A. E. Housman
Overview
Alfred Edward Housman usually known as A. E. Housman, was an English classical scholar
Classics
Classics is the branch of the Humanities comprising the languages, literature, philosophy, history, art, archaeology and other culture of the ancient Mediterranean world ; especially Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome during Classical Antiquity Classics (sometimes encompassing Classical Studies or...

 and poet, best known to the general public for his cycle of poems A Shropshire Lad
A Shropshire Lad
A Shropshire Lad is a cycle of sixty-three poems by the English poet Alfred Edward Housman . Some of the better-known poems in the book are "To an Athlete Dying Young", "Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now" and "When I Was One-and-Twenty".The collection was published in 1896...

. Lyrical and almost epigram
Epigram
An epigram is a brief, interesting, usually memorable and sometimes surprising statement. Derived from the epigramma "inscription" from ἐπιγράφειν epigraphein "to write on inscribe", this literary device has been employed for over two millennia....

matic in form, the poems were mostly written before 1900. Their wistful evocation of doomed youth in the English countryside, in spare language and distinctive imagery, appealed strongly to late Victorian
Victorian era
The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence...

 and Edwardian
Edwardian period
The Edwardian era or Edwardian period in the United Kingdom is the period covering the reign of King Edward VII, 1901 to 1910.The death of Queen Victoria in January 1901 and the succession of her son Edward marked the end of the Victorian era...

  taste, and to many early 20th century English composers (beginning with Arthur Somervell
Arthur Somervell
Sir Arthur Somervell was an English composer, and after Hubert Parry one of the most successful and influential writers of art song in the English music renaissance of the 1890s-1900s....

) both before and after the First World War.
Quotations

The house of delusions is cheap to build, but draughty to live in, and ready at any instant to fall.

"Introductory Lecture" delivered on October 3, 1892 at University College, London.

Three minutes' thought would suffice to find this out; but thought is irksome and three minutes is a long time.

Saturae of Juvenal (Cambridge University Press, [1905] 1931) p. xi

Most men are rather stupid, and most of those who are not stupid are, consequently, rather vain.

"The Application of Thought to Textual Criticism", a lecture delivered on August 4, 1921

It is supposed that there has been progress in the science of textual criticism, and the most frivolous pretender has learned to talk superciliously about "the old unscientific days". The old unscientific days are everlasting; they are here and now; they are renewed perennially by the ear which takes formulas in, and the tongue which gives them out again, and the mind which meanwhile is empty of reflexion and stuffed with self-complacency.

"The Application of Thought to Textual Criticism"

My heart always warms to people who do not come to see me, especially Americans, to whom it seems to be more of an effort.

"Letter to Neilson Abeel" (October 4, 1935)

Oh who is that young sinner with the handcuffs on his wrists?And what has he been after that they groan and shake their fists?And wherefore is he wearing such a conscience-stricken air?Oh they're taking him to prison for the colour of his hair.

Additional Poems, No. 18, st. 1 (1937)

Nature, not content with denying to Mr — the faculty of thought, has endowed him with the faculty of writing.

From a list of insults drafted by A E Housman, and posthumously published in Laurence Housman's A. E. H. (1937) pp. 89-90. The name was left blank in the original, but was intended to be filled in and used when a suitable subject should turn up.

Encyclopedia
Alfred Edward Housman usually known as A. E. Housman, was an English classical scholar
Classics
Classics is the branch of the Humanities comprising the languages, literature, philosophy, history, art, archaeology and other culture of the ancient Mediterranean world ; especially Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome during Classical Antiquity Classics (sometimes encompassing Classical Studies or...

 and poet, best known to the general public for his cycle of poems A Shropshire Lad
A Shropshire Lad
A Shropshire Lad is a cycle of sixty-three poems by the English poet Alfred Edward Housman . Some of the better-known poems in the book are "To an Athlete Dying Young", "Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now" and "When I Was One-and-Twenty".The collection was published in 1896...

. Lyrical and almost epigram
Epigram
An epigram is a brief, interesting, usually memorable and sometimes surprising statement. Derived from the epigramma "inscription" from ἐπιγράφειν epigraphein "to write on inscribe", this literary device has been employed for over two millennia....

matic in form, the poems were mostly written before 1900. Their wistful evocation of doomed youth in the English countryside, in spare language and distinctive imagery, appealed strongly to late Victorian
Victorian era
The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence...

 and Edwardian
Edwardian period
The Edwardian era or Edwardian period in the United Kingdom is the period covering the reign of King Edward VII, 1901 to 1910.The death of Queen Victoria in January 1901 and the succession of her son Edward marked the end of the Victorian era...

  taste, and to many early 20th century English composers (beginning with Arthur Somervell
Arthur Somervell
Sir Arthur Somervell was an English composer, and after Hubert Parry one of the most successful and influential writers of art song in the English music renaissance of the 1890s-1900s....

) both before and after the First World War. Through its song-setting the poetry became closely associated with that era, and with Shropshire
Shropshire
Shropshire is a county in the West Midlands region of England. For Eurostat purposes, the county is a NUTS 3 region and is one of four counties or unitary districts that comprise the "Shropshire and Staffordshire" NUTS 2 region. It borders Wales to the west...

 itself.

Housman was counted one of the foremost classicists of his age, and has been ranked as one of the greatest scholars of all time. He established his reputation publishing as a private scholar and, on the strength and quality of his work, was appointed Professor of Latin at University College London
University College London
University College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and the oldest and largest constituent college of the federal University of London...

 and later, at Cambridge
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

. His editions of Juvenal
Juvenal
The Satires are a collection of satirical poems by the Latin author Juvenal written in the late 1st and early 2nd centuries AD.Juvenal is credited with sixteen known poems divided among five books; all are in the Roman genre of satire, which, at its most basic in the time of the author, comprised a...

, Manilius
Manilius
Manilius may refer to one of the following:*Manius Manilius, consul*Marcus Manilius, Roman poet and astrologer*Gaius Manilius, Roman tribune*Manilius , a Lunar crater, named after Marcus Manilius----...

 and Lucan
Marcus Annaeus Lucanus
Marcus Annaeus Lucanus , better known in English as Lucan, was a Roman poet, born in Corduba , in the Hispania Baetica. Despite his short life, he is regarded as one of the outstanding figures of the Imperial Latin period...

 are still considered authoritative.

Life

The eldest of seven children, Housman was born at Valley House in Fockbury, a hamlet on the outskirts of Bromsgrove
Bromsgrove
Bromsgrove is a town in Worcestershire, England. The town is about north east of Worcester and south west of Birmingham city centre. It had a population of 29,237 in 2001 with a small ethnic minority and is in Bromsgrove District.- History :Bromsgrove is first documented in the early 9th century...

 in Worcestershire
Worcestershire
Worcestershire is a non-metropolitan county, established in antiquity, located in the West Midlands region of England. For Eurostat purposes it is a NUTS 3 region and is one of three counties that comprise the "Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire" NUTS 2 region...

, and was baptised at Christ Church, in Catshill.Profile at Poets.org His mother died on his 12th birthday, and his father, a country solicitor, later remarried, to an elder cousin, Lucy, in 1873. Housman's brother Laurence Housman
Laurence Housman
Laurence Housman was an English playwright, writer and illustrator.-Early life:Laurence Housman was born in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, one of seven children who included the poet A. E. Housman and writer Clemence Housman. In 1871 his mother died, and his father remarried, to a cousin...

 and sister Clemence Housman
Clemence Housman
Clemence Housman was an author, illustrator and activist in the womens’ suffrage movement. She was the sister of A. E. Housman and Laurence Housman. She was born in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. Her novels included The Were-Wolf, Unknown Sea and The Life Of Sir Aglovale De Galis...

 also became writers.

Housman was educated first at King Edward's School, Birmingham
King Edward's School, Birmingham
King Edward's School is an independent secondary school in Birmingham, England, founded by King Edward VI in 1552. It is part of the Foundation of the Schools of King Edward VI in Birmingham, and is widely regarded as one of the most academically successful schools in the country, according to...

, then Bromsgrove School
Bromsgrove School
Bromsgrove School, founded in 1553, is a co-educational independent school in the Worcestershire town of Bromsgrove, England. The school has a long history and many notable former pupils.-History:...

, where he acquired a strong academic grounding and won prizes for his poetry. In 1877, he won an open scholarship to St John's College, Oxford
St John's College, Oxford
__FORCETOC__St John's College is a constituent college of the University of Oxford, one of the larger Oxford colleges with approximately 390 undergraduates, 200 postgraduates and over 100 academic staff. It was founded by Sir Thomas White, a merchant, in 1555, whose heart is buried in the chapel of...

, where he studied classics
Classics
Classics is the branch of the Humanities comprising the languages, literature, philosophy, history, art, archaeology and other culture of the ancient Mediterranean world ; especially Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome during Classical Antiquity Classics (sometimes encompassing Classical Studies or...

. Although by nature rather withdrawn, Housman formed strong friendships with two roommates, Moses Jackson and A. W. Pollard
Alfred W. Pollard
Alfred William Pollard was an English bibliographer, widely credited for bringing a higher level of scholarly rigor to the study of Shakespearean texts....

. Jackson became the great love of Housman's life, though the latter's feelings were not reciprocated, as Jackson was heterosexual. Housman obtained a first in classical Moderations in 1879, but his immersion in textual analysis, particularly with Propertius, led him to neglect ancient history and philosophy, which formed part of the Greats
Literae Humaniores
Literae Humaniores is the name given to an undergraduate course focused on Classics at Oxford and some other universities.The Latin name means literally "more humane letters", but is perhaps better rendered as "Advanced Studies", since humaniores has the sense of "more refined" or "more learned",...

 curriculum, and thus he failed to obtain a degree. Though some explain Housman's unexpected failure in his final exams as a result of Jackson's rejection, most biographers adduce a variety of reasons, indifference to philosophy, overconfidence in his praeternatural gifts, a contempt for inexact learning, and enjoyment of idling away his time with Jackson, conjoined with news of his father's desperate illness as the more immediate and germane causes. The failure left him with a deep sense of humiliation, and a determination to vindicate his genius.

After Oxford, Jackson got a job as a clerk in the Patent Office
Patent office
A patent office is a governmental or intergovernmental organization which controls the issue of patents. In other words, "patent offices are government bodies that may grant a patent or reject the patent application based on whether or not the application fulfils the requirements for...

 in London and arranged a job there for Housman as well. They shared a flat with Jackson's brother Adalbert until 1885 when Housman moved to lodgings of his own. Moses Jackson moved to India in 1887. When Jackson returned briefly to England in 1889 to marry, Housman not only was not invited to the wedding but knew nothing about it until the couple had left the country. Adalbert Jackson died in 1892. Housman continued pursuing classical studies independently and published scholarly articles on such authors as Horace
Horace
Quintus Horatius Flaccus , known in the English-speaking world as Horace, was the leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus.-Life:...

, Propertius, Ovid
Ovid
Publius Ovidius Naso , known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the three major collections of erotic poetry: Heroides, Amores, and Ars Amatoria...

, Aeschylus
Aeschylus
Aeschylus was the first of the three ancient Greek tragedians whose work has survived, the others being Sophocles and Euripides, and is often described as the father of tragedy. His name derives from the Greek word aiskhos , meaning "shame"...

, Euripides
Euripides
Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

 and Sophocles
Sophocles
Sophocles is one of three ancient Greek tragedians whose plays have survived. His first plays were written later than those of Aeschylus, and earlier than or contemporary with those of Euripides...

. He gradually acquired such a high reputation that in 1892 he was offered the professorship of Latin at University College London
University College London
University College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and the oldest and largest constituent college of the federal University of London...

, which he accepted. Many years later, the UCL academic staff common room was dedicated to his memory as the Housman Room.

The pleasures Housman enjoyed included gastronomy
Gastronomy
Gastronomy is the art or science of food eating. Also, it can be defined as the study of food and culture, with a particular focus on gourmet cuisine...

, flying in aeroplanes, and frequent visits to France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, where he read "books which were banned in Britain as pornographic". A fellow don described him as being "descended from a long line of maiden aunts".
Although Housman's early work and his sphere of responsibilities as professor included both Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 and Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

, he began to focus his energy on Latin poetry. When asked later why he had stopped writing about Greek poetry, he responded, "I found that I could not attain to excellence in both." In 1911, he took the Kennedy Professorship of Latin at Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

, where he remained for the rest of his life. Classics Professor G. P. Goold at University College, wrote of Housman's scholar's accomplishments: "The legacy of Housman's scholarship is a thing of permanent value; and that value consists less in obvious results, the establishment of general propositions about Latin and the removal of scribal mistakes, than in the shining example he provides of a wonderful mind at work.... He was and may remain the last great textual critic." During 1903–1930, he published his critical edition of Manilius's
Marcus Manilius
Marcus Manilius was a Roman poet, astrologer, and author of a poem in five books called Astronomica.-Criticism:The author of Astronomica is neither quoted nor mentioned by any ancient writer. Even his name is uncertain, but it was probably Marcus Manilius; in the earlier books the author is...

 Astronomicon in five volumes. He also edited works of Juvenal (1905) and Lucan
Marcus Annaeus Lucanus
Marcus Annaeus Lucanus , better known in English as Lucan, was a Roman poet, born in Corduba , in the Hispania Baetica. Despite his short life, he is regarded as one of the outstanding figures of the Imperial Latin period...

 (1926). Many colleagues were unnerved by his scathing critical attacks on those whom he found guilty of shoddy scholarship. In his paper "The Application of Thought to Textual Criticism," (1921) Housman stated: "A textual critic engaged upon his business is not at all like Newton investigating the motion of the planets: he is much more like a dog hunting for fleas." He declared many of his contemporary scholars to be stupid, lazy, vain, or all three, proclaiming: "Knowledge is good, method is good, but one thing beyond all others is necessary; and that is to have a head, not a pumpkin, on your shoulders, and brains, not pudding, in your head." Poetry Foundation profile His younger colleague A. S. F. Gow
A. S. F. Gow
Andrew Sydenham Farrar Gow was a classical scholar at Cambridge University specialising in poetry.He was primarily associated with Trinity College, being a fellow of it from 1911 on, interrupted only by a period as Assistant Master of Eton College, 1914-1925...

 quotes examples of these attacks, noting that they "were often savage in the extreme." Gow also relates how Housman intimidated his students, sometimes reducing them to tears. According to Gow, Housman could never remember his students' names, maintaining that "had he burdened his memory by the distinction between Miss Jones and Miss Robinson, he might have forgotten that between the second and fourth declension." One notable pupil was Enoch Powell
Enoch Powell
John Enoch Powell, MBE was a British politician, classical scholar, poet, writer, and soldier. He served as a Conservative Party MP and Minister of Health . He attained most prominence in 1968, when he made the controversial Rivers of Blood speech in opposition to mass immigration from...

. Housman found his true vocation in classical studies and treated poetry as a secondary activity. He did not speak about his poetry in public until 1933 when he gave a lecture, "The Name and Nature of Poetry", in which he argued that poetry should appeal to emotions rather than to the intellect.

Housman died aged 77, in Cambridge. His ashes are buried near St Laurence's Church, Ludlow
Ludlow
Ludlow is a market town in Shropshire, England close to the Welsh border and in the Welsh Marches. It lies within a bend of the River Teme, on its eastern bank, forming an area of and centred on a small hill. Atop this hill is the site of Ludlow Castle and the market place...

, Shropshire. The University of Worcester
University of Worcester
The University of Worcester is a British university, based in Worcester, Worcestershire, England. It was granted university status in September 2005.-History:...

 has acknowledged Housman's local connection by naming a new building after him.

A Shropshire Lad

During his years in London, A. E. Housman completed A Shropshire Lad, a cycle of 63 poems. After several publishers had turned it down, he published it at his own expense in 1896. The volume surprised both his colleagues and students. At first selling slowly, it rapidly became a lasting success, and its appeal to English musicians had helped to make it widely known before World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, when its themes struck a powerful chord with English readers. A Shropshire Lad has been in print continuously since May 1896.

The poems are pervaded by deep pessimism and preoccupation with death, without religious consolation. Housman wrote most of them while living in Highgate
Highgate
Highgate is an area of North London on the north-eastern corner of Hampstead Heath.Highgate is one of the most expensive London suburbs in which to live. It has an active conservation body, the Highgate Society, to protect its character....

, London, before ever visiting that part of Shropshire (about thirty miles from his home), which he presented in an idealised pastoral light, as his 'land of lost content'. Housman himself acknowledged the influence of the songs of William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

, the Scottish Border ballad
Border ballad
The English/Scottish border has a long and bloody history of conquest and reconquest, raid and counter-raid . It also has a stellar tradition of balladry, such that a whole group of songs exists that are often called "border ballads", because they were collected in that region.Border ballads, like...

s and Heinrich Heine
Heinrich Heine
Christian Johann Heinrich Heine was one of the most significant German poets of the 19th century. He was also a journalist, essayist, and literary critic. He is best known outside Germany for his early lyric poetry, which was set to music in the form of Lieder by composers such as Robert Schumann...

, but specifically denied any influence of Greek and Latin classics in his poetry.

Later collections

In the early 1920s, when Moses Jackson was dying in Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, Housman wanted to assemble his best unpublished poems so that Jackson could read them before his death. These later poems, mostly written before 1910, show a greater variety of subject and form than those in A Shropshire Lad but lack the consistency of his previously published work. He published them as Last Poems
Last Poems
Last Poems is the second and last of the two volumes of poems A. E. Housman published during his lifetime - the first, and better-known, being A Shropshire Lad . Housman was an emotionally withdrawn man whose closest friend Moses Jackson had been his roommate when he was at Oxford in 1877-1882...

 (1922) because he felt his inspiration was exhausted and that he should not publish more in his lifetime. This proved true. After his death Housman's brother, Laurence
Laurence Housman
Laurence Housman was an English playwright, writer and illustrator.-Early life:Laurence Housman was born in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, one of seven children who included the poet A. E. Housman and writer Clemence Housman. In 1871 his mother died, and his father remarried, to a cousin...

, published further poems which appeared in More Poems (1936) and Collected Poems (1939). Housman also wrote a parodic Fragment of a Greek Tragedy, in English, and humorous poems published posthumously under the title Unkind to Unicorns.

John Sparrow
John Hanbury Angus Sparrow
John Sparrow was an English academic, barrister, book-collector and Warden of All Souls College, Oxford from 1952-77.-Early life and education:...

 found statements in a letter written late in Housman's life which describe how his poems came into existence:
Poetry was for him ...'a morbid secretion', as the pearl is for the oyster. The desire, or the need, did not come upon him often, and it came usually when he was feeling ill or depressed; then whole lines and stanzas would present themselves to him without any effort, or any consciousness of composition on his part. Sometimes they wanted a little alteration, sometimes none; sometimes the lines needed in order to make a complete poem would come later, spontaneously or with 'a little coaxing'; sometimes he had to sit down and finish the poem with his head. That .... was a long and laborious process.

Sparrow himself adds, "How difficult it is to achieve a satisfactory analysis may be judged by considering the last poem in A Shropshire Lad. Of its four stanzas, Housman tells us that two were 'given' him ready made; one was coaxed forth from his subconsciousness an hour or two later; the remaining one took months of conscious composition. No one can tell for certain which was which."Collected Poems Penguin, Harmondsworth (1956), preface by John Sparrow.

De Amicitia (about friendship)

In 1942 Laurence Housman also deposited an essay entitled "A. E. Housman's 'De Amicitia'" in the British Library
British Library
The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom, and is the world's largest library in terms of total number of items. The library is a major research library, holding over 150 million items from every country in the world, in virtually all known languages and in many formats,...

, with the proviso that it was not to be published for 25 years. The essay discussed A. E. Housman's homosexuality and his love for Jackson. Despite the conservative nature of the times, Housman, as distinct from the prudence of his public life, was quite open in his poetry, and especially his A Shropshire Lad, about his deeper sympathies. Poem 30 of that sequence, for instance, speaks of how "Fear contended with desire": "Others, I am not the first / have willed more mischief than they durst". In More Poems, he buries his love for Moses Jackson in the very act of commemorating it, as his feelings of love break his friendship, and must be carried silently to the grave:.

Because I liked you better
Than suits a man to say
It irked you, and I promised
To throw the thought away.

To put the world between us
We parted, stiff and dry;
Goodbye, said you, forget me.
I will, no fear, said I

If here, where clover whitens
The dead man's knoll, you pass,
And no tall flower to meet you
Starts in the trefoiled grass,

Halt by the headstone naming
The heart no longer stirred,
And say the lad that loved you
Was one that kept his word.


His poem, "Oh who is that young sinner with the handcuffs on his wrists?", written after the trial of Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish writer and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London's most popular playwrights in the early 1890s...

, addressed more general social injustice towards homosexuality. In the poem the prisoner is suffering "for the colour of his hair", a natural, given attribute which, in a clearly coded reference to homosexuality, is reviled as "nameless and abominable" (recalling the legal phrase peccatum horribile, inter christianos non nominandum, "the horrible sin, not to be named amongst Christians").

Music and art song

Housman's poetry, especially A Shropshire Lad, provided texts for a significant number of British, and in particular English, composers in the first half of the 20th century. The national, pastoral and traditional elements of his style resonated with similar trends in English music. The first was probably the cycle A Shropshire Lad set by Arthur Somervell
Arthur Somervell
Sir Arthur Somervell was an English composer, and after Hubert Parry one of the most successful and influential writers of art song in the English music renaissance of the 1890s-1900s....

 in 1904, who had begun to develop the concept of the English song-cycle in his version of Tennyson
Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson
Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson, FRS was Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom during much of Queen Victoria's reign and remains one of the most popular poets in the English language....

's Maud
Maud and other poems
Maud and other poems was Alfred Lord Tennyson's first collection after becoming poet laureate in 1850, published in 1855. Among the "other poems" was "The Charge of the Light Brigade", which had already been published in the Examiner a few months before.-Narrative:The first part of the poem dwells...

 a little previously. Ralph Vaughan Williams
Ralph Vaughan Williams
Ralph Vaughan Williams OM was an English composer of symphonies, chamber music, opera, choral music, and film scores. He was also a collector of English folk music and song: this activity both influenced his editorial approach to the English Hymnal, beginning in 1904, in which he included many...

 produced his most famous settings of six songs, the cycle On Wenlock Edge, for string quartet
String quartet
A string quartet is a musical ensemble of four string players – usually two violin players, a violist and a cellist – or a piece written to be performed by such a group...

, tenor
Tenor
The tenor is a type of male singing voice and is the highest male voice within the modal register. The typical tenor voice lies between C3, the C one octave below middle C, to the A above middle C in choral music, and up to high C in solo work. The low extreme for tenors is roughly B2...

 and piano (dedicated to Gervase Elwes) in 1909, and it became very popular after Elwes recorded it with the London String Quartet and Frederick B. Kiddle
Frederick B. Kiddle
Frederick B. Kiddle was a prominent English pianist, organist and accompanist.Kiddle was born at Frome, Somerset, and studied at the Royal College of Music under Sir Walter Parratt, Rockstro and Higgs...

 in 1917. Between 1909 and 1911 George Butterworth
George Butterworth
George Sainton Kaye Butterworth, MC was an English composer best known for the orchestral idyll The Banks of Green Willow and his song settings of A. E...

 produced settings in two collections or cycles, as Six Songs from A Shropshire Lad, and Bredon Hill and other songs. He also wrote an orchestral tone poem on A Shropshire Lad (first performed at Leeds
Leeds
Leeds is a city and metropolitan borough in West Yorkshire, England. In 2001 Leeds' main urban subdivision had a population of 443,247, while the entire city has a population of 798,800 , making it the 30th-most populous city in the European Union.Leeds is the cultural, financial and commercial...

 Festival under Arthur Nikisch
Arthur Nikisch
Arthur Nikisch ; 12 October 185523 January 1922) was a Hungarian conductor who performed internationally, holding posts in Boston, London and - most importantly - Berlin. He was considered an outstanding interpreter of the music of Bruckner, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven and Liszt...

 in 1912).

Butterworth's death on the Somme in 1916 was considered a great loss to English music; Ivor Gurney
Ivor Gurney
Ivor Bertie Gurney was an English composer and poet.-Life:Born at 3 Queen Street, Gloucester in 1890, the second of four children of David Gurney, a tailor, and his wife Florence, a seamstress, Gurney showed musical ability early...

, another most important setter of Housman (Ludlow and Teme, a work for voice and string quartet, and a song-cycle on Housman works, both of which won the Carnegie Award) experienced emotional breakdowns which were popularly (but wrongly) believed to have originated from shell-shock. Hence the fatalistic strain of the poems, and the earlier settings, foreshadowed responses to the universal bereavement of the First World War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 and became assimilated into them. This was reinforced when their foremost interpreter and performer, Gervase Elwes (who had initiated the music festivals at Brigg
Brigg
Brigg is a small market town in North Lincolnshire, England, with a population of 5,076 in 2,213 households . The town lies at the junction of the River Ancholme and east-west transport routes across northern Lincolnshire...

 in Lincolnshire
Lincolnshire
Lincolnshire is a county in the east of England. It borders Norfolk to the south east, Cambridgeshire to the south, Rutland to the south west, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire to the west, South Yorkshire to the north west, and the East Riding of Yorkshire to the north. It also borders...

 at which Percy Grainger
Percy Grainger
George Percy Aldridge Grainger , known as Percy Grainger, was an Australian-born composer, arranger and pianist. In the course of a long and innovative career he played a prominent role in the revival of interest in British folk music in the early years of the 20th century. He also made many...

 and others had developed their collections of country music) died in a horrific accident in 1921. Elwes had been closely identified with English wartime morale, having given six benefit performances of The Dream of Gerontius
The Dream of Gerontius
The Dream of Gerontius, popularly called just Gerontius, is a work for voices and orchestra in two parts composed by Edward Elgar in 1900, to text from the poem by John Henry Newman. It relates the journey of a pious man's soul from his deathbed to his judgment before God and settling into Purgatory...

 on consecutive nights in 1916, and many concerts in France in 1917 for British soldiers.

Among other composers who set Housman songs were John Ireland
John Ireland (composer)
John Nicholson Ireland was an English composer.- Life :John Ireland was born in Bowdon, near Altrincham, Manchester, into a family of Scottish descent and some cultural distinction. His father, Alexander Ireland, a publisher and newspaper proprietor, was aged 70 at John's birth...

 (song cycle, Land of Lost Content), Michael Head (e.g. 'Ludlow Fair'), Graham Peel (a famous version of 'In Summertime on Bredon'), Ian Venables
Ian Venables
Ian Venables is a British composer of songs and chamber music.-Biography:Ian Venables was born in Liverpool in 1955 and was educated at Liverpool Collegiate Grammar School. He studied music with Professor Richard Arnell at Trinity College of Music, London and later with Andrew Downes, John Mayer...

 (Songs of Eternity and Sorrow), and the American Samuel Barber
Samuel Barber
Samuel Osborne Barber II was an American composer of orchestral, opera, choral, and piano music. His Adagio for Strings is his most popular composition and widely considered a masterpiece of modern classical music...

 (e.g. 'With rue my heart is laden'). Gerald Finzi
Gerald Finzi
Gerald Raphael Finzi was a British composer. Finzi is best known as a song-writer, but also wrote in other genres...

 repeatedly began settings, though never finished any. Even composers not directly associated with the 'pastoral' tradition, such as Arnold Bax
Arnold Bax
Sir Arnold Edward Trevor Bax, KCVO was an English composer and poet. His musical style blended elements of romanticism and impressionism, often with influences from Irish literature and landscape. His orchestral scores are noted for their complexity and colourful instrumentation...

, Lennox Berkeley
Lennox Berkeley
Sir Lennox Randal Francis Berkeley was an English composer.- Biography :He was born in Oxford, England, and educated at the Dragon School, Gresham's School and Merton College, Oxford...

 and Arthur Bliss
Arthur Bliss
‎Sir Arthur Edward Drummond Bliss, CH, KCVO was an English composer and conductor.Bliss's musical training was cut short by the First World War, in which he served with distinction in the army...

, were attracted to Housman's poetry. A 1976 catalogue listed 400 musical settings of Housman's poems. Housman's poetry influenced British music in a way comparable to that of Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman
Walter "Walt" Whitman was an American poet, essayist and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse...

 in the music of Delius
Delius
Delius is a surname. It may refer to:* Ernst von Delius - German racing car driver* Frederick Delius - English composer* Nicolaus Delius - German philologist* Tobias Delius Delius is a surname. It may refer to:* Ernst von Delius (1912–1937) - German racing car driver* Frederick Delius...

, Vaughan Williams and others: Housman's works provided song texts, Whitman's the texts for larger choral works. The contemporary New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 composer David Downes
David Downes (New Zealand composer)
David Downes, born 1967 in Wellington, New Zealand, is a composer of theatre and film scores, orchestral and electro-acoustic pieces. He is particularly known for his work with choreographers, and for dance-inspired music, including two CD releases, Saltwater and The Rusted Wheel of Things .Downes...

 includes a setting of "March" on his CD The Rusted Wheel of Things.

Works titled after Housman

Housman is the main character in the 1997 Tom Stoppard
Tom Stoppard
Sir Tom Stoppard OM, CBE, FRSL is a British playwright, knighted in 1997. He has written prolifically for TV, radio, film and stage, finding prominence with plays such as Arcadia, The Coast of Utopia, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, Professional Foul, The Real Thing, and Rosencrantz and...

 play The Invention of Love
The Invention of Love
The Invention of Love is a 1997 play by Tom Stoppard portraying the life of poet A.E. Housman, focusing specifically on his personal life and love for a college classmate. The play is written from the viewpoint of Housman dealing with his memories towards the end of his life and contains many...

. Many titles for novels and films have been drawn from Housman's poetry. The line "There's this to say for blood and breath,/ they give a man a taste for death" supplies the title for Peter O'Donnell
Peter O'Donnell
Peter O'Donnell was a British writer of mysteries and of comic strips, best known as the creator of Modesty Blaise, a female action hero/undercover trouble-shooter/enforcer...

's 1969 Modesty Blaise
Modesty Blaise
Modesty Blaise is a British comic strip featuring a fictional character of the same name, created by Peter O'Donnell and Jim Holdaway in 1963. The strip follows the adventures of Modesty Blaise, an exceptional young woman with many talents and a criminal past, and her trusty sidekick Willie Garvin...

 thriller, A Taste for Death
A Taste for Death (Modesty Blaise)
A Taste for Death is the title of an action-adventure novel by Peter O'Donnell which was first published in 1969, featuring the character Modesty Blaise which O'Donnell had created for a comic strip several years earlier. It was the fourth novel to feature the character...

, also the inspiration for P. D. James
P. D. James
Phyllis Dorothy James, Baroness James of Holland Park, OBE, FRSA, FRSL , commonly known as P. D. James, is an English crime writer and Conservative life peer in the House of Lords, most famous for a series of detective novels starring policeman and poet Adam Dalgliesh.-Life and career:James...

' 1986 crime novel, A Taste for Death, the seventh in her Adam Dalgliesh
Adam Dalgliesh
Adam Dalgliesh is a fictional character who has been the protagonist of fourteen mystery novels by P. D. James. Dalgliesh first appeared in James's 1962 novel Cover Her Face and has appeared in a number of subsequent novels.-Character:...

 series. The last words of the poem "On Wenlock Edge" are used by Audrey R. Langer for the title of the 1989 novel Ashes Under Uricon. The Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

 winning novelist Patrick White
Patrick White
Patrick Victor Martindale White , an Australian author, is widely regarded as an important English-language novelist of the 20th century. From 1935 until his death, he published 12 novels, two short-story collections and eight plays.White's fiction employs humour, florid prose, shifting narrative...

 named his 1955 novel The Tree of Man
The Tree of Man
The Tree of Man is the fourth published novel by the Australian novelist and 1973 Nobel Prize-winner, Patrick White. It is a domestic drama chronicling the lives of the Parker family and their changing fortunes over many decades...

 after a line in A Shropshire Lad and Arthur C. Clarke
Arthur C. Clarke
Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, CBE, FRAS was a British science fiction author, inventor, and futurist, famous for his short stories and novels, among them 2001: A Space Odyssey, and as a host and commentator in the British television series Mysterious World. For many years, Robert A. Heinlein,...

's first novel, Against the Fall of Night
Against the Fall of Night
Against the Fall of Night is a science fiction novel by British writer Arthur C. Clarke. Originally appearing in the November, 1948 issue of the magazine Startling Stories, it was first published in book form in 1953 by Gnome Press. It was later expanded and revised as The City and the Stars...

, is taken from a work in Housman's More Poems. The 2009 novel Blood's a Rover
Blood's a Rover
Blood's a Rover is a 2009 crime fiction novel by American author James Ellroy. It follows American Tabloid and The Cold Six Thousand as the final volume of Ellroy's Underworld USA Trilogy. A 10,000-word excerpt was published in the December 2008 issue of Playboy...

 by James Ellroy
James Ellroy
Lee Earle "James" Ellroy is an American crime fiction writer and essayist. Ellroy has become known for a so-called "telegraphic" prose style in his most recent work, wherein he frequently omits connecting words and uses only short, staccato sentences, and in particular for the novels The Black...

 takes its title from Housman's poem "Reveille", and a line from Housman's poem XVI "How Clear, How Lovely Bright", was used for the title of the last Inspector Morse
Inspector Morse
Inspector Morse is a fictional character in the eponymous series of detective novels by British author Colin Dexter, as well as the 33-episode 1987–2000 television adaptation of the same name, in which the character was portrayed by John Thaw. Morse is a senior CID officer with the Thames Valley...

 book The Remorseful Day
The Remorseful Day
The Remorseful Day is a crime novel by Colin Dexter, the last novel in the Inspector Morse series.-Title:The title derives from a line in the poem "XVI - ", from More Poems, by A. E...

 by Colin Dexter. Blue Remembered Hills
Blue Remembered Hills
Blue Remembered Hills is a television play by Dennis Potter, originally broadcast on January 30, 1979 as part of the BBC's Play for Today series....

, a television play by Dennis Potter
Dennis Potter
Dennis Christopher George Potter was an English dramatist, best known for The Singing Detective. His widely acclaimed television dramas mixed fantasy and reality, the personal and the social. He was particularly fond of using themes and images from popular culture.-Biography:Dennis Potter was born...

, takes its title from "Into My Heart an Air That Kills" from A Shropshire Lad, the cycle also providing the name for the James Bond
James Bond
James Bond, code name 007, is a fictional character created in 1953 by writer Ian Fleming, who featured him in twelve novels and two short story collections. There have been a six other authors who wrote authorised Bond novels or novelizations after Fleming's death in 1964: Kingsley Amis,...

 film Die Another Day
Die Another Day
Die Another Day is the 20th spy film in the James Bond series, and the fourth and last film to star Pierce Brosnan as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond; it is also the last Bond film of the original timeline with the series being rebooted with Casino Royale...

: "But since the man that runs away / Lives to die another day".

Poetry collections

  • A Shropshire Lad
    A Shropshire Lad
    A Shropshire Lad is a cycle of sixty-three poems by the English poet Alfred Edward Housman . Some of the better-known poems in the book are "To an Athlete Dying Young", "Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now" and "When I Was One-and-Twenty".The collection was published in 1896...

     (1896)
  • Last Poems: Henry Holt and Company (1922)
  • A Shropshire Lad: Authorized Edition: Henry Holt and Company (1924)
  • More Poems: Barclays Bank LTD. (1936)
  • Collected Poems: Henry Holt and Company (1940)
  • Collected Poems (1939); the poems included in this volume but not the three above are known as Additional Poems. The Penguin Edition of 1956 includes an Introduction by John Sparrow.
  • Manuscript Poems: Eight Hundred Lines of Hitherto Un-collected Verse from the Author's Notebooks, ed. Tom Burns Haber (1955)
  • Is My Team Ploughing
  • Unkind to Unicorns: Selected Comic Verse, ed. J. Roy Birch (1995; 2nd ed. 1999)
  • The Poems of A.E. Housman, ed. Archie Burnett (1997)

Classical scholarship

  • M. Manilii
    Marcus Manilius
    Marcus Manilius was a Roman poet, astrologer, and author of a poem in five books called Astronomica.-Criticism:The author of Astronomica is neither quoted nor mentioned by any ancient writer. Even his name is uncertain, but it was probably Marcus Manilius; in the earlier books the author is...

     Astronomica (1903–1930; 2nd ed. 1937; 5 vols.)
  • D. Iunii Iuuenalis
    Juvenal
    The Satires are a collection of satirical poems by the Latin author Juvenal written in the late 1st and early 2nd centuries AD.Juvenal is credited with sixteen known poems divided among five books; all are in the Roman genre of satire, which, at its most basic in the time of the author, comprised a...

     Saturae: editorum in usum edidit (1905; 2nd ed. 1931)
  • M. Annaei Lucani
    Marcus Annaeus Lucanus
    Marcus Annaeus Lucanus , better known in English as Lucan, was a Roman poet, born in Corduba , in the Hispania Baetica. Despite his short life, he is regarded as one of the outstanding figures of the Imperial Latin period...

    , Belli Ciuilis
    Pharsalia
    The Pharsalia is a Roman epic poem by the poet Lucan, telling of the civil war between Julius Caesar and the forces of the Roman Senate led by Pompey the Great...

    , Libri Decem: editorum in usum edidit (1926; 2nd ed. 1927)
  • The Classical Papers of A. E. Housman, ed. J. Diggle and F. R. D. Goodyear (1972; 3 vols.)
  • William White, "Housman's Latin Inscriptions", CJ (1955) 159 - 166

Published lectures

These lectures are listed by date of delivery, with date of first publication given separately if different.
  • Introductory Lecture (1892)
  • "Swinburne
    Algernon Charles Swinburne
    Algernon Charles Swinburne was an English poet, playwright, novelist, and critic. He invented the roundel form, wrote several novels, and contributed to the famous Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica...

    " (1910; published 1969)
  • Cambridge Inaugural Lecture (1911; published 1969 as "The Confines of Criticism")
  • "The Application of Thought to Textual Criticism" (1921; published 1922)
  • "The Name and Nature of Poetry" (1933)

Collected letters

  • The Letters of A. E. Housman, ed. Henry Maas (1971)
  • The Letters of A. E. Housman, ed. Archie Burnett (2007)

Sources

  • Critchley, Julian
    Julian Critchley
    Sir Julian Michael Gordon Critchley was a British Conservative Party politician.Born in Islington, the son of a distinguished neurosurgeon, as a boy Critchley was brought up in Swiss Cottage, north London, and Shropshire, where he attended preparatory school, and later Shrewsbury School...

    , 'Homage to a lonely lad', Weekend Telegraph (UK), 23 April 1988.
  • Cunningham, Valentine ed., The Victorians: An Anthology of Poetry and Poetics (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000)
  • Gow, A. S. F., A. E. Housman: A Sketch Together with a List of his Writings and Indexes to his Classical Papers (Cambridge 1936)
  • Graves, Richard Perceval, A.E. Housman: The Scholar-Poet (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979), p. 155
  • Housman, Laurence, A. E .H.: Some Poems, Some Letters and a Personal Memoir by his Brother (London: Jonathan Cape, 1937)
  • Page, Norman, ‘Housman, Alfred Edward (1859–1936)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)
  • Palmer, Christopher and Stephen Banfield, 'A. E. Housman', The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (London: Macmillan, 2001)
  • Shaw, Robin, "Housman's Places" (The Housman Society, 1995)
  • Summers, Claude J. ed., The Gay and Lesbian Literary Heritage (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1995)

Further reading

  • Brink, C. O. Lutterworth.com, English Classical Scholarship: Historical Reflections on Bentley, Porson and Housman, James Clarke & Co (2009), ISBN 978-0-227-17299-5.
  • C. Efrati, The road of danger, guilt, and shame: the lonely way of A. E. Housman (Associated University Presse, 2002) ISBN 0-8386-3906-2
  • Philip Gardner ed., A. E. Housman: The Critical Heritage, a collection of reviews and essays on Housman’s poetry (London: Routledge 1992)
  • Holden, A. W. and J. R. Birch, A. E Housman - A Reassessment (Palgrave Macmillan, London 1999)

External links


Works

  • Free Housman audio readings at Librivox
    LibriVox
    LibriVox is an online digital library of free public domain audiobooks, read by volunteers and is probably, since 2007, the world's most prolific audiobook publisher...

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK