AE Housman was notoriously reticent, but recently discovered letters reveal the intensity of a friendship begun as a young undergraduate at Oxford, which was to have a profound influence on his poetry and the rest of his life. By Tom Stoppard
Jan 17 1923
My dear Pollard,
Jackson died peacefully on Sunday night in hospital at Vancouver, where he had gone to be treated for anaemia, with which he had been ailing for some years. I had a letter from him on New Year’s Day, which he ended by saying “goodbye”. Now I can die myself: I could not have borne to leave him behind me in a world where anything might happen to him.
This late arrival to the meagre stock of personal revelation by the author of A Shropshire Lad is the last of five surviving letters written by Alfred Housman to his friend Alfred Pollard and kept in the Pollard family until now. They have been published with introduction and notes by Pollard’s great-grandson, the bibliographer and critic Professor Henry Woudhuysen of University College London (where Housman was professor of Latin between 1892 and 1911). Forty-three years divide the first letter from the last. Housman wrote twice within a few days in the Easter vac of 1880 to his fellow undergraduate of St John’s, Oxford. These two letters, addressed to “Alurede G” and to “Gulielme”, ie. to Alfred William in Latin, strut their stuff.