Wednesday, October 07, 2009


Excerpts from Housman's Letters

I just finished reading Archie Burnett, ed., The Letters of A.E. Housman, Volume I (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2007), and here are some passages which amused or interested me.

P. 137 (to Grant Richards, November 8, 1902):
As to the Greek σ, I wish the letter to have this form at the end as well as in the body of words: fifty years hence all Greek books will be printed so.
P. 147 (to Grant Richards, June 5, 1903):
American scholars are mere grammarians and collectors of statistics, and what we call critical scholarship hardly exists there.
P. 156 (to Gilbert Murray, September 22, 1903):
Radicalism in textual criticism is just as bad as conservatism; but it is not now rampant, and conservatism is. Radicalism was rampant 30 or 40 years ago, and it was then rebuked by Madvig and Haupt: now it is conservatism that wants rebuking. Similarly, in social morality, puritanism is a pest; but if I were writing an Epistle to the Parisians I should not dwell on this truth, because it is not a truth which the Parisians need to consider: the pest they suffer from is quite different.
P. 302 (to Grant Richards, January 7, 1913):
One of my chief objections to the management of the universe is that we suffer so much more from our gentler and more amiable vices than from our darkest crimes.
P. 326 (to Dr. Barnes, June 5, 1914):
I am what you have often heard of but perhaps not often seen, a real conservative, who thinks change an evil in itself.
P. 359 (to Arthur Platt, April 6, 1916):
If you prefer Aeschylus to Manilius you are no true scholar; you must be deeply tainted with literature, as indeed I always suspected that you were.
P. 432 (to J.W. Mackail, February 28, 1920):
In reading Virgil I often cry 'Out, hyperbolical fiend! how vexest thou this man!'
P. 447 (to Grant Richards, August 21, 1920):
Revenge is a valuable passion, and the only sure pillar on which justice rests.
P. 490 (to D.B. Harden, April 24, 1922):
Social intercourse with human beings, however agreeable, is exhausting, and I cannot make a habit of it.
P. 526 (to Grant Richards, November 30, 1922):
Americans are human beings, though appearances are against them.
P. 530 (to John Drinkwater, December 25, 1922):
There are only two complete translations of Horace's odes which I have done more than glance at, and of those I think Conington's better, though less showy, than Theodore Martin's: closer to the sense, and nearer, though of course not near enough, to Horace's manner. The most poetical versions of Horace which I have come across are Calverley's in his Verses and Translations, and they are as close as Conington's; but they are too Tennysonian to be very Horatian.
P. 550 (to Mr. Castello, October 9, 1923):
One can no more keep printers in order than Job could bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades.
P. 570 (to J.B. Priestly, September 18, 1924):
I wish people would not call me a Stoic. I am a Cyrenaic; and for the Stoics, except as systematisers of knowledge in succession to the Peripatetics, I have a great dislike and contempt.
P. 615 (to Lord Oxford, April 22, 1926, on Mark Pattison and Scaliger's 1579 edition of Manilius):
Pattison had never read the book; he was a spectator of all time and all existence, and the contemplation of that repulsive scene is fatal to accurate learning.

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