File 551 - Letters from A. E. Housman to G. C. A. Jackson

Identity area

Reference code

Add. MS a/551


Letters from A. E. Housman to G. C. A. Jackson


  • 1926–36 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

59 items

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Name of creator

Archival history

A. E. Housman, a Fellow of Trinity from 1910, was a renowned classical scholar and poet, best-known for his cycle of poems A Shropshire Lad, published in 1896. Gerald Christopher Arden Jackson (1900–1978), Housman’s godson, was the youngest son of his friend Moses Jackson, who died in 1923. Gerald Jackson initially trained and worked as a geologist, but turned to medicine in 1932 and after the Second World War became a doctor in Southern Rhodesia.

At the time of Gerald Jackson’s death in 1978 his family papers, including Housman’s letters to his father Moses and himself, were in a trunk in his house in Salisbury, Rhodesia, and they remained there till the mid-1990s, when his widow transferred most of them to the home of their son Martin in Austin, Texas. Gerald had left instructions that his sons might do what they wanted with the papers, and on 17 June 2010 some of the items relating to Housman were sold by auction at Sotheby’s in New York, to unknown buyers. As well as nine letters from Housman to Moses and Rosa Jackson, a letter from Moses to Housman, six books, and a photograph (lots 41 and 44), the sale included three letters from Housman to Gerald Jackson, dated 9 November 1925, 1934, and 9 October 1934 (lot 42) (the exact date of the second letter is unclear). On 14 December 2015 a further fifteen letters from Housman to Gerald were offered for sale at the same auction house, but these did not sell, and afterwards Trinity College negotiated their purchase directly from the family (2, 4–6, 8–16, 18–19), together with another thirty-eight letters in the same series (20–7, 29–58), a contemporary transcript of one of them (28), and some related verses (59). The college also obtained, by the kindness of the family, images of four letters from Housman to Gerald which remain in the family’s possession (1, 3, 7, and 17). (For the earlier history of the Jackson family papers see A. Jackson, ‘A pivotal friendship’, pp. 50–1.)

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Content and structure area

Scope and content

The collection contains fifty-three letters and postcards from A. E. Housman to G. C. A. Jackson, with a contemporary transcript of one of them, photographs of four others, and some related verses.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

The items are arranged in a single chronological sequence. Photocopies of letters are arranged under the dates of the originals. 59, which contains verses written by Housman at an unknown date, is arranged under the date of the accompanying note, which is dated 25 July 1950.

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Publication note


David Butterfield, ‘“Your affectionate but inefficient godfather”: the letters of A. E. Housman to G. C. A. Jackson’, Housman Society Journal, xlii (2016), 89–101

Linda Hart, ‘A. E. Housman’s letters to Gerald Jackson’, Housman Society Newsletter, No. 44 (Sept. 2016), 15–17

The Letters of A. E. Housman, ed. Archie Burnett, 2 vols. (2007)

Andrew Jackson, A Fine View of the Show: Letters from the Western Front (2009)

Andrew Jackson, ‘A pivotal friendship’, Housman Society Journal, xxxvi (2010), 45–53

G. C. A. Jackson, ‘The geology of the N’Changa district of Northern Rhodesia’, Journal of the Geological Society of London, lxxxviii (1932), 443–515

G. C. A. Jackson, ‘The ores of the N’Changa mine and extensions, Northern Rhodesia’, Journal of Economic Geography, xxvii (1932), 247–80

G. C. A. Jackson, ‘Outline of the geological history of the N’Changa district, Northern Rhodesia’, Geological Magazine, lxx (1933), 49–57

Edgar Vincent, ‘With affection: newly-discovered letters from A. E. Housman’, Times Literary Supplement, 30 Sept. 2016, pp. 16–17

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