Robert A. Wilson W. H. Auden collection
Held at: University of Delaware Library Special Collections [Contact Us]181 South College Avenue, Newark, DE 19717-5267
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Delaware Library Special Collections. 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
The American bibliographer, bookseller, and collector Robert A. Wilson was born in 1922. As the third proprietor of the Phoenix Book Shop in New York City, Wilson provided both encouragement and financial support to many writers. Wilson bought the Phoenix Book Shop in March 1962, which he maintained at 18 Cornelia Street in Greenwich Village until 1975, when he moved the shop around the corner to 22 Jones Street, finally closing its doors in mid-October 1988.
The Phoenix Book Shop was known for its selection of books by the avant-garde and contemporary writers of the 1950s and 1960s, stocking works by Edward Albee, William S. Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Michael McClure. Wilson's shop also specialized in modern first editions and literary manuscripts of writers such as W. H. Auden, Marianne Moore, Laura Riding, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and Dylan Thomas.
Through the bookshop, Wilson published the work of many notable writers, including Gertrude Stein, Marianne Moore, W. H. Auden, Allen Ginsberg, Elizabeth Bishop, and Richard Wilbur. During his twenty-six year tenure as the proprietor of the Phoenix, Wilson oversaw the publication of no less than forty-three volumes. Wilson himself was the author of bibliographies of Gregory Corso (1966), Denise Levertov (1972), and Gertrude Stein (1974, revised 1994), and works on the book trade and book collecting, such asFaulkner on Fire Island (1979) and Modern Book Collecting (1980), The Phoenix Book Shop: a Nest of Memories (1997), and Seeing Shelley Plain (2001).
Robert A Wilson biographical note taken from Robert A. Wilson collection, University of Delaware Library.
Robert A. Wilson collection | Manuscript and Archival Collection Finding Aids. Accessed December 10, 2021: https://library.udel.edu/static/purl.php?mss0481
The Robert A. Wilson W. H. Auden collection comprises Wilson's collected materials created by and related to W. H. Auden. The collection includes manuscript and typescript drafts, proofs, and published versions of Auden's poetry, translations, prose, and dramatic works; programs and promotional ephemera for Auden's readings and events as well as other performances related to the writer; audiovisual recordings of Auden's works; Wilson's and Auden's correspondence with each other and others; Auden's personal ephemera and realia; photographs by and of Auden; critical writings about Auden and catalogs of Audenia; and Chester Kallman's personal papers. Accompanying many of the items in the collection are Wilson's handwritten notes containing related historical and contextual information.
The collection is arranged into six series: I. Works; II. Correspondence; III. Ephemera and realia; IV. Photographs; V. Writings about Auden; and VI. Chester Kallman papers. Each series is arranged chronologically.
Series I., Works, contains Auden's written and recorded works and promotional ephemera for readings and events. Throughout the series, many of the draft and proof materials are corrected in Auden's own hand. The series is arranged into six subseries:
Series I.A., Poetry, contains manuscript, typescript, galley and page proof, and printed versions of Auden's poems.
Series I.B., Translations, contains drafts, typescripts, and proofs of Auden's translations of poems and plays.
Series I.C., Prose, contains typescript, proof, and published versions of Auden's speeches, essays, and editorials. These prose writings are chiefly literary criticism, including writing on poets such as T. S. Eliot, Marianne Moore, and Louise Bogan.
Series I.D., Performing arts, contains draft manuscripts and typescripts, as well as photocopies and published versions, of Auden's dramatic works in film, theater, and opera. Included are stage production, film, and radio scripts, and untitled libretto draft pages.
Series I.E., Readings, events, and performances, contains programs, fliers, promotional materials, and ephemera related to the writer's speaking engagements, performances and discussions of his work, and other events that Auden took part in as well as those that celebrated the writer during his lifetime or posthumously.
Series I.F., Recordings and media, contains audio recordings of Auden reading his poetry, adaptations of his works written for stage, and interviews with the writer. Also included is a video recording ofMusic for Films, composed by Benjamin Britten with scripts by Auden.
Series II., Correspondence, comprises Robert A. Wilson's correspondence with Auden; letters to Wilson regarding his Auden collection; letters from Chester Kallman to Auden; and letters from Auden to his secretary and brief romantic partner Rhoda Jaffe, Chester Kallman, and others.
Series III., Ephemera and realia, comprises miscellaneous material related to Auden's personal, social, financial, and professional activities. Items of note include a 1971 notebook of Auden's engagements, a 1948 exam he administered while teaching; and a 1971 invitation to receive an honorary degree from Oxford.
Series IV., Photographs, contains photographs of Auden vacationing in Ischia, Italy, circa 1952; commercial photographs of Auden; and Wilson's later photographs of Auden's homes at St. Marks Place and Fire Island, New York. The series also includes one photo-postcard with an image attributed to Auden by Wilson, who noted, "Only extant photo by Auden in Iceland."
Series V., Writings about Auden, contains reviews, tributes, and critical writings about Auden and his work in various literary and cultural magazines. The series also contains clippings about Auden including numerous posthumous homages to the writer, as well as bookseller catalogs advertising works by Auden.
Series VI., Chester Kallman papers, contains a small amount of Kallman's correspondence, photographs, and manuscript and proof copies of his writings, as well as his 1953 passport.
W. H. Auden (1907-1973) was an English and American poet, translator, librettist, playwright, and essayist. Auden is best known for his stylized and technical Modernist poetry which engaged a variety of political, social, cultural, psychological, and religious themes. Auden is also known for his collaborations with Anglo-American writer Christopher Isherwood on several dramatic works and for his original and translated opera librettos in collaboration with American poet and librettist Chester Kallman.
Wystan Hugh Auden was born on February 21, 1907, in York, England. He attended St. Edmund's School in Surrey and later Gresham's School in Holt. As a young man, he began writing poetry in the style of poets he admired such as William Wordsworth, Walter de la Mare, W. H. Davies, George Russell, Emily Dickinson, A. E. Housman, and Robert Frost, among others.
In October 1925, Auden began studying at Christ Church at the University of Oxford. Around this time, his poetry began to shift from a lyrical style to a modern approach akin to T. S. Eliot's, who Auden had recently discovered. At Christ Church, Auden made close friendships with poets and literary enthusiasts Christopher Isherwood, Cecil Day-Lewis, Louis MacNeice, and Stephen Spender. Auden and Isherwood would become frequent collaborators, as well as intermittent romantic partners, over the course of their acquaintance.
A short run of Auden's first book of poetry, the small volumePoems, was printed by Stephen Spender in 1928. Auden later revised Poems, and in 1930 it was published by Faber and Faber, at the time under the direction of T. S. Eliot.
After completing his degree at Christ Church in 1928, Auden became briefly engaged to a Birmingham woman, Sheilah Richardson, but after travelling to Berlin for a year to study with English anthropologist John Layard, Auden broke his engagement. In Berlin, Auden wrote his first dramatic work,Paid on Both Sides, which was published in Eliot's The Criterion magazine in 1930. Paid on Both Sides was also included in the 1930 Poems revision along with new poems by Auden.
In the early 1930s, Auden taught at private schools in England, continued to develop his verse, and wrote a series of dramatic works, some in collaboration with Christopher Isherwood. In 1935, Auden married lesbian writer, actress, and correspondent Erika Mann so that she would gain British citizenship after the Nazi regime denied her citizenship rights in her native Germany. He maintained periodic contact with Mann and the two remained married until Mann's death in 1969. With Isherwood, he wrote the playThe Ascent of F6 in Portugal in 1936, and spent time writing Iceland before briefly volunteering for the Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War in 1937. In 1938, he and Isherwood travelled to China on commission by Faber and Faber, and the two worked on their resulting book Journey to a War in Brussels later that year.
In 1939, Auden and Isherwood left England for New York. A few months after arriving, Auden met and fell in love with American poet and librettist Chester Kallman and decided to remain in the United States. Soon after, Auden and Kallman entered a romantic relationship which ultimately ended, but the two remained close friends, collaborators, and companions until Auden's death in 1973. Notably, they collaborated on the libretto forThe Rake's Progress (1951), an opera by Igor Stravinsky.
After moving to New York, Auden taught at several American universities, including the New School for Social Research. In 1948, Auden received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his poetic workThe Age of Anxiety. From 1954-1973, he served as a chancellor of the Academy of American poets.
In 1968, Auden'sTwo Songs was published by Phoenix Book Shop, run by Robert A. Wilson. Auden decided to leave New York for Oxford in 1972, with no plans to return, and Wilson was gifted a significant amount of Auden's New York personal library and papers. Auden died in Vienna in 1973. His estate was left to Chester Kallman who gifted Auden's remaining personal papers to the New York Public Library shortly before his own passing in 1975.
"Wystan Hugh Auden." Encyclopedia of World Biography Online, Gale, 1998. Gale In Context: Biography | Accessed December 17, 2021: link.gale.com/apps/doc/K1631000328/BIC?u=udel_main&sid=bookmark-BIC&xid=560c9f21. Accessed 17 Dec. 2021. Mendelson, Edward. "Auden, Wystan Hugh (1907–1973), poet and writer." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sep. 2004 | Accessed December 17, 2021: https://www-oxforddnb-com.udel.idm.oclc.org/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-30775. Additional biographical information derived from the collection.
The text of this webpage is available for modification and reuse under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)
Box 1: Shelved in SPEC MSS record center cartons
Box 2: Shelved in SPEC MSS record center cartons
Box 3: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (18 inches)
Oversize folder 1: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize mapcases
Oversize folder 2: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize mapcases
Audiocassettes: Shelved in SPEC Media
Compact discs: Shelved in SPEC Media
Phonograph records: Shelved in SPEC Media
VHS: Shelved in SPEC Media
Processed and encoded by Brynn Chieffo and Dustin Frohlich, October-December, 2021.
- Isherwood, Christopher, 1904-1986
- Stravinsky, Igor, 1882-1971
- Eliot, T. S. (Thomas Stearns), 1888-1965
- Moore, Marianne, 1887-1972
- Bogan, Louise, 1897-1970
- Jaffe, Rhoda, 1923-1967
- American poetry--20th century
- English poetry--20th century
- Irish poetry--Translations into English
- Opera--20th century
- Modernism (Literature)
- Poets, English--20th century
- Poets, American--20th century
- Gay authors
- Dramatists, English
- Dramatists, American--20th century
- Librettos (documents for music)
- University of Delaware Library Special Collections
- Finding Aid Author
- University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
- Finding Aid Date
- 2021 November 22
- Access Restrictions
The collection is open for research. This collection contains audiovisual media. Our ability to provide access to audiovisual materials that have not been digitized may be limited. Please contact manuscripts staff for more information.
- Use Restrictions
Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library, https://library.udel.edu/static/purl.php?askspec
Auden's poem set to music by Elisabeth Lutyens.
This folder also contains a photo of the subject of the poem, Hugo.
Translations of Irish monastic poems.
Translation of poem by Andrei Voznesensky.
Translation of play by Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni.
Translation of play by Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni.
Auden translation, also includes text on Voznesensky.
Draft of translated Croatian children's poems, later published with Branko Brusar. Poems originally by Ana Kulušić.
Notebook used by Auden featuring a draft ofThe Age of Anxiety, as well as grocery lists.
A comedy set to music by Nicolas Nabokov with libretto by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman after Shakespeare's play.
Auden's program for United Nations Day ceremonies where his "Hymn to the United Nations" was performed.
Ephemera related to a performance of Auden and Kallman's libretto,The Entertainment of the Senses, with music by John Gardner.
Performance of a libretto by Auden and Kallman.
Auden's checks and money orders.
Blank final exam for a course Auden taught at New School for Social Research.
Phone directory pages that include Auden's information.
Small leatherbound notebook, nearly blank, with few notes in Auden's hand.
Puzzles worked on by Auden.
Pages torn from various poetry anthologies with notes in Auden's hand.
Anagrams in Auden's hand.
This folder contains nudity.
Wilson's text contains information about his acquiring Auden's papers.