Autographed drafts of two poems by a writer classed as one of the foremost classicists of his age and one of the greatest scholars of all time is auctioning at Bloomsbury's Continental English Literature and Manuscripts sale in London on Thursday May 12.
Alfred Edward Housman (better known as AE Housman, 1859-1936) remains best known for his cycle of poems A Shropshire Lad, a tale of doomed youth in the North of England whose popularity spanned the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
These two drafted works are from the more obscure annals of Housman's litany of works. And the second poem has only recently come to light...
Both Army of Mercenaries and Oh Were He and I Together are written in pencil, and give fascinating insight into the poet's working processes. The first poem appears with its original title, 'Epitaph on a mercenary army', which has been partly deleted and revised.
Meanwhile, most of Oh Were He and I Together's 12 lines in three quatrains have been rubbed out and are no longer easily legible. Today, it offers delicate historical evidence of a work in progress.
Although this sheet was previously sold at Sotheby's in May 2004, the second poem was mysteriously omitted from its sale description. However, Bloomsbury mentions Oh Were He and I Together in its lot notes - and the revealing of this poem will likely attract bidders at the sale.
The poems are written over two pages on a sheet numbered "93" at its head, apparently torn from a notebook. Both Alfred's brother Lawrence and Tom Burns Haber, in the book The Manuscript Poems of AE Housman (1955, pp.24-26), refer to it as notebook "C".
According to Bloomsbury's condition report, the sheet has a repaired tear and is held in a modern cloth folder. It will appear in the London sale with a £4,000-£6,000 estimate.
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