Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Review: Letters of A.E. Housman

Frank Kermode in the London Review of Books reviews Archie Burnett's expensive new edition of Housman's letters. It's worth reading for many reason, including entertaining bits like this:

He declined all academic and national honours because to accept them would be to admit comparability with other classical scholars who had received them, admiring the attitude of the 17th-century Greek scholar Thomas Gataker who refused a Cambridge doctorate because ‘like Cato the censor he would rather have people ask why he had no statue than why he had one.’ When he came across some self-critical words of T.E. Lawrence in Seven Pillars of Wisdom – ‘there was a craving to be famous; and a horror of being known to like being known’ – he wrote in the margin: ‘This is me.’ So in the course of his life he turned down everything from the OM to the poet laureateship, not to speak of many honorary doctorates. And he refused all invitations to give lectures except for the ones that he conceived to be part of his job.
That's my guy. I'll leave it to you to find the bit about Wittgenstein and the bathroom.

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