Housman, A E , Autograph Letters, 1920, 1936. - Peter Harrington Blog

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Housman, A E , Autograph Letters, 1920, 1936.

Presented by Sammy Jay of Peter Harrington Rare Books. An exceptional collection of autograph letters signed from poet and classicist A. E. Housman (1859-1936) to Donald Struan Robertson (1885-1961 – a stellar Greek scholar attached to Trinity College, Cambridge, from his undergraduate days until his death) and his wife. He was particularly respected for his work on Apuleius, and was Regius Professor of Greek at the University of Cambridge from 1928 until 1950. Housman, as Kennedy Professor of Latin (the most senior Latin chair at Cambridge) from 1911 until his death, was Robertson’s counterpart. As such this correspondence shows us Housman the classicist in long-term correspondence with one of his closest Cambridge peers, and has many flashes of sardonic humour. The collection closes rather poignantly with a letter in shaky pencil hand from the Cambridge nursing home in the month of Housman’s death.bri) Trinity College, Cambridge. 8 December 1920. 2pp. Enclosing three essays (not present here) “for the Members’ Prize. I have marked such misprints and false accents as I have noticed, and have also marked or indicated a good many other mistakes.” Then remarking, with evident disappointment, that, having checked the regulations, the bad handwriting does not constitute grounds for disqualification.brii) Trinity College, Cambridge. 22 May 1924. 3pp. Thanks Robertson for sending “your papers on the MSS of Apuleius” and praising the work, before going on to give some very detailed textual criticism.briii) Trinity College, Cambridge. 5 June 1926. 1p. A letter of thanks followed by a few jokes in Greek.briv) Trinity College, Cambridge. 8 February 1931. 1p. Thanks Robertson “for another pound of the priceless (in every sense) sugar. Sir Robert Walpole said that women who will not take money will take diamonds; so I am saving up.”brv) Trinity College, Cambridge. 13 March 1931. 1p. Correcting Robertson on a subtlety of Latin. Also noting enigmatically, “I hear from Hackforth that I have been causing you some trouble and perhaps polluting your mind.” Reginald Hackforth was a classical scholar who specialised in Plato, and was Laurence Professor of Ancient Philosophy at Cambridge 1939-52.brvi) Trinity College, Cambridge. 9 October 1931. 3pp. Lengthy and sardonic letter about the trouble of preparing lectures for students who “will require so much preliminary matter, not only about rival theories of Ueberlieferungsgeschichte the history of tradition but about prosody and Iambenkurzung iambic abbreviation and hiatus, without which there can be no critical study, and which they cannot learn from Lindsay without at the same time being bamboozled”. He then complains that he is forced to stay in College during the summer “and so to brim with bitterness one of the few and evil years remaining to me on this side of the seventh circle of the inferno, which apparently is where scholars go, and where Musetus will find great fault with my Latin style.”brvii) Evelyn Nursing Home, Cambridge. 5 June 1933. 1p. Letter in ill health, thanking Robertson for flowers, “Though I have not had them put in my bed-room, the matron has joyfully carried them off for hers.”brviii) Trinity College, Cambridge. 26 July 1933. 1p. Accepting a solicited invitation for lunch: “Many thanks for the kindness with which you respond to my shameful attempt to cadge a luncheon”.brix) Trinity College, Cambridge. 22 February 1935. 1p. Accepting invitation to dinner, “and will dress properly”.brx) Trinity College, Cambridge. 7 August 1935. 1p. Refusing lunch invitation because “next week my brother will be staying with me and we shall be motoring about the country.”brxi) Evelyn Nursing Home, Cambridge. 8 April 1936. 1p. Letter in a weak pencil hand from Evelyn Nursing Home only three weeks before his death. A poignant letter of apology having missed seeing Robertson.

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