Wife Erika Mann, Partner Chester Kallman
54 Bootham, York YO30 7XZ, Regno Unito
St. Edmund's School, Portsmouth Rd, Hindhead GU26 6BH, UK
Greshams School, Cromer Rd, Holt NR25 6EA, Regno Unito
University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 2JD, Regno Unito
43 Chester Row, Belgravia, London SW1W 8JL, Regno Unito
43 Thurloe Square, Kensington, London SW7 2SR, Regno Unito
25 Randolph Cres, London W9 1DP, Regno Unito
Mount Holyoke College, 50 College St, South Hadley, MA 01075, USA
February House, 7 Middagh St, Brooklyn, NY 11201, Stati Uniti
77 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003, USA
Bective Poplars, Main Walk, Fire Island, NY 11980
George Washington Hotel, 23 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10010, Stati Uniti
San Remo Café, 93 Macdougal St, New York, NY 10012, Stati Uniti
Christ Church Cathedral, St Aldate's, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 1DP, UK
Westminster Abbey, 20 Deans Yd, Westminster, London SW1P 3PA, Regno Unito
Hugh Auden (21 February 1907 – 29 September 1973) was an
English-American poet. Auden's poetry was noted for its stylistic and technical
achievement, its engagement with politics, morals, love, and religion, and its
variety in tone, form and content. He is best known for love poems such as
"Funeral Blues", poems on political and social themes such as "September
1, 1939" and "The Shield of Achilles", poems on cultural and psychological
themes such as ''The Age of Anxiety'', and poems on religious themes such as
"For the Time Being" and "Horae Canonicae."
The coining of the expression ‘Homintern’ is often attributed to
Cyril Connolly, less often to
Maurice Bowra, and sometimes to
W.H. Auden; but
Anthony Powell thought its source
was Jocelyn Brooke, and
Harold Norse claimed it for himself.
‘Homintern’ was the name Connolly, Auden and others jokingly gave the sprawling,
informal network of friendships that Cold War conspiracy theorists would later
come to think of as ‘the international homosexual conspiracy’.
He was born in York, grew up in and near Birmingham in a professional middle-class family. In 1915, at the age of eight, Auden enrolled in Saint Edmund's, a preparatory school in Surrrey, where he met Christopher Isherwood, another student, with whom he began a lifelong friendship. In 1920 Auden enrolled in Gresham's School in Holt, Norfolk, where he accepted his homosexuality, though he remained sexually inexperienced due to the repressive honor code of the school, which had been fashioned to forestall homosexual activity among the students. In his final school year, when he fell in love with John Pudney, he lectured the younger boy about homosexuality, self-abuse, D.H. Lawrence, socialism and Sigmund Freud.
His sexual boldness notwithstanding, Auden was aware of the need for strategic discretion. He had at least two scares, both involving written indiscretions. The first was in 1923, when his mother found and read a homoerotic poem he had written about his school friend Robert Medley. She passed the poem to her husband, who lectured the two boys about schoolboy intimacy, asked in coy terms if their friendship had ever been sexual, and destroyed the poem. The second incident, potentially far more serious, was in 1934, when he and Isherwood went to meet the latter’s German lover, Heinz, at Harwich. An immigration officer, having read one of Isherwood’s letters to Heinz, doggedly and suspiciously questioned him about the nature of his family’s relationship with this working-class foreigner, before finally refusing to allow Heinz into the country. Auden’s diagnosis of the situation was that the officer had seen through Isherwood at once because he was himself homosexual.
by George Platt Lynes
W.H. Auden by Lotte Jacobi
77 St Marks Pl
Westminster Abbey, London
Auden began sleeping with Isherwood in 1926, but by the 1930s his thoughts on sexuality were moving away from sensualism. From around 1926 to 1939 Auden and Isherwood maintained a lasting but intermittent sexual friendship while both had briefer but more intense relations with other men.
Auden entered Christ Church, Oxford, and studied English. After a few months in Berlin in 1928–29 he spent five years (1930–35) teaching in English public schools, then travelled to Iceland and China in order to write books about his journeys.
Auden married Erika Mann in 1935 to secure her safety from the Nazis in Germany. In 1939 he moved to the United States and became an American citizen in 1946. He taught from 1941 to 1945 in American universities, followed by occasional visiting professorships in the 1950s. From 1947 to 1957 he wintered in New York and summered in Ischia; from 1958 until the end of his life he wintered in New York (in Oxford in 1972–73) and summered in Kirchstetten, Lower Austria.
He came to wide
public attention at the age of twenty-three, in 1930, with his first book,
''Poems'', followed in 1932 by ''The Orators''. Three
plays written in collaboration with Christopher Isherwood in 1935–38 built
his reputation as a left-wing political writer. Auden moved to the United States
partly to escape this reputation, and his work in the 1940s, including the long
poems "For the Time Being" and "The Sea and the Mirror", focused on
religious themes. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his 1947 long
poem ''The Age of Anxiety'', the title of which became a popular phrase
describing the modern era. In 1956–61 he was Professor of Poetry at Oxford; his lectures were popular
with students and faculty and served as the basis of his 1962 prose collection
''The Dyer's Hand.''
Auden was a prolific writer of prose essays and reviews on literary, political, psychological and religious subjects, and he worked at various times on documentary films, poetic plays, and other forms of performance. Throughout his career he was both controversial and influential, and critical views on his work ranged from sharply dismissive, treating him as a lesser follower of W. B. Yeats and T. S. Eliot, to strongly affirmative, as in Joseph Brodsky's claim that he had "the greatest mind of the twentieth century". After his death, his poems became known to a much wider public than during his lifetime through films, broadcasts and popular media.
Auden and Isherwood sailed to New York City in
January 1939, entering on temporary visas. Their departure from Britain was
later seen by many as a betrayal, and Auden's reputation suffered. In April 1939, Isherwood moved to California, and he
and Auden saw each other only intermittently in later years. Around this time,
Auden met the poet Chester Kallman, who became his lover for the next two
years (Auden described their relation as a "marriage" that began with a
cross-country "honeymoon" journey).
In 1941 Kallman ended their sexual relationship because he could not accept Auden's insistence on mutual fidelity, but he and Auden remained companions for the rest of Auden's life, sharing houses and apartments from 1953 until Auden's death. Auden dedicated both editions of his collected poetry (1945/50 and 1966) to Isherwood and Kallman.
Auden began summering in Europe, together with Chester Kallman, in 1948, first in Ischia, Italy, where he rented a house, then, starting in 1958, in Kirchstetten, Austria, where he bought a farmhouse from the prize money of the ''Premio Feltrinelli'' awarded to him in 1957, and, he said, shed tears of joy at owning a home for the first time. In 1956–61, Auden was Professor of Poetry at Oxford University where he was required to give three lectures each year. This fairly light workload allowed him to continue to winter in New York, where he lived at 77 St. Mark's Place in Manhattan's East Village, and to summer in Europe, spending only three weeks each year lecturing in Oxford. He earned his income mostly from readings and lecture tours, and by writing for ''The New Yorker,'' ''The New York Review of Books,'' and other magazines.
In 1963 Kallman left the apartment he shared in New York with Auden, and lived during the winter in Athens while continuing to summer with Auden in Austria. In 1972, Auden moved his winter home from New York to Oxford, where his old college, Christ Church, offered him a cottage, while he continued to summer in Austria. He died in Vienna in 1973, a few hours after giving a reading of his poems at the Austrian Society for Literature; his death occurred at the Altenburgerhof Hotel where he was staying overnight before his intended return to Oxford the next day. He was buried in Kirchstetten. Memorials to Auden include one in Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.
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