The name of A. E. Housman (1859-1936) causes an instant reaction in the Classical community. The very intensity, and indeed variety, of sentiments that the letters ‘A. E. H.’ can evoke is startling when it is considered how few, whether scholars or not, have engaged directly with his Classical work. Housman has never lacked attention from both a deeply respectful following and a firm band, regrettably more numerous, of detractors. It is of course one of the wearying but unsurprising facts of Classical scholarship that each bold and revisionary scholar is met with a less than positive reception. Yet Housman’s lot deserves particular attention: why should a man, reserved but polite in company, passionate for accuracy and excellence in print, inspire such strong feelings among academic circles even of the present day? A satisfactory answer to this question remains to be given.
It is therefore a signal moment when a work which proposes to publish all extant letters from Housman reaches the light of day. Archie Burnett (henceforth ‘B.’) has devoted many years to such a task and the fruits of this labour—two stout and finely produced volumes—are something to be relished. This collection of the very great majority of Housman’s extant correspondence, much of it published here for the first time, will certainly help to shed light on so remarkable and controversial a scholar.
There is much to say about so dense and expansive a work, so I shall record my overall appraisal without further delay. B. embarked upon the bold task of bringing every known letter of Housman into a single collection. Although this task proved impossible (see below), the work surely contains the great majority of the extant letters dotted across the globe. The very bravery of his undertaking itself deserves considerable praise. Biographical work on Classical scholarship is often painfully vague or pedantic to the point of missing the bigger picture. It is a relief, then, to be offered so much primary material with so little concomitant fuss. B. has discharged his task with evident patience, sound editorial judgment and typically high levels of accuracy. He is to be congratulated for his labour.
The first attempt to collect and publish Housman’s letters, undertaken by his Trinity devotee A. S. F. Gow on the prompting of Laurence Housman, was soon abandoned, presumably owing to the sheer logistical difficulties involved. The only successful attempt at such an exercise in the past, that published by Henry Maas in 1971, was heretofore the vulgate. Maas’ work served as a useful resource, containing some 885 items, along with generally concise and informative annotation. Yet much of Housman’s correspondence, though traced, was strangely excluded.
Redress was needed and B.’s work is exactly that. His preface records that the work contains 2,327 letters of Housman, along with four fragmentary items. Close attention to the contents of the two volumes reveals that this must be an unfortunate misprint for 2,237 (a fact that B. has now confirmed). Still, this is a formidable figure and guarantees that most ages and aspects of Housman’s life can be well illustrated in epistolary form. Our earliest item is a card, dated to 1872 when Housman was only twelve, the latest a postcard lamenting his return to the Cambridge nursing home where he died, aged 77, on April 30, 1936. Letters range in length from one (I.379, II.209, 383) to 2,321 words (I.23-9). Whenever possible, B. has taken pains to consult mss of letters, facsimiles, typescripts or photographs of them (including inspection of items at auction, not excluding Ebay) and has often published Housman’s drafts. Over half of Housman’s correspondence is held by eight institutions, yet the diaspora of the remaining correspondence demanded serious travelling, and B.’s list of acknowledgements attests an almighty mileage.
The arrangement of the work is simple. After the list of acknowledgements (v-vii) and summary of abbreviations (xi-xiv), there come three preliminary sections: a ‘Note on editorial principles’ (xv-xviii), a brief introduction (xix-xxii) and a detailed list of (the more notable) recipients of Housman’s letters (xxiii-liv). Thereafter come the letters, the first volume covering 1872-1926 (3-643), the latter 1927-36 (3-533), along with fourteen items that cannot be precisely dated (534-9). The second volume closes with an index of recipients’ names (541-9) and a lengthy, and thoroughly useful, general index (551-85), compiled by Paul Naiditch, the leading expert, for some considerable time, in the biographical study of Housman. It should be recorded that much of the difficult preliminary work in tracing Housman’s letters had already been carried out by Naiditch, who published the expansive results of his census of the correspondence in the Housman Society Journal XVII-XXV. Before I turn to discussing further the novelty and quality of the work, it is necessary to make some prefatory remarks about the uneven distribution of Housman’s extant letters.
Although it can naturally be supposed that Housman was more engaged in letter-writing in some periods of his life than in others, it would be surprising if the survival of his letters is a proportionate reflection of his actual epistolary output. For B.’s edition contains only 51 letters from the nineteenth century, i.e. the first 41 years of Housman’s life. Of letters relating to his service at the London Patent Office from 1882-92 and the early years of his professorship of Latin at University College London (from 1892), we have surprisingly little outside occasional family correspondence. In the decades of the twentieth century, however, numbers suddenly abound: 220 (1900-9), 347 (1910-19), 778 (1920-9), 803 (1930-6). If the last figure were extrapolated beyond Housman’s death, and had he kept his pen at such a high level of action, we should expect some 1,271 letters for the decade, i.e. at least one per triduum. Housman’s letters are undoubtedly a rich resource, then, however oddly skewed. That we have over thrice the number of letters from 1930 than we do from the nineteenth century in toto, or that we have no letters from between early December 1882 and late March 1885 (1886 and 1888 being likewise unattested) are facts which, however difficult to explain, are apparently incontrovertible. It is clear therefore that by far the best represented part of Housman’s life, if we crudely divide it into six sections—childhood and Bromsgrove (18yrs), Oxford and teaching at Bromsgrove (5yrs), Patent Office, London (10yrs), University College London (19yrs), Trinity College, Cambridge (25yrs)—is the last section. To it is to be allocated some 85% of the extant correspondence. Housman’s years at University College possess some 14%. Therefore the three earliest chapters of his life, 33 years, are documented by only a shade over 1% of the extant correspondence. Yet such comparative lacunae are not to be lamented unduly, and enough material still survives from these earlier years to sketch the rough development of Housman’s intellect and character.
It is manifest that B. has greatly increased the materials available for students of Housman’s life and times, for he has provided 1,356 more items than Maas. A good number of these additional pieces had already been published, it is true, in various locations (biographical studies, sale catalogues, certain academic periodicals, the Housman Society Journal, addressee-specific collections of letters). Nonetheless, I calculate, on the basis of B.’s recording of previous sources, that he has published 934 items for the first time and has added previously unpublished material to another 190. This sheer increase in content, therefore, not to mention the great convenience of having so much material published at once chronologically, makes this an edition of substantial, and considerably long-lasting, importance.
What are the most interesting of these new accruals to Housman’s epistolary corpus? Although answering such a question entails an element of subjectivity, I would record the following as the most important additions: five letters to A. W. Pollard, Housman’s close friend from his Oxford days (private collection also edited by H. R. Woudhuysen in a limited edition of 2006); early letters to Elizabeth Wise, his godmother (British Museum); a vast increase in letters to Grant Richards, Housman’s roguish publisher and friend, although much in these can be dry (various collections); to Alice and William Rothenstein (Harvard); further letters to Thomas Hardy (Dorset County Museum) and to D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson (St Andrews); and a considerable number of letters, often tenderly penned, to Housman’s sister, Katharine Symons (various collections). For interesting one-off additions, one thinks of letters to T. S. Eliot (II.63), H. M. Butler (I.365), A. Souter (II.457-8) and the note on poetic meaning to an anonymous correspondent (I.318). It is certain, however, that by far the most interesting addition is Housman’s last letter, accompanying his Last Poems (1922), to Moses Jackson, his Oxford friend who, though distant from Housman emotionally and geographically for most of his life, ‘had more influence on [his] life than anyone else’. Housman evidently knew that this would be the last letter he sent to ‘dear Mo’, who died shortly after from stomach cancer. Firstly, the tone of the letter is striking: those well familiar with Housman’s style will share my surprise on reading ‘bloody good poet’ and ’eminent bloke’ (is this purposefully reminiscent of their Oxford or London banter?). Secondly, there is a remarkable confession to Jackson, the truth of which does not seem questionable: ‘I would much rather have followed you round the world and blacked your boots’. Finally, Housman seems uncommonly keen to highlight both that his poetry is critically acclaimed and that he is a figure of influence. Whether this is to justify his past career choices to Jackson (by emphasising his poetic success, notwithstanding his ‘trade’ of professor of Latin) or not, the letter is a fascinating document, particularly when combined with Housman’s account to Pollard (I.533-4).
Yet this is certainly not the place to assess the content and consequences of Housman’s letters as a whole. The great diversity of the collection should nevertheless be noted. His correspondents range from the expected family members and close friends, men of letters and Classical academics (British and international, although many epistles to the latter must have been lost) through to publishers, composers and fanatical bibliophiles and bibliographers, of which Housman has enjoyed his fair share. It is true that much of the surviving correspondence reflects matters of trifling importance for learning more of the man. Yet since the collection aims to document Housman’s life as fully as possible, and since he had to wade through a quagmire of such tedious bureaucracy on almost a daily basis, that must needs be evidenced. The letters display a whole array of emotions—not least affection, generosity, sorrow and humility—and quickly dispel the commonly held monochrome image of Housman.
I should of course advert to what we, as Classical scholars, learn for the first time from this collection. The answer is, unfortunately, less exciting than one might expect. Although dozens of letters touching upon Classical topics are published here for the first time, there is disappointingly little of great interest. Those letters of primary Classical importance (particularly Housman’s responses to J. W. Mackail’s comments on the first three volumes of his Manilius and his response to the young Otto Skutsch) had mostly seen publication by Maas in 1971. Nonetheless, in B.’s edition we find for the first time two detailed enclosures to F. E. Robbins concerning the Michigan Astrological Papyrus, further notes on Lucan and Silius for J. D. Duff, two interesting letters to J. P. Postgate on metrical matters and one to U. Knoche concerning the text of Juvenal. The full publication of Housman’s testimonial for Eduard Fraenkel’s application for the Corpus chair at Oxford (II.448) is also a significant addition. Do any new emendations appear here afresh? Only one (in a letter of February 3, 1936, to B. Goulding Brown, II.522): Housman overrides his previous approval of Peerlkamp’s responsi at Hor. serm. I.1.29 by suggesting sanguinis for the mss’ perfidus, thereby making sanguinis … caupo appositive with miles. I think this falls below his typical excellence. It also surprised me to learn that Housman ‘probably’ believes (I.303) in Lachmann’s remigi oblitae at Lucr. VI.743 and (II.295) the paradosis fluuii at Verg. Aen. III.702. All considered, the volumes do not contain much new material for Latin scholarship.
B. makes clear in the very first paragraph of the work that he believes that Housman’s letters were ‘never intended for publication’. Since Housman lived in a day when all manner of correspondence among the learned and literary world readily found an eager readership in print, and since many of the letters of his two great Classical ancestors at Trinity (Bentley and Porson) had been published and edited, I cannot believe that Housman did not occasionally have in mind readers of his letters other than their addressees. He knew full well, particularly in his later years, his significant standing in both scholarship and poetry, and on occasion a hint of that Ciceronian concern as to what posterity could think peeps through his correspondence. Yet Housman’s guard was so rarely down—save for between certain family members and his very closest acquaintances—that it perhaps makes little difference whether he envisaged a third party’s encountering his letters. Indeed, Housman seems to bear with little shock the news that some of his (numerous and often outspoken) letters to G. Richards could be sold, by an unscrupulous bookseller, to the public, simply stating ‘I do not think any of my letters are very incriminating’ (I.295).
We may now turn to B.’s editorial practice. Each letter attempts to represent the approximate layout of the manuscript, the location of which is also recorded, along with (if appropriate) its first place of publication and the page reference to Maas’ edition. Such references seem thorough, although a number of letters (such as those to the Registrar of Trade Marks (I.65), H. Rackham (II.142) and J. D. Duff (II.363-4)) lack their references to Maas, and some to G. Murray (I.120-1, 157, 166, 167-8, 168-9) were already partly cited in I. Henderson’s chapter of Murray’s unfinished autobiography (London, 1960). I should here record what I regard as the most significant editorial shortcoming of the work which, though apparently minor, is sufficiently frustrating. This is the decision not to number the letters consecutively, or indeed at all. It may have been the haphazard order in which the letters were inspected, or the late addition of some to the collection, that meant that such numbering would have been difficult. Yet, as it stands, reference to any letter in the work must be made in the cumbersome manner ‘Letter to [addressee], Burnett [I/II] [page ref(f).]’. In the numerous places where more than one letter to the same addressee occurs on one page the date must also be supplied. Further, in extreme instances, one must talk of, e.g., the ‘first/second/third letter of October 21, 1926, to Grant Richards at I.633’. How much easier would it be to speak of ‘Burnett 1058/1059/1060’ (or sim.)? For letters published on the same day, B. informs us in the preface that their order of composition ‘is not known’ (xvii). Indeed it is not, but on occasion good guesses can be made. For instance, it is most likely that of the two items sent to Grant Richards on February 22, 1931 (II.235), the telegram stating ‘Wednesday not Tuesday’ was sent to correct ‘Tuesday’ in the letter, and as such should be printed after it.
Not having ready access to the mss of Housman’s letters that B. has published, I cannot comment on the overall accuracy of his transcriptions. I have no reason to believe, however, that his diligence in this field does not match that exemplified in his celebrated edition of Housman’s poetry (Oxford, 1997). Certain mistaken transcriptions (particularly of Latin and Greek) are recorded in the corrections towards the end of this review.
The standard of annotation is generally high throughout, with appropriate biographical information typically provided for individuals not mentioned in the initial index of recipients, and with suitable explanation of matters either recorded in letters to Housman or circumstantial at the time of writing. The task of deciding when an annotation is appropriate is a difficult one, and an over-eager editor could have multiplied them to a wearying degree. B., however, demonstrates a clear head about what most requires comment, and one can move from letter to letter both freely and with sufficient guidance. It is only occasionally that one is left wanting an editorial note. For instance, Housman’s loaded lament (‘The caucus has gone wrong’) at the close of a letter to S. Gaselee (October 30, 1922, I.522) could well reflect the reform and centralisation of the Classical Tripos taking place in the period. To alert the reader to the possible force of this tart dismissal is part of an editor’s brief. Similarly, in a postcard to Percy Simpson of March 2, 1923 (I.538), it would surely be worth noting what Housman’s brief mention of ‘ circularem‘ and ‘ philtram‘ concerns. It transpires that Simpson must have been asking Housman’s opinion on his restorations to the fourth stanza of a Latin doggerel poem, preserved in a damaged ms pasted into the 1620 Jansson edition of Lucretius owned by Ben Jonson, whose works Simpson was editing. At the close of a letter to J. B. Priestley of September 18, 1924 (I.570-1), the non-Classical reader of ‘for the Stoics… I have a great dislike and contempt’ could be interested to learn that Manilius was a Stoic poet. In a letter to Seymour Adelman of April 7, 1929 (II.122), reference is made to a ‘supposed autograph’ of Housman’s ‘ Fragment of a Greek Tragedy‘ that Adelman had bought at auction. Perhaps it would have been worth noting that the item was sold by Sotheby’s on February 11 of that year and that the ‘credulous lady’ who sold it was Mrs Edith Hadley, wife of the then late master of Pembroke College, Cambridge.
Possibly the most significant editorial oversight, although it was easily made, is the attribution of the two stanzas of poetry in Housman’s letter to E. Wise of Hilary Term 1879 (I.43-4) to Housman himself, an error B. had already made in his 1997 edition of Housman’s poems. Investigation proves that no one has yet realised the mistake. For it so happens that the former stanza (‘White is the wold’ and ff.) is from the opening of C. S. Calverley’s ‘Dirge’ (first published 1862) and the latter (‘Dever bore bedeath the bood’) is from lines 5-8 of H. Cholmondeley-Pennell’s ‘Lay of the Deserted Influenzed’ (first published 1861). The former Housman will have picked up from his general reading of Calverley (referred to in the letter as simply ‘the poet’, which B. had presumed to be imaginary), the latter, which varies slightly from the original, he took from T. L. Papillon’s ‘Manual of Comparative Philology’ (Oxford, 1876 etc.), p.32 n.1. Housman’s version is identical to Papillon’s. I may also observe, as has not yet been recorded, that Housman was evidently familiar with this work of Papillon, since he parodies the latter’s etymologising in verses 113-15 of his satirical poem of 1878, ‘The Eleventh Eclogue’ (p.234 of Burnett’s edition of the poems).
The notations concerning authorial cancellations and editorial supplements may be confusing to Classical scholars, since angle brackets denote Housman’s deletions and square brackets editorial additions. (Epigraphers and papyrologists will, of course, be less misled.) We are told in the preface that ‘casual slips and other minor blemishes are silently corrected’. And yet we often find B.’s footnotes recording that Housman had written ‘dont’ for ‘don’t’ or, for example, incorrectly accentuated his French. One naturally wonders therefore what casual slips and minor blemishes actually are for B. Nonetheless, he has done well to retain Housman’s scribal errors in those letters written during periods of serious illness and/or senility. In such instances it is curious to see that dittography is a major cause of error. Some weirder slips occur, such as Housman’s initially addressing to [J. D.] Duff a postcard to [A. S. F.] Gow (II.263) or, in the month of his death, signing his name initially as ‘A. E. Hills A’ (II.530, only to correct it to ‘Housmam’), or twice consecutively (ibid., in the year ‘19136’).
The typography of the volume is attractive and sensibly sized. Particular commendation is due to the rendering of a small map at I.127 and a character of Housman’s handwriting at I.273. It is a shame that facsimiles of Housman’s fine epistolary hand could not be included in the work, although they would have certainly raised its cost, already substantial.
It is a novelty of the work that the two Latin epistles, one to Fraenkel (October 1, 1926, I.627-8) and one to Skutsch (June 5, 1934, II.425-7), are also translated into English. It is difficult to render Housman’s terse Latin both accurately and elegantly, and B. assigned this daunting task to a graduate named Adam Gitner. Although the translations allow the reader without Latin to gain the gist of what Housman wrote, such phraseology as ‘beware of going wrong from the hatred of manuscripts
Fourteen items of uncertain date are appended after the last chronological sequence of letters. Perhaps more boldness could have been shown here in assigning dates. For instance, I would suggest that the letter to A. Rubin (II.535) was indeed sent ‘Not before 1918’ but, more specifically, after May 27, 1931, on the basis of its offering further poetic criticisms, which seem to have first been offered to Rubin on that earlier date (II.246-7). Similarly, since the first note to (presumably) A. S. F. Gow at II.536 has almost the exact wording of a note sent to the same individual on January 15, 1935 (II.460), it is probably from a late period (if the meeting of ‘The Family’ is on a Friday, as typically, I suggest the year is 1930). No conjectural date is offered for the note to Gow at II.538, but it must postdate May 1911 (Housman’s arrival at Trinity) and it almost certainly predates Gow’s article ‘Hesiod’s Wagon’ ( JP 44 (1914), 145-53), which uses the latter of Housman’s citations (Schol. Arat. 27) at p.146 n.6. (The letter also has some affinity in topic to that at I.329.)
The index of recipients at the beginning of the first volume is a valuable tool. B. has made the interesting choice of not extending biographical material about the figures beyond Housman’s death, ‘in order to give a true sense of relationship’ (I.xvii). This is a novel idea, but it still would have been worthwhile to provide information about their later achievements, which often owed something to Housman’s influence. For instance, non-Classical readers would be left an odd picture of Skutsch’s career on reading the brief statement ‘his scholarship [at the TLL] was not renewed under Nazi rule in 1934, whereupon he emigrated to Scotland’. Of course, he went on to hold Housman’s chair at UCL, gave his inaugural lecture on his predecessor and generally pursued Housman’s critical strictures to excellence. Similarly, it is worth recording that John Carter and John Sparrow were avid collectors of Housmania and later published inter alia an important bibliographical survey. Sensibly, not all recipients are here recorded, although the criteria for inclusion seem unclear. Certain omissions from this index strike me as strange—H. Broadbent, R. W. Chapman, A. Rubin, R. Y. Tyrrell—as do certain inclusions—A. Bennett, E. Clark, A. M. Davidson, D. L. Graham, G. Savory and J. E. L. Wrench.
B. attempted to publish all extant letters of Housman, provided that their current location could be traced. (A notable exception is the series of emendations on Lucr. V and VI sent, probably, to J. P. Postgate in early 1889, which though published by T. B. Haber ( CJ 51, 1956, 386-90) would have been of considerable use.) This aim proved unattainable, since new letters came to light at a late stage of the work (one such being in my own possession) and could not be included. The volumes, however, almost certainly contain well over 90% of Housman’s surviving correspondence. Since B. has so nearly attained completeness, it is no longer the case that a more complete edition will come and replace his, as his has quite eclipsed Maas’.
Yet this need not mean that those letters which remain unpublished should be consigned to oblivion or obscure publication. Indeed, perhaps OUP or the Housman Society Journal could set up an online database to which individuals or institutions that possess unpublished Housman letters could submit the text of the letter (according to B.’s editorial principles), along with any appropriate annotation? Such a resource would make available a number of the interesting letters that have not seen print. For instance, a most interesting letter survives from Housman to R. W. Chapman of November 15, 1929, concerning the initial proposals to found the Oxford Latin Dictionary. Having apparently been asked his opinion about such a project, Housman records that it would be ‘cruel and wicked’ to engage in such a task before the completion of the TLL (a work against which he was usually hostile). Concerning a possible downsized project, he states that ‘to remove the actual errors in Lewis & Short…would be practicable’, though he would settle even for the removal of its false quantities and the emendation of ‘relative’ to ‘interrogative’ in ‘the hundreds of places where it should be’. Since this letter predates the major meetings for instituting the OLD by well over a year, it would be an interesting question how much Housman’s postscript, suggesting the name of A. Souter (alongside that of W.B. Anderson), aided Souter’s becoming the OLD’s first editor in 1933. (I thank Chris Stray for bringing this letter to my attention; citations are copyrighted and appear by kind permission of the Secretary to the Delegates of Oxford University Press.)
Of course in a work of this scope slips are inevitable. It should not detract from the overall high quality of the work, therefore, for me to record some of my marginalia addressing either mistakes or omissions.
Volume I: xxx Finberg, i.e. Merchant Taylors’ School, Northwood; xxxv Hires, middle name S[treeter], d.1962; xlviii Semple, perhaps worth noting that he was Housman’s only official supervisee; liii Wilhelmina Wise, b. 1858; 6 n.13, ‘Niniveh’ was an acceptable 19th c. spelling; 10 n.8, read ‘1077’; 31 n.7, surely an allusion to ‘Auricomous Fluid’, a contemporary euphemism for hydrogen peroxide; 41, read ‘1878’ for ‘1978’ at top of page; 44, ‘Woodchester chamber of Horrors’ is an adaptation of the nickname applied, by Punch in 1846, to Mme Tussaud’s room of curiosa from the French Revolution; ibid. n.5, the phrase can be traced back to Langland’s ‘Vision of Piers Plowman’ (if not earlier), and in French to the 19th century (perhaps Housman drew upon C. Gore’s ‘Cecil, or Adventures of a Coxcomb’ (1841), p.158?); 47 n.3, ‘inly writhe’ is prob. an echo of A. H. Clough’s ‘In the depths’; 61, read ‘1887’ for ”87′ at top of page; 69 n.5, it seems odd to omit Campbell’s ‘Paralipomena Sophoclea’ (London, 1907); 113 n.3, ‘monarch’ should be in parentheses; 130, n.2 should be referenced after ‘well reviewed’, n.3 after ‘moderate’ and n.4 after ‘third edition’; 134 n.3, renumber as n.1; 160, question mark at end of first para. of letter to G. Richards of August 26, 1904?; 186 n.2, rather ‘Propertius, Tibullus and Ovid’ (Catullus figures often in the volume, as Mackail confesses in his preface); 197 (letter to J. D. Duff of June 26, 1906), read ‘ satago‘ for ‘ scitago‘ (Housman would have smiled at this exemplary misreading of minuscule); ibid. n.1, read ‘(1844, Eng. tr. 1849)’; 259 n.1 (on letter to E. Gosse) read rather ‘Alternative name for the river Cam’; 264 n.1 (on letter to A. Butler), the verses are presumably J. R. M. Butler’s Latin and Greek prize-winning verses, published in Prolusiones Academicae for 1908 (Greek Ode), 1909 (Greek Ode, Latin Hexameters) and 1910 (Greek Ode, Latin Hexameters, Porson Greek Iambics); 341 n.1 (on letter to J. P. Postgate), rather ‘(1861)’; 342 n.7, this oddly-phrased definition of synaphea presumably requires ‘by’ before ‘allowing’; 431 n.3, insert ‘after the hephthemimeral caesura’ after ‘ qui Troiae‘; 436-7, the letter to W. H. D. Rouse is now held at Christ’s College, Cambridge; 456 n.4, it seems odd not to mention Havet’s ‘Manuel de critique verbale…’ (Paris, 1911); 457 n.1 (on letter to D. S. Robertson), the Classical M.Phil. degree was some 75 years away; 483 n.3, ‘frivolities’ would be more appropriate than ‘puerilities’; 485, worth mentioning that the ‘unknown correspondent’ is apparently Norwegian?; 508 n.1, the former instance of ‘fifty’ is a bold rendering of ‘ multa…lustra‘; 538 n.3, ‘to avoid a final tribrach’ is perplexing; 543 n.1 (on letter to A. S. F. Gow), the bare ‘Porson’ would presumably mean either his ‘Letters to Travis’ or a collected posthumous volume of his four Euripidean editions; 553 n.1 (on letter to F. C. Owlett), without further context the Cambridge Union strikes me as the more likely subject; 560 (letter to A. S. F. Gow), is the omission of ‘ tertio‘ after ‘ octingentesimo‘ Housman’s or B.’s error?; 565 (letter to Messrs Grant Richards Ltd), it may be worth noting that the Latin translations were printed by ‘The Ram’ in his ‘Ros Rosarum’ (Cambridge University Press, 1925); 579 n.1 (on letter to J. G. Frazer), perhaps it should be explicitly recorded that Housman’s ‘My dear Optime Maxime’ is a pun on the ‘O[rder of] M[erit]’ he had just received?; 591 n.1 (on letter to M. Woods), rather ‘foster’ than ‘watch over’; 599 (letter to A. S. F. Gow), it is unclear whether the mistaken accentuation of ‘
Volume II: 90 l.3 (of letter to U. Knoche), read ‘Casanatensis’ for ‘Casomxsatensis’ (less amusing to Housman); 92 5 lines from end, read ‘intellegi’; ibid. 4 lines from end, read ‘capitalibus’; 107, some readers could want ‘R. L. S.’ explained as Robert Louis Stevenson; 117 n.1, i.e. the Cantabrigiensis; 145 penultimate line (of letter to K. Symons), delete ‘For ‘Prigeux’. For ‘Cvennes’For ‘Angouolme”; 150 n.2., the LSJ supplement no longer believes in
To conclude, B. deserves praise for having put on record, typically with clarity and accuracy, abundant further materials by which people can judge, with the power of independence, what reputation should be accorded to Housman. He was undoubtedly an accomplished letter-writer, possessing an effortless ability for epigrammatic turns of phrase and instances of apparent non sequitur, typically peppered with his peculiarly dry and mordant wit. B. himself notes that his ‘admiration and liking for [Housman] have increased’ (xxii) as a result of his editorial labour. I am left with the yet stronger conviction that Housman is one of the few great and authentic scholars of the previous century, at once an example of the Cambridge school of ‘pure verbal scholarship’ and ‘stiff grammatical precision’ as well as a master of truly critical commentary. B.’s work is thorough, typically accurate and a noteworthy benchmark for any similar ventures in future. At last Diggle and Goodyear’s edition of Housman’s Classical papers enjoys a deserving companion.
[For a response to this review by Archie Burnett, please see BMCR 2007.09.24.]