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From the Official Department of Diary Rescue: W. H. Auden’s ‘Lost’ 1939 Journal Discovered!

By Harriet Staff


The Independent reports that one of the most exceptional diaries kept by W.H. Auden has at long-last been discovered!

Auden began the journal in August of 1939 and continued writing in it until November of that very same year. According to Edward Mendelson, an English professor at Columbia University who is also the literary executor of Auden’s estate, “The journal gives a personal sense that we don’t really have elsewhere of Auden in this hugely important era.” Get your pocketbooks ready! As The Independent explains:

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.”

Can’t wait to read what’s inside!

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Posted in Poetry News on Monday, May 13th, 2013 by Harriet Staff.