This volume contains all of W. H. Auden's prose works from 1949 through 1955, including many little-known essays that exemplify his range, wit, depth, and wisdom. The book includes the complete text of Auden's first separately published prose book, The Enchafèd Flood, or, The Romantic Iconography of the Sea, followed by more than one hundred separate essays, reviews, introductions, and lectures, as well as a questionnaire (complete with his own answers) about the reader's fantasy version of Eden. Two reviews that Auden wrote for the New Yorker, but which the magazine never printed, appear here for the first time, and a series of aphorisms previously published only in a French translation are printed in English. Among the previously unpublished lectures is a long account of the composition of his poem "Prime," complete with his comments on early rejected drafts.
The variety of style and subject in this book is almost inexhaustible. Auden writes about the imaginary mirrors that everyone carries through life; French existentialism and New Yorker cartoons; Freud, Kierkegaard, Dostoyevsky, and Camus; Keats, Cervantes, Melville, Colette, Byron, Virgil, Yeats, Tolkien, and Virginia Woolf; opera, ballet, cinema, prosody, and music; English and American poetry and society; and politics and religion.
The introduction by Edward Mendelson places the essays in biographical and historical context, and the extensive textual notes explain obscure contemporary references and provide an often-amusing history of Auden's work as an editor of anthologies and a series of books by younger poets.
"Prose, Volume III is wonderfully edited, like all the many editions of Auden supervised by Edward Mendelson. . . . Most of the articles will delight any reader with their wit. charm, and elegance."--Charles Rosen, The New York Review of Books
"[Auden's] versatility and spikily independent literary intelligence are frequently on display in Prose, Volume Three: 1949-1955, the most recent volume in the magnificent Complete Works."--Stefan Collini, Times Literary Supplement
"This latest installment of Edward Mendelson's edition of the Complete Works contains Auden's prose writings from a mere six years, roughly the poet's forties. It was preceded by two large volumes covering 1926 to 1938 and 1939 to 1948. The three total more than two thousand pages and there will have to be at least one more volume, covering the period between 1955 and Auden's death in 1973. When you add in the volumes already devoted to plays, libretti, poems, it becomes hard to avoid describing the whole enterprise as heroic. In fact it could also be described as unique, for no other 20th-century English poet has been so fully and patiently honoured."--Frank Kermode, London Review of Books
"This third volume of his complete prose is the best yet...Here is the ambitious set of lectures published as The Enchafèd Flood, about the Romantic hero and the sea, in Melville, Baudelaire and (taken with entire seriousness) Edward Lear. Here are the influential reviews of Tolkien and the introductions to first books by Adrienne Rich and John Ashbery.... No major writer's complete works are more fun to read."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Table of Contents