Auden & the Inklings (I)

W.H. Auden had been unable to believe in God since his adolescence. His loss of faith and his discovery of poetry had come, interestingly enough, at almost the same time. But in the late thirties, as Auden’s uncertainty about his role as a poet grew (along with political and social tensions in Europe) some odd things began to happen to him. When in Spain during that country’s Civil War, for instance, he was shocked and disturbed to see that supporters of the Republican cause had closed or burned many of Barcelona’s churches — but he could not account for his own reaction. Soon afterward, he met the English writer and editor Charles Williams, and felt himself to be “in the presence of personal sanctity” — though what sanctity meant in a world without God he could not say.

By the fall of 1940 he was going to church again, for the first time since childhood, and would affirm the Christian faith for the rest of his days.

However, the many readers who have rejoiced in the work of Auden’s fellow British Christians, the Inklings — Lewis, Tolkien, Charles Williams, and (peripheral to their circle) Dorothy Sayers — have paid little attention to this remarkable man or the extraordinary work that emerged from his embrace of the Christian faith.

Alan Jacobs ~ 'First Things'
Aug/Sep, 2001

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