, the history of knowing,
As more comatose and always in,
Living together in wretched weather
In a doorless room in a leaking house,
Wrong friends at the wrong time.
Auden was clearly dissatisfied with these lines as poetry, perhaps because of the weak internal rhymes.
"1929" may be said to encapsulate Auden's Berlin experience and also to précis his personal philosophy at the start of the Thirties. His undergraduate and somewhat dilettante psychological stance has become sterner and narrower: illness is psychically caused through a force which controls both mind and body. He is at pains to evidence that man is a physical and intellectual unity, short-cutting the tortuous symbolic paraphernalia that Yeats constructed to reach the same conclusion. Much of "1929" develops this theme; as Auden perceived (or planned) the sequentiality of the four poetic elements of the poem, he eliminated red herrings like "dreams" and "tests" and enclosed his unity concept in the coverlets of life and death and of seasonality. It is a small step from here to a perception that events are entirely governed by historical inevitability, imperturbable in the face of religion, especially Christianity. In fact, throughout "1929" the religious motif is muted, if it exists at all. References to Christianity are from within the spectrum of birth and death that proclaim a cycle of weaning and demise. It would have been natural for Auden to draw upon a Christian atmosphere in a poem which he began just after a sexually exhilarating Easter holiday.
I would be interested to hear from anyone who has a radically different interpretation to mine. Also - who was "le petit Calab"? Did Auden know Groddeck's teaching in 1927? What was Auden thinking about when he wrote: "As one returns to Africa to wife/And his ancestral property in Wales"? I look forward to hearing from members
In 1976 the painter Nell Blaine, who had been stricken with polio as an adult, was startled to learn that she was the sole heir of Howard Griffin, a minor poet who for a brief time had acted as secretary to W. H. Auden. His will explained that he had no relatives whatsoever, and that he felt Blaine to be the most deserving of his friends. Accordingly he left his entire estate to her, including his principal residence, a seventeenth century farmhouse-chalet in a tiny, obscure village in the Austrian Tyrol. Griffin's Austrian lawyer advised Blaine that the house was full of books and paintings.
This presented the wheelchair-bound Blaine with a dilemma. Someone had to deal with all this and it had to be someone she felt she could trust, who was free to travel and knew about books and paintings; finally, and most crucially, someone who knew German well enough to make himself understood in the Tiro. This turned out to be me.
It was a long, arduous journey involving no less than seven changes of transportation. The final part was on a steep and winding road with many hairpin turns. To me the weather and the tortuous road had all the characteristics of a Gothic novel. I was immensely cheered on arrival to see a light in the farmhouse (I had been preceded by Martica Sawin, an art expert and friend of Nell's, who would value the paintings). But my cheerfulness disappeared when Martica broke the news that there was no heat, nor was the stove working. The only thing to do was to go to bed to get warm. Tired and cold and hungry as I was, I still couldn't resist an initial look at the library. Even such a cursory look told me this was going to be a disaster for Nell. The very few books that could possibly have any commercial value turned out to have been purloined from various public libraries. Griffin seemed to have simply appropriated whatever he needed wherever he was. There were books belonging to Yaddo, the British Museum, the New York Public Library, the Bavarian State Library, and so on.
But, as it turned out, all was not lost. As Auden's secretary, Griffin had made the acquaintance of many literary personalities and had correspondence with some of them, including Christopher Isherwood and Katherine Anne Porter. Best of all, in the bottom drawer of the file cabinet was a large, old-fashioned ledger book, of the sort that Auden used as his work-book for many years. This turned out to be the working draft of the play The Ascent of F6 which he co-authored with Isherwood in the late 1930s. Here it was, long considered lost, and now finally found in the tiny village of Haderlehn, which consisted of four farmhouses, an inn and a tiny church open for services only one Sunday a month.
ROBERT A. WILSON
Robert A. Wilson was the owner of the Phoenix Book Store in New York, and a friend of Auden. He is now retired and lives in Maryland.
In one of the brilliant essays contained in his book Less Than One - entitled "In a Room and a Half" - Brodsky argues that his banishment from the Soviet Union in 1972 prevented him from watching his parents grow old, and learning about his own aging process: " `Shall I look this way when I am old, too? Is this cardiac...problem hereditary?' " He didn't, and it may have been. Joseph Brodsky died in his sleep on 28 January 1996, aged only fifty-five, of an apparent heart attack.
In the eponymous essay which gives Less Than One its title, and in "In a Room and a Half", Brodsky describes his childhood and youth in St. Petersburg - or Leningrad as it then was. He tells of the deprivations of growing up in half a room - only fifty per cent of Virginia Woolf's minimal requirement - of the endless queueing and general austerity of the late Stalinist years. Leaving school in boredom at fifteen, he became a milling machine operator in a factory, and he recalls the work force "crying openly when Stalin dropped dead".
Brodsky shed no such tears and eventually his opposition to totalitarianism (all dictators were philistines, he later suggested in a famous aphorism: "their hit-list was longer than their reading-list") caused him to be sentenced (for "parasitism") to five years in a northern labour camp near Archangel. In prison, he first read Auden's poetry. Both the man and his poetry were to influence Brodsky's own life. From Auden's "In Memory of W. B. Yeats" - "Follow, poet, follow right/ To the bottom of the night" - he came to believe there was a connection between good art and good actions. And vice versa:"evil, especially political evil, is always a bad stylist".
Though released from prison after eighteen months, Brodsky was continually persecuted by the State until, in 1972, he was exiled. As a Jew, he was sent to Israel, via Vienna. But in Austria, through the intercession of Professor Carl Proffer of the University of Michigan, he came to meet Auden at Kirchstetten. Auden set in train the events which enabled Brodsky to go first to England and then to America. According to Brodsky, Auden looked after him "with the diligence of a good mother hen". Grants were obtained, and a job secured: that of poet-in-residence at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
Better fortune attended Brodsky in America. He obtained Visiting Professorships at Smith and Columbia Universities, in 1978 an honorary doctorate from Yale, and in 1981 a MacArthur Foundation grant. He became so fluent in his adopted tongue that he wrote much of his later poetry and all of his essays in English, and it was for both his poetry and his prose that he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1987; the first Russian since Pasternak to receive it.
In his acceptance speech Brodsky said "Aesthetics is the mother of ethics" and "because we understand beauty, we also understand suffering", two aphorisms that might well have been pronounced by Auden himself. And Brodsky acknowledged his indebtedness to Auden in a number of ways, not least by becoming a founder member of the W. H. Auden Society and by contributing in large part to the memorial plaques on former residences of Auden in St. Mark's Place and Montague Terrace. He also wrote a long essay evaluating, line by line, Auden's poem "September 1, 1939". This masterly exposition, delivered as part of a course in modern lyric poetry at Columbia University, contained some wonderful digressions as well as incisive comments ("never rhyme the same parts of speech....actually, hunger allows a choice: to get hungrier"). "We must love one another or die" was resuscitated in meaning as "We must love one another or kill".
Brodsky loved cities and spent much of his time in New York, London and Venice. But he was never to return to St. Petersburg, even for his parents' deaths; the authorities deemed it "unpurposeful". He is survived by his wife, Maria, by their daughter - and by his poetry. Readers of the latter may agree with another of his bons mots: "Poetry is perhaps the only insurance we've got against the vulgarity of the human heart".
"In Solitude, for Company": W. H. Auden after 1940" (Auden Studies 3), edited by Katherine Bucknell and Nicholas Jenkins (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), 338 pp.
In July 1972, Auden fired off an angry letter to the Austrian taxation authorities who were demanding he pay alleged arrears on his income tax on the grounds that
(i) he was resident for part of the year in Kirchstetten, where a street had been named after him; (ii) that he had both "material" and "personal" interests in the country; (iii) that he once received an Austrian literary prize; and (iv) that he had written poems such as "Whitsunday in Kirchstetten" and "Joseph Weinheber (1892-1945)" on "local" topics. Addressing each of the points in turn, Auden ended his letter with a threat:
In conclusion, I must say this. If this, to my mind, unjust foolishness goes any further, I shall leave Austria for ever, never to return, which would be very sad for me and perhaps also for the shopkeepers. And, if I have to, I must tell you frankly, Gentlemen, that I am in a position to make a world-scandal.
The letter did the trick and the Austrian chancellor, Bruno Kreisky, intervened to have the sum reduced; but what position did Auden think he occupied in 1972 which would sanction him to transform a bureaucratic wrangle about a minor tax affair not simply into a national issue but an international incident? When one considers the material included in the latest, and in many ways most valuable Auden Studies volume, the question, though awkward, is not a difficult one to answer; for In Solitude, for Company, superbly edited as ever by Katherine Bucknell and Nicholas Jenkins, shows how, between 1940 and his death in 1973, Auden had managed to create for himself a unique place in the world of letters by focusing so much of his intellectual energy on the grey area between his own vocation and society at large.
The first item in the collection, "Vocation and Society" was a polemical lecture on university teaching techniques that Auden delivered in January 1943 at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania, the small but elite co-educational institution where he was then teaching. By way of an introduction to his consideration of the methods through which professors can give their pupils some sense of a vocation, he discusses that scene in The Magic Flute to which he returned so often, in which Tamino and Pamina brave the thunderstorm (the lecture, of course, looks forward to the 1955 version of the opera). His argument, simply stated, is that we can either remain as Papageno into whose lowbrow state we are born; or we can mutate into consciousness to become a Tamino, a highbrow.
Yet, despite the chutzpah displayed here, Auden wasn't enjoying his time at Swarthmore. "I am after all a crook, and need a more baroque and louche habitat to breathe in than the Quakers provide", he wrote to James Stern; and his "chief worry" during his tenure at the University of Michigan was "the gossip which means that every time I ask anyone in pants to the house, they are either hoping or dreading that I shall make a pass at them". There was, for instance, the case of Auden's best student "who in the course of a nice intellectual evening, took my playing of a Marlene Dietrich record as a proposal and was promptly sick". Auden said he had to "give him a long lecture on his lack of intellectual self-confidence and his excess of physical vanity before I could reassure him". Perhaps, then, it was easy for him to threaten the Austrian government with scandal, because over the years he had become an expert in the forms it might take, and just as adept at pre-empting it.
But one feels that his unease at the time was at least partially caused by his feeling uncertain that university teaching was his vocation at all; he didn't believe in the subject as it stood. He claimed that since there were no practical advantages in getting an "A" in the subject, the only assurance of an English Professor's importance was the popularity of a course. Consequently, "we become the showmen of a parade of cultural Powers Models" and "get the students we deserve, the debutante, the yearner, the woolly-minded, the domestic servant intellect". In other words, the Papagenos of this world. Clearly he needed greater challenges and the remainder of the volume is given over to various manifestations of these tests, as he entered the Caves of Fire and Water in order to reach the Temple of Wisdom.
One of the most substantial parts of the book is a tranche of intimate letters written to James and Tania Stern, and in one written to the couple in 1942 he claimed: "the only good reason for writing is to try to organize my scattered moments of living into a whole, to relate everything to everything else". It was an ideal which Auden borrowed from Goethe who, in this period, is commonly acknowledged to be the writer with whom he most readily and eagerly identified. The blurb on the jacket of In Solitude, for Company talks about the "Goethean scope of his intellect, which ranged easily and illuminatingly from psychoanalysis to theology, archeology to politics"; and it's possible that the position that allowed him to threaten the Austrian tax authorities so effectively was now that of the "minor atlantic Goethe" that he aspired to be in "The Cave of Making". In one of the several excellent accounts of "In Praise of Limestone" published in this volume, Michael Wood digresses to ponder that later attempt at self-identification: "We try dizzily to put the pieces of the phrase together, to picture a small Atlantic, an oceanic modesty, a Goethe who would be minor, a minor poet who would be Goethe". Wood is right to be dizzied, for the phrase "minor atlantic Goethe" implies all of these things, but the larger significance only emerges in what follows: " with his passion for weather and stones but without his silliness/ re the Cross: at times a bore, but,/ while knowing Speech can be at best, a shadow echoing/ the silent light, bear witness/ to the Truth it is not, he wished it were". A passion for inclement weather and geology is familiar enough from Auden's biography, as is the growing importance of the Christian Church, and the tendency to ramble; but beyond this, and despite the demanding punctuation and breathing spaces, the lines are certain of their meaning: speaking the truth - and doing so about love, in particular - is a difficult and lonely business, as Auden's "Dichtung und Wahrheit", obviously inspired by Goethe's work, would awkwardly suggest. What emerges so consistently from this volume is solitude, that "Gate-crashing ghost, aggressive/ invisible visitor" that Auden came to know so intimately. He once visited a female friend, his shirt grubby and stained, and hair matted, and before saying any word of greeting, told her: "I have come to the conclusion that Goethe was a very lonely man".
Another ghost, or rather geist, continued to visit Auden during the period in question: Freud. The centrepiece of this collection is "Phantasy and Reality in Poetry", a lecture delivered to the Philadelphia Association for Psychoanalysis in March 1971, and published here for the first time. In it, Auden examines some of the doctor's biggest ideas and offers illustrations from his own creative life to prove and disprove them, confessing that what he most admires about Freud was that - like Goethe, perhaps - "his love of truth was great enough to give him the courage to transcend the materialist, even mechanistic scientific philosophy which went almost unchallenged". Auden could well have been talking about an idealised version of himself, since his lecture attempts to choreograph the work of the poet with that of a psychoanalyst; the former, like Freud, has a vocation to contemplate and discover "hitherto unrealized truths". But then, as Bucknell observes in her introduction to the piece, "Auden had earned the right to say these grandiose things about the vocation of the poet, for he had indeed pursued his vocation at the cost of other real possibilities". From the outset of his career, he had made sacrifices at the altar of his chosen career; for instance, he told his brother in 1927 that he would never marry, not only because he was gay, but also because "the insistent craving for money would mean artistic deterioration"; and perhaps here is one reason why the tax demand at Kirchstetten forty-five years later had upset him so much. It represented a sacrifice too far, a liberty taken against the very vocation of a poet.
The lecture offers some autobiographical insights when it describes in detail his childhood library; and then, in the most revealing section, analyses Auden's obsession with mines and the limestone landscape, as he observes that "the cross-sectional diagrams of mines in my books...are like stylised pictures of the internal anatomy of the human body...that the word lead rhymes with dead and that lead is or was used for lining coffins...that mining is the one human activity that is by nature mortal", and intersperses his arguments with readings of "In Praise of Limestone", "Amor Loci" and the passage in "New Year Letter" dealing with Rookhope. Bucknell's stimulating account of the development of his understanding of Freud works hard to show the extent to which, after the death of his psychoanalyst father, Auden did indeed recite the past "like a history lesson till sooner or later it faltered at the line where long ago the accusations had begun". And in his case the primal scene was at home, in his apprehension of his parents' relationship with him. He told Stern that "You would be surprised how unpleasant too much parental love and interest can be, and what a torture of guilt it makes breaking away"; as Bucknell so succinctly puts it: "When Auden emigrated to America, his sense of guilt over breaking away seems to have welled-up again and perhaps combined with fears about his destiny in a new country, alone and far from home". And in his relationship with his father, the guilt was felt especially acutely.
In his fine article on Jarrell and Auden, Ian Sansom follows the terrain of the father-son relationship. After the publication of the famous essay "Freud to Paul" in 1945 in which Jarrell criticised Auden as a writer who has saved his own soul, but has lost the whole world, the latter told Spender that "Jarrell is in love with me", and suggested to Alan Ansen that the younger man was "really just trying to flout Papa"; an explanation with which Sansom seems to concur when he concludes that Auden was a "father-figure who must be resisted but cannot be denied".
Stella Musulin's account of "Auden in Kirchstetten" is tactful and punctilious with regard to the notorious Audenesque prohibitions against biography; but, nevertheless, it offers a glimpse of the echt, messy, late Auden: the poet who habitually destroyed his books by mishandling them, who set his body's movements about the house by the clock, who hated pretension, and who, finally, felt secure in his vocation. In 1943, in his Swarthmore lecture, he had argued that "to acknowledge a vocation is, like marriage, to take a vow, to live henceforth by grace of the Absurd, to love for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death us do part". Auden and Kallman had effectively "married" two years earlier in 1941, but like a vocation their relationship was graced by absurdity, as the older man veered between father and lover. Sometimes he sounds like a father dreaming about a son's education ("If I had the money I would send him to Harvard, but I havent"), footing the bill for the next best thing, secretarial school in Hollywood ("Perhaps you will scold me for agreeing to pay for it, but even if it [is] wrong to do so, I dont see how I've the right to say no, seeing as I was kept by my parents till I was 22"). He was ever concerned about the limits of his paternalism. Auden wrote to Stern in 1942 admitting "I never really loved anyone before...I keep forgetting that he is a separate person, and having discovered love, I have also discovered what I never knew before, the dread of being abandoned and left alone"; such honesty about his fear of solitude was brave, considering that the paragraph following informs Stern that Kallman was having an affair with a "nice quiet musical intellectual": "but the snag is that the intellectual likes to be fucked which is Chester's tour, so there are longing eyes cast at taxi drivers". It may seem crass to say that, at times, Kallman amounted to Auden's vocation, corresponding to that state of mind that he once described as "subjective requiredness". But Musulin's account, though too tactful ever to say this explicitly, manages to imply it by catching the inequalities glinting in the relationship. She writes of Auden's responsibility and discipline and of Kallman's recklessness, both with money and with himself. This recklessness culminated in tragedy when Kallman's Greek friend, Yannis Boras, whom Auden addressed "in the abrupt tones of a colonial Englishman of yore speaking to the `boy' ", was killed on the road to Kirchstetten while driving the couple's battered Volkswagen.
The Austrian tax authorities were particularly curious about the terms of the will, and asked why Auden had made over half of his property in Kirchstetten to his companion; the poet replied "Mr. Kallman is my heir. I have no children", and continued: "I am now 65 years old, and must reckon with all the eventualities such as a heart attack. As you know better than I, in the event of sudden death great difficulties arise for the heirs of landed property, particularly in a foreign country". Kallman, the heir if not the son, needed a father's protection from the rigours of the Austrian tax law; while Auden needed protection, Musulin suggests, from his companion's cooking. Kallman's last domain was the kitchen; in it he remained the enfant terrible, creating sauces to die for and, it seems, to die from. To make the accompaniment to a poultry dish, Musulin reports that "Chester took equal parts of rendered down duck fat and heavy cream, added a little seasoning and poured the fluid into the mixer to form a sauce which would have sustained a miner at the coal face for some considerable time"; rich fare, but entirely appropriate to serve to the Auden who, since 1940, had been digging into his own personality in order to work out the seams of his vocation.
David Pascoe is a lecturer in the Department of English Literature at the University of Glasgow.
In issue #14 of the Newsletter, Graham Martin asks about the sources for Auden's vignettes (in Part II of "New Year Letter") of "Labellière" and "Sarah Whitehead, the Bank Nun" - two lunatics from the Age of Reason who steadfastly refuse to adjust to a new, altered reality (Collected Poems, p. 208). The answer in both cases is Edith Sitwell, The English Eccentrics (London: Faber and Faber, 1933).
On page 23 of that book, Sitwell writes: "Another eccentric of quite a different order was Major Peter Labellière. Described as a Christian patriot and Citizen of the World, he expressed his criticism of the conduct of that planet by leaving in his will the direction to bury him head downwards, in order, he explained, that `as the world was turned topsyturvy, it was fit that he should be so buried that he might be right at last'. He died on June the 6th, 1800, and was buried at Box Hill."
A little further along, on pages 30-36, Sitwell recounts the story of "poor Sarah Whitehead, known as the Bank Nun". As a young girl Sarah was taken to live with her brother who worked at the Bank of England. After excessive speculation her sibling was forced to leave the Bank, a fact which he never revealed to his sister. Eventually, after a series of more and more dubious freelance actions, he was hanged for forgery. His sister became insane when she was told the news. Subsequently, at eight o'clock every morning, she made her way to the Bank to wait all day for her dead brother to emerge. "Every day for twenty-five years," Sitwell continues, "this ghost might have been seen waiting for that other and beloved ghost, at one or another of the chop-houses near the Bank". Sometimes people, taking pity on her, offered her stiff drinks as a comfort. Then "having drunk the brandy she would creep out again into Threadneedle Street, to wait for her brother there".
Could anyone who has seen a stage-production of The Dog Beneath the Skin please advise me whether the actor in the costume used a different voice in the monologue of the Dog's Skin from that which he used when he unmasked himself and spoke as Francis?
In my Commentary on the MacSpaunday poets [Edwin Mellen Press, 1992] I noted that the penultimate line of this little poem owes a debt both to H. G. Wells' short story "The Stolen Bacillus" and to Chaucer's "Canon Yeoman's Tale". I also suggested that the detail of the anonymous character "clutching a little case" might have come from any one of Graham Greene's early thrillers. The poem also seems to embody an unconscious memory of the first two paragraphs of Eric Ambler's second thriller Uncommon Danger  [italics added]:
With a thick woollen scarf wound twice round his neck, his shoulders hunched and his hands thrust deep in his overcoat pockets, Kenyon waited at Nuremberg for the Frankfurt-Linz train. An icy wind blustered through the almost deserted station, swinging the enamel reflectors and causing mad shadows to dance on the platform. He shivered and, leaving his suitcase, started to walk up and down in the lee of a small station building.
A thin, intelligent-looking man, Kenyon gave the impression of being older than his thirty years. It was, perhaps, the mouth. There was a pleasant quality of humour combined with discretion in the rather full lips. He looked more like an American than an Englishman, and was actually neither. His father had come from Belfast, his mother from a Breton family living in Lille.
Apologies for the late appearance of the Newsletter. I wanted to ensure that members received the most up-to-date information about the discovery of Auden's 1923 notebook.
In Charles Monteith's obituary notice in #14 I managed to misspell his name eight out of nine times. Profuse apologies to all members - and to Monteith's shade.
In response to questions from readers, Graham Martin (now retired from the Open University) writes that the reference in his review of Stan Smith's editing of Critical Survey (Auden number), to voices being "more `lerid' as well as more `lewed' " is a tag from Chaucer. "Lerid" is learned, "Lewed" is "unlettered, ignorant, unskilled, bungling".
Ned Rorem writes that his suite The Auden Poems, for Tenor, Violin, Cello and Piano, a thirty-two minute work based on eight of Auden's poems, will be performed at Carnegie Hall on March 28, 1997. It will be performed by Jerry Hadley and the Moscow Art Trio. Simon & Schuster also published a collection of Rorem's essays, entitled Other Entertainment, in August; included was a long essay on Auden (in the guise of a review of Carpenter's biography).
Faber and Faber recently reprinted Another Time in its Faber Library series; the text is that of the original 1940 edition. Princeton University Press will publish (late in 1996 or early in 1997) the first volume of Prose in its edition of Auden's Complete Works. This book will include the full text of Letters From Iceland and Journey to a War, complete with photographs. The same volume will be published in the United Kingdom by Faber and Faber shortly afterward. Faber recently issued paperback editions of As I Walked Out One Evening and Thekla Clark's Auden in Love. The latter was also recently published in an American hardback edition by the Columbia University Press.
A Polish scholar and lecturer writes of the difficulties she encounters in getting recent publications and articles on Auden in Poland. She asks if members of the Society would send any material or literature they could to her, to help herself, students and colleagues keep abreast of Auden studies. She is Thesesa Brus (acute accent on last letter) of ul. Komandorska 80A/5, 53345 WROCLAW, Poland.
William Ostrem writes that he has completed a dissertation on "Auden's evolving understanding and representation of England in verse and prose from his earliest work to his departure for America in 1939". Ostrem's address is 2218 Dayton Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota 55104. His dissertation abstract is available on the Internet (http://www.tc.umn.edu/nlhome/m011/ostre001.)
JoAnne Cappeluti has written a paper on aesthetic strategies in "Caliban to the Audience"; also a long poem "Letter to Lord Auden" in imitation of Auden's poem addressed to Byron. She is looking for advice in finding a publisher for either. Her address is: 1100 N. Lemon H-4, Fullerton, CA 92832.
I would be pleased to receive letters on any subject, but especially relating to this issue, or any articles or items for inclusion in future Newsletters. If any member knows of any articles or books soon to be published, please let me know so that I can notice them and, if possible, arrange for them to be reviewed. All contributions may be subject to editing.
Nicholas Jenkins' new address is: Department of English and American Literature, Harvard University, 8 Prescott Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. My new address is: 5 Cot's Green, Banbury Rd., Kidlington, OX5 1UX.
I have had a number of enquiries from members as to the status of their subscriptions. Our records are not that sophisticated. Since a subscription covers only two issues, if you are unsure whether you are paid-up, you probably need to renew! Annual subscriptions are as follows:
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Past issues of the Newsletter are available, please apply to the editor.
New members (and members wishing to renew) should send checks or cheques - payable to "W. H. Auden Society" - to Katherine Bucknell, 78 Clarendon Road, London W11 2HW, England. Receipts on request.
All writings (including unpublished material) by W. H. Auden Copyright 1996 by The Estate of W. H. Auden.
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