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Newsletter 1 (April 1988)

April 1988

The W. H. Auden Society


From the President

The W. H. Auden Society was founded to commemorate a great poet who was also a great man, and to bring together those who share a special interest in his life and work. The Society hopes to encourage the study and enjoyment of Auden's writings by helping to bring unpublished work into print and by disseminating critical and biographical information about him. The Society will also encourage its members to communicate among themselves, and whenever possible, to assemble for readings and discussions of Auden's work. Like Auden himself, the Society will take an interest not only in Auden, but also in his times, his friends, and his contemporaries, and will devote special attention to those he taught and those from whom he learned.

The work of founding the Society was begun more than two years ago by Katherine Bucknell and Nicholas Jenkins. The publication of this letter marks the fact that the Society is now well-established. The initial response has been generous and enthusiastic, and, as the list of members demonstrates, our numbers are scattered, like the friends in "A Summer Night", north and south and east and west.

In the United States, the Society now is formally named The W. H. Auden Society Incorporated, a not-for-profit organization. An application for tax exempt status has been filed. We are grateful to J. R. Maguire and G. E. B. Maguire for the legal expertise and effort they have so generously donated in this regard. The Society also wishes to thank Steven Marcus and the English Department of Columbia University for their continuing support.

Up to now, the Society has received $2,915 and £369.75 in donations. Of this, $2,577.59 and £369.75 remains on hand, although the costs of this newsletter will reduce the balance considerably.

On behalf of all the founding members of the Society, I wish to thank everyone who has joined us and to ask your active help in shaping the Society to serve your interests and your pleasures.


Newly Discovered Works

The Queen's Masque

One of W. H. Auden's "lost" works has recently been recovered. The Queen's Masque, a tale of charm rewarded, by "Bojo, the Homo" was conceived for a performance in Ann Arbor on 7th January 1943, Chester Kallman's twenty-second birthday. Auden himself was apparently unable to attend the festivities.

The cast for the evening was drawn from "Kallman's Klever Kompanions" at the University of Michigan and the participants allude freely to the now-obscure bêtes noires and gurus of their college life. The masque survives in a manuscript of ten loose leaves, written on the rectos only, and is now in the formidable Auden archive at the New York Public Library's Berg Collection.

The scheme of the piece is simple and, of course, flattering. A pair, Mabel and Ella, enter, set out the occasion of Queen Anastasia's birthday, and swap instances of the devotion she inspires in her wide-ranging kingdom. An unrequited Ghost then comes on to perform a Dietrichesque German ballad. Mabel and Ella hymn Anastasia's beauty in a duet ("Heil Anastasia, the Queen of Hearts") and another wan Ghost tells us, in a French Blues, how the Queen never telephones him. At this point the Queen of Dullness arrives to spoil the fun, but her plans dissolve under the kindling rays of Anastasia's charms. Dullness exits, cursing. A third Ghost flops down on his knees and mumbles a pastiche of the Monks chant in The Ascent of F6. (The first line - "Bojo gaga Anastasia" - heightens an uneasy sense of the tensions in the Auden/Kallman relationship which lie behind the reverent frivolity.) A Litany invokes protection from a characteristically Audenesque list of enemies for Anastasia, and, finally, a Grand Chorus delicately invites the players to break the illusion of the masque and advance into the more carnal phases of the party.

Auden's manuscript calls for one of the players to put on records at designated moments during the masque. This being so, The Queen's Masque will become an official part of the Auden canon when a fully edited text is included in Edward Mendelson's forthcoming edition of the Libretti. Meanwhile, amongst other bits and pieces of prose and verse, Thinks, Pothooks and Hangers, and The Fronny remain undiscovered.


A Manuscript Poem to Norman Wright

Stan Smith and R. J. C. Watt have discovered a previously unknown manuscript poem by W. H. Auden during their researches into Auden's time as a master at Larchfield Academy, Helensburgh. Stan Smith writes:

Auden taught English and French at Larchfield (now renamed Lomond School) between April 1930 and the summer of 1932. One of his pupils was Norman Wright, whose not entirely favourable recollections of Auden are recorded in Humphrey Carpenter's W. H. Auden: A Biography (London, 1981, p. 112). Some of those reactions presumably lie behind the incident recorded in these light occasional verses, addressed to the young Norman Wright, though Auden seems to have taken the matter very amiably.

The lines are in Auden's autograph hand, signed and dated "8.11.30", in a jotting book Mr Wright has kept from the period. Each line of the irregularly scanned doggerel, which is a kind of affectionate flyting in the Scottish manner, is rhymed differently on his name, sometimes not without a little forcing of the syntax.

The verses open with a buttonholing formula which Auden probably took straight from his context, for the challenge, exactly as set out in the first two lines, can still be heard in Scottish playgrounds. The lines are written out without any alterations except that line 5 begins with crossed-out words which may be either "But in the" or "But with". The next line begins with a "With" and Auden, who was probably improvising the poem, may have initially intended to write the couplet in reverse order.

The advice in the last couplet sounds like a jokey echo of the command at the end of Auden's 1929 poem, "From scars where kestrels hover", published only the month before in Poems (1930). But whereas that poem ends "Leave for Cape Wrath to-night", Auden here advises Norman Wright to flee to the opposite extreme of the British Isles, and somewhere a lot less menacing than the most northerly promontory of Scotland.

The poem is reproduced here exactly as punctuated in the original manuscript. It is untitled. We are grateful to Ms Sandra Taylor of the Templeton Library, Helensburgh, for her help in locating it and to Mr Norman Wright for his permission to publish.

Copyright © 1988 by the Estate of W. H. Auden

Notes And Queries

It would be helpful if readers answering precise queries (rather than general requests for information) could send copies of their answers to the Newsletter editor so that the information can be included in a later issue.


In "The Cave of Making" Auden writes that Louis MacNeice

Can anyone tell me the source for "Granusion", please?


32 Cornelia Street (Apt. 53), New York, NY 10014

Coghlan's Coffin

In The Dog Beneath the Skin, the first paragraph of the chorus beginning "So, under the local images your blood has conjured" ends with the lines

Does anyone know what "Coghlan's coffin" was?


c/o The Auden Society, Flat 5 The Adage, 86/88 High Street
Bidford-on-Avon, Warks B50 4AD, England


In a letter to Bill McElwee dated Spring 1927, Auden wrote:

Now we have a German and his English wife in the house; the latter talked without stopping throughout breakfast. I asked innocently about the Wandervogel. It worked.

I understand that the Wandervogel was a German youth movement, but I would be interested to know more about them and about Auden's interest in them.


4 Foskett Road, Fulham, London SW6 3LZ, England

Larchfield Academy, Helensburgh

Could anyone with information about Auden's time in Helensburgh, particularly as it bears on his writing of The Orators write to


Department of English, The University, Dundee DD1 4HN, Scotland

Incidentally, Stan Smith reports that the 1931-32 edition of The Helensburgh Directory contains an advertisement for A. & R. Spy, Coal Merchants and Colliery Agents followed directly by one for J. G. Burgess & Son, House and Church Decorators. It is not known whether the Son was called Guy . . .

Current Projects

Auden Studies - Volume 2

The editors of Auden Studies are now accepting preliminary proposals (one page) and manuscripts (up to 7,500 words) for Volume 2, which will focus on the later part of Auden's career. Anyone wishing to contribute should write to Katherine Bucknell, Auden Studies, 70 Lexham Gardens, London W8 5JB, England.

Auden Concordance

The Auden Concordance Project was formally instituted in December 1986, under the general direction of Stan Smith, within the Department of English at Dundee University. It began work in October 1987 and currently comprises a Senior Lecturer, a Lecturer, R. J. C. Watt, and a Research Assistant, J. C. Q. Stewart. The Project was established with an initial grant of £6,000 from the University of Dundee's Research Initiatives Fund.

The Project aims to provide on computer disk and tape (and eventually in print and on micro-fiche) a concordance of Auden's non-dramatic poetry. Of major 20th century poets only Yeats is as yet available in concordance, although Faber and Faber are currently working on a concordance of the poetry and plays of T. S. Eliot.

Auden's texts present a variety of problems for the concordances. The poet's repeated revisions and excisions compound the difficulties caused by his notorious casualness with regard to proof-reading. The American texts tend to be considerably more reliable on this front, possibly because extra pains were taken in having the author's proofs checked by professional proof-readers. The difficulties are if anything increased by the dedicated and rigorous scholarship of Edward Mendelson, which has multiplied the possible sources of an authoritative text for concordancing.

Put at its simplest, one line of ten words will be reproduced ten times in a concordance. If that line exists in a variant version, the variant may require a further ten citations and so on for each variant manuscript or text. While it would be possible to store and access all available versions in the computer, it would be impractical for transmission and publication, since it would require a print-out of inordinate length. The first major editorial problem thus lies in nominating a canonical text or texts for the purpose of the concordance.

The Orators is a case in point. Auden's second (1934) edition dropped whole poems, stanzas, sentences and phrases found in the 1932 text. In the 1966 (English) edition he made further changes, omitting, for example, the Pindaric Ode dedicated to Gabriel Carritt. The English Auden restores the 1934 text (but retaining the dedicatory poem from the first edition) while including and annotating the omissions in Appendices. It also restores cuts and alterations made by author and publisher in previous editions to avoid libel, obscenity or offence.

The problem of The Orators focuses, in an extreme form, the dilemma presented to a greater or lesser degree by many of the Auden texts. While it would be desirable, ideally, to concord and tag by codified volume, title, and page number all authoritative editions of a text, in practice the sheer mass of page citations required would overwhelm the text itself, making it impossibly unwieldy and uneconomic.

The editorial decision of the Auden Concordance team, after consultation with Professor Mendelson, is to base the project upon the texts contained in the Collected Poems (1966), The English Auden, and a single early edition of each separate volume. The separate volumes nominated for citation will be determined by reference to three factors: whether they provide (1) the earliest authoritative text, (2) the fullest text, and (3) the text most free from misprints and other errors. With regard to The Orators, the Concordance would thus work from the 1932 text, cross-referenced with The English Auden. In the case of "Spain 1937" which appeared in pamphlet form before being collected in a notoriously revised version in Another Time, but which was not included in the 1966 Collected Poems, the Concordance would cite page and line references in both these versions as well as in The English Auden. New Year Letter would be cited in the American text and that of the Collected Poems.

For the moment only such previously uncollected texts as appear in The English Auden can be included in the Concordance. However the text and programs used will be sufficiently flexible to allow for additions, in particular from the Variorum edition of Auden's poetry which Professor Mendelson projects for the 1990s.

Further reports on this project will appear in subsequent editions of the Newsletter.

Forthcoming Events

Paul Bunyan: Britten's Forgotten Operetta

Friday 27 May 8.00 p.m., The Arts Centre, Hockney's, 98 High Street, Croydon CR0 1ND, England.

Donald Mitchell talks about Britten's first full-length work for musical theatre, for which Auden composed the libretto.

Admission £1.50. Further details: 01-688-8624

Paul Bunyan

Saturday 11 June and Thursday 16 June 8.00 p.m., Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, England.

Performance of the opera by the American cast of the Virgin Classics recording with the Philharmonia Chorus and English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Philip Brunelle. Stage Director Vern Sutton, Lighting Designer Roger Weaver.

Ticket prices: £19.80, £16.80, £13.80.

Further details and bookings: 072 885 3543 from 25 April between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Mon to Sat (major credit cards accepted). The Box Office, Aldeburgh Foundation, High Street, Aldeburgh, Suffolk IP15 SAX. (Cheques should be made payable to the Aldeburgh Foundation with the amount left open but the maximum amount entered between the crossed lines. A stamped, addressed envelope should be enclosed.)

Note: The Aldeburgh Foundation expect this event to be sold out. A few tickets for each performance will be put aside for the members of The W. H. Auden Society who book by the end of the first week in May. Please mention the W. H. Auden Society when booking.

Auden In America

Saturday 11 June 11 a.m., Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, England.

Professor Edward Mendelson talks about Auden's years in America and, in particular, his collaboration with Britten on Paul Bunyan.

Admission: £5.00 Booking details: as for performances of Paul Bunyan

Talk: Paul Bunyan

Thursday 16 June 3 p.m., Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, England.

Donald Mitchell tells the story of the origins of Paul Bunyan, illustrating his talk with a historic recording of the 1941 production and interviews with the first cast. Donald Mitchell comments on this recording: "The recording is undeniably primitive but one can often get quite a good idea of the quality of the performance and, perhaps even more interesting, the response of the audience. They seemed to enjoy Auden's excellent jokes! . . . It is a particularly revealing and important document because it records the revisions that were made to the operetta, evidently in very great haste, after the preview . . ."

Admission: £5.00 Booking details: as for performances of Paul Bunyan

Paul Bunyan: An Exhibition

11 - 26 June, Marland Gallery, Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, England.

A photographic record of the operetta's creation and rediscovery. (There will be a parallel exhibition in the Britten-Pears Library.) Admission: free to concert-goers.

A reading of Auden's poetry

Thursday 20 October evening, The Poetry Society, 21 Earls Court Square, London SW5 SIDE, England.

A reading of Auden's poetry by various poets, sponsored by The W. H. Auden Society. This will be the first event to be sponsored by the Society. Further details will be sent to members nearer the date of the reading.

Publications/Recordings Of Interest

Works By Auden

PAUL BUNYAN: the libretto of the operetta, with an essay by Donald Mitchell

Faber and Faber; publication date: 9 May; cased £14.95; paperback £5.95.

Donald Mitchell's essay includes extracts from Britten's diary at the time of composition, reflections on the American influences and reviews of the first production.

PAUL BUNYAN: a recording

Virgin Classics; release date: mid-May; LP/cassette £11.99; Compact Disc £19.99 plus postage £1.00 for an LP; 50p for cassette/compact disc, from Galleon Music, Aldeburgh Foundation, High Street, Aldeburgh, Suffolk IP15 SAX (U.K. only).

Soloists, chorus and orchestra of the Plymouth Music Series - Minnesota conducted by Philip Brunelle. Includes a booklet with introduction to the opera by Donald Mitchell.

COLLECTED PLAYS edited by Edward Mendelson

U.S.: Princeton University Press; U.K.: Faber and Faber; publication date: autumn in U. S.; January 1989 in U.K.

Further details will be included in the next newsletter.

AUDEN STUDIES Volume 1 edited by Katherine Bucknell and Nicholas Jenkins

Oxford University Press; publication date: early 1989.

Contributions to this volume will include: six early poems in German (with translations), Auden's Writing manuscript introduced by Naomi Mitchison, letters from Auden to Stephen Spender and to Professor and Mrs E. R. Dodds, a symposium on A Communist to Others, an article on MacNeice's early poetry, and a bibliographical supplement by Edward Mendelson. Further details will be included in the next newsletter.

Related Works: Fiction

Christopher Isherwood: THE MEMORIAL (reissue)

Methuen Paperbacks; publication date: available; £3.95.

This publication of The Memorial marks the completion of Methuen's standard paperback edition of Isherwood's ten novels. This publishing project was agreed with Isherwood shortly before his death.

Stephen Spender: THE TEMPLE

Faber and Faber; publication date: available; £10.95.

Spender has revised his unpublished 1929 novel about the experiences of a 20-year-old poet in Weimar Germany. Largely autobiographical in inspiration, the novel includes characters based on W. H. Auden (Simon Wilmot) and Christopher Isherwood (William Bradshaw) to whom the novel is dedicated.


Penguin Modern Classics; publication date: available; £3.95.

The stories in this volume were written between 1928 and 1942. The title story is Upward's farewell to Mortmere, the fantasy world he created with Christopher Isherwood. A map of Mortmere is reproduced for the first time and an introduction by W. H. Sellers is also included.

Related Works: Criticism and Biography


Oxford University Press; publication date: available; U.K. £30.00; U.S. $64.00.

A lengthy contextual study of British writing and writers in the 1930s ranging from the "great names" of the period to a consideration of "minor" genres such as detective stories and popular songs.


Faber and Faber; publication date: 31 May; £12.95.

This volume includes the 1986 T.S. Eliot lectures, one of which took Auden as its subject.


Oxford University Press (Clarendon Press); publication date: June; U.K. £15.00.

A study of bourgeois leftwing literature of the 1930s (including a case study of Stephen Haggard's forgotten novel Nya) which considers the problem of value in work belonging to a period other than one's own.


John Murray; publication date: July; £14.95.

The first of a two-volume autobiography authorised by Betjeman. Hillier details Betjeman's early life, including his time at Oxford and friendship with Auden.

Auden And Ansen: Special Offer To Members

(Smiling) "There are many things in Goethe I dislike very much, but I recognize myself in him sometimes."

From 1946 to 1947 Alan Ansen served as Auden's secretary in New York. During that period, he made extensive records of the poet's informal conversation. Ansen's notebooks are to be published early this autumn by Sea Cliff Press in a limited edition of under 500 copies. The volume will be set in Janson, printed on Saunder's Book-laid paper, and bound in thin boards. Members of the Auden Society will be eligible for a 20% discount on the book. The text, which should run to over a hundred pages, and which will be introduced by Ansen himself, is much livelier and more intimate than the earlier Conversations with Auden by Howard Griffin. It is likely to become a significant source for Auden's views on literature, music, politics, and his personal life.

Retail price is $75. The price to members of the Auden Society $60. Purchasers outside the U.S. should send an International Money Order in U.S. dollars. If the order is drawn on an American bank, please add an extra $5 for bank and shipping charges, if it is drawn on a European bank, please add an extra $17 for the same. The shipping charge for U.S. purchasers is $1.50. New York State residents should add the appropriate sales tax. Please send cheques, marked "Auden Society Discount", and payable to "Sea Cliff Press", to 14 Horatio Street, New York, NY 10014.

From the Editor

Many thanks to members of the Auden Society and others who have contributed information to this first newsletter. I apologise for the slight British bias in the listing of events and publications; if any member in the United States (or any other country) has any information which may be of interest to other members, please write and let me know. Even if your information is sketchy, or you think I must have heard already, please do write.

The deadline for our second newsletter is the end of August 1988. I would be particularly pleased to receive news of unpublished works, dedicatory poems by Auden etc., and unrecorded reminiscences.

Editor: Kathleen Bell, Flat 5 The Adage, 86/88 High Street,
Bidford-on-Avon, Warks B50 4AD, England.

Assistant Editor: Eleni Ponirakis, 4 Foskett Road,
Fulham, London SW6 3LZ, England.

New Members

The W. H. Auden Society welcomes new members. Anyone wishing to join should send his or her name and address with £3.00 or $5.00 to Katherine Bucknell, 70 Lexham Gardens, London W8 5JB, U.K. Cheques should be made payable to The W. H. Auden Society.

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