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img943 Alfred Edward Housman (1859-1936) was a distinguished classical scholar, professor of Latin, author and a much admired poet. The singularity of his poems, their distinctive imagery and his often melancholic description of a very British ordinary view of life made him such a favorite of the reading public that his masterwork, a collection of poems titled A Shropshire Lad never has gone out of print! It was published at his own expense in 1896.

His poetry owed much to Scottish ballads and even Shakespeare. The poetry evokes a longing for a very Utopian British way of life.The poetry resonated with the strong desires for change felt by discontented country youth, in the aftermath, of the Victorian Era. After the slaughter of the First World War when people started to ask if all their sacrifices had been in vain, his poetry was read again and again.

So influential his poetry was in the first two decades of the Twentieth Century that musicians put his words and views to music before and after the war. Housman never spoke about his poetry in public until 1933 well after most, if not all, of his poetry was published.

The slender volume More Poems with its 73 pages was published posthumously by his brother Laurence who also became a writer. This Book of the Month Club selection was originally published at two dollars a high price for 1936.

The book was designed by W. A. Dwiggins, the great American typographer and book designer and printed on a beautiful high quality paper. With the top edge gilt and the gold printing on the dust jacket that now appears as darkened brown, the restrained use of color and type, the book design fits most canons set by Dwiggins’ design rules.

The blue cloth binding has an elaborate design on the spine and the front board a gold stamped design in a late Art Deco-ish design.

img945Opposite the title page is a drawing of Housman by the British painter and etcher Francis Dodd (1874-1949) in 1926, now in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery. Dodd, who had studied at the Glasgow School of Art, also made a portrait of another literary great Virginia Woolf and is represented in the National Galleries Collection with 52 portraits of important figures in British life of the period.

Note how Dwiggins uses  cursive type in Housman after the capital letter H.

img948AWords of a man who knows himself and understand the ways of life very well.

img949No wonder that his poetry is still read by many including myself.img944