AE Housman handwritten poem could make $24,000 at Bonhams

A handwritten draft of AE Housman's Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries poem will be offered by Bonhams in its First World War Centenary Sale in London on October 1.

AE Housman Epitaph Mercenaries
Most of Housman's drafts were destroyed after his death, making this a rare and beloved piece

The poem was written in response to the German view that Britain - whose army was a professional force at the time - entered the war for money. Commemorating those who died at the Battle of Ypres in 1914, it will sell with a £15,000 ($24,196) estimate.

The draft shows Housman's deletions and revisions written in pencil, and is extremely rare due to Housman instructing his brother to destroy such documents following his death. The final poem was published in the Times newspaper in 1917.

On the back of the manuscript is a second poem Oh were he and I together, which is believed to be either a reference to Housman's brother Herbert who died during the Boer war, or a declaration of his unrequited love for his Oxford University friend Moses Jackson.

Housman's brother was given special permission to keep any texts that he thought were of value, highlighting the significance of the poem. Housman's Shropshire Lad poems were his most successful, a favourite among troops in the trenches of the first world war.

We have some superb literary collectibles for sale, including signed items from top authors - take a look today.

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