Housman - houseman

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Students of (and quoters from) English literature should be aware of a possible spelling confusion.

  • The proper noun Housman (with no terminal '-e') is a surname. It is a variant spelling of the slightly less common Houseman. Famous Housmans include three literary siblings:
    • A. E. (Alfred Edward) Housman (1859-1936), the author of two highly regarded collections of poems, A Shropshire Lad (1896, and never out of print since) and Last Poems (1922), was also the most celebrated textual critic of his generation: Kennedy Professor of Latin, and Fellow of Trinity College, in the University of Cambridge, he is known as a meticulous scholar of Latin texts, particularly those of Propertius and Manilius; he also published editions of Ovid and Juvenal. After his death, a posthumous collection. More Poems, was issued by
    • Laurence Housman (1865-1959), also a writer, after first practising as an illustrator and painter: his novels, such as An Englishwoman's Love Letters and plays like The Little Plays of St Francis and Victoria Regina were popular (and profitable) successes. Laurence Housman was an active supporter of women's suffrage, the League of Nations and the British Labour Party.
    • Their sister Clemence Housman (1861–1955), who had studied wood-engraving and illustration with Laurence at schools in London and who shared a home with him for almost the whole of their adult lives, wrote two allegorical Christian novels, The Were-Wolf and The Unknown Sea, and The Life of Sir Aglovale de Galis (1905), a story based on an incident in Malory's Morte d'Arthur. ("Laurence Housman, not one to underestimate his own talent, always considered Clemence the finer literary artist" - ODNB.) Like Laurence, Clemence was a suffragette and a pacifist. She was imprisoned (for not paying tax) in 1911.
  • The cognate and homophonous German surname Haussman was famously borne by the Frenchman Baron Haussman (Georges-Eugène Haussmann) (1809–1891) who designed the layout of modern Paris, planning and executing new roads, sewers, water supplies, gas lighting, railway stations and so on.
  • The common noun a houseman' (with an etymological '-e-') has had various meanings. It has been
    • a 'householder', a man who owns or leases a house;
    • a 'house-carl', or a member of the household troops of a king or noble before the Norman Conquest;
    • later, a male servant in a house; a 'handyman' (this is more common in the USA);
    • a student or graduate of Christ Church College in Oxford University, known in University slang as 'The House';
    • a medical doctor or surgeon ending training by being on duty in a hospital, 'learning on the job' while under the eyes of senior doctors such as consultants.