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Collection Number: 11032

Collection Title: Laurence Housman Papers, 1925-1957

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the FAQ section for more information.


This collection was processed with support from the Randleigh Foundation Trust.

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Size 0.5 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 175 items)
Abstract Correspondence and a few miscellaneous items of Laurence Housman (1865-1959), author, playwright, and brother of poet A. E. Housman. Almost all items are letters from Laurence Housman to Olive Hooper Leith, an actress, concerning productions of his plays, political opinions, Housman's involvement in the English peace movement in the 1930s and 1940s, and personal matters.
Creator Housman, Laurence, 1865-1959.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the Laurence Housman Papers #11032-z, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Purchased from the Rendells Inc. of Newton, Mass., in April 1982.
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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Laurence Housman, born in Bromsgrove, England, in 1865, was an older brother of the poet A. E. Housman. He grew up and attended school in the Bromsgrove area before moving in with his sister, Clemence, in Kensington, London, in 1885. They both attended art school to become illustrators. Housman's first job was writing reviews for the Manchester Guardian. In the early 1900s, he was involved in the women's suffrage movement and later became a pacifist. After World War I, Housman moved to Street, Somersetshire, with his sister and lived there the rest of his life. He died on 20 February 1959.

Housman was best known as a playwright and satirical novelist. His major works include An Englishwoman's Loveletters (1899), Bethlehem (c. 1901), The Chinese Lantern (1908), Little Plays of St. Francis (1926), Victoria Regina (1935), The Unexpected Years (1936), His Royal Highness, The Duke of Flamborough (1938), Backwords and Forwords (1945), and The Kind and the Foolish (1952).

[For additional information, see "Laurence Housman" in Obituaries from the Times, 1951-1960 (1979), pp. 358-359.]

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With two exceptions, these letters and postcards are from Laurence Housman to Olive Hooper, who married Colin Leith in 1940. In the 1920s, Olive played the part of Sister Claire in Housman's Little Plays of St. Francis. She and Housman became friends in those years and began a correspondence that continued until Housman's last years.

Letters from the 1920s and early 1930s relate chiefly to casting, touring, and other aspects of production of Housman's plays. About 1934, the letters became more personal, with Housman discussing his life outside the theater and his literary and other opinions. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Housman's involvement in the peace movement in England is a major theme.

After her marriage in 1940, Olive moved to Australia. There are fewer letters in the war years during which Housman's pacifism remained a major topic. Housman's literary opinions and the production of his works, theatrical and non-theatrical, continued to be discussed in the 1940s and 1950s. In 1951, Housman's joining of the Society of Friends is a concern in his letters.

Housman lived with his sister Clemence throughout the period covered by these letters. As she grew increasingly feeble and eventually died, and as he himself experienced a failing memory and other infirmities, the inevitability of death became a common focus in the letters. Housman nevertheless continued to discuss his activities on several fronts through the last years of this correspondence.

The two letters not from Housman are from Littleton C. Powys to Olive, dated 28 July 1955, and from Clemence Housman to Olive, c. 1949.

Other material includes playbills, articles by and about Housman, reviews of his works, a radio script by Housman about Macbeth, a poem called "A Dedicat" in Housman's hand and apparently composed by him, enclosures from letters that have been annotated, and other items.

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Contents list

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Laurence Housman Papers, 1925-1957.

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Processing Information

Processed by: Suzanne Ruffing, May 1996

Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008

This collection was processed with support from the Randleigh Foundation Trust.

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