W.H. Auden

Biography: Wystan Auden was one of the few major English poets of the twentieth century, and a U.S. citizen from 1946.
The son of Dr George Auden, a physician said to be of Icelandic descent, and of Rosalie Auden, who had been a nurse before she married, Wystan lived as a child at Solihull, in the West Midlands. He went away to be educated (with the poet Christopher Isherwood) as a boarder at St Edmund's Preparatory School, Hindhead, and later at Gresham's School, Holt. He arrived at Christ Church, Oxford, in 1925, to read Natural Sciences, but quickly switched to English Language and Literature and graduated in 1928 with a third-class degree. After Oxford, he lived for a year in Berlin, then spent five years as a schoolmaster at prep schools in Scotland and England.
Auden made a reputation with books produced in his twenties, Poems (1930); The Orators (1932); The Dance of Death (1933) and Look, Stranger! (1936). He worked on three verse plays with his old schoolfriend Isherwood -
Wystan Auden was one of the few major English poets of the twentieth century, and a U.S. citizen from 1946.
The son of Dr George Auden, a physician said to be of Icelandic descent, and of Rosalie Auden, who had been a nurse before she married, Wystan lived as a child at Solihull, in the West Midlands. He went away to be educated (with the poet Christopher Isherwood) as a boarder at St Edmund's Preparatory School, Hindhead, and later at Gresham's School, Holt. He arrived at Christ Church, Oxford, in 1925, to read Natural Sciences, but quickly switched to English Language and Literature and graduated in 1928 with a third-class degree. After Oxford, he lived for a year in Berlin, then spent five years as a schoolmaster at prep schools in Scotland and England.
Auden made a reputation with books produced in his twenties, Poems (1930); The Orators (1932); The Dance of Death (1933) and Look, Stranger! (1936). He worked on three verse plays with his old schoolfriend Isherwood - The Dog beneath the Skin (1935), The Ascent of F6 (1936), and On the Frontier (1938). He had a job with the General Post Office Film Unit from 1935 to 1936, making short documentaries. His early work was frankly left-wing, but he was also anxious to hide his homosexuality, which was then a criminal offense in the United Kingdom, even though it lay at the heart of much of his writing. He did, though, write some gay erotic poetry in German during the 1920s.
Auden went to Spain early in the Spanish Civil War, intending to drive an ambulance for the socialist side, but once there he actually spent his time writing political propaganda and working as a labourer, becoming deeply disillusioned with the socialists he found in Spain. In 1936, Auden went to Iceland with the poet Louis MacNeice, and in 1938 he visited China and the U.S.A. with Isherwood.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, Auden and Isherwood quickly retreated to America, where Auden took jobs teaching English in colleges such as Swarthmore and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. He met Chester Kallman, who became his life-long partner, and was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1946. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for The Age of Anxiety (1947). From 1948 to 1972 he spent every summer in Europe, mostly in Italy and at Kirchstetten, Austria, where he bought a house. He became a member of the Academy of American Poets and was its Chancellor from 1954 to 1973.
Auden kept up his connections with his old Oxford college, Christ Church, which appointed him as an honorary Fellow, and in 1972 he went back to Oxford to live, wearing the hat of the university's Professor of Poetry, but he was unhappy there. As usual, Auden went to Austria for the summer of 1973, and on 28 September, after giving a poetry reading in Vienna, he died in his sleep of heart failure. He was buried at Kirchstetten.

In June, 1935, Auden had married Erika Julia Hedwig Mann (1905-69), star of a famous anti-Nazi cabaret, The Peppermill, and daughter of the German novelist Thomas Mann (Death in Venice, Buddenbrooks, The Magic Mountain). This was a marriage of convenience to give Erika (a lesbian actress and journalist) a British passport, helping her to get out of continental Europe (she was living in Switzerland at the time), but the two became life-long friends, and it suited them to remain married, even though they never lived together. Auden's real partner, Chester Kallman, outlived him, dying in poverty in 1975 in Athens, Greece.
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W.H. Auden's Scores

  • Movies
Average career score: 81
Highest Metascore: 81 Chris & Don. A Love Story
Lowest Metascore: 81 Chris & Don. A Love Story
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 1 out of 1
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 1
  3. Negative: 0 out of 1
1 movie review
Title: Year: Credit: User score:
81 Chris & Don. A Love Story Jun 13, 2008 Himself 8.4