This “marriage of convenience”…

October 17, 2016


After Auden’s death, many of his friends contributed to a tribute book about him. One of them recalled that to him sex “was essentially peripheral to love. And he loved profoundly.” A few other friends mentioned that when the anti-Nazi Erika Mann, daughter of the great German novelist Thomas Mann, was seeking a way out of Hitler’s Germany, Auden said he would be “delighted” to marry her (even though he had never met her). This was so she could obtain a passport to leave Germany. This “marriage of convenience,” which occurred in 1935, was never consummated and the “couple” went their separate ways after the marriage, but they remained technically married until her death in 1969. His friends also recalled Auden’s many small acts of kindness. Niebuhr’s wife, Ursula, recalled, for example, that after reading in the paper about a $250 fine being imposed on Dorothy Day, the “saintly Catholic friend of the poor,” he wrote a check to her for that amount and stood unrecognized in a “group of derelicts” before thrusting the check into her hand as she left the court. Ursula Niebuhr also wrote that “whether in casual conversation or action. . . [he] always was kind and generous.”

Walter G. Moss
W H Auden’s Wisdom, Faith, and Humour

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