23 Facts About AE Housman


Alfred Edward AE Housman was an English classical scholar and poet.

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Later AE Housman was appointed Professor of Latin at University College London and then at the University of Cambridge.

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AE Housman is acknowledged as one of the foremost classicists of his age and has been ranked as one of the greatest scholars at any time.

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Eldest of seven children, AE Housman was born at Valley House in Fockbury, a hamlet on the outskirts of Bromsgrove in Worcestershire, to Sarah Jane and Edward AE Housman, and was baptised on 24 April 1859 at Christ Church, in Catshill.

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AE Housman's mother died on his twelfth birthday, and his father, a country solicitor, then married an elder cousin, Lucy, in 1873.

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AE Housman was educated at King Edward's School in Birmingham and later Bromsgrove School, where he revealed his academic promise and won prizes for his poems.

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AE Housman was indifferent to philosophy and overconfident in his exceptional gifts, and he spent too much time with his friends.

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When he returned briefly to England in 1889, to marry, AE Housman was not invited to the wedding and knew nothing about it until the couple had left the country.

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Meanwhile, AE Housman pursued his classical studies independently, and published scholarly articles on Horace, Propertius, Ovid, Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles.

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AE Housman completed an edition of Propertius, which however was rejected by both Oxford University Press and Macmillan in 1885, and was destroyed after his death.

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AE Housman gradually acquired such a high reputation that in 1892 he was offered and accepted the professorship of Latin at University College London .

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When, during his tenure, an immensely rare Coverdale Bible of 1535 was discovered in the UCL library and presented to the Library Committee, AE Housman remarked that it would be better to sell it to "buy some really useful books with the proceeds".

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Between 1903 and 1930 AE Housman published his critical edition of Manilius's Astronomicon in five volumes.

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AE Housman declared many of his contemporary scholars to be stupid, lazy, vain, or all three, saying: "Knowledge is good, method is good, but one thing beyond all others is necessary; and that is to have a head, not a pumpkin, on your shoulders, and brains, not pudding, in your head".

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AE Housman did not speak in public about his poems until 1933, when he gave a lecture "The Name and Nature of Poetry", arguing there that poetry should appeal to emotions rather than to the intellect.

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AE Housman's ashes are buried just outside St Laurence's Church, Ludlow, Shropshire.

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AE Housman wrote many of them while living in Highgate, London, before ever visiting Shropshire, which he presented in an idealised pastoral light as his 'land of lost content'.

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AE Housman himself acknowledged that "No doubt I have been unconsciously influenced by the Greeks and Latins, but [the] chief sources of which I am conscious are Shakespeare's songs, the Scottish Border ballads, and Heine".

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AE Housman began collecting a new set of poems after the First World War.

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AE Housman's early work was an influence on many British poets who became famous by their writing about the war, and he wrote several poems as occasional verse to commemorate the war dead.

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AE Housman published his new collection as Last Poems, feeling that his inspiration was exhausted and that he should not publish more in his lifetime.

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AE Housman wrote a parodic Fragment of a Greek Tragedy, in English, published posthumously with humorous poems under the title Unkind to Unicorns.

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AE Housman wrote the orchestral tone poem A Shropshire Lad, first performed at Leeds Festival in 1912.

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