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#0088: Transcription of Letter from Willa Cather to Viola Roseboro', June 14 [1903]

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Cather My dear Miss Roseboro1:-

Do I know a Shropshire Lad4? Do I? Isn't the internal evidence of my own verses all against me? Why I've been Housman5's bond slave, mentally, since his volume first appeared some six years ago. As soon as I got to England6 I went straight to Shropshire7, to all the places - Shrewesbury8, Ludlow9, Kneighton10, and the rivers11 "Ouy and Teme and Clun"12. I even went to Shrewesbury jail - it stands just above the railway switch yards and that is why "Trains all night groan on the rail to men that die at morn"13. I saw the "Vanes of Shrewesbury gleam islanded in Severn stream"14 and "football playing along the river shore15, and heard the Ludlow bells play "The Conquering Hero Comes"16 of a Monday17. In short I found everything there except Housman. Of him not a legend, not a button or feather or mark. Nobody had ever heard of him or seen his book. There was a copy in the Shrewesbury public library, but the leaves were uncut. In London18 I battered upon the doors of his publishers19 until they gave me his address. He lives in an awful suburb20 in quite the most horrible boarding-house I ever explored. He is the most gaunt and grey and embittered individual I know. He is an instructor in Latin inscriptions21 in the University of London, but I believe the position pays next to nothing. The poor man's shoes and cuffs and the state of the carpet in his little hole of a study gave me a fit of dark depression. I would like to tell you all about it sometime: I think he is making about the only English verse that will last, the only verse of this decade I mean. It is as remarkable technically as it is unique in the truth of its sentiment. That sounds rather flat, but you will know what I mean. And how intensely it does appeal, where it appeals at all. It's not every one who can care for it. I only know a dozen or so who see anything extraordinary in it.

He does it all so beautifully from the country boy's standpoint that the castle is just "Ludlow Tower22" to him, as it -2-is to the lads who walk there with their girls on Sunday afternoons. The way that man has kept all his Classical philology out of his verse, the way he has kept the meadow-level: I was there in haying season and I used to look for poor Maurice behind the hay-cocks.23 By the way did you know that the poor man's name is Albert Edward24, after H. R. H25? I've gone on at great length about him, but I've tracked the man the length and breadth of England and done much shameless detective work on him, that I'm glad to be able to tell a few of my discoveries to some one who agrees with me about his verse. If you ever want more information just give me an opportunity and I will play on and on like a music box.

Faithfully yours, Willa S. Cather. About
Housman