The book became ubiquitous but it also travelled incognito, slipping neatly into heterosexual breast pockets or, at a later date, tunic pockets. In a 1910 lecture on Swinburne, Housman recollected being told by Hardy that when he was a young man in London ‘there was a whole army of young men like himself, not mutually acquainted, who nevertheless, as they met in the streets, could recognise one another as spiritual brethren by a certain outward sign. This sign was an oblong projection at the breast-pocket of the coat.’ He is referring to the 1866 edition of Swinburne’s Poems and Ballads, worn just over the heart by what Housman, in his obscurely provoking way, calls ‘the sons of fire’. But the passage also describes a dress rehearsal for A Shropshire Lad, and its double lives in the world.
Saturday, November 12, 2016
… Paul Keegan reviews ‘Housman Country’ by Peter Parker — LRB 17 November 2016. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)