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Laurence Housman (1915)

Laurence Housman (pronounced /ˈhaʊsmən/; 18 July 1865 - 20 February 1959)[1] was an English playwright, writer and illustrator.


Early life

A younger brother of the poet A. E. Housman, Laurence Housman was born in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. After education at Bromsgrove School, he went with his sister Clemence to study art at the Lambeth School of Art and the Royal College of Art in London.


He first worked as a book illustrator with London publishers, illustrating such works as George Meredith's Jump to Glory Jane (1892), Jonas Lie's Weird Tales (1892), Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market (1893), Jane Barlow's The End of Elfintown (1894) and his sister's Werewolf (1896)[2] in an intricate Art Nouveau style. During this period, he also wrote and published several volumes of poetry and a number of hymns and carols.[3]


When his eyesight began to fail, he turned more and more to writing. Housman's first literary success came with the novel An Englishwoman's Love-letters (1900), published anonymously. He then turned to drama with Bethlehem (1902) and was to become best known and remembered as a playwright. His other dramatic works include Angels and Ministers[4] (1921), Little Plays of St. Francis (1922) and Victoria Regina (1934) which was even staged on Broadway.

Some of Housman's plays caused scandals because of depiction of biblical characters and living members of the Royal House on stage, and many of them were only played privately until the subsequent relaxation of theatrical censorship. In 1937 the Lord Chamberlain ruled that no British sovereign may be portrayed on the stage until 100 years after his or her accession. For this reason, Victoria Regina could not be staged until the centenary of Queen Victoria's accession, 20 June 1937. This was a Sunday, so the premiere took place the next day. [5]

A prolific writer with around a hundred published works to his name, his output eventually covered all kinds of literature from socialist and pacifist pamphlets to children's stories. He wrote an autobiography, The Unexpected Years (1937), which, despite his record of controversial writing, said little about his homosexuality.[6] He also edited his brother's posthumous poems.


Housman held what for the time were controversial political views. He was a committed socialist and pacifist and founded the Men's League for Women's Suffrage with Henry Nevinson and Henry Brailsford in 1907. He was also a member of the British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology and the Order of Chaeronea.[7]

In 1909, Laurence, with his sister Clemence founded the Suffrage Atelier, an arts and crafts society who worked closely with the Women's Social and Political Union and Women's Freedom League. They encouraged non-professional artists to submit work, and paid them a small percentage of the profits.[8]

In 1945 he opened Housmans Bookshop in Shaftesbury Avenue, London, founded in his honour by the Peace Pledge Union, of which he was a sponsor. In 1959, shortly after his death, the shop moved to 5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX, where it is still a prime source of literature on pacifism and other radical approaches to living.[9]

Later life

Housman lived his last 35 years with his sister in Street, Somerset.


Except as noted, this bibliographic detail is taken from The Golden Sovereign published by Jonathan Cape in 1937 in the UK.

  • Victoria Regina (Play)
  • Little Plays of St.Francis
  • Prunella (Play with H. Granville Barker)
  • Angels and Ministers (Play)
  • Echo De Paris (Play)
  • The Chinese Lantern (Play)
  • Ye fearful Saints (Play)
  • Cornered Poets (Play)
  • Palace Scenes (Play)
  • Pains and Penalties (Play)
  • Trimblerigg (Satire)
  • Life of HRH The Duke of Flamborough (Satire)
  • The New Child's Guide to Knowledge (Verse)
  • Moonshine and Clover (Fairy Story)
  • A Doorway in Fairyland (Fairy Story)
  • Turn Again Tales (Fairy Stories)
  • What O'Clock Tales (Fairy Stories)
  • Gods and Their Makers (Novel and Story)
  • All-fellows and the Cloak of Friendship (Novel and Story)
  • The Sheepfold (Novel and Story)
  • King John of Jungalo (Fiction)
  • The Love Concealed (Poem)
  • Green Arras (Poetry)
  • The Unexpected Years (Autobiography)
  • The Golden Sovereign (Fiction)[10]
  • Stories from the Arabian nights (Retelling)[11]
  • A Thing to be Explained (Fairy Story)[12]


  1. ^ 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica gives his birthdate as June 18, 1867.
  2. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Housman, Laurence". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911.  
  3. ^ Examples are the hymns The Holy Innocents and Father eternal, ruler of creation. "Hymns and Carols by Laurence Housman". Retrieved 2008-12-28.  
  4. ^ Angels & Ministers at Project Gutenberg
  5. ^ All the Best People ...: The Pick of Peterborough 1929-1945, George Allen & Unwin, 1981; p. 139
  6. ^ "Laurence Housman". Knitting Circle. Retrieved 2007-08-06.  
  7. ^ Cockin, Katharine (2004). Housman, Laurence (1865–1959). Oxford University Press.  
  8. ^
  9. ^ Tom Willis and Emily Johns, "The man who made it all possible" Peace News #2516
  10. ^ A fictional work about the period of Queen Victoria. First published in 1937 by Jonathan Cape UK.
  11. ^ Missing from the listing in The Golden Sovereign. See The Internet Archive for more information.
  12. ^ Missing from the bibliography in The Golden Sovereign. The British Library shows the publication date as 1926.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

LAURENCE HOUSMAN (1867-), English writer and artist, was born on the 18th of June 1867. Having studied at South Kensington, he first made a reputation as a bookillustrator. Some of his best pictorial work may be seen in the editions of Meredith's Jump to Glory Jane (1892), the Weird Tales of Jonas Lie (1892), Jane Barlow's Land of Elfintoun (1894), Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market (1893), Werewolf (1896), by his sister, Miss Clemence Housman, Shelley's Sensitive Plant (1898), and his own Farm in Fairyland (1894). His designs were engraved on wood by Miss Housman. His volumes of verse include Green Arras (1896), Rue (1899), Spikenard (1898) and Mendicant Rhymes (1906); and the mysticism which characterizes the devotional poems in Spikenard recurs in his half-allegorical tales, All Fellows (1896), The Blue Moon (1904) and The Cloak of Friendship (1906). His nativity play, Bethlehem, was presented in the Great Hall of London University at South Kensington for a week in December 1902. In 1900 he published anonymously An Englishwoman's Love Letters, which created a temporary sensation; and he followed this essay in popular fiction by the novels A Modern Antaeus (1901) and Sabrina Warham (1904). On the 23rd of December 1904 his fantastic play Prunella, written in collaboration with Mr Granville Barker, was produced at the Court Theatre.

His brother, Alfred Edward Housman (b. 1859), an accomplished scholar, professor of Latin at University College, London, is known as a poet by his striking lyrical series, A Shropshire Lad (1896).

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