During the nineteen-thirties, the poet Wystan Hugh Auden (1907-1973) became a spokesman for his generation; a voice for the young left-wing intellectuals and he published his first collection of `Poems' in 1930. The collection set the tone incorporating his radical and even political viewpoint, with themes suggesting that England was infested with spies and characteristically `buttoned-up' by repressed instincts. Even at Christ Church, Oxford, Auden set himself up as a significant leader of the modern poets which included his friend and collaborator Stephen Spender (1909-1995), Louis MacNeice (1907-1963) and Cecil Day Lewis (1904-1972). Auden was typically curious about `other countries' and `other people'; he was very fond of Germany, travelling there with Christopher Isherwood (1904-1986) before the war. He also visited Iceland with Louis MacNeice in 1936 and even found his way to China. In 1937 he spent two months in Spain supporting the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. Isherwood collaborated with Auden on plays with a left-wing slant and in 1939 they went to live in the United States. Many people felt a sense of betrayal at Auden's decision to leave when England's course was set on war with Germany. In the States he met and fell in love with Chester Kallman (1921-1975), who also became his assistant in writing the libretti for Stravinsky's `The Rake's Progress' in 1951. After 1941 Auden's more complex, later works became increasingly Christian in their tone. He was a master of the verse form, using both the traditional metre and new experimental rhythms. Davenport-Hines really gets behind the wrinkled exterior of Auden and taps into the psychology of the man, incorporating lots of illustrations in this well-written and fascinating biography!
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