A.E. Housman, in full Alfred Edward Housman, (born March 26, 1859, Fockbury, Worcestershire, Eng.—died April 30, 1936, Cambridge), English scholar and celebrated poet whose lyrics express a Romantic pessimism in a spare, simple style.
Housman, whose father was a solicitor, was one of seven children. He much preferred his mother; and her death on his 12th birthday was a cruel blow, which is surely one source of the pessimism his poetry expresses. While a student at Oxford, he was further oppressed by his dawning realization of homosexual desires. These came to focus in an intense love for one of his fellow students, an athletic young man who became his friend but who could not reciprocate his love. In turmoil emotionally, Housman failed to pass his final examination at Oxford, although he had been a brilliant scholar.
From 1882 to 1892 he worked as a clerk in the Patent Office in London. In the evenings he studied Latin texts in the British Museum reading room and developed a consummate gift for correcting errors in them, owing to his mastery of the language and his feeling for the way poets choose their words. Articles he wrote for journals caught the attention of scholars and led to his appointment in 1892 as professor of Latin at University College, London.
Apparently convinced that he must live without love, Housman became increasingly reclusive and for solace turned to his notebooks, in which he had begun to write the poems that eventually made up A Shropshire Lad (1896). For models he claimed the poems of Heinrich Heine, the songs of William Shakespeare, and the Scottish border ballads. Each provided him with a way of expressing emotion clearly and yet keeping it at a certain distance. For the same purpose, he assumed in his lyrics the unlikely role of farm labourer and set them in Shropshire, a county he had not yet visited when he began to write the first poems. The popularity of A Shropshire Lad grew slowly but so surely that Last Poems (1922) had astonishing success for a book of verse.
Housman regarded himself principally as a Latinist and avoided the literary world. In 1911 he became professor of Latin at Cambridge, teaching there almost up to his death. His major scholarly effort, to which he devoted more than 30 years, was an annotated edition of Manilius (1903–30), whose poetry he did not like but who gave him ample scope for emendation. Some of the asperity and directness that appears in Housman’s lyrics also is found in his scholarship, in which he defended common sense with a sarcastic wit that helped to make him widely feared.
A lecture, The Name and Nature of Poetry (1933), gives Housman’s considered views of the art. His brother Laurence selected the verses for the posthumous volume More Poems (1936). Housman’s Letters appeared in 1971.
A. E. Housman Biography
A. E. Housman was an English classical scholar and poet, considered to be one of the foremost classicists of his times. This biography of A. E. Housman provides detailed information about his childhood, life, achievements, works & timeline.
Alfred Edward Housman, better known as A. E. Housman, was an English classical scholar and poet regarded as one of the greatest scholars of all time and one of the foremost classicists of his age. His poems were marked by a romantic pessimism which he expressed in a simple and lucid style. His best known work is the cycle of poems âA Shropshire Ladâ which reflected his deep pessimism and obsession with death. His pessimism is often attributed to the untimely death of his mother when he was just 12. Another reason for the sadness and loneliness in his life was the fact that he was homosexual and deeply in love with a man who could not reciprocate his feelings. He attended the Oxford University to study classics but could not pass his examination owing to the constant emotional turmoil he found himself in. Nevertheless, he continued studying classical texts in Latin privately and wrote articles for journals. His mastery of the language despite not having a university degree led to his appointment as a Professor of Latin at the University College London. Although famous as a poet, he considered himself to be a Classicist, a Latinist, and regarded poetry as a secondary activity.
A. E. Housman
Childhood & Early Life
- He was born as the eldest son to Sarah Jane and Edward Housman in a hamlet in Worcestershire. He had six younger siblings. Two of his siblings also became writers.His mother died of cancer on his 12th birthday, an incident that became a major source of his pessimism in life. His father later remarried.He went to King Edwardâs School for his primary education and later attended Bromsgrove School. He developed a strong interest in academic studies and poetry even as a high school student.He won a scholarship to St Johnâs College, Oxford, to study classics. He immersed himself in textual analysis and was drawn to the works of Propertius which was not part of his curriculum. As a result, he ignored his curriculum and failed in the final examinations.
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- Housman got a job as a clerk in the Patent Office in London after leaving Oxford. He continued to pursue classical studies in Latin privately, and wrote scholarly articles for journals.He had acquired such mastery of the language through self-study that in 1892, he was appointed as a professor of Latin at the University College London.He published his first volume of poetry, âA Shropshire Ladâ, which was a cycle of 63 poems, in 1896. The poems reflected Housmanâs characteristic pessimism and obsession with death.He had a profound interest in redaction, and found immense satisfaction in correcting scribal errors in classical texts. He published his critical edition of Maniliusâs Astronomicon in five volumes from 1903 to 1930. Even though other poets have also published their editions, his edition is considered to be authoritative.He translated and edited Juvenalâs âSatiresâ, a collection of satirical poems written by the Latin author in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. Housmanâs version was published in 1905.Initially, Housmanâs works were in both Latin and Greek but later in his career he began to focus only on Latin poetry. He was offered the Kennedy Professorship of Latin at Trinity College in 1911. He accepted it and remained there for the rest of his life.He published his second and last volume of poetry, âLast Poemsâ in 1922. His closest friend and the only love of his life, Moses Jackson was dying in Canada and Housman wanted to publish the best of his previously unpublished poems for him to read.
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- His first volume of poetry, âA Shropshire Ladâ, a collection of poems dealing with loss, loneliness and death, is the best known of all his works. The volume was published in 1896 and included poems like âTo an Athlete Dying Youngâ, and âLoveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now.â It became a bestseller.He published a collection of the best of his previously unpublished poems in 1922 for his closest friend who was dying of cancer. It was the second and last of the poetry volumes he published in his lifetime.He edited the âAstronomiconâ, a poem written by Marcus Manilius, a Roman astrologer and poet in the 1st century A.D, and published his edition in five volumes starting from 1903 to 1930. Even though other poets have also published their editions, Housmanâs edition is considered the most authoritative.
Personal Life & Legacy
- Housman was a homosexual and as a college student he fell in love with fellow student Moses Jackson. But Moses could not reciprocate Housmanâs feelings even though they remained friends.He died in Cambridge at the age of 77.
- Many of his works were published posthumously by his brother Laurence.Tom Stoppardâs 1997 play âThe Invention of Loveâ is based on his life.A building in the University of Worcester is named after him.
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- A. E. Housman Biography
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
- November 02, 2017
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Famous as: Poet
Birth Date:March 26, 1859
Died At Age: 77
Sun Sign: Aries
Born in: Bromsgrove, Worcestershire
father: Edward Housman
mother: Sarah Jane
siblings: Clemence Housman, Laurence Housman
Died on:April 30, 1936
place of death: Cambridge
education: King Edward's School of Birmingham, Bromsgrove School, St John's College, Oxford University of Oxford
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