Typed Letter Stella Musulin to Edward Mendelson 1985-12-15
AuthorMusulin, Stella
  • Mayer, Sandra
  • Frühwirth, Timo
PublisherAustrian Centre for Digital Humanities and Cultural Heritage, Vienna 2021
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Cite this Source (MLA 9th Edition)Andorfer Peter, Mayer Sandra, Frühwirth Timo, Mendelson Edward, Neundlinger Helmut and Stoxreiter Daniel. Auden Musulin Papers: A Digital Edition of W. H. Auden's Letters to Stella Musulin. Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities and Cultural Heritage, Austrian Academy of Sciences, 2022, amp.acdh.oeaw.ac.at .

0001                                         Fridau
0002                                     A-3200 Obergrafendorf
0003                                           bei St.Pölten, Austria.
0004                                               15 December 1985.

0005 Dear Ed,

0006     The time has come to send out a signal to you from this
0007 ancient, scandal-ridden, provincial dump.  Peter Müller has
0008 not been sleeping over his plan to edit a book on Auden´s
0009 time here, he has been writing books himself in addition to
0010 his full time profession.  Now - you may know this - it is
0011 definite and the book is to come out in February 1987 in
0012 time for A´s 80th.

0013     So he got me back to my desk, to, in his words, combine
0014 my English and German texts, and bring the whole thing up to
0015 date.  "Write as fully as you can, double the length."  I
0016 protested that a) I don´t wish to chatter more feebly than I
0017 have already, b) I am ancient and frail, also lazy, c) the
0018 first MSS only approximate to each other while containing mkuch
0019 the same material;  their tone differs.  But above all they
0020 have, whether bad or indifferent, a certain shape or form and
0021 you cannot just stuff more material into it which refers to
0022 things which happened subsequently.  So we agreed that we would
0023 leave the texts to stand and that I would say, roughly, okay,
0024 that was how it looked then;  what has happened since, what
0025 is there still be said by us, who knew Auden in Kirchstetten
0026 in view of the fact that Carpenter did no research on this
0027 locations?  For a long time the idea was only to write a
0028 German text, I mean that the book would be solely German
0029 language production, and this I thought until quite recently.
0030 Suddenly, Peter bounced me with the comment that he would
0031 "like an English version as well."  I had thought my two texts
0032 were only to be combined and the sequel written in German.
0033 This presents technical problems.  For example, and now my
0034 questions to you begin:

0035     We ihave here a copy of Auden´s declaration to the tax
0036 authorities.  (I have been determined all along that this
0037 document should be published AND RIGHT HERE.  Apart from making
0038 Them look stupid, it must be unique in literary history that a
0039 great poet should explain to the tax authorities how poetry
0040 comes to be written.)  Do you have the English original, or where
0041 is it; did it ever exist or was the German drafted by Auden
0042 and put together by, say, his lawyer?  Or could this have been
0043 done by whoever it was who wrote the prose version of the
0044 Weinheber poem?  I have that text which A. gave me, but there
0045 is no record of who wrote it.  In my first draft of the talk
0046 given at the PEN Club in London in 1976 I wrote: "I have the
0047 statement in German translation, so that what I am reading is
0048 my own re-translation back into English and not the original.

0049     I should be very grateful if you could help me over the
0050 address which Auden held at Neulengbach.  I have the original
0051 English text which to my horror Auden asked me to translate:
0052 although capable of creative writing in German, to deal with
0053 this tough text was too much and it was corrected by my husband.
0054 Müller possesses the German text taken from a tape.  Now this
0055 English text is so familiarrto me that it deafens me to all
0056 or any sources.  A digest of it is in the PEN text but I wonder

0057 - 2 -
0058 to what extent Auden´s speech contains hitherto unknown material,
0059 if any.  I said airily that he had probably said it all before,
0060 in Secondary Worlds and so on, but this is not true.  After a
0061 preamble the speech begins:

0062     Between the ages of six and twelve, I spent a great many of
0063     my waking hours in the fabrication of a private secondary
0064 s   sacred world, the basic elements of which were a) a limestone
0065 landscape mainly derived from the Pennine Moors in the North of
0066     England and b) an industry - lead-mining.
0067     It is no doubt psychologically significant that my sacred
0068     world was autistic - that is to say I had no wish to share
0069     it with others ...   and so on.

0070 He goes on to define the Primary and Secondary Worlds;  his
0071 private world, the restrictions on the freedom of the artist;
0072 water-turbines, his Platonic idea of a concentrating mill and
0073 of his moral duty to sacrifice his aesthetic preference
0074 to reality or truth.

0075     If you like I can have the whole thing photo-copied and
0076 send it along, but you see what it´s about.  I cannot believe
0077 that Wystan chose Neulengbach to make a one-time-only
0078 statement of this length and weight, the idea is absurd and
0079 the point of my quotation in my talk in 1976 was to show Auden
0080 in one aspect of his contact with the Austrians, not without
0081 a touch of hilarity.  But this is not in Secondary Worlds,
0082 I have leafed through your Early Auden page by page and finkd
0083 no reference, nor can I find it anywhere else.  Can you
0084 elucidate?

0085     My worm´s eye view of the arrangements for the funeral
0086 goes iknto my new piece, and incidentally the contributions
0087 will be looked over by a lawyer.

0088     Are you about to come out with a Middle Auden or whatever?
0089 If so it would be nice to know about it so I can refer to it.

0090     The chaplain sto the British Embassy in Vienna gave me the
0091 name and address of the clergyman who took the service with the
0092 RC pasrish priest and I wrote to him to find out´whether he
0093 can remember the form of service etc. but no answer so far.
0094 This would be of interest here because though common practice
0095 in England such an ecumenical service was a novelty here and
0096 caused much comment.

0097     How are you and what are you doing apart from teaching?
0098 I had a lot of illness, hospitals etc. but am now stabilised
0099 and am living now wholly in the country but am well looked
0100 after and see plenty of people.  It´s Parkinson´s disease
0101 which can be kept pretty well under control these days.  My
0102 relations organised a splendid surprise party for my 70th
0103 birthday which went on all day, at breakfast I didn´t yet
0104 know what lay ahead.  My son plotted this and steered it from
0105 New York but was there on the day.  He built up the Austrian
0106 bank Creditanstalt-Bankverein in NY, and if ever you need to
0107 send me bulky papers or whatever - not that you will - contact
0108 him at 212-702-9101.  His name is Marko.
0109               Good health and success in 1986,