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Laurence Housman papers

Identifier: BMC-M58

Scope and Contents

The Laurence Housman collection is divided into three sections: Correspondence, Manuscripts, and Family Materials. Laurence Housman materials can also be found in the A.E. Housman Collection.

Correspondence is organized into Incoming Correspondence, Outgoing Correspondence, and Third Party. Most of Housman's correspondents are friends, colleagues, and business associates. Of particular note are prominent literary figures including William Butler Yeats, Edith Wharton, and Oscar Wilde. These letters contain discussions of Housman's literary and political endeavors. The majority of Outgoing Correspondence consists of letters to affiliates of the Society of Authors and the League of British Dramatists, two major literary agencies. There is also a folder within this section with materials on censorship including a list of alterations required by the censors and a written script of corrections for the Lyric Theater productions. All third party correspondence is in reference to the work of Housman. Extensive correspondence between Housman and his brother, A. E. Housman, can be found in the A. E. Housman Papers.

Manuscripts contains seven boxes of Housman's written work. These include corrected copies and prompter scripts for Victoria Regina and Little Plays of St. Francis, drafts and used scripts of other plays, manuscripts of Housman's Fiction and Poetry, and transcripts of Lectures delivered by Housman on a variety of topics, including censorship, pacifism, the women's movement, religion, and various literary themes. Other Materials includes some autobiographical accounts, manuscripts by other writers (including Clemence and George Housman), notes on his family, photographs of his plays, several dozen drawings and sketches for sets, and a manuscript for Housman's unpublished book on ethics, What I Believe.

Family Materials includes a set of letters from various family members, as well as a large body of material concerning Housman's handling of A.E. Housman's literary estate after his death in 1936.


  • Creation: 1766 - 1959
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1911 - 1956


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Laurence Housman papers is the physical property of the Bryn Mawr College Library. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors and their legal heirs and assigns.

Biographical / Historical

Laurence Housman was one of the most versatile and prominent literary figures of the 20th century. Born in 1865 in Bromsgrove, England, Housman was one of seven children. Both his elder brother, Alfred Edward, and his sister, Clemence, would also go on to literary careers. After moving to London in 1883 to study art, the young Housman began work as an illustrator and designer of books. Though he received important commissions in that field, Housman quickly achieved success as a writer of fiction and verse as well, most notably with his anonymously published novel, An Englishwoman in Love (1900).

Housman served as art critic for the Manchester Guardian from 1895 until 1907. It was also in this period that he began to write for the stage. His first play, Bethlehem, was banned from public performance until 1923. This ban was the first of many censorship conflicts throughout Housman's theatrical career. Housman wrote prolifically, producing many notable works including Prunella; or Love in a Dutch Garden (1906), Victoria Regina (1935), and Little Plays of St. Francis (1922).

Housman focused much of his literary work on the political and social causes of which he was an ardent supporter throughout his life. He was an avid public speaker and worked for many political organizations, including the Men's League for Women's Suffrage, which he founded. Housman's interests included prison reform, Indian independence, and nonviolence. He was accompanied in his activism by his sister, Clemence, with whom he lived until her death in 1955. Housman died in February 1959 in Somerset.

For further information on Housman see:

Cocklin, Katharine. "Housman, Laurence (1895-1959)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2004.

Engen, Rodney K. Laurence Housman. Stroud: Catalpa Press, Ltd., 1983.

Housman, Laurence. The Unexpected Years. Indianapolis, New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1936.


8 linear ft. (13 Boxes)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

The majority of the items in this collection are the gift of Seymour Adelman. Other donors are the Bryn Mawr College Bookstore of New York City, Frederick and Louise Maser, and the Friends of the Library. Supplementary material purchased by the Library through the Seymour Adelman Fund.

Laurence Housman papers
Under Revision
Alice Goff, Claire Liachowitz, Charles Reed, Amanda Young, Melissa Torquato
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

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