I’ve always described Housman’s intellect as akin to “wrestling with razor blades” as least in his classical scholarship. I chanced upon the The Housman Society which I’m pleased to see has been ticking along for almost 40 years. My first exposure to AEH’s austere intellect was through Gow’s A. E. Housman: A Sketch Together with a List of his Writings and Indexes to his Classical Papers (Cambridge 1936) – thanks Geoff! I never really took to AEH’s poetry the aspect for which he is most famous. Whenever I’m looking for the most brutal of put downs I go to Housman first, and then maybe Russell, Churchill or Marx (Groucho) – that alone speaks volumes about the calibre of Housman’s mind. Here’s a piece from The Guardian marking Housman’s currently unfashionable status. I have wondered if Housman and Wittgenstein had any contact – here is a trivial though amusing squib that I came up with:
At Trinity, Cambridge, Wittgenstein had rooms (with no private lavatory) over A E Housman, the great classical scholar and poet – also homosexual, austere, perfectionist and deeply divided. When Wittgenstein had an attack of diarrhoea he tried to save himself the perilous trip across Whewell’s Court by asking, through his bed maker, if he might make use of Housman’s convenience. But the reply came back that Housman was a philosophical hedonist and therefore refused the request.