A Shropshire Lad

Last year’s Folio Society edition of ‘A Shropshire Lad’ by A. E. Housman contains Agnes Miller Parker’s 1940 wood engravings to this timeless set of poems. Much as I admire this superb artist’s work, I already possessed the Society’s 1986 edition illustrated in a more modern vein, so, I was not tempted to buy it. Well, not greatly. It is the latter version I finished reading today.

Here is the book jacket to another of my treasures, illustrated by the great engraver:

Agnes Miller Parker book jacket

This is how The Folio Society publicise their latest edition:

“Beloved by both scholars and general readers, A Shropshire Lad was self-published in 1896 and has been continuously in print ever since. Housman, who was also the greatest classical scholar of his age, wrote the cycle of 63 poems after the death of his friend Adalbert Jackson. Among his themes are the transience of youth, the sorrow of death, the loss of friendship and the beauty of the English countryside. The poems’ depiction of young, brave soldiers made them widely popular during and after the Boer War and the First World War. They also captured the imagination of many composers, with George Butterworth, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Samuel Barber among those to set them to music.

Housman evokes a semi-imaginary pastoral landscape, his tone often rueful and elegiac as he evokes the ‘golden’ years of youth and the realm of classical myth. But it is perhaps for the directness and poignancy of his language that the poems have endured. On the vagaries of feeling and the fragility of human kinship, he is at once emotional and unsentimental, lyrical and frank.”

I enjoyed the poems and would concur with the above blurb.

Patrick Procktor’s illustrations suitably complement the text.

A Shropshire Lad

Here is the frontispiece;

A Shropshire Lad endpaper

and here the design for the endpapers.

For many years now, Folio Society publications have come in stiff cardboard slipcases. These are mostly unembellished. This one, however, has this portrait on the back:

A Shropshire Lad slipcase

Does it represent Adalbert Jackson?

This evening we dined on Jackie’s perfect pork paprika, savoury rice, and green beans, followed by lemon and lime merengue tart. The Cook drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the malbec.

12342653_490921431079669_5710528345196685012_nP.S. I am indebted to Judith Munns for the information and Barrie Haynes for the photograph of this statue of Housman that stands in Bromsgrove, where Judith once lived:

49 responses to “A Shropshire Lad”

  1. I own many books with illustrations; there was a time when it was common practice to interrupt a narrative with pictures but I confess they are a nuisance to me and caused more page turning than necessary. No doubt some of the illustrations are masterpieces but I wouldn’t know. I never look at them.

  2. These are beautiful illustrations. I do like that last portrait. I never had any patience for these poems–all that nostalgic looking backward and elegiac outlook. (For someone educated as a historian, this may seem odd, but it’s the glorification of the past that sets me off, the implication the present or the future can never be as good.) In any event, the description made me think these poems were due a visit from me as an older adult–‘the vagaries of feeling and the frailties of human kinship’–we can all use someone else’s clear-eyed input on that once in a while. Thanks for showing!

  3. What a fine post. The Folio Society is an excellent publishing firm. I have often been a customer and cherish every book I purchased. Thank you for sharing very useful information. 🙂

  4. Dear Derrick – Interesting to see your post about A Shropshire Lad and the Folio Society edition with illustrations by Patrick Procktor. The full sheet of original illustrations will be included in a major show of Procktor’s work, opening at Arts University Bournemouth on 14 January. The Folio Society have kindly loaned the sheet for the show. Best wishes, Ian Massey

  5. Loved this post! I was especially taken with “On the vagaries of feeling and the fragility of human kinship, he is at once emotional and unsentimental, lyrical and frank.” The hallmark of all good writers, don’t you think?

  6. The 1986 Folio Society edition of ‘A Shropshire Lad’ is one of my favourite books. Not only do I like the nostalgic quality of the poems but I like to think back to the times when I could afford to be in the Folio Society!

    As for the KIndle,you don’t get the reading experience you get from a Folio Society edition, but in my case I can store over 250 books on something the size of one slim volume. I’m currently clearing out, including several hundred books – from the space point of view Kindle is definitely the way to go!

  7. Nicely researched and fascinating story, Derrick. Houseman with pastoral imagery and prose of youth sounds like a great read. The statue is very beautiful. Smiles, Robin

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