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Dr. John Thompson and others I knew, more or less. - Catholic Worker odds & ends
December 14th, 2009
01:02 am


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Dr. John Thompson and others I knew, more or less.
In his book LATER AUDEN, Edward Mendelson mentions John Thompson (1906-1965), a Canadian psychiatrist whose patient I was for a time in 1958-59. In those days, in New York it was de rigeur to be in analysis. Dorothy Day had introduced us. Thompson was a friend of W.H. Auden on whom the poet had modeled the character of Malin in his poem "The Age of Anxiety" and to whom Dorothy had also introduced me on a couple of occasions. Mendelson quotes from a letter which Auden had written to Elizabeth Mayer in 1943 that Thompson "is now a British liaison officer for medical air-research...in his spare-time defends psychiatric offenders [i.e., homosexuals] at court martials (with great success}." It was after a meeting at the Quaker Meeting House just off Gramercy Park in New York that Dorothy and I and Michael Kovalak were invited for coffee at the apartment of Elizabeth and her husband (also a psychiatriat} around the corner at number One Gramercy Park. Later, I often visited Elizabeth there for "tea and sympathy." Elizabeth was a close friend of Auden's and of British composer, Benjamin Britten. She was a translator who collaborated with a number of famous poets;she and Auden produced a translation of Goethe's "Italian Journey" and she had in her youth in Germany corresponded with Rilke. Mendelson, in his book, calls Dorothy a close friend of Thompson. That is not my recollection. I thought them merely acquaintances. I remember that in his office/apartment on King Street in Greenwich Village he had autographed photos of celebrities such as Einstein and Pope Pius XII. I had the impression that he had sought out these people for THE ANSWER. According to Mendelson Thompson had converted to Catholicism around the same time that Auden had returned to his Anglican faith. I don't remember seeing his name in Dorothy's published diaries; perhaps his name will come up in her soon to be published letters. RS

The Mayers had an apartment in this building on Gramercy Park in NYC.

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