A. E. Housman pp 179-206 | Cite as

The Poet

  • Norman Page


Declining an invitation to a reception at his publisher’s, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson wrote that ‘the fewer there are who are able to connect my face with the name “Lewis Carroll” the happier for me’; and in 1890 he took the extraordinary step of having a circular printed at Oxford stating that ‘he neither claims nor acknowledges any connection with any pseudonym, or with any book that is not published under his own name’.* Housman’s impulse towards the dissociation of his literary personalities never carried him to these lengths; but he maintained a barrier between Professor Housman, whose ‘trade’ was to study and teach Latin and to edit classical texts, and Mr Housman, who, very occasionally, wrote and published poems; and conversational attempts to flatten the barrier could irritate or perhaps scare him into a much-publicized but rather uncharacteristic rudeness. On the other hand, and after all, he chose to publish the poems under his own name and was certainly gratified by the fame they brought him, which he compared to a cushion interposed between himself and the cold ground. So that it will not do to exaggerate the scholar’s reluctance to be recognized as a poet.


Dust Expense Smoke Trench Defend 
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Notes and References

  1. ‘the fewer there are’: Derek Hudson, Lewis Carroll (1954) 291, 293.Google Scholar
  2. ‘very amenable’: Katharine Symons to Gow, 19 November 1940 (Trinity).Google Scholar
  3. ‘the genius’: Harold Williams, Modern English Writers (1918) 69.Google Scholar
  4. ‘At the beginning’: George Orwell, Inside the Whale (1940).Google Scholar
  5. ‘he might have thrown’: Stephen Spender, review of Collected Poems, Horizon, 1 (1940) 300.Google Scholar
  6. ‘I don’t know’: W. H. Auden, review of Letters, New Yorker (19 February 1972) 332;Google Scholar
  7. reprinted in Forewords and Afterwords, ed. E. Mendelson (1973).Google Scholar
  8. ‘Despite an apparent’: J. P. Bishop, ‘The Poetry of A. A. Housman’, Poetry, 56 (1940) 141;Google Scholar
  9. reprinted in Collected Essays (1948).Google Scholar
  10. ‘the limits’: ibid., 139.Google Scholar
  11. Hardy: A Shropshire Lad antedates the publication of Hardy’s poems, the first collection of which (Wessex Poems) appeared in 1898. AEH admired Hardy’s novels as well as his poetry; Hardy’s favourite from A Shropshire Lad was ‘Is my team ploughing?’.Google Scholar
  12. ‘exposure’: Richard Ellmann, ‘Romantic Pantomime in Oscar Wilde’, Partisan Review, 30 (1963) 352.Google Scholar
  13. ‘not a descriptive writer’: Letters, 386.Google Scholar
  14. ‘almost entirely of death’: R. P. Blackmur, The Expense of Greatness (1940) 202.Google Scholar
  15. ‘desire for all the manly types’: Jean Genet, The Thief’s Journal, trans. by Bernard Frechtman (Harmondsworth, 1967) 33.Google Scholar
  16. ‘over a beautiful’: Michael Levey, The Case of Walter Pater (1978) 129.Google Scholar
  17. ‘the dominant pattern’: B. J. Leggett, Land of Lost Content (1970) 101.Google Scholar
  18. ‘the unity’: ibid., 69.Google Scholar
  19. ‘strengthen the sense’: ibid., 93.Google Scholar
  20. ‘shouts’: Earlier versions of the line (‘The cuckoo shouts all day at nothing’) are (1) ‘The April cuckoo shouts at nothing’; (2) ‘The cuckoo shouts for glee at nothing’ (manuscript in LC).Google Scholar
  21. Tennyson: Christopher Ricks, ‘The Nature of Housman’s Poetry’, Essays in Criticism, 14 (1964) 283; reprinted in Ricks, A. E. Housman.Google Scholar
  22. ‘remarkable erotic force’: ibid., 282–3.Google Scholar
  23. ‘I think the poem’: William Empson, ‘Rhythm and Imagery in English Poetry’, British Journal of Aesthetics, 2 (1962) 40–1; quoted by Ricks in the article cited.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Philip Larkin: ‘Palgrave’s Last Anthology: A. E. Housman’s Copy’, Review of English Studies, n.s. 22 (1971) 312–16.Google Scholar
  25. ‘much of Housman’s serious verse’: Ricks, op. cit., 279.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Norman Page 1983

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  • Norman Page

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