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Later Auden Hardcover – 1 Apr 1999

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Hardcover, 1 Apr 1999
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Amazon Review

Edward Mendelson's Later Auden finishes the account of the poet that he offered us in Early Auden and takes us from 1939--when Auden arrived in America at the fag-end of the 1930s ("as the clever hopes expire / of a low, dishonest decade")--until his death in 1973 when incorrigible smoking and drinking had ravaged him; as he himself famously remarked "my face looks like a wedding-cake left in the rain".

Mendelson's book is not a biography in the strict sense. Rather it takes its cue from Auden's comment that "for a poet myself, autobiography is redundant, since anything of any importance that happens to one is immediately incorporated, however obscurely, into a poem". Mendelson offers an account of the writing: he demonstrates how and where Auden's life, intellectual development and transient enthusiasms can be observed playing themselves out in the poetry. Mendelson acknowledges his debt to the scholarly apparatus that has been developed over the years by Auden scholars--notably by figures like Nicholas Jenkins, Katherine Bucknell and John Fuller--and his own role as Auden's literary executor ensures that the readings are close and justifiable.

The book begins with a considerable and considered account of the famous elegy "In Memory of W. B. Yeats", with its resonant line that "poetry makes nothing happen". Yeats had died only three days after Auden's arrival in the United States, and Mendelson fascinatingly traces the evolution of Auden's elegy and the way it affected Auden's own edgy poetic aspirations. As the volume continues the ups and downs of Auden's relationships--most notably with Chester Kallman, but also with his own gift--are explored through the poems and vice versa. Auden was intellectually and poetically restless; he employed any verse form he could lay his hands on, invented others and experimented substantially; he had strong but shifting political convictions and also converted to an unpious and undogmatic Christianity. His work ranges from the obscure and philosophically prosaic to the resounding lyrics that have become deservedly famous (not least "Stop all the Clocks", immortalised by actor John Hannah in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral). Many of our younger contemporary poets owe some debt to Auden; Mendelson's patient, informed history of the writing and--by extension--of the man is a welcome and accessible addition to exisiting scholarship and should please admirers of arguably the most influential English poet of the century. --Robert Potts --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Edward Mendelson is the literary executor of the Estate of W. H. Auden and the Lionel Trilling Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. His books include Early Auden, Later Auden, and The Things That Matter. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars 3 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An essential introduction to Auden's later work 21 Jun. 2000
By Keith Peters - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Professor Mendelson's book on Auden's work from the 1940s to his death in 1973 is one of the best way to appreciate the poet's later poems, prose and librettos. "Later Auden" details that there was both a public and private interpretation of much of his work, including "The Rake's Progress" written for composer Igor Stravinsky, "Age of Anxiety", and "Thanksgiving for a Habitat". By all means, if Auden appeals to you, this is a necessary book.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best introduction to Auden's later work 18 Jun. 2000
By Keith Peters - Published on
Format: Hardcover
For any one looking for an introduction to Wystan Auden's work, there is no better way than to pick up both Early Auden and Later Auden by Edward Mendelson. Both of these books help one understand some of the more obscure aspects of Auden's poetry, and in particular, to distinguish both the personal and public parts of his work. I pick up this book again and again. I also recommend it unreservedly to anyone looking to get acquainted with one of the 20th century's most important voices.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive Criticism of Auden's Poetry 23 Oct. 2008
By S. Schuler - Published on
Format: Paperback
Edward Mendelson is in a particularly privileged position. He is Auden's literary executor, he knew Auden personally if somewhat distantly, and he has access to many of Auden's still-unpublished documents, papers, and letters. He draws on all these advantages, as well as his own formidable critical skill, to unpack Auden's often obscure poetry. Auden is an easy poet to misunderstand, and Mendelson does invaluable work in correcting many previous misreadings of Auden. Mendelson is well aware of important influences on Auden's thought, and he ably traces many subtle shifts in Auden's philosophical, theological, and political opinions, firmly but gently reproving sundry critics' oversimplifications of Auden's development as a poet. Mendelson's work is especially valuable in its consistently insightful explanations of Auden's obscure references and particularized language. Auden frequently uses seemingly common terms in very particular ways, and Mendelson's readings of the poems are always helpful in untangling Auden's thoughts and intentions.

Be warned though that this is a long book, and necessarily so, since it is a nuanced argument. The book is written to be read cover-to-cover, though it can serve as a good reference book for any reader who is already familiar with Auden's work. As literary criticism goes, Mendelson is clear and readable, partly because his interpretation is not controlled by any preconceived literary theory. Some readers may find that the lack of theoretical commitment bothersome, and others may be irritated by Mendelson's frequent focus on a largely biographical reading of Auden's work. But Mendelson's criticism goes a long way toward proving that, in Auden's case at least, interpretation must take biography into account. (Auden once claimed that a poet's biography is of no help in understanding his poetry, but Mendelson shows that this claim is quite untrue as it applies to Auden's own work.) This books is, obviously, a continuation of Mendelson's _Early Auden_, which should be read in conjunction with this book. These two volumes are the definitive works of Auden criticism so far, and along with John Fuller's _W. H. Auden: A Commentary_, they are the best available criticism of Auden's work.
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