Main content

W. H. Auden Collection


Held at: Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division [Contact Us]

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Auden, W.H. (Wystan Hugh), 1907-1973

W. H. Auden, as he signed his name, is generally regarded as one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. His work is noted for its stylistic and technical achievements, its engagement with moral and political issues, and for its variety of tone, form, and content. The central themes of his poetry are personal love, politics and citizenship, religion and morals, and the relationship between unique human beings and the anonymous, impersonal world of nature. Auden grew up in Birmingham, England, but moved to the United States in 1939. He was also a prolific writer of prose essays and reviews on literary, political, psychological, and religious subjects, and he worked at various times on documentary films, poetic plays, and other forms of performance.

The collection consists of selected correspondence, manuscripts, and photographs of the Anglo-American poet W. H. Auden. Included is an autograph letter by Auden to Robert Van Gelder, dated June 2, 1945, asking him for a copy of Denton Welch's book Maiden Voyage to review for the New York Times. Another autograph letter, addressed to Miss Harriet Anderson of the Princeton University Press and dated May 30, 1948, gives permission to reprint his Criticism in a Free Society. Among the autograph manuscripts are a poem titled "To Caroline Newton for June 28th" and a two-page list of required reading Auden prepared for her. (Newton was an American translator and writer.) The most substantial manuscript is a typescript of Auden's Christmas oratorio "For the Time Being," which represents a series of dramatic monologues spoken by the characters in the story and by choruses and a narrator. Dedicated to the memory of Auden's mother, Constance Rosalie Bicknell Auden, the poem was written in 1941-1942, and it is one of two long poems included in Auden's book of the same name, published in 1944. There are six photographs of Auden, C. W. B. Isherwood, and Chester Kallman taken by Caroline Newton at her house in Rhode Island, all bearing Auden's initials on the verso. Also included is a three-page handwritten recollection of seeing Auden's manuscripts by the author Glenway Wescott, dated April 15, 1952.

Folders are arranged by accession number.

The collection was formed as a result of a Departmental practice of combining into one collection material of various accessions relating to a particular person, family, or subject

Letter to Robert Van Gelder was a gift of Mr. Van Gelder in February 1945.

Letter to Miss Anderson was a gift of Miss Anderson on October 27, 1977.

Typescript of For the Time Being, manuscript poem to Newton, list of books, and photographs were a gift of Caroline Newton in June 1978. Various AM.

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

This collection was processed by Dina Britain on August 27, 2007. Finding aid written by Traci Ballou-Broadnax on December 5, 2007.

No appraisal information is available.

Manuscripts Division
Finding Aid Date
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Collection Inventory

Letter from W.H. Auden to Robert van Gelder, 1945 June 2. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Letter from W.H. Auden to P.U. Press, 1948 May 30. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

"For the Time Being" Typed Manuscript, undated. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

6 photos of W.H. Auden, C.W.B. Isherwood, and Chester Kallman taken by Caroline Newton at her home in Rhode Island, undated. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Autograph Manuscript by Glenway Wescott, 1952 April 15. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Poem "To Caroline Newton for June 28", two page list of required reading, undated. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Materials Viewable Online
  1. View digital content

Print, Suggest