AUTOGRAPH REVISED MANUSCRIPT OF AN IMPROMPTU VERSE IN THE ALBUM OF A PUPIL AT LARCHFIELD ACADEMY, signed ('W.H. Auden') and dated 8 November 1930, 16 lines, WITH TWO 'RHYMES FOR NORMAN WRIGHT' BY C. DAY LEWIS, signed ('Cecil Day Lewis'), 9 lines and a prose note, each one page, other entries include a water colour of the school by the headmaster's wife Mrs Perkins, ownership inscription by Norman Wright, brown leather torn at spine, oblong octavo, Larchfield Academy, Helensburgh, 8 November 1930
'Listen, Norman Wright
Do you want a fight
That you've just taken a bite
Out of my ear not slight...'
Auden taught at Larchfield from April 1930 for about fifteen months where he said he was 'very very happy'. With the album is a typed note by Norman Wright who was at the school from 1928 to 1932: 'Auden was not a favourite master. He was rather uncouth, bit his fingernails to the quick, smoked heavily and spluttered when he spoke. He threw bits of chalk at us when need arose. To a young boy I thought his language was somewhat strong. He introduced a reading book for our English tutelage which, when I took it home, my father banned and as he was a Director of the school he had it withdrawn. I do not remember what it was - perhaps something like Dante's Inferno. He was a laughing-stock on the rugby field with long shorts and white knees and a bit breathless...' Day Lewis was also a teacher at the school. Auden's poem was first published from this manuscript by The W.H. Auden Society in April 1988. Publication of Day Lewis's poem has not been traced and it was presumably never intended to be.
Also see lot 331 for Auden and Day-Lewis. The best collection of Auden's manuscripts in Britain is in the Bodleian Library, but the vast majority of them are in America, particularly at the Berg Collection, New York.
PROVENANCE: John Wilson.
REFERENCE: Humphrey Carpenter, W.H. Auden: A Biography, 1981, quoting another account by Norman Wright ('He seemed rather aloof and not very companionable').
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