A. E. Housman: A Critical Biography by Norman

By Norman

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

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Somewhat later another chance discovery which may well have been formative was J. E. Bode's Ballads from Herodotus, in which the Greek stories were Victorianized in stirring Macaulayesque verse. 'Thermopylae', for instance, seems to anticipate A Shropshire Lad in style and sentiment: Go, take the style of glory, And write their names on high; For some have fought to conquer; But these have fought to die! From Bode, too, Housman may have learned something of the emphatic power of alliteration: Sudden and soft o'er sea and land The summer night comes down; And hope is on the lonely strand, Terror in Trachis town.

The Royal Commission that resulted in the University Reform Act of 1854 had had profound effects; the revision of college statutes meant that the clerical flavour of Oxford common rooms began to evaporate, and a fellowship no longer guaranteed a lifetime's idleness. The professoriate gained in power, and new honours schools were founded. At the beginning of the decade in which Housman went up, the Test Act had thrown open 'all lay posts ... to men of all creeds upon equal terms' and Gladstone had set up a Commission to enquire into the revenues of ancient universities.

During Housman's first year Jowett wrote in a letter that 'the time for minute criticism on the classics, or on most of them, has passed. '* Jowett's words amount to a dismissal, in advance, of Housman's life's work; and, the influence ofJowett on the classical curriculum at Oxford must bejudged to have had a crucial effect on the young man's academic future. Not that Jowett's views on the proper function ofa university, and in particular the purpose of a classical education, did not encounter vigorous and vocal opposition.

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