Most writers envisage an ideal readership of the living; or, damning the age, write for posterity. The biographer alone writes for an audience that includes a dead man, his subject, and can hardly escape the sense of a ghost, gratified or resentful, at his elbow. Housman would not have applauded very loudly the attempt to write his biography, but I think he would have viewed it more tolerantly than is often supposed. He was a man of deep reserve whose instinct for secretiveness was now and then overcome by the impulse to reveal himself: the appearance of A Shropshire Lad prompted one member of his family to exclaim that Alfred had a heart after all. He remarked in 1931 that ‘all that need be known of my life and books is contained in about a dozen lines of the publication Who’s Who,* but that meagre sop to curiosity leaves even the most casual enquirer unsatisfied: it does not, for instance, name his parents, it lists no recreations, and it contains such remarkable understatements as ‘St John’s Coll. Oxford (M.A.)’. It is about one-third the length of the entry provided by Laurence Housman, himself a not uninteresting figure but not three times as interesting as his brother.
KeywordsDust Ghost Defend Verse Mete
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