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21 February 2018: W H Auden

 

The 21st February marks 111 years since the birth of English-American poet, Wystan Hugh Auden. Known as W. H. Auden, his poetry is remembered for its engagement with topical events whilst successfully varying in tone and form. Auden's influences as a young poet included Thomas Hardy and William Blake. As well as his lasting contribution to poetry, Auden wrote numerous prose essays on political, psychological and religious subjects. He was critically recognised for his work and won the Pulitzer Prize for his poetry collection 'The Age of Anxiety' 

Auden also collaborated with Christopher Isherwood on three plays which built his reputation as a left-wing political writer. Isherwood and Auden initially met at St. Edmund’s School, Hinhead Surrey. They were later reintroduced in 1925 by A S T Fisher. It was following this reintroduction that Isherwood became a mentor to Auden. Auden would send his poems to Isherwood for comment and approval. The pair was also engaged in an intermittent, casual relationship for many years. We have a copy of all three plays written by the two, as listed below.

The first play written during this collaborative period is The Dog Beneath the Skin, Or Where is Francis? This work was an important contribution to the poetic drama scene in 1930’s England. The play follows hero Alan Norman in his quest to find Sir Francis Crewe, the missing heir of Honeypot Hall in Crewe. A satiric work, there were initially two endings to the play. Isherwood’s ending is found in the printed version whereas Auden’s revision was performed on stage. We have a first edition copy of this play. Click here to see our listing.

  The second play is The Ascent of F6. This was the most successful play of the Auden-Isherwood collaboration. It has been seen as a parable about will, leadership and the nature of power. This was written with regards for concern in Europe during the 30’s. This play regards a climber, Michael Ransom, who accepts the offer of the British press and government to sponsor his expedition to the peak of F6. The mountain is situated on the border of a British colony and a colony from the fictional country of Ostnia.  We have a first edition, third impression of this play. Click here to see our listing. In addition to a copy of the play we also have a theatre programme from the play’s original run in 1937 . This production is the original cast from the Mercury Theatre production, as the play moved theatres during its first year. The producer is named as Rupert Doone and other famous names include William Delvin as the lead Michael Forsyth Ransom and Hedli Anderson as the Singer. Click here to see our listing.

 
On The Frontier: A Melodrama in Three Acts is the third and final collaboration between the two authors. We have a first edition copy of this play, which tells the story of the outbreak of war between two fictional European countries; Ostnia and Westland.  Ostnia is mentioned in their previous play The Ascent of F6. Click here to see our listing.
 
 We also have several poetry collections by Auden such as the 1969 collection, City Without Walls. This anthology contains several original shorter poems that were first written between 1965 and 1958 in addition to some earlier poems. Auden’s translations of the lyrics from Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage are also in this work. Some of the best known poems to this volume are ‘The Horatians’, ‘Amor Loci’, ‘Partition’ as well as his autobiographical ‘Prologue at Sixty.’  Click here to see more works by W.H Auden. 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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