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By Joseph McElroy

An uninvited visitor, coming into the empty big apple house of a guy recognized to intimates as "Dom," proceeds to write down for his absent host a curious confession. Its shut debts of friendship in view that boyhood with males absolutely unknown to Dom and definitely to one another is interleaved with the tale of Dom himself.

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Desmond Hawkins, who attended one of the early club performances—‘there is sufficient dynamite in Mr. Auden to destroy the sad garbage of the contemporary theatre’ (No. 30)—and only later qualified his view. Nineteen months later, when Anmer Hall gave the Group Theatre a six-month season at the Westminster Theatre, the critics turned out in force—more than twenty of them, a number which obviously gives an index of the 16 Introduction high expectations aroused by the work of the Group Theatre—to the first public performance of ‘The Dance of Death’ on 1 October 1935, when it shared the bill with Eliot’s ‘Sweeney Agonistes’.

The title of Roberts’s review, Poets on Holiday, implies what must have been a commonly held view—that ‘Letters from Iceland’ was a by-product of Auden’s career 32 Introduction (124)—an inference which might have been supported by the prior publication of ‘Spain’. The actual course of events shows that Auden was moving not from involvement to evasion, but from self-admitted exile to engagement. The penultimate poem of the book, ‘Auden and MacNeice: Their Last Will and Testament’, invokes ‘the power to take upon themselves the guilt/of human action…’.

Lawrence. Bridson, who was otherwise an Auden enthusiast, had to lament that the play was no more than ‘efficiently versified’, badly written, lacking in directness and particularity, and not so interesting as what he rightly called ‘the Charade which put Auden on the map’ (No. 28). Desmond Hawkins, in a letter to the ‘New English Weekly’ (24 October 1935), to the weaknesses of the production. The ‘Socialist Review’, not unexpectedly delighted by Auden’s Marxist partisanship—‘It is good that Auden should be on our side’—felt sorry only that he had chosen the indirect mode of satire.

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