From Letters from Iceland

"Excuse, my lord, the liberty I take
In thus addressing you. I know that you
Will pay the price of authorship and make
The allowances an author has to do.

A poet's fan-mail will be nothing new.
And then a lord - Good Lord, you must be peppered,
... With notes from perfect strangers starting, 'Sir,
I liked your lyrics, but Childe Harold's trash',
'My daughter writes, should I encourage her?'

Sometimes containing frank demands for cash,
Sometimes sly hints at a platonic pash,
And sometimes, though I think this rather crude,
The correspondent's photo in the rude.

And as for manuscripts - by every post ... "

"For since the British Isles went Protestant
A church confession is too high for most.
But still confession is a human want,
So Englishmen must make theirs now by post
And authors hear them over breakfast toast.
For, failing them, there's nothing but the wall
Of public lavatories on which to scrawl."

"There is another author in my pack:
For some time I debated which to write to.
Which would least likely send my letter back?
I decided that I'd give a fright to
Jane Austen if I wrote when i'd no right to ..."

"Then she's a novelist. I don't know whether
You will agree, but novel writing is
A higher art than poetry altogether
In my opinion, and success implies
Both finer character and faculties,
perhaps that's why real novels are as rare
As winter thunder or a polar bear.

The average poet by comparison
Is unobservant, immature, and lazy.
You must adroit, when all is said and done,
His sense of other lpeople's very hazy,
His moral judgments are too often crazy,
A slick and easy generalisation
appeals too well to his imagination.

I must remember, though, that you were dead
Before the four great Russians lived, who brought
The art of novel writing to a head; ..."

From a letter from Auden to Byron (two of my favourites)


  1. bloody brilliant!

    and I dont even like poetry.

  2. :) me too! but it does get a bit painful to read prose after you get over the initial thrill of "oh! i didnt think this could have been done quite this way" :D

  3. :) you are welcome! isnt it great?