12 October (1944): Marianne Moore to W. H. Auden


Dear Mr. Auden,

What kindness—that you should have defended not only my repudiated manuscript but my present booklet. I look forward eagerly to this review, which you too unselfsparingly wrote, I am sure, despite many pressures.

Regarding my turned down material, last spring Cummington Press offered to publish certain prose of mine—reviews of Wallace Stevens, E.E. Cummings, Gertrude Stein, T.S. Eliot, my review of [Auden’s] The Double Man, and one or two other papers. Macmillan’s have priority in publishing work of mine and since they asked to see the prose, I submitted it, suggesting that it perhaps be issued together with this present verse of mine which the Company was about to publish. The prose was returned as not being a judicious companion piece for the verse; but also, I suspect, as not being of crucial interest. That Mr. [Herbert] Weinstock—for Alfred Knopf—suggested recently that I submit work, is undoubtedly the result of your valor. Mentioning to Mr. Putnam of Macmillan’s, that I thought of submitting my rejected prose to Alfred Knopf, Mr. Putnam has persuaded me to submit it to Macmillan again and I plan to do this presently.

It is indeed wasting you to intrude market-gardening of this kind on you but can I ever say how acutely I feel your courage for me? and your not stopping with courage but doing hard work.

I have been re-pondering [Auden’s long poem] For the Time Being, which came to me some days ago from Random House, perhaps at your suggestion. The dilemma—the scourge if it is not blasphemous to speak so—of awareness, has never been better expressed than in these thoughts of yours about anxiety and “heaven” and the mortal stress of being obliged to do what one does, alone. Your work has strength and your art is safe so long as you are safe,—you are well, I mean, and can write. It does not need to be reviewed; but feeling impelled to say certain things, I asked The New Republic if I might review you and finding that you had been reviewed, asked if The Nation had reviewed this book and found that it is being reviewed by Mr. [F.W.] Dupee, so my urgencies must wait.

Your concern for her penetrates my mother deeply. I am tempted to tell you certain things about the artistry of your book, that she has said, and the privateness of the prose rhythm, but shall not delay you longer; nor try to say what both my mother and I feel about your having caught the train at 30th Street station for me last April.

Sincerely yours—



For more on Marianne Moore’s ethical and artistic convictions, and “the dilemma of awareness,” click here.