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5.0 out of 5 stars A E Housman - A Review by Barry Van-Asten
This collection of poems and prose by A E Housman (1859-1936) is both illuminating and surprising. Housman writes with extraordinary clarity on the subjects of poetry and textual criticism and Christopher Ricks has presented us with a rather fine selection! Recommended!
Published 11 months ago by Mr. B. P. Van-asten

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A great writer badly edited
To have Christopher Ricks edit a selection from the works of A.E. Housman must have seemed like a good idea to somebody. This book is not what it says it is: it's called a Collected Poems, but the contents page reveals that Housman's Light Verse and Parodies are only "A Selection". The selection of Housman's prose seems generous, but is in no way comprehensive when you...
Published on 31 July 2009 by lexo1941


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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A great writer badly edited, 31 July 2009
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lexo1941 (Edinburgh, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Collected Poems and Selected Prose (Twentieth Century Classics) (Paperback)
To have Christopher Ricks edit a selection from the works of A.E. Housman must have seemed like a good idea to somebody. This book is not what it says it is: it's called a Collected Poems, but the contents page reveals that Housman's Light Verse and Parodies are only "A Selection". The selection of Housman's prose seems generous, but is in no way comprehensive when you consider that anyone who really wants to come to grips with Housman's scholarship needs to invest more than a hundred quid in the three volumes of his "Classical Papers" - out of the more than a thousand pages of Housman the scholar, Ricks has chosen less than 100. The trouble is that Ricks himself appears to have only one language.

You would think, in a selection from the work of a renowned classical scholar, that the author might be likely to quote now and again from Greek and Latin, and probably not bother to translate his allusions, on the assumption that his readers wouldn't need him to. This is indeed the case with Housman, but Ricks does not bother to translate Housman's Greek and Latin quotes in the endnotes; in fact, even when Housman quotes a scholar writing in French, Ricks leaves it untranslated!

In the meantime, he copiously annotates Housman's every allusion to English poetry. Since I'm trying in my spare time to teach myself classical Greek I happen to own Liddell & Scott's abridged Greek-English Lexicon, but most people have not this luxury. Housman's Latin tags defeat me entirely, since I have never learned Latin and don't own a Latin-English dictionary. If Ricks himself doesn't have Latin, Greek or French, couldn't he at least have asked someone who does to translate this stuff for him? And if he does have them, why didn't he bother to provide annotations for people who don't?

In the meantime Ricks's introduction is less than helpful, having every appearance of being a draft of an essay that attempts to link Housman to the fictional tradition of perverted scholarship (Sterne, Carlyle, Nabokov etc.), as opposed to an introduction to Housman for somebody who has never read him. Since Housman never wrote a novel that pretended to be an edition of a fictitious writer, this theme - which makes up more than half the introduction - is less than relevant and is chiefly of interest only to Ricks.

Christopher Ricks has edited Tennyson's complete poems. Only now do I began to fathom why his edition of Tennyson appears to be no longer in print. He has written some sparkling interpretive criticism, as his book on Beckett has shown; but when it comes to the harder (because more stringent) work of writing a helpful introduction, choosing good texts and annotating intelligently, this book suggest that he is useless.

This could have had five stars, because Housman deserves five. I knocked off two because I assume that Housman is spinning in his grave at how badly he has been edited.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A E Housman - A Review by Barry Van-Asten, 3 Mar. 2014
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Mr. B. P. Van-asten (London, England.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Collected Poems and Selected Prose (Twentieth Century Classics) (Paperback)
This collection of poems and prose by A E Housman (1859-1936) is both illuminating and surprising. Housman writes with extraordinary clarity on the subjects of poetry and textual criticism and Christopher Ricks has presented us with a rather fine selection! Recommended!
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