'Lost' WH Auden journal sheds light on pivotal time for poet
Nick Clark is the arts correspondent of The Independent. He joined the newspaper in June 2007, initially reporting on the stock markets. He has covered beats including the City, and technology, media and telecoms and made the switch to arts in December 2011. He has also contributed articles to the sports section.
Sunday 12 May 2013
A journal written by WH Auden that for decades was believed lost has been unearthed, shedding new light on a critical year in the life of one of the giants of 20th century poetry.
Auden, who died in 1973 aged 66, wrote the journal between August and November 1939. It gives an insight into the poet whose works include Funeral Blues, Lullaby and The Unknown Citizen.
Edward Mendelson, the literary executor of Auden’s estate and an English professor at Columbia University, said: “The journal gives a personal sense that we don’t really have elsewhere of Auden in this hugely important era.”
The notebook will be auctioned next month at Christie’s as part of a valuable printed books and manuscripts sale. The estimated value is between £40,000 and £60,000. The auction house’s catalogue describes it as the “most significant Auden manuscript to have been offered at auction”.
It is one of only three journals that the poet is known to have kept and covers the period shortly after what he described as the “eleven happiest weeks of my life” – the honeymoon period of his relationship with the American poet Chester Kallman.
The frank details of his personal life are set against the build-up to the Second World War. He wrote: “I am happy, but in debt… I have no job. My [US] visa is out of order. There may be a war. But I have an epithalamion to write and cannot worry much.”
The journal is 96 pages long and covers the background to his feted poem September 1, 1939, written at the outbreak of the Second World War. Auden gave the journal to his friend George Davis, a novelist and magazine writer, but all trace of it disappeared shortly after until it was found recently.
In the journal, Auden wrote: “Woke with a headache after a night of bad dreams in which C [Kallman] was unfaithful. Paper reports German attack on Poland. Now I sit looking out over the river. Such a beautiful evening and in an hour, they say, England will be at war.”
A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend
A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Michael Brown shooting: Police shoot and kill second young black man near Ferguson
- 2 James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – and warns Obama of more to come
- 3 Why are UK rail fares so expensive?
- 4 Here’s the damning letter Robin Williams wrote to his Mrs Doubtfire co-star's principal after they expelled her
- 5 Cilla Black defends Cliff Richard: 'I am positive that the allegations are without foundation'
Calvin Harris named highest-paid DJ in the world ahead of David Guetta and Avicii
JK Rowling releases new Harry Potter story on Pottermore: Introducing Celestina Warbuck, the 'Singing Sorceress'
Reading Festival 2014: Tesco branch replaces salad and potatoes for Jagermeister and vodka
Kate Bush: Previously unseen photographs reveal new side to comeback star
The funniest joke at Edinburgh Fringe 2014: Tim Vine wins for second time
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Ukip MEP calls for reintroduction of death penalty on fiftieth anniversary of last deaths
Russell Brand calls for Israel boycott: Comedian urges big businesses that 'facilitate the oppression of people in Gaza' to pull funding
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head