In compiling this memoir of my brother A. E. Housman, Mr. Grant Richards has made accuracy his foremost aim. Every fact not drawn from his personal knowledge or direct from letters has been carefully verified, and as a biographical revelation of the remarkable scholar and poet who was associated with him in business or friendship for nearly forty years his book covers new ground.
The memoir is valuable as providing not a complete biography of A. E. Housman but a nearly complete biography of his poems; indeed, it was largely due to Mr. Richards that the first book of poems became alive in the publishing world. Undoubtedly more speculation has been current concerning the psychological origin of the poems than about anything else that concerns the poet and scholar. Psychological causes are deep-seated and private; in the case of A. E. Housman they can only be judged by the fullest possible knowledge of his private life in the years when his character and conduct were in formation. Except by hearsay, that knowledge does not belong to Mr. Richards, whose association with my brother began after his first characteristic book of poems A Shropshire Lad had been published in the fourth decade of his life. No one outside the three surviving companions of A. E. Housman's boyhood can disclose events which in early life shaped his future. As one of the three I am glad of this opportunity to preface Mr. Richards's recollections and observations by a simple narrative of my brother's early troubles which have given ground for much unnecessary and mistaken conjecture.
In self-reminiscence A.E.H. has mentioned 'the great and real troubles' of his early manhood; and of his verse . . .