Housman: 1897-1936by Grant Richards

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  • Housman: 1897-1936 by Grant RichardsReview by: William WhiteModern Language Notes, Vol. 58, No. 8 (Dec., 1943), pp. 649-650Published by: The Johns Hopkins University PressStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2910809 .Accessed: 25/06/2014 03:03

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  • REVIEWS 649

    Housman: 1897-1936. By GRANT RICHARDS. New York: Oxford University Press, 1942. Pp. xxii + 495. $4.00.

    No one interested in A. E. Housman can fail to be thankful for Grant Richard's Housman: 1897-1936, the most extensive work yet published about the poet-scholar. The author says it " is not a biography; it is not a critical study. It is largely the story of my own business relation and my own friendship with Alfred Hous- man" from 1897 to A. E. H.'s death in 1936. Depending on his memory, on a few notes, and principally on about 500 letters ilousman wrote to him, and quoting from scores of critics, eulogists, detractors, and parodists, Richards has produced a vast and indis- pensable compilation. This wealth of citation is burdensome, for many of the letters are no more than the poet's refusals to antholo- gists, permission to composers, and agonies over printers' errors in editions of his poems or of Manilius. Of the ten appendices by various hands some are unnecessary: for example, Withers's " Recol- lections " has since been expanded into a book, and Cockerell's " Dates of Housman's Poems " is far more complete in the Collected Poems.

    But we do have definite contributions to our knowledge of Housman: the virtually complete bibliographical account of A Shropshire Lad, including long quotations from early reviews; the detailed portrait of Housman the gastronomic don, with his refined taste for good food and good wines; and Housman's own poetic workshop, as shown in his reading and criticism of contemporaries (he liked Proust, Hardy, Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, Millay, and disliked Hewlett, Galsworthy, the later Meredith) and his borrowings from early writers, Shakespeare, Milton and others, which Professor G. B. A. Fletcher has catalogued in Appendix III.

    In all of these Richards is on surer ground than when he attempts to explain the genesis of A Shropshire Lad and the "unpleasant element " in Housman's poetry: a romantic interest in his own sex. Granted his character is " blameless," the question of the psy- chological origin of the Lad is still unsettled. The poet's sister, Mrs. Katharine E. Symons, in a short introduction, likewise denies that the poems derive from an unhappy personal attachment. The book is not entirely free from the carelessness which Housman so often castigated in printers: thus, when one letter appears twice (pp. 132 n. and 241) two variations occur, and although Richards says (on p. 54) of a humorous poem, " I am allowed to print it in facsimile," the facsimile is not included in the American edition.1 (It is however in the English edition, printed five months earlier, as is another illustration, on p. 66, referred to in the American text but omitted in this printing.)

    1 Richards is apparently unaware that the poem had previously appeared in Laurence Housman's My Brother, A. E. Housman, p. 232.

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    Despite the lack of profundity, Housman: 1897-1936 is of the greatest documentary value. Though we still believe with Laurence Housman that no complete life of his brother could be written "because no one is competent to write it," this contribution to Housman literature is one that could have been written only by Richards and as such oue that Housman admirers will find very useful.

    WILLIAM WHITE U. S. Army Signat Corps, Alaska

    Essays in Criticism and Research. By GEOFFREY TILLOTSON. Cambridge: at The University Press; New York: The Mac- millan Company, 1942. Pp. xxvii + 215. $3.75.

    These essays are both lively and learned. The contents, ranging from Henryson to Housman, are brought together rather casually from scattered reviews, articles, and brief notes, and are of various degrees of importance, but never dull or trivial. Tillotson's deftness of touch appears to good advantage in the pleasant paper on " The Publication of Housman's Comic Poems." A principal topic is diction and imagery, as in the essays on Elizabethan and eighteentb century subjects. Much of the eighteenth century material has already appeared in the author's book on Pope and elsewhere. The approach to poetic diction which he recommends is fruitful but difficult; as he says in the Pope, "Each word must be examined separately, and it must be remembered that the exact linguistic effects of two or three hundred years ago are now impossible to synthesize." Moreover the words are to be considered in relation to the several intentions of the poet as they appear in meter, sound- pattern, grammatical and rhetorical structure, and conformity to a given genre. Tillotson speaks frequently of the layers of meaning and intention in Pope. His general position, though he does not state it in just this way, is that the accepted account of eighteenth century poetry exaggerates the impoverishment of connotation in the best verse of the period. For poetic diction in the narrow sense (practically limited to certain literary kinds, such as georgic, pastoral, elegy, and ode) he offers an apology in terms of the standards of the age, which he is perhaps too readily inclined to take as an absolute aesthetic justification. Undoubtedly the diction is often used with greater precision than has generally been admitted, and it is important to point out that perfunctory atten- tion to the substratum of classical reminiscence is not enough, and that neglected sources of the vocabulary, such as physico- theological terminology, must be considered. Granted all this, it is still true that the diction may hamper the other intentions of the poet. Tillotson is concerned with showing how a major artist like

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    Article Contentsp. 649p. 650

    Issue Table of ContentsModern Language Notes, Vol. 58, No. 8 (Dec., 1943), pp. 575-672Volume Information [pp. 657-672]Pater's Use of Greek Quotations [pp. 575-585]Notes on Sir Richard Blackmore [pp. 585-589]La Couleur dans la Comdie humaine de Balzac[pp. 590-594]Jean Lemaire de Belges et Ausone [pp. 594-600]The First English Dictionary, Cawdrey's Table Alphabeticall [pp. 600-605]The Source of the Subtitle to Chaucer's Tale of Philomela [pp. 605-607]The Sources of Spenser's Britomartis [pp. 607-610]John Donne and Pierio Valeriano [pp. 610-612]Henry Vaughan's "The Ass" [pp. 612-614]Harington's Fountain [pp. 614-616]Sir John Harington's Pen Name [pp. 616-617]An Inedited Burns Letter [pp. 617-620]Keats's "Gather the Rose" [pp. 620-622]An Early Review of the Shelleys' "Six Weeks' Tour" [pp. 623]Dating a Letter by Horace Walpole [pp. 624]ReviewsReview: untitled [pp. 624-628]Review: untitled [pp. 628-630]Review: untitled [pp. 631-634]Review: untitled [pp. 634-635]Review: untitled [pp. 636-638]Review: untitled [pp. 639-640]Review: untitled [pp. 640-641]Review: untitled [pp. 642]Review: untitled [pp. 643-644]Review: untitled [pp. 644-645]Review: untitled [pp. 645-646]Review: untitled [pp. 646-647]Review: untitled [pp. 647-648]Review: untitled [pp. 649-650]Review: untitled [pp. 650-651]

    Brief Mention [pp. 651]CorrespondenceTennyson and Persian Poetry, Again [pp. 652-656]Reply [pp. 656]