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He was silly like us. Some say smelly too. There was lots to deplore about his behaviour, such as the drinking, the domineering manner and the name-dropping, and much to criticise about his life, above all the emigration to America in 1939, just as the nation stood alone. In politics, the left of his generation always mourned his renunciation of his engaged past, while contemporaries on the right deplored his homosexuality and desertion of his country.

Few writers mutilated their own work more often – for many years he deleted one of his most justly remembered lines, “We must love one another or die”, from the poem in which it occurs. Yet Wystan Hugh Auden (as he gleefully pointed out, his name was an anagram of “hug a shady wet nun”), who was born in York a century ago today, an anniversary scandalously under-recognised by a culture that thrives on less worthy commemorations, now stands as England’s greatest poet of the 20th century.

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