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You are in: Shropshire > Arts and Culture > Arts Features > Housman's 150th birthday

A.E. Housman

Housman's 150th birthday

Events are being organised to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of poet AE Housman. Although born in Worcestershire, Housman is best known as the writer of one of the nation's favourite poems A Shropshire Lad.

Alfred Edward Housman is considered to be one of the great classical scholars of his generation. He was born in Fockbury, near Bromsgrove, in Worcestershire on 26 March 1859. The oldest of seven children, his father was a solicitor, while his mother died on his 12th birthday. AE Housman's brother Laurence and sister Clemence also became writers.

Housman was educated at King Edward's School in Birmingham and later Bromsgrove School. It was there that he started to make a name for himself as a poet, winning a number of prizes.

He won a scholarship to Oxford in 1877, but he ended up leaving without a degree, after his father was taken ill a few days before the final exams. He returned to Oxford the following year and was awarded a pass degree.

Housman worked for a time in a patent office in London, pursing his classical studies in his spare time. It was on the strength of the articles he managed to get published, that he was appointed Professor of Latin at University College, London in 1892.

A.E. Housman

Housman as a young man

A Shropshire Lad

A Shropshire Lad is Housman's most famous work. It is a cycle, or series, of 63 poems, which are predominantly about death and an almost arcadian idyll. Housman wrote the poems while living in London, apparently before ever visiting Shropshire.

According to The Housman Society: "A Shropshire Lad is born out of the troubles Housman suffered during his life... set in a half-imaginary Shropshire, a 'land of lost content'... 'those blue remembered hills.'"   

Initially, several publishers turned him down, resulting in him having to publish the poems at his own expense in 1896. It's been in print ever since.  

"Clunton and Clunbury, Clungunford and Clun, are the quietest places under the sun. "

Extract from A Shropshire Lad, A.E Housman

In 1911, Housman became Professor of Latin at Cambridge University, where he remained until his death on 30 April 1936.

His long-awaited second volume of verse, Last Poems, was published in 1922 and after his death his brother Laurence was responsible for the posthumous publication of More Poems and Additional Poems.

Housman's ashes are buried at St Laurence's Church in Ludlow.

Anniversary events

Events in Shropshire to mark the 150th anniversary of Housman's birth include an illustrated lecture by David Lloyd, called An Anniversary Celebration. It is taking place at The Assembly Rooms in Ludlow on 25 March at 7.30pm.

As part of the event a new edition of A Shropshire Lad is being launched. The new publication includes pictures from across Shropshire, taken by local photographer Gareth Thomas.

Commemoration

A ceremony is taking place at St Laurence's Church in Ludlow, where Housman is buried, on 29 April at 11am. The ceremony, alongside Housman's tablet on the north wall of the church, will be followed by a presentation in the Assembly Rooms from Peter Sisley on his collection of Housman books.

Housman's gravestone in St Laurence's Church in Ludlow

Housman's gravestone in St Laurence's Church

Music 

There an organ recital at St Laurence's Church on 30 May, entitled Romantic Music for Organ by Birmingham City Organist, Thomas Trotter. It starts at 4.30pm and the programme includes Elgar's Organ Sonata No. 2 and Mendelssohn's Incidental Music to a Midsummer Night's Dream.

On 2 July at 7.30pm, at St Laurence's Church, leading lyric tenor, James Gilchrist and the Schubert Ensemble will perform two song cycles inspired by Housman's poetry. There will also be pieces by Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Ivor Gurney.

Poetry

Readings of A Shropshire Lad are taking place at Acton Scott Historic Farm near Church Stretton on 13 June and other dates throughout the summer. 

Walks and Tours   

This summer's 50th Ludlow Festival, 20 June to 5 July, includes a coach tour to Bredon Hill, which is the title of one the Shropshire Lad poems. 

A Walk in Housman Country is planned for 5 July, meeting in the car park by Clun Bridge at 10am. David and Marjorie Cashmore will lead a walk to the top of Bury Ditches, followed by lunch at a local pub and a Clun Heritage Trail in the afternoon.

Housman's tapestry in St Laurence's Church in Ludlow

Housman tapestry (Photo: Gareth Thomas)

Art

There's an Exhibition of Paintings by Graham and Anne Arnold, including new work inspired by Housman's poetry. It's taking place at the Silk Top Hat Gallery in Ludlow from the 22 June to 18 July.

last updated: 17/06/2009 at 14:13
created: 30/01/2009

You are in: Shropshire > Arts and Culture > Arts Features > Housman's 150th birthday

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