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W. H. Auden disapproved of literary biography. Or did he? The truth is more equivocal than it at first appears. Humphrey Carpenter himself neatly summarizes Auden’s ambiguity: ‘Here, 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 Carpenter’s biography, first published in 1981, was unauthorized, he did receive the co-operation of the Auden Estate, and the results remain of unimpeachable merit.
‘Carpenter is a model biographer – diligent, unspeculative, sympathetic, and extremely good at finding out what happened when and with whom.’ John Bayley, 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
‘A deeply interesting book about a deeply interesting life.’ Roy Fuller, Sunday Times
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