Dorothy Farnan met Chester Kallman in 1941, when they were both students at the University of Michigan; later she married his father. Her position as an emotional biographer of W H Auden is therefore one of privilege, since she had both a hectic friendship with the man who had preeminent claim on Auden’s affections, and a more leisurely chance to see how the Auden–Kallman relationship worked itself out. The limitations of her point of view, and the difficulties she makes for herself, more than outweigh her natural advantages.
Dorothy Farnan has elected to attempt not her own memoirs, in which Auden would be a featured player, no more and no less, but the portrait of a man with whom (since Auden was more jealous of Kallman’s friends than of his lovers) she had no particular intimacy. The hope