Dorothy Farnan, 84; Wrote of W.H. Auden and His Companion
Dorothy Farnan, 84, who wrote a book about poet W.H. Auden and his companion Chester Kallman titled “Auden in Love,” died Oct. 23 of natural causes in Manhattan.
The high school English teacher’s gossipy 1984 book was based on her friendship with the couple, which began in 1941 at the University of Michigan, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English.
Kallman was a graduate student when he met the older Auden in 1939. When the trio later renewed their friendship in Manhattan, Farnan became a part of Auden’s and Kallman’s bohemian coterie.
Critics credited Farnan’s book with shedding light on the importance of the 34-year relationship between the unfaithful Kallman and Auden, whom some consider the best English-language poet of the 20th century. She criticized earlier biographies for discounting “Auden’s need to love.”
Kallman also introduced Farnan to his father, Eddie, whom she married, as she wrote, “somewhat illegally” in 1948. After the elder Kallman’s actual wife died, Farnan legally married him in 1975. He died in 1986.
Farnan, a strict teacher who required even remedial-reading students to study Shakespeare, taught in New York City’s Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn and in 1986 became the first woman to head the school’s English department.