Wednesday, August 27, 2008

W. H. Auden, professor.

"Fellow Irresponsibles, Follow Me" begins the lively look at W. H. Auden as a Swarthmore professor, which is featured on the college library Web site. Included are Auden's course reserve lists for the library and his penchant for writing in books, such as this comment on one of his own poems: "O God, what rubbish." While at Swarthmore, he wrote the play The Ascent of F6 with Christopher Isherwood and saw it performed there. I was particularly taken by his remark, "My seminar on Romanticism starts tomorrow. Quakers or no Quakers, I shall serve bread and cheese and beer at four o'clock." (Swarthmore, of course, was founded by Quakers.)

Auden, the model for sleuth Nigel Strangeways for Nicholas Blake (aka Cecil Day Lewis), was a big fan of detective stories. Be sure to read his classic essay "The Guilty Vicarage" on the genre.

About the photo: Auden, right, with Christopher Isherwood, Feb. 1939. Photo by Carl Van Vechten. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

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