British poet and classical scholar.
The eldest son of a Worcestershire solicitor, Housman was educated at Bromsgrove School. Despite the death of their mother (1870), the family was in general a close and happy one. Housman showed an early talent for nonsense verse for family entertainments. He won a scholarship to St John's College, Oxford (1877), but failed his final examination there, partly perhaps through intellectual arrogance but also on account of emotional turmoil over his love for a fellow-student, Moses Jackson.
In 1882 Housman took a post in the Patent Office, studying Greek and Latin in his spare time to redeem his Oxford failure. His classical publications in the 1880s so impressed the academic world that in 1892 he was appointed professor of Latin at University College, London. In 1896 his collection of poems, A Shropshire Lad, was published; it gradually became one of the best-loved volumes of English poetry. In 1903 the first volume of Housman's classical magnum opus, his edition of Manilius' Astronomica, appeared (the last came out in 1930), and in 1905 his edition of Juvenal was published.
In 1911 Housman became professor of Latin at Cambridge, where he remained until his death. In addition to his work on Manilius, he published an edition of Lucan (1926), and his lectures on The Application of Thought to Textual Criticism (1921) and The Name and Nature of Poetry (1933) attracted considerable attention. Last Poems (1922) was the only other volume of poetry to appear in his lifetime. A few weeks before his death Housman refused the office of poet laureate, as he had earlier refused the Order of Merit (1929). More Poems (1936) and Collected Poems (1939) contain new material published at the discretion of Housman's brother, the writer Laurence Housman (1865–1959). Some of these poems deal more explicitly with the poet's homosexuality than those Housman cared to publish during his lifetime.