One of the 20th
Auden spent much of his later life in Austria.
From 1958-73 Auden summered at his farmhouse in Kirchstetten
near Vienna. He died in the Austrian capital on 29th September
1973 and is buried in the cemetery at Kirchstetten.
Wescoe, near Threlkeld, Cumbria
Auden's parents had a holiday home in the hamlet
Bromide print, 1928, John Bicknell Auden
© Estate of John Bicknell Auden
In her 1975 article Remembering
W.H. Auden in The New
Yorker, Hannah Arendt quotes
the following conversation between a young Auden and his tutor
And what are you going to do, Mr. Auden, when you leave
I am going to be a poet.
Wellin that case you should find it very useful
to have read English.
You dont understand. I am going to be a great
| Immigration to the US
Born in York in 1907, Wystan Hugh Auden rose to prominence
in the 1930s with poetry chronicling the political and social
upheavals of the years leading up to World War II.
From 1925 Auden studied at Christ Church College, Oxford
University meeting his contemporaries Stephen Spender, Cecil
Day-Lewis and Louis MacNeice and also Christopher Isherwood
who he had been at school with and with whom he would later
travel and collaborate.
Graduating in 1928 he spent a year in Berlin (not Paris
like many writers of the time), developing a lifelong love for
the German language and being influenced by Bertolt Brecht.
Isherwood joined Auden in the German capital and when Auden
returned to England Isherwood stayed on, writing about his experiences
in Goodbye to Berlin.
In 1935 Auden married Erika Mann, the daughter of Thomas
Mann, enabling her to get a British passport and leave Nazi
Germany. Despite being a marriage of convenience, they were
still married when Mann died in 1969.
In January 1939 Auden and Isherwood immigrated to the United
States (at the time a controversial decision in a
Britain preparing for war). Auden settled in New York and Isherwood
travelled on to Los Angeles. In 1946 they both became US citizens.
is darkening like a stain;
Something is going to fall like rain,
And it won't be flowers.
| Summers in Europe
Auden was awarded the Pulitzer
Prize in 1948 for his era-defining The Age of Anxiety
and in 1956 he received a National Book Award for The
Shield of Achilles.
From 1948 Auden spent his summers
in Europe, until 1957 on the island of Ischia off Naples and
from 1958 in the village of Kirchstetten,
an hour's train journey west of Vienna. Due to his interest
in German literature he wanted to spend his summers in a German-speaking
country and be near an opera. With the help of Austrian friends
he knew through his visits to the Salzburg Festival he bought
a small farmhouse which would hold a special meaning for him:
it was the only property he ever owned. Bought with the award
money from the 1957 Feltrinelli Prize, Auden was said
to have been moved to tears when it was purchased.
In 1956 he was elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford,
taking over the post from Cecil Day-Lewis. In 1961 Robert Graves
succeeded him in the position.
On the death of the U.S. poet T.S.
Eliot in 1965, Auden was considered by many to be his successor
as the foremost poet working in the English language (a status
conferred on Eliot after the death of Yeats in 1939).
W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood
Central Park, New York
In January 1939 both writers immigrated to the U.S.
Toned bromide print, 1938, Louise Dahl-Wolfe
© Smith Archive / Alamy Stock Foto
you, dear, I'll love you
Till China and Africa meet
And the river jumps over the mountain
And the salmon sing in the street
Pen and ink, 1967, Don Bachardy
© Granger Historical Picture Archive / Alamy Stock Foto
to England | Vienna
In ill health, Auden left New York in 1972 returning to Europe
to spend his winters in England, moving into a cottage
in the grounds of Christ Church College where he had studied
in the 1920s.
Having spent the following summer in his farmhouse in Kirchstetten,
on 28th September 1973 Auden held a poetry recital at the Palais
Palffy on Josefsplatz in the Old Town of Vienna. He
returned to his nearby hotel to fly to England the next day
during the night.
has a memorial in Poets'
Corner in Westminster Abbey but is buried at the cemetery
in Kirchstetten where a
museum can be visited in his summer home.
have is a voice
To undo the folded lie
1, 1939 (1940)
(Ed.) (1995). Oxford Companion to English Literature.
Oxford: Oxford University Press
Various (Eds.) (1995). Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of
Literature. Springfield: Merriam-Webster
Auden Society. Retrieved 22.01.2022
The Academy of American Poets.
Retrieved 22.01.2022 from
The Poetry Foundation.
Retrieved 22.01.2022 from https://www.poetryfoundation.org/