HumanitiesWeb.org - A E Housman - Classical Scholar and Poet [Biography]
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A E Housman
Biography



"Experience has taught me, when I am shaving of a morning, to keep watch over my thoughts, because if a line of poetry strays into my memory, my skin bristles so that the razor ceases to act...The seat of this sensation is the pit of the stomach."

Born in Catshill, Worcestershire, in 1859 and educated at the University of Oxford. After ten years as a civil servant, he was made professor of Latin at University College, London (1892-1911) and at the University of Cambridge (1911-1936). Housman was considered one of the foremost classical scholars of his time. He wrote extensively for classical journals, and edited the Latin poets Juvenal, Lucan and Manilius.

Housman is best known, however as the author of a few slim volumes of poetry remarkable for their simplicity of diction, lyric beauty, and gentle, ironic pessimism. Set in the English countryside, the poems express the regrets and frustration of young men, especially soldiers. A favourite theme is fleeting youth, as in the famous poem "When I Was One and Twenty". In technique the poems combine elements of the classical ode and the English ballad. Housman's first volume of poetry, A Shropshire Lad (1896), was slow in gaining popularity. By the time his second book, Last Poems (1922), was published, however, the individuality and quality of his work were widely appreciated, and the new volume was an immediate success. More Poems appeared in 1936, and Collected Poems in 1940.

contributed by Gifford, Katya

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