Yesterday we turned the page on a new week in the GDR calendar.
For whomever things were written aforetime were written for our knowledge.St. Paul
Born yesterday in 1859 A.E. Housman.
Alfred Edward Housman (/ˈhaʊsmən/; 26 March 1859 – 30 April 1936), usually known as A. E. Housman, was an English classical scholar and poet, best known to the general public for his cycle of poems A Shropshire Lad. Lyrical and almost epigrammatic in form, the poems wistfully evoke the dooms and disappointments of youth in the English countryside. Their beauty, simplicity and distinctive imagery appealed strongly to Edwardian taste, and to many early 20th-century English composers both before and after the First World War. Through their song-settings, the poems became closely associated with that era, and with Shropshire itself.
Housman was one of the foremost classicists of his age and has been ranked as one of the greatest scholars who ever lived. He established his reputation publishing as a private scholar and, on the strength and quality of his work, was appointed Professor of Latin at University College London and then at the University of Cambridge. His editions of Juvenal, Manilius and Lucan are still considered authoritative.
Did you catch that?
“… has been ranked as one of the greatest scholars who ever lived.”
I have a question.
Has been ranked by whom? And having been ranked by whom, what was his rank? Well… Mr. Amazon cites two sources for this claim, a quote from a book, and his biography at Poetry Foundation. From the book:
‘a man who turned out to be not only the great English classical scholar of his time but also one of the few real and great scholars anywhere at any time’. Charles Oscar Brink, English Classical Scholarship: Historical reflections on Bentley, Porson and Housman, James Clarke & Co, Oxford, Oxford University Press, New York, 1986 p.149
The biography at Poetry Foundation is quite interesting, as was his entry in the various encyclopedias I consulted. I came away disliking him and his scholarship after reading the PF entry. But then I came across something interesting in Twentieth Century Authors: A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Literature (1942, 1956). In 1877 he went off to St. John’s College, Oxford.
Apparently he went from being “gay, witty, lively, outgoing” to being “rigidly reserved, melancholy,” and reclusive. All in all it’s worth a read. The author of the entry says, “Housman was a really great scholar– the equal of Bentley… .” So now I know!
- A Shropshire Lad XIII (Housman)
- Ferber’s Gay Old Dog (short story by Edna Ferber)