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W. H. Auden
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W. H. Auden

Wystan Hugh Auden (born York February 21, 1907 - died Vienna September 29, 1973) was an English author.

He spent his early childhood in Birmingham, where his father, Dr. George Auden was School Medical Officer for Birmingham and Professor of Public Health at Birmingham University.

Auden wrote a considerable body of criticism and essays, as well as co-authoring some drama with his friend Christopher Isherwood, but he is primarily known as a poet. Auden's work is characterized by exceptional variety, ranging from such rigorous traditional forms as the villanelle to entirely unstructured verse, as well as the technical and verbal skills Auden displayed regardless of form. He was also partly responsible for re-introducing Anglo-Saxon accentual meter to English poetry.

Auden was deeply involved in political controversies of his day, and some of his greatest work reflects these concerns, such as Spain, a poem on the Spanish Civil War and September 1, 1939 on the outbreak of World War II. Other memorable works include his Christmas oratorio, For the Time Being, The Unknown Citizen, Musée des Beaux-Arts, and poems on the deaths of William Butler Yeats and Sigmund Freud. Auden's poem Funeral Blues was movingly read in the 1994 film Four Weddings and a Funeral. Prior to this Auden's work was also used in the United Kingdom Post Office documentary film, Night Mail.

Auden married Erika Mann, daughter of the great German novelist Thomas Mann, in 1935. The primary motive for this marriage was to provide his bride with a passport to escape the Third Reich. That it produced no children is less than surprising, given Auden's homosexuality.

Auden settled in the United States in 1939, and became a U.S. citizen. This move, away from Britain just as the war was starting, was seen by many as a betrayal and his poetic reputation suffered, briefly, as a result. After spending half his life in America, he returned, in the last year of his life, to the country of his birth, settling at Oxford.

Auden was part of a group of writers including Edward Upward, Christopher Isherwood, and Stephen Spender.

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