A.E. Housman Biography

Scholar, Poet (1859–1936)
A.E. Housman was an English poet and scholar born best known for his poetry volumes A Shropshire Lad (1896) and Last Poems (1922) as well as his scholarly editions of first-century Roman astronomer Marcus Manilius.


A.E. Housman was an English poet and scholar born on March 26, 1859, in Fockbury, Worcestershire, England. He wrote two poetry volumes, A Shropshire Lad (1896) and Last Poems (1922), the latter of which met with much success. As a scholar he is well-respected for his annotated editions of Marcus Manilius, a first-century Roman astronomer. Housman died on April 30, 1936, in Cambridge, England.

Early Life

A.E. Housman was an English poet and scholar born on March 26, 1859, in Fockbury, Worcestershire, England. A year after his birth, his family moved to nearby Bromsgrove, where he spent his childhood. Housman was the eldest of seven children, and his mother died from cancer when he was just 12 years old. <br><br>

In 1877 Housman attended St. John's College in Oxford, where he received first class honors in classical moderations. For the next 11 years Housman worked as a clerk in the Patent Office. In his spare time he studied Greek and Roman classics in detail.

Career Success

In 1892 Housman became the Chair of Latin at University College, London. Housman's first poetry volume, A Shropshire Lad (1896), was based on classical and traditional models; its lyrics expressed a Romantic pessimism in a spare, simple style, and it gradually grew popular. These poems focused on themes of pastoral beauty, unrequited love, fleeting youth, grief, death and patriotism.

Throughout 1903-1930 he edited the works of Marcus Manilius, a first-century Roman astronomer–this major scholarly effort gained him respect and fame. During these years Housman worked in other capacities, including as a Kennedy Professor of Latin in Cambridge and a fellow of Trinity College in 1911. At mealtimes he hobnobbed with other notable influencers of his time, such as the philosophers Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell and fellow poet Gertrude Stein. His second and last volume of poetry, Last Poems (1922), met with much success.

After Housman's death in 1936, his brother Laurence published third and fourth volumes of his work, called respectively More Poems and Complete Poems (1939).

Personal Life

Although Housman experienced success as a scholar and a poet, he was known as a recluse who rejected honors and avoided attention. He never married, as he was gay, though he did fall in love with Oxford roommate Moses Jackson. They worked together during Housman's time at the Patent Office until Jackson left for India to work as headmaster of a school. Eighteen months later, to Housman's shock, Jackson came home to get married and didn't even invite Housman to the wedding. It is believed that Housman wrote Last Poems for Jackson, who read it before he died in 1922.

Death and Legacy

Housman's last years were spent at a nursing home in Cambridge, England, where he died in his sleep on April 30, 1936. Housman was buried in Ludlow, England. His works were not forgotten after his passing: A Housman Society was dedicated to him in England, and dozens of composers, such as George Butterworth and Ralph Vaughan Williams, set his poems to their music.

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