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This review is taken from PN Review 87, Volume 19 Number 1, September - October 1992.

SURMISE Keith Jebb, A.E. Housman (Seren Books, Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan) £11.95, £5.95 pb

This book is in a series 'Border Lines', which includes studies of, among others, Eric Gill, Mary Webb, and Francis Kilvert. The series editor, John Ward, suggests in his preface that writers or artists born and living at least part of their lives in the border country between England and Wales have special characteristics because of this background. The preface touches on the present book only in the last paragraph, where we are told that not much had appeared on AEH's work for many years until relatively recently. A glance at his own author's (incomplete) bibliography would have made him modify this statement.

Mr Jebb's book is divided into two main parts, 'The Man' and 'The Writer'. We can hardly expect original biographical research in such a work as this, but the source material is sometimes inaccurately reproduced. An opinion of the Headmaster of Bromsgrove School from AEH's fourth year onwards is attributed to Laurence Housman, when it is quite clear from Laurence's 'My brother A.E. Housman' that it was AEH's opinion given in answer to Laurence's question; and there are other errors of biographical detail.

The second chapter, 'Sexuality', begins very clumsily: 'a lot of our past (recent and not so recent) is going to need careful consideration before it risks being revised out of all recognition'. The establishing of the Victorian attitudes towards homosexuality is a necessary exercise, but done here at rather great length. And the final verdict on Housman's friendship with ...


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