A. E. Housman – A Poet and a Scholar

Christine Vasey’s presentation on A. E. Housman was delivered with verve and humour, and it was well-illustrated by readings of his poems and relevant music. Housman is best-known for his collection of poems, ‘A Shropshire Lad’, though he did not spend much of his time in that county. However, Shropshire represented a sort of rural paradise, where the simple pleasures of ‘lads’ were set in traditional countryside. The work was popular, particularly at times when it matched the patriotic mood of the nation. Less well-published has been the extent to which Housman’s inspiration came from unrequited love, and a homoerotic love at that. At Oxford he developed a passion for fellow student, which was never reciprocated. This inner turmoil is expressed indirectly in his earlier poems and more explicitly in ones published much later. There was also another Housman: the classical scholar, the greatest Latinist of his day. In scholarship and the academic warfare that often goes with it he was both famous and notorious. It is quite hard to reconcile the tormented romantic with the crusty academic, but how they existed in one body was convincingly explained in Christine’s talk.

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