Framed Autograph & Poem - 1965
Original signature in blue ballpoint pen on onion skin book tissue overlay, framed with early image of Auden, along with a typescript of his popular poem Funeral Blues. Included is the original mailing envelope postmarked 1965 with return address and notations in Auden’s own hand, pre-addressed by Columbus, Ohio, bookseller/collector Paul North, in which Auden mailed the autograph, likely intended for pasting into one of Auden’s books.
WYSTAN HUGH AUDEN (1907-1973), who signed his works W. H. Auden, was an Anglo-American poet, regarded by many as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. His work is noted for its stylistic and technical achievements, its engagement with moral and political issues, and its variety of tone, form and content. The central themes of his poetry are love, politics and citizenship, religion and morals, and the relationship between unique human beings and the anonymous, impersonal world of nature.
Auden published about four hundred poems, including seven long poems (two of them book-length). His poetry was encyclopedic in scope and method, ranging in style from obscure twentieth-century modernism to the lucid traditional forms such as ballads and limericks, from doggerel through haiku and villanelles to a “Christmas Oratorio” and a baroque eclogue in Anglo-Saxon meters. The tone and content of his poems ranged from pop-song clichés to complex philosophical meditations, from the corns on his toes to atoms and stars, from contemporary crises to the evolution of society.
He also wrote more than four hundred essays and reviews about literature, history, politics, music, religion, and many other subjects. He collaborated on plays with Christopher Isherwood and on opera libretti with Chester Kallman, worked with a group of artists and filmmakers on documentary films in the 1930s and with the New York Pro Musica early music group in the 1950s and 1960s. About collaboration he wrote in 1964: “collaboration has brought me greater erotic joy . . . than any sexual relations I have had”.
By the time of Auden’s death in 1973 he had attained the status of a respected elder statesman. The Encyclopaedia Britannica notes that “by the time of Eliot’s death in 1965 … a convincing case could be made for the assertion that Auden was indeed Eliot’s successor, as Eliot had inherited sole claim to supremacy when Yeats died in 1939”. With some exceptions, British critics tended to treat his early work as his best, while American critics tended to favor his middle and later work. Unlike other modern poets, his reputation did not decline after his death, and Joseph Brodsky wrote that his was “the greatest mind of the twentieth century”.
Auden’s popularity and familiarity suddenly increased after his Funeral Blues (“Stop all the clocks”) was read aloud in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994); subsequently, a pamphlet edition of ten of his poems, Tell Me the Truth About Love, sold more than 275,000 copies. After September 11, 2001, his poem September 1, 1939 was widely circulated and frequently broadcast.
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