W. H. Auden

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Auden was an Anglo-American poet and one of the leading literary figures of the 20th century.

Wystan Hugh Auden was born in York on 21 February 1907. His father was a doctor and academic. Auden was educated at Oxford University, graduating in 1928. He went to live in Berlin for a year, returning to England to become a teacher. His early poetry made his reputation as a witty and technically accomplished writer. He collaborated with Christopher Isherwood, who he had met at school, on a number of plays.

In 1935, Auden married Erika Mann, the daughter of the German novelist Thomas Mann. It was a marriage of convenience to enable her to gain British citizenship and escape Nazi Germany – Auden was himself homosexual.

Auden’s political sympathies inspired him to go to Spain in 1937 to observe the Spanish Civil War. In 1939, Auden and Isherwood emigrated to the United States. This was a controversial move, regarded by some as a flight from danger on the eve of war in Europe. In New York, Auden met poet Chester Kallman who would be his companion for the rest of his life. Auden taught at a number of American universities and, in 1946, took US citizenship.

He continued to publish poetry including ‘The Age of Anxiety’ (1947) for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. He collaborated with Kallman on the libretto for Stravinsky’s opera ‘The Rake’s Progress’ (1951). From 1956 to 1961 he was professor of poetry at Oxford University.

In 1972, with his health declining, Auden left America. He moved to live in Oxford, in a cottage belonging to his old college, Christ Church. In the late 1950s, Auden had bought a house in Austria, where he spent six months of every year. He died in Austria on 29 September 1973.

Source: BBC History, Web. Oct 25th, 2014.