A. E. Housman: A Critical Biography by Norman

By Norman

A.E. Housman (1859-1936) was once a poet of huge reputation and frequent impact: a Latin student of front rank, an excellent prose stylist, a outstanding author of comedian verse and, because of the large good fortune of A Shropshire Lad, one of many maximum and best-known poems within the English language, he grew to become a legend in his personal lifetime. Reissued to mark the centenary of the e-book of A Shropshire Lad, Norman Page's highly-acclaimed biography is thought of as the main whole account of Housman's lifestyles and occupation on hand. Drawing on a variety of assets, together with a lot unpublished fabric, Norman web page presents us with a desirable perception into Housman the poet, the coed and the guy. `By some distance the simplest biography of Housman we have now ... ' - Andrew movement, instances Literary Supplement

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The other children, still at home, had learned the news first; they had been taken in to see their mother's corpse, and the older ones attended her funeral; but Alfred, her first-born, never saw his mother again. The event brought to an end an enviably happy childhood: like another intelligent and sensitive child of the period, George Eliot's Maggie Tulliver, Alfred found that the golden gates had closed behind him for ever. They had not shut quite suddenly, it is true: Sarah Housman's terminal illness (breast cancer) had been protracted, and according to the custom of the day she had been nursed at home and had remained there to the end.

His letter to Lucy Housman describing the matriculation ceremony* is in an ironic vein that was later to become characteristic. This particular eighteen-yearold firmly declined to be impressed by the solemn traditions of the ancient university, noting that its statutes forbid him, among other things, 'to trundle a hoop', and that the document recording his admission was written in 'what passes at Oxford for Latin'. Long afterwards an Oxford story was current that when the matriculation candidates were filling up their forms, one of them asked the Reverend Robert Ewing, a college classics tutor then officiating, what was the Latin for 'only son' and received the reply 'filius natu unicus' with - to Housman's intense disgust - a false quantity in the last word.

In his second year he had attempted the competition for the Newdigate Prize, awarded since 1805 for the best English poem on a set subject and traditionally the first hurdle in the career of an aspiring Oxford poet. Housman would have recalled that it had been won by his favourite Matthew Arnold, and probably knew that the previous year's prizeman had been Oscar Wilde. The subject for 1879 was 'Iona', and Housman was placed third - if not exactly success, certainly not a disgraceful result. The poem was said to have been produced at an all-night sitting, presumably just before the deadline of 31 March; the next morning, according to a legend almost too neat to be true, the lesson in chapel included the words 'we have toiled all the night, 40 A.

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