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Auden’s prose

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A striking feature of Auden's prose is its accumulated quantity. Two volumes have appeared so far in Edward Mendelson's ongoing edition of the Complete Works, and his preface to the latest indicates that at least four will be needed to contain Auden's total output in the medium. This prediction seems amply justified. Prose vols. i and ii, at 836 and 556 pages respectively, have only reached 1948, and thus exclude much - though not all - of what was collected during Auden's lifetime in The Enchafèd Flood (1951), The Dyer's Hand (1963), Secondary Worlds (1968) and Forewords and Afterwords (1973). A Certain World (1970) must also come into the reckoning, that autobiography disguised as a commonplace book, in which Auden's own reflections intermingle with a preponderance of material drawn eclectically from other sources; and since the edition so far has included the work of his literary collaborators, the likelihood is that its subsequent volumes will contain this book, as well as the others listed above and all post-1948 prose previously uncollected. There is, then, a great deal of material: Auden's prose will constitute the largest generic component, when the edition of his Complete Works stands finally, and magnificently, completed.