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By Richard Davenport-Hines

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Each boy was adjured to promise his housemaster to avoid 'indecency, bad language and smoking', and to tell his housemaster should he fail in that promise. 'I like every boy to feel that he is pledged to allow nothing to go on in the School, if he can help it, which reflects upon the good name of the School' - a mealymouthed way of indicating that boys were expected to persuade a fellow pupil to report himself if they saw him breaking a rule, or, failing that, to denounce him themselves to the housemaster.

Of one great meaning', intellectuals to be honoured for 'creating a new myth of the Austere Observer' who offered ways to unprecedented comprehension and belief: chief among them 'Freud, who 26 AUDEN made a new Vienna famous', but also Marx, Einstein, Planck, Rutherford, J. J. Thomson and others. Freudian interpretations could seem as clinically scientific as the physics of Rutherford and Thomson, but chiefly they 'showed us what evil is', Auden wrote in 1939: 'our lack of faith'. In many unostentatious and attractive ways, George Auden influenced his son's intellectual and imaginative development, yet Wystan Auden would have emphasised the intensity of his mother's involvement perhaps because he was influenced too soon, and too profoundly, by Freudian theories.

Of course it would be better if it could do without it, but unconsciously it knows that it is not, by itself, strong enough to learn to stand alone: a neurosis is a guardian angel; to become ill is to take vows. The questions with which Kafka dealt, the nature of his genius, have very little to do with his father; what the latter could do for him was to compel him to accept his vocation, to help him to resist the temptation to deny his vision by accepting a cosy conventional belief. Auden was always full of Oedipal preoccupations.

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