Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections


A. E. Housman Papers, 1859-1936

Part I: Description

Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library
Collection Number: M57

Copyright © 2007 by Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library

April 2007


ae housman, bryn mawr college library, ae housman collection, box 10, folder 2

A.E. Housman at 18



Total Boxes: 12


Linear Feet:

Administrative Information


This collection was the gift of Seymour Adelman.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The A.E. Housman Papers are the physical property of Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns.

Cite as:

A.E. Housman Papers, Seymour Adelman Collection, Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library.

Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research.



A.E. Housman (1859-1936)

Alfred Edward Housman, the English poet and classicist, was born on March 26, 1859 near Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. He was the elder brother of both Laurence Housman, the celebrated dramatist and Clemence Housman, an illustrator and political activist. When Housman was twelve his mother died from cancer and his father withdrew into alcoholism. Throwing himself into the study of Latin and Greek at the Bromsgrove School, he earned a scholarship to St. John's College, Oxford where his unrequited love for fellow classmate, Moses Jackson, seems to have contributed to his failure to pass his final examinations in 1881.

Despite this academic set-back, Housman did not lose interest in classical languages and continued to study on his own at the British Museum in his spare time while he worked as a patent clerk in London. Several articles he produced during this time on classical poets and playwrights were published in Classical Review and Journal of Philology. He was appointed to the Chair of Greek and Latin at University College, London in 1892.

An increasingly withdrawn and solitary man, Housman began to write the series of poems which was eventually published as A Shropshire Lad in 1896. The collection, which touched on the themes of rural life, the military, death, and unrequited love did not sell well until the eruption of the Second Boer War in 1899. Although war and its effects on British society would help secure Housman's reputation as a poet, he would suffer the losses of his brother, George, in the Boer War and later his nephew, Clement, in World War I.

There was a considerable gap between A Shropshire Lad and his next collection, Last Poems, published in 1922. Housman filled this time with his continued academic studies and teaching. In 1911 he became the professor of Latin at Trinity College, Cambridge where he taught for more than 30 years. He focused on Latin poets, particularly Propertius and Ovid. During the years 1903-1930 he devoted himself to a translation of Manilius with commentaries and continued to publish articles on Greek and Latin topics. He gave a famous lecture "The Name and Nature of Poetry" in 1933, which detailed his considered opinions on the subject based on a lifetime of study and practice.

Housman maintained a wry sense of humor and a love for travel and good food throughout his life, including his last years when he was suffering from heart disease. Despite his illness he continued to lecture almost until his death in April of 1936.

For further information see, among other publications:

Graves, Richard Perceval. A.E. Housman, the Scholar-Poet. New York: Scribner, 1980.

Haber, Tom Burns. A.E. Housman. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1967.

Maas, Henry, ed. The Letters of A.E. Housman. London: Hart-Davis, 1971.

Page, Norman. A.E. Housman, a Critical Biography. New York: Schocken Books, 1983.



ae housman, bryn mawr college library, ae housman collection, box 10, folder 3



Organization of the Collection

The collection is divided into five sections: Correspondence, Writings, Other Materials, Personal and Family Materials, and Graphic Materials. A.E. Housman materials can also be found in the Laurence Housman Collection.

Correspondence is organized into three subsections: Incoming, Outgoing, and Third Party Correspondence. Incoming and Outgoing Correspondence are arranged alphabetically by correspondent and Third Party Correspondence is divided into Seymour Adelman Materials, Houston Martin Materials, and Other Third Party Correspondence. Outgoing Correspondence includes letters to Seymour Adelman responding to questions about Housman's work and includes commentary on the nature of poetry. Other correspondents include the publisher Grant Richards and family friend Ethel Wise. Incoming correspondence includes letters from a large number of correspondents including authors J. M. Barrie and E. M. Forster. Of particular interest is a letter from the American bibliophile Houston Martin containing birthday tributes to Housman from six American writers. Martin's materials in Third Party Correspondence also contain several letters from noted authors,including Willa Cather and W. Somerset Maugham, regarding their personal knowledge and impressions of the late Housman. Letters to and from Housman's family members, including Laurence Housman, his mother, step-mother, and two of his sisters are included in Personal and Family Materials.

Writings is divided into Manuscripts, Published Writings, and Notebooks and Miscellaneous Papers. Manuscripts contains completed poetry as well as fragments and drafts of poems from A Shropshire Lad, More Poems, Additional Poems, Last Poems as well as uncollected works and a few nonfiction materials including a translation of Horace and thoughts on classical texts. Published Writings consists mainly of clippings and pamphlets from American and British publications that contain Housman's writings. Of note here is a 1874 clipping from The Bromsgrove Messenger that contains his first published poem, "The Death of Socrates." Notebooks and Miscellaneous Papers consists mainly of scattered notes for Housman's scholarly activities. It also contains two notebooks with extensive writings on classical texts and modern writers as well as drafts and notes on his own work, including his lecture, "The Name and Nature of Poetry."

Other Materials contains Miscellaneous and Death of A.E. Housman. Miscellaneous includes biographical texts, bibliographies, various clippings with reviews of and critical essays on Housman's work, as well as several materials related to the publication of A Shropshire Lad and Last Poems. Death of A.E. Housman includes copies of the printed burial service (which contain Housman's poem "For my Funeral") as well as newspaper obituaries and articles on the funeral. Also included are five condolence letters addressed to Laurence Housman. See also Family Materials in the Laurence Housman Collection, which contain further letters to Laurence Housman regarding the death and burial of his brother as well as various materials from Seymour Adelman regarding A.E. Housman's writings and letters.

Personal and Family Materials is divided into Miscellaneous Personal Materials, Laurence Housman Correspondence, and Family Materials. Personal Materials contains various memorabilia belonging to Housman including bookmarks, gifts from his students, and a map of Shropshire. The section also contains a clipping on the suicide of Housman's rumored lover and a recipe for picked herring. Laurence Housman Correspondence consists mainly of outgoing letters which, along with personal and family business, often regard the writings of both brothers. They appear to have exchanged and sought commentary on their writings and they often discuss public reaction and publication issues. Family Materials contains correspondence with Housman's sisters, Jeannie Housman and Katherine Symons, and his step-mother, Lucy Housman. This sections also houses materials relating to the deaths of his brother, George Housman, and his nephew, Aubrey Symons, and various materials from his father and mother. See also Family Materials in the Laurence Housman Collection.

Graphic Materials contains photographs and drawings of A.E. Housman, photographs of Housman Family and Friends, and photographs of Places and Miscellaneous Drawings. Photographs of Housman span his childhood to old age and the collection also contains a portrait medallion of Housman. Miscellaneous Drawings includes a sketchbook and some loose drawings signed by Housman's mother, Sarah Jane Housman.

PART I: Collection Description
PART II: Box and Folder List

  • Incoming Correspondence
  • Outgoing Correspondence
  • Third Party Correspondence
  • Writings
  • Other Materials
  • Personal and Family Materials
  • Graphic Materials

    Processing and description by Alice Goff, Claire Liachowitz, Charles Reed, and Amanda Young.


    Full List of Guides to the Collections
    Abbreviations Used in Guides

    Last Update May 25, 2007. Special Collections