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Tacit Pledges

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Abstract

This is perhaps the wrong kind of essay for a centennial symposium. If it honours the work of Housman — and I hope that it does — it does so obliquely and in accordance with the terms of my epigraph which I take, not from Housman, but from F. H. Bradley.1 My main concern here is with matters of style: with particulars of syntax, rhythm and cadence, and with the problems of pitch. Considered in its negative aspect, a writer’s style is what he or she is left with after the various contingent forces of attrition have taken their toll. Considered more positively, style marks the success an author may have in forging a personal utterance between the hammer of self-being and the anvil of those impersonal forces that a given time possesses. Hammer and anvil together distort as well as shape. None of this, I agree, bears much resemblance to Housman’s own description of making, as given in the 1933 Leslie Stephen Lecture, The Name and Nature of Poetry. It does bear some resemblance, however, to isolated observations found variously in Housman’s correspondence and scholarly and critical writings: ‘What Balfour did in his premiership was to prevent Chamberlain from quite ruining the party.

Keywords

  • Ethical Study
  • Textual Criticism
  • Classical Scholar
  • English Poetry
  • Limited Aperture

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

It is no mere extravagance when a poet talks of a nation’s soul. It is the objective mind which is subjective and self-conscious in its citizens: it feels and knows itself in the heart of each.

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Notes

  1. F. H. Bradley, Ethical Studies (1876), 2nd edn, (Oxford: Clarendon, 1927) p. 184.

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  2. A. E. Housman, Collected Poems and Selected Prose ed. C. Ricks (London: Allen Lane, The Penguin Press, 1988) p. 268: ‘Introductory Lecture delivered before the Faculties of Arts and Laws and of Science in University College, London, October 3, 1892.’

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  3. J. Pugh, Bromsgrove and the Housmans (Bromsgrove: The Housman Society, 1974) lxvii-lxxiii: Appendix E, George Herbert Housman.

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  4. R. Shaw, Housman’s Places (Bromsgrove: The Housman Society, 1995) p. 115.

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  5. R. P. Graves, A. E. Housman: the Scholar Poet (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1980) p. 113

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  6. D. Kerr, Wilfred Owen’s Voices: Language and Community (Oxford: Clarendon, 1993) p. 182, referring to Owen’s ‘recent contact with the “secret men” of the embattled homosexual community in London’.

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  7. A. E. Housman, Selected Prose, ed. J. Carter (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962) p. 42.

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  8. Emile Durkheim, Le suicide: étude du sociologie (Paris: F. Alcan, 1897).

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  9. P. Withers, A Buried Life: Personal Recollections of A. E. Housman (London: Jonathan Cape, 1940) p. 102.

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  10. L. Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, trans. C. K. Ogden (1922), first paperback edn (London: Routledge, 1981) pp. 152–3.

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  11. F. H. Bradley, Aphorisms (Oxford: Clarendon, 1930) no. 98.

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  12. Quoted as epigraph, H. Lloyd-Jones, Blood for the Ghosts: Classical Influences in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (London: Duckworth, 1982). This contains two useful essays on Housman as classical scholar. Either Wilamowitz or his translator had in mind Arnold’s sonnet to Shakespeare.

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  13. Wilfred Owen, Collected Letters eds. H. Owen and J. Bell (London: Oxford University Press, 1967) pp. 581–2. Owen ed. cit., p. 122, ‘Insensibility’, 11. 7–8; p. 155, ’A Terre’, pp. 10, 192, ’Preface’; cf. pp. 101–2, ’Apologia Pro Poemate Meo’.

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  14. F. H. Bradley, Essays on Truth and Reality (Oxford: Clarendon, 1914) p. 468 n. 1.

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  15. T. S. Eliot, Knowledge and Experience in the Philosophy of F. H. Bradley (London: Faber, 1964) p. 141.

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  16. R. Shaw, Housman’s Places (Bromsgrove: The Housman Society, 1995) back cover.

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© 2000 Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited

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Hill, G. (2000). Tacit Pledges. In: Holden, A.W., Birch, J.R. (eds) A. E. Housman. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-62279-5_4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-62279-5_4

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