Friday, January 20, 2023


More Uses for Books, Other Than Reading

Grant Richards, Housman 1897-1936 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1942), p. 155, quoting from a letter dated December 16, 1916:
'I do not make any particular complaint about your doubling the price of my book, but of course it diminishes the sale and therefore diminishes my chances of the advertisement to which I am always looking forward: a soldier is to receive a bullet in the breast, and it is to be turned aside from his heart by a copy of A Shropshire Lad which he is carrying there. Hitherto it is only the Bible that has performed this trick.'1

1 Mrs. Symons tells me that A.E.H. did hear of a copy of A Shropshire Lad stained by a soldier's blood. Among his papers he had kept the letter of an American who had looked after a wounded British soldier in France after the War and wrote to tell him about it. One day the American took A Shropshire Lad to the wounded man. The man smiled and took from under his pillow a copy of his own, all tattered, tom and blood-stained. It had been in his pocket through the War from 1914, and he had written in it three other Housman poems. Which poems, I wonder, could those have been. 'Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries’ must almost certainly have been one of them.
Hat tip: Jim O'Donnell.

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