Laurence Housman

Laurence Housman

Laurence Housman (IPA: [?ha?sm?n]; July 18, 1865 - February 20, 1959) was an English playwright.

The younger brother of the poet A. E. Housman, Laurence Housman was born in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. After education at local schools, he went with his sister Clemence to study art at the Lambert 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 Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market (1893) and Jane Barlow's The End of Elfintown (1894) in an intricate Art Nouveau style. But he also wrote and published several volumes of poetry in the 1890s, and when his eyesight began to fail, he turned more and more to writing. He lived his last 35 years with his sister in Street, Somerset.

Housman's first 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[1] (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. [2]

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.[3] 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.[4]

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.

[edit] Bibliography

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)
The Unexpected Years (Autobiography)
The Golden Sovereign (A Fictional work about the period of Queen Victoria - First published in 1937 by Jonathan Cape UK)
Stories from the Arabian nights (Retelling)[6]

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