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book cover of W. H. Auden

W. H. Auden

(1981)
A Biography
A non fiction book by

 
 
W. H. Auden disapproved of literary biography. Or did he? The truth is far more equivocal than at first seems apparent. There is no denying he delivered himself of such unambiguous pronouncements as 'Biographies of writers are always superfluous and usually in bad taste.'; and that he asked for his friends to burn his letters at his death, but, against that, Auden himself often reviewed literary biographies and normally with enthusiasm. Moreover he argued for biographies of writers such as Dryden, Trollope, Wagner and Gerard Manley Hopkins as their lives would tell us something about their art.
Humphrey Carpenter himself nicely summarizes Auden's ambiguity on this question. 'Here (referring to literary biography), as so often in his life, Auden adopted a dogmatic attitude which did not reflect the full range of his opinions, and which he sometimes flatly contradicted.'
Although the biography was not authorized it did receive the co-operation of the Auden Estate which gave permission for letters and unpublished works to be quoted. The result is a biography that was widely praised on first publication in 1981 and which continues to hold its own. Now is the obvious time to reissue it with the character of Humphrey Carpenter playing an important role in Alan Bennett's The Habit of Art. In his introduction Alan Bennett writes 'When I started writing the play I made much use of the biographies of both Auden and Britten written by Humphrey Carpenter and both are models of their kind. Indeed I was consulting his books so much that eventually Carpenter found his way into the play.'

'Carpenter is a model biographer - diligent, unspeculative, sympathetic, and extremely good at finding out what happened when and with whom . . . admirably detailed and researched study.' John Bayley, The Listener

'an illuminating book; full of information, unobtrusively affectionate, it describes with unpretentious elegance the curve of a great poet's life and work' Frank Kermode, Guardian

'sharpens and usually lights up even the most canvassed parts of the Auden life and myth . . . a deeply interesting book about a deeply interesting life' Roy Fuller, Sunday Times

' . . . the story of a remarkable man told by one of the best living biographers' David Cecil, Book Choice

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Used availability for Humphrey Carpenter's W. H. Auden

Hardback Editions

October 2011 : UK Hardback
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Title: W. H. Auden: A Biography
Author(s): Humphrey Carpenter
ISBN: 0-571-28088-9 / 978-0-571-28088-9 (UK edition)
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Availability: Amazon   Amazon CA   


September 1981 : USA Hardback
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Title: W.H. Auden, a Biography
Author(s): Humphrey Carpenter
ISBN: 0-395-30853-4 / 978-0-395-30853-0 (USA edition)
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   


June 1981 : UK Hardback
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Title: W.H.Auden: A Biography
Author(s): Humphrey Carpenter
ISBN: 0-04-928044-9 / 978-0-04-928044-1 (UK edition)
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


Paperback Editions

February 2010 : UK Paperback
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Title: W. H. Auden: A Biography
Author(s): Humphrey Carpenter
ISBN: 0-571-26009-8 / 978-0-571-26009-6 (UK edition)
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


December 1992 : UK Paperback

Title: W.H.Auden: A Biography (Oxford Lives)
Author(s): Humphrey Carpenter
ISBN: 0-19-282915-7 / 978-0-19-282915-3 (UK edition)
Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


January 1983 : UK Paperback
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Title: W.H.Auden: A Biography
Author(s): Humphrey Carpenter
ISBN: 0-04-928047-3 / 978-0-04-928047-2 (UK edition)
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   


October 1982 : USA Paperback
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Title: W. H. Auden: A Biography
Author(s): Humphrey Carpenter
ISBN: 0-395-32439-4 / 978-0-395-32439-4 (USA edition)
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


Kindle Editions

October 2011 : USA, Canada, UK Kindle edition
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Title: W. H. Auden: A Biography
Author(s): Humphrey Carpenter
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA