W H Auden's notebook, c. 1928–35


This manuscript notebook contains various drafts of poems and dramatic works by W H Auden, written between 1928 and 1935. The pages in this extract include verses written for The Dog beneath the Skin, a play co-authored by Auden and Christopher Isherwood in 1935. In one of the folios we find the four verses that act as the preface for the play, which was dedicated to their Oxford friend Robert Moody:

Boy with lancet, speech or gun
Among the dangerous ruins, learn
From each devastated organ
The power of the genteel dragon.

The Dog beneath the Skin was the first of a series of plays written by Auden and Isherwood, who became friends when they were undergraduates at Oxford University. Together they also wrote The Ascent of F6 (1937) and On the Frontier (1938). The play was first performed by the Group Theatre in January 1936 at the Westminster Theatre, under the direction of Rupert Doone.

Full title:
NOTEBOOK OF WYSTAN HUGH AUDEN; circa 1928-1935, n.d.
c. 1928–35
Manuscript / Notebook / Draft
W H Auden
Usage terms

© Copyright by the Estate of W. H. Auden. You may not use the material for commercial purposes. Please credit the copyright holder when reusing this work.

Held by
British Library
Add MS 52430

Full catalogue details

Related articles

An introduction to W H Auden's 'Lullaby'

Article by:
Roz Kaveney
Literature 1900–1950, Gender and sexuality, Exploring identity

W H Auden’s 'Lullaby' is an unconventional love poem, celebrating the impermanence and physicality of erotic – and implicitly homosexual – love. Roz Kaveney places the poem in the context of Auden’s life and times.

Auden and song

Article by:
Valentine Cunningham
Capturing and creating the modern, Literature 1900–1950

Auden loved all kinds of music, from opera and nursery rhymes to blues and Berlin cabaret. Here Valentine Cunningham explores Auden’s musical influences and considers how music helped to produce some of his most subversive work.

'Musée des Beaux Arts', 'Their Lonely Betters' and 'The Shield of Achilles'

Article by:
John Sutherland
Literature 1900–1950

John Sutherland describes the life of W H Auden and takes a look at three of his poems.

Related collection items

Related people

Related works

'Musee des Beaux Arts'

Created by: W H Auden

W H Auden was in Brussels in 1938. As he explains in a letter of 31 August to his friend Mrs Dodds – wife of ...

'Stop all the clocks'

Created by: W H Auden

‘Stop all the clocks’ originates from a two-act play W H Auden wrote with the novelist Christopher ...

'Their Lonely Betters'

Created by: W H Auden

‘Their Lonely Betters’ is a short, four-stanza lyric poem by W H Auden. It was probably written in 1950, ...


Created by: W H Auden

In the words of John Fuller, this poem – one of W H Auden’s most highly regarded love lyrics – ...