By Norman

ISBN-10: 1349065498

ISBN-13: 9781349065493

ISBN-10: 134906551X

ISBN-13: 9781349065516

Norman web page offers us with an perception into Housman the poet, the student and the man.

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Extra info for A. E. Housman: A Critical Biography

Sample text

E. Housman: A Critical Biograplry the school was still small, with only seventy-seven boys (including eleven foundation scholars, Alfred among them, who paid only five pounds a year) and an average of only half a dozen in the combined classical and modern sixth forms. Millington was a snob, but within his limitations a good teacher; those limitations are indicated by Housman's own verdict on him - 'Excellent for those of good ability in the ·subjects he cared about'* (a cap that also fitted himself tolerably well).

Another contemporary recalled that he knew Arnold's poetry by heart and 'would challenge us to cite a line the continuation of which he could not give. We never caught him out':* early evidence of the superb verbal memory that was to be one of his qualifications as a scholar of the first rank. He read, on or soon after publication, a nowforgetten book, W. H. Mallock's Is Life Worth Living? (1879), the title of which may be said crudely to summarize his later poetry. He was also writing: in his second year he contributed frequently to an undergraduate periodical, Ye Rounde Table, * under the pseudonym of 'Tristram', and later he published two poems in another Oxford magazine, Waifs and Strays, edited by Wilde's friend Harold Boulton.

Some of the pastimes he devised made hilarity difficult: when he was about thirteen (and newly a deist) he decreed that the children should contribute one verse each to a composite poem (the precocious Laurence, aged seven, rhymed 'ever hence' with 'reverence'); the prescribed subject was 'Death'. But his sense of humour was often strong enough to exorcise gloomy thoughts: he was, said Kate, 'quick to see humour in things about him, or to give grim things a humorous turn'. * He got on well with his brothers and sisters and was a peacemaker in their squabbles - 'in a very quarrelsome family the only one with whom we never quarrelled'.

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A. E. Housman: A Critical Biography by Norman


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