Invention of Love Study Guide

Act One


Alfred Edward Housman

(1859-1936) British scholar of Greek and Latin literature, professor, essayist, poet. He attended Oxford University as a classicist and failed to pass his final exams in 1881 after getting a First in Moderations just two years before. He took a civil servant job as a patent clerk in 1882. After making many contributions to scholarly journals, he was appointed to the chair of Latin at University College, London (UCL), in 1892. He wrote privately during his years at the patent office and continued to do so during his years in London and after his 1911 appointment to professor of Latin at Cambridge University. He published two volumes of poetry during his lifetime, A Shropshire Lad (1896), and Last Poems (1922). A third volume, More Poems (1936), was published posthumously by his brother Laurence, who was the executor of A.E. Housman’s estate. Although his poetry reflected a great deal of emotion, Housman was notorious for his harsh scholarly criticisms which went beyond critiques expected of academia. Even if his criticisms were often harsh and gregarious, Housman was a quiet, unassuming man. He declined awards and honors, including the prestigious Order of Merit. Other notable publications include Juvenal (1905), Lucan (1926), Manilius (1903-1930), The Name and Nature of Poetry, the Leslie Stephen Lecture at Cambridge (1933) and Housman’s Letters, which appeared in 1971.


In Greek mythology the river Styx winds around Hades (the Underworld) nine times and is one of five rivers said to separate Hades from the world of the living. Its name literally means "hateful."


The ferryman of the dead frequently associated with the river Styx.

Trinity College

A college of Cambridge University where AEH was a professor from 1911 to 1936. He was given a memorial service at Trinity College Chapel that was attended by 300 people.


A county in western England, bordering on Wales.



John Ruskin

(1819-1900) Art critic, social theorist and lecturer. In his writings and lectures he admired not only the gothic style of architecture, but also the society that produced it. He detested industrialism because of its dehumanizing qualities and railed against the laissez-faire economics which had helped industrialism to thrive. He was prone to fits of madness and led an eccentric personal life. By 1879, Ruskin’s intellectual life was effectively over after several months of acute mania. A final bout of madness at age 70 left him unable to even sign his name and he was unable to complete his autobiography, Praeterita. More.

Oxford University

The oldest English-speaking university in the world with a continuous existence of eight centuries. The various colleges within the University are self-governing and exist under a type of federal system. Each is governed by a Head of House and a number of Fellows, academics specializing in a wide variety of disciplines. The University is responsible for the framework in which the colleges function by monitoring courses, setting examinations and awarding degrees. Among the more than 40 colleges are St. John’s, Balliol, Magdalen and Christ Church.


ask me for a coin

In ancient Greece, a coin was placed under the tongue of the deceased as fare to be paid to Charon in order to cross into Hades. Otherwise, the dead had no place to rest and wandered for 100 years before being allowed across the Styx.

Evelyn Nursing Home

A Cambridge University-supported nursing home. Toward the end of his life, AEH’s stay there became more permanent, and a taxi would drive him from the Evelyn to the University twice a week to deliver his lectures.

Benjamin Hall Kennedy Professor of Latin at Cambridge

The Professorship at Cambridge University which AEH took in 1911. The post had been vacated by the death of Benjamin Hall Kennedy, for whom it was named after Housman’s appointment.

Cambridge University

Cambridge was established as a result of the conflicts between the townspeople and the scholars in Oxford when a number of students moved to Cambridge and established the beginnings of a university. By 1226, just 17 years after the first influx of scholars to Cambridge, an organization was established, represented by an official called a Chancellor, and regular courses of study were taking place. A.E. Housman taught at Trinity College, Cambridge.

Benjamin Hall Kennedy

(1804-1889) Regius Professor of Greek at Cambridge who wrote several primers during his lifetime, including The Revised Latin Primer, which was in print as recently as 1975. When a schoolboy, AEH received as a gift the Sabrinae Corolla, a textbook/primer of English, German and Italian verse translated into Greek and Latin for which Kennedy was the editor and major contributor. More.

Benjamin Jowett

(1817-1893) Classical scholar. He was educated at St Paul’s School, London, but spent the majority of his academic career at Oxford. He was made a Fellow of Balliol College in 1838, advancing to a Tutor in 1842. He was appointed Regius Professor of Greek in 1855 (and held this position while AEH was a student at Oxford) and was elected as Master of Balliol in 1870, which allowed him to make structural changes to the college. Jowett advocated a University that prepared the country’s young men to serve the country and empire. Jowett encouraged familiar interactions between tutors and students, showing a particular devotion to his own pupils. He was a major voice in the University Reform debates (1850-1870) and from 1882-1886 he was a vice-chancellor of Oxford University. AEH discounted Jowett, especially as the latter despised technical scholarship (for which AEH became known in his academic career). More.

Sir Richard Claverhouse Jebb

(1841-1905) Classics don at Trinity College, Cambridge, from 1863 to 1875 then the chair of Greek at the University of Glasgow from 1875 to 1889. In 1889 he went to Cambridge to be the Regius Professor of Greek, and was in that post when AEH was at University College, London, and wrote one of the recommendation letters for Housman. More.

Regius Professor

A professorship instituted by a king. "Regius" is Latin for "king."


A college of Oxford University founded by John de Balliol, one of Henry III’s lords. At the height of the British Empire during Victoria’s reign, Balliol men were its leaders; three successive Viceroys of India (1888-1905) were Balliol men. More.


(428/427?-347 BC) Ancient Greek philosopher, disciple of Socrates and teacher of Aristotle, regarded with them as one of the three great Greek philosophers. His writings take the form of dialogues in which Socrates practices his famous method of interrogation, now called the Socratic method. Common themes in the dialogues include the state of the soul and the soul’s relation to the cosmos. More.


(496-406 BC) Greek tragedian. He composed 123 plays for the annual theater festivals, of which seven complete plays survive and hundreds of fragments exist, winning 24 victories, more than either his contemporaries Aeschylus or Euripides. His major contribution to the tragic form was the addition of the third actor onstage. His surviving plays are Ajax, Antigone, Oedipus the King, Trachinian Women, Electra, Philoctetes and Oedipus at Colonus. More.

Helen of Troy

In Greek legend, the most beautiful woman in the world and wife of Menelaus of Sparta. During her husband’s absence, Helen fled to Troy with Paris, son of the Trojan king Priam, inciting the Greeks to war against Troy.

three-headed dog

In Greek mythology, Cerberus, the dog that guards the gates at the entrance to the lower world, Hades. He only lets pass the souls of the dead, restricting souls which are alive.

forsaken in the wilderness to gather grapes of thorns and figs of thistles

A combination of two Biblical references. In Exodus, the people of Israel walked for forty years in the wilderness for their transgressions against God before they could enter the promised land. And in Matthew 7:16: "You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?"

Moses John Jackson

(1858-1923) He won the Holmes Science Scholarship to attend Oxford and took first-class honors in the natural science examinations in 1881. After Oxford, he held a position at the patent office and received his doctorate in science from UCL in 1883. In 1887 he resigned from the patent office to accept a position as principal of Sind College, Karachi, India. He remained in India his entire career, returning to England only briefly to marry Rosa Chambers and for various trips home. In 1900 he asked AEH to stand as the godfather to his fourth son, Gerald Christopher Arden Jackson. When he retired in 1910 or 1911, he moved to British Columbia with his family and settled in as a farmer. He died there at the age of 63 of stomach cancer on January 14, 1923. Jackson’s last visit to England in 1921 was also the last time AEH saw him. Mo’s last letter was preserved by AEH, who retraced the shaky pencil with ink and kept it in a desk drawer, where Laurence found it after AEH’s death in 1936. Picture of Jackson.

Alfred William Pollard

(1859-1944) English historian with specialties in the early Tudor period. He was the keeper of the Department of Printed Books at the British Museum. He met AEH at Oxford, where they both had won scholarships. They worked together on an undergraduate periodical called Ye Round Table and lived together along with Moses Jackson in a house in their final year at University. Pollard received a First in Literae Humaniores at Oxford. AEH and Pollard kept in contact over the years, and Pollard provided one of AEH’s testimonials for the Professorship of Latin at UCL. Pollard suggested to AEH that A Shropshire Lad not be published under a pseudonym, as AEH originally planned, but under Housman’s own name.


A town just south of Oxford, reachable by the Isis (the Thames River at Oxford).


In Greek mythology, the land of the dead, the nether world, ruled by the god of the same name. It is also a nickname for a section of the Isis near Oxford.


A grammatical term meaning that a word’s function is indicated only by its position in a sentence. Latin is an inflected language, so various endings to a word indicate the word’s function, making word order almost irrelevant and allowing the writer more flexibility. An uninflected word’s grammatical function is unclear.


An insolently bold and self-assured person.

Elysian Fields

In Greek mythology, the part of Hades where the blessed dead go; paradise.

ripae ulterioris amore

Latin, from Virgil’s Aeneid, Book 6, line 314, the Latin loosely translating as "in passionate yearning for its distant shore." Aeneas sees the doomed, wandering souls who yearn to cross the river Styx into the underworld in order to find rest for their souls.

Nec Lethaea valet Theseus abrumpere caro vincula Pirithoo

Latin, the final line from Horace’s Diffugere Nives (Odes IV.vii). AEH translated this poem as: "And Theseus leaves Pirithöus in the chain / The love of comrades cannot take away."

Theseus and Pirithous

Theseus was the legendary king and national hero of Athens and slayer of the Minotaur. Theseus and Pirithous were so filled with admiration for each other upon their first meeting that they swore brotherhood. Pirithous later helped Theseus to carry off Helen, then a child. In exchange, Theseus descended to Hades with Pirithous to help his friend rescue Persephone, wife of Hades. But they were caught and confined in Hades on the chair of forgetfulness until Heracles arrived and released Theseus. Hades would not allow Pirithous loose as Hades knew Pirithous was the one who wanted to carry off Persephone.

statute books

The written rules and regulations of the college.


Latin, meaning "hoop" (accusative, singular).

Neque volvere

Latin, meaning "do not roll."

open scholarships

Competitive, academic scholarships awarded to students in the UK. Housman was awarded £100 per annum during his four-year stay.

Vale Academy

The Vale School, Ramsgate, Kent, on the southeast coast of Great Britain, where Jackson’s father was the principal.

University College, London (UCL)

A college formed in 1826 in London designed to provide a place of learning for the burgeoning middle class. Its formation was in response to Cambridge and Oxford Universities, who admitted only members of the Anglican Church and also tended to only admit persons of the higher social and economic classes.

King’s College School

School founded in 1829 as the Junior Department to the newly established King’s College (founded in 1828 as a rival to University College, London).

rugby football to Association rules

Soccer in Britain is known as football and is played according to the Football Association Rules. Rugby differs from soccer in that players are allowed to pick up the ball.

Easter term

The third trimester of the English academic year, running from approximately the end of April for 8 to 9 weeks into June. Also known as Trinity term.

Orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano

Latin, from Juvenal’s Satires X, line 356: "One should pray for a sound mind in a sound body."


A course of study at Oxford which concentrates on ancient Greek and Latin texts.

university men

Students at University College, London, which is considered by Oxford students and graduates to be a lesser institution.


Latin, meaning "hoop" (nominative, singular).


(43 BC-AD 17) Roman poet whose accomplished verse is considered to be the model of elegiac poetry and immensely influential because of its imaginative interpretations of classical myth. Perhaps his most famous work is the Metamorphoses, his interpretation of classical legends of which many writers in the western canon show an awareness (including Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton). More.


(65-8 BC) Latin lyric poet and satirist under the emperor Augustus. The most frequent themes of his Odes and verse Epistles are love, friendship, philosophy and the art of poetry. More.


Ten poems written by Horace in hexameter verse and published in 35 BC. The Satires drew on Greek life, firmly stating Horace’s rejection of public life and aiming at wisdom through serenity.


Four books, comprising 88 short poems, written by Horace in 23 BC. In the Odes, Horace represented himself as heir to earlier Greek lyric poets but displayed a sensitive, economical mastery of words that was all his own. He sings of love, wine, nature (almost romantically), friends and moderation. Complete Odes.

ludere doctior seu Graeco iubeas trocho

Latin, from Horace’s Odes III.xxiv: "Or Grecian hoop, how skillfully he plays!"

Greek hoop

The Greeks advocated hoop-rolling as good exercise for those who were not physically strong.


Greek, meaning "hoop."


British euphemism for homosexual intercourse.


University-wide eight-man rowing race held at Oxford during Hilary Term (late January to early March). Picture of the Torpids.


Town and district, county of Hereford and Worcester, England, where Housman lived during his childhood.

Albert Hall

One of Britain’s principal concert halls and landmarks, built in 1867-71.

British Museum

Comprehensive national museum with particularly outstanding holdings in archaeology and ethnography. It was established by an act of Parliament in 1753 and its collections were opened to the public in 1759. Among other finds, the museum houses the Rosetta Stone. More.

Mark Pattison

(1813-1884) Oxford professor and scholar. He graduated from Oriel College in 1832 and in 1839 was elected a Fellow to Lincoln College, where he would spend the remainder of his academic career. From his matriculation into Oxford, Pattison was disillusioned with the university system. He advocated reform and wanted to see Oxford move away from clericalism and social exclusivity to establish an institution purely dedicated to learning. Repulsed by what he felt to be part seminary, part finishing school, he envisioned a university without entrance exams or finals, one that conferred no professional qualifications or social advantages, but where one would go for love of learning. He saw men like Jowett as his antithesis when it came to the organization of a University. His students remembered him as being intimidating. George Eliot reportedly modeled the character of Mr. Casaubon in the novel Middlemarch on Pattison. More.


At Oxford, exams are divided into two principal parts: honor moderations and final honor school. When AEH was at Oxford, Mods were sat at the end of the second year and had to be passed before proceeding to the next two years, which culminated in Finals.


The examination held at the end of the fourth year at Oxford. It is the basis for degree decisions and the results are classified as First, Upper Second, Lower Second, Third, Pass or Fail.

Walter Horatio Pater

(1839-1894) English critic, essayist and humanist whose idea of "art for art’s sake" became a cardinal doctrine of the movement known as Aestheticism. He attended Queen’s College, Oxford, and studied Greek philosophy under Benjamin Jowett. In 1864 he was elected to a Fellowship at Brasenose College, Oxford. He was particularly influenced by Plato and Goethe and his appreciation of Renaissance art made his reputation as a scholar and an Aesthete. He formed his own cultural following at Oxford, which included Oscar Wilde. Pater was reportedly alarmed at the way in which his writings were received by devotees. He feared they had misread him, and indeed his writings show a kinship to his staunchly Victorian predecessors, but the Aesthetes preferred to ignore this. Pater also believed that truth is relative. More.

Aesthetic movement

A late 19th-century doctrine in the arts believing that art served only beauty and need not have a political, didactic or moral purpose. It was a reaction to the utilitarian philosophies of the day and the industrial age as a whole. John Ruskin was a contemporary critic of the movement. More.

False quantities in all around I see

"False quantities" appears to be an expression of the Victorians, with possible origins from an 1859 sermon given by the Reverend Mr C.H. Spurgeon. AEH uses it several times in his writings. "All around I see" may also be another popular expression (which still retains some usage today) from the hymn "Abide With Me": "Change and decay / In all around I see."

John the Baptist

Jewish prophet who preached the imminence of God’s final judgment and baptized those who repented in preparation for it. After a period of desert solitude, he attained notice as a prophet in the lower Jordan Valley. He recognized Jesus as the Messiah and baptized him. John continued to preach near the Jordan until the Hebrew king Herod Antipas arrested and imprisoned him. At the request of Salome — instigated by her mother, Herod’s wife, Herodias — he was beheaded and his head was given to her on a platter. The four Gospels of the New Testament recount John’s life.

locusts and wild honey

From Matthew 3:4: "Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair, and a leather girdle around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey."


At Oxford, a special ceremony which includes being formally accepted in cap and gown, which happens only after a student has passed the necessary entrance exams for his subject.

new pronunciation

By the Middle Ages, Latin was pronounced in various countries by the rules of pronunciation of each country’s language. In the late 19th century, scholars determined how Latin was pronounced by Cicero and Caesar and this "new" pronunciation then took hold, first in the United States and later in most places except Italy and the Vatican City.

veni, vidi, vici

Latin, meaning "I came, I saw, I conquered," the succinct statement Julius Caesar sent back to the Senate after his 47 BC victory over Pharnaces, king of the Cimmerian Bosporus.

Da mi basia mille, deinde centum

Latin, from Catullus 5, translated by Housman as "Give me a thousand kisses, then a hundred more."


(84-54 BC) Roman poet whose expressions of love and hatred are generally considered the finest lyric poetry of ancient Rome. In 25 of his 116 extant poems he speaks of his love for a woman he calls Lesbia, whose real identity is uncertain. More. Translations of Catullus.

scan with Lesbia

The poetry of Catullus requires set meters in its stressed and unstressed syllables. In order to scan, or read, the lines correctly with the name "Lesbia," one needs to be able to read "dum-di-di," with one long syllable followed by two short syllables. Lesbia was the subject of many of Catullus’ poems. One of the speculations about her real identity is that she was Clodia, Catullus’ mistress.

Christ Church

One of the oldest and largest colleges at the University of Oxford. It is also the cathedral of the Diocese of Oxford.

Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus

Latin, from Catullus 5, as translated by Pollard as "Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love." Complete Catullus 5.

Nox est perpetua

Latin, meaning "The night is perpetual"; from Catullus 5.

John Donne

(1572-1631) English metaphysical poet, essayist and minister. His poetry collection Songs and Sonnets talks of love and the devotion between men and women. He also wrote elegies in his twenties.


Latin, meaning "kiss"; a term coined by Catullus.


Latin, meaning "little mouth"; the term previously used for kiss before Catullus.


A town south of Oxford, along the route of the Paddington train.


A borough of Westminster, London. As trains were being installed in the 19th century in the United Kingdom, each line was independently owned and operated, with lines terminating in London at their individually financed station destinations. Paddington station was owned by Great Western Railway which had been created by an act of Parliament in 1835 in order to provide a line from Bristol to London.

Buxton and Bakewell

Towns in the River Wye Valley in Derbyshire.

Muses dance for Apollo and heard the pan-pipes play

The muses are nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (Memory), each with her own specialty (history, astronomy, tragedy, comedy, dance, epic poetry, love poetry, songs to the gods and lyric poetry). Apollo was the son of Zeus and Leto, twin to Artemis, master musician, archer-god, healer, sun-god/god of light, and was frequently associated with the laurel. Pan-pipes were made of cane pipes of different lengths tied in a row or held together by wax. It is one of the instruments, with the lyre, commonly noted in Greek mythology. This reference may loosely refer to an instance recorded in Bullfinch’s Mythology when Apollo played his lyre and the Muses accompanied him with singing to entertain the other gods.

Building a flower-bordered road

One of Ruskin’s pet projects during Oscar Wilde’s stay at Oxford.


A manual laborer.

Oscar Wilde

(1854-1900) Irish poet, dramatist, novelist and essayist. He was Oxford educated and known for his extreme personal extravagances while a student. He was influenced by the teachings of both Ruskin and Pater on the necessity for art in life. However, Wilde also incorporated aspects of the Aesthetic movement which fervently led to his belief that all things served art. His plays were very successful during his lifetime, making him relatively wealthy. He toured America for 12 months in 1882 on a lecture circuit to gain notoriety and money, and upon returning to England gave lectures on his impressions of America. Wilde’s close relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie) maddened Douglas’ father, the Marquess of Queensberry. The Marquess accused Wilde of being a sodomite, and Wilde sued for criminal libel. In court, with the evidence overwhelmingly against him, Wilde withdrew the charges. He was then charged with and arrested for sodomy, stood trial, and was sentenced to two years of hard labor in 1895. After his sentence, he retired to France, almost penniless, wrote only one more novel and died suddenly of acute meningitis.


Pronounced like "maudlin". A college of the University of Oxford located on the High Street and founded as Magdalen Hall in 1448. It was one of the first colleges to teach the sciences and has been known for the repute of its literature scholars. More.

blue china

Wilde’s famous remark in reference to the rumors that his room at Oxford was decorated with objets d’art: "Oh, would that I could live up to my blue china!"

The great reform of the fifties

The University Reform Act of 1854 intended to strengthen the University as a whole and to open it up to the poorer classes. It was not immediately successful in these aims. Its effect at Oxford was to redistribute money and endowments so that the system of fellowships was skewed and new professorships became open and more generally available.


Slang for sodomy.

Italy in the late-fifteenth century

The beginning of the Italian Renaissance, which would later sweep the rest of Europe. It was a time of the reawakening of scholasticism and education, when Humanism became an important philosophy of thought.

Medieval Gothic

A style of architecture on mainland Europe between the 12th and 16th centuries. It developed out of the Romanesque and manifested in stone-vaulted churches. The use of grotesque decorations, particularly gargoyles, was not uncommon. The gothic enjoyed a revival in the 18th century during the neo-Classical period, but had a somewhat derogatory meaning, hence Ruskin’s specification of the medieval gothic.

Check. Play the advantage.

Terms from football (soccer), not croquet.

cathedral at Chartres

Gothic cathedral in Chartres, France, also known as Notre-Dame d’Chartres. The present building was built in the 13th century. It is one of the three definitive Gothic buildings in France.


(1276?-1337) Florentine painter, architect and sculptor. Giotto’s frescoes established Florentine supremacy in that medium. His subjects are frequently human beings as they relate the drama of sacrifice and grace in Christianity.


(1265-1321) Italian poet, considered one of the finest in the world in any language. His pinnacle work is The Divine Comedy, which explores the configuration of Hell, Purgatory and Paradise.


(1483-1520) Italian Renaissance painter widely known for his Madonna portraitures. He exhibited an expertise even by the age of 17, and was noted as a "master" when commissioned to paint an altarpiece at Perugia. By 1504 he went to Florence and there was tutored by Michelangelo and da Vinci.


(1475-1564) Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect and poet. He is best known for his works David, Pieta and his frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. After 1534 he left Florence for the last time and retired to Rome where he spent the remainder of his years. It is from this period that most of his poetry remains, including 75 complete sonnets. Though the sonnet was not the prevalent form he used, it is the one best remembered by English-speaking people and the most familiar to them.


(1494-1534) Italian Renaissance painter. His fresco "Assumption of the Virgin" contains the lilybearer, an exceptionally beautiful and delicate young boy.

charnel house

Where dead bodies are deposited.

love of art for art’s sake

The mantra of the Aesthetic movement, taken from Pater’s writings and lectures.


An incompetent or clumsy person.


British slang for homosexual intercourse.


A graduate, typically a fellow of a college, a type of academic advisor and instructor to undergraduates.


In Greek mythology, the cup-bearer to the gods, a beautiful young Trojan prince carried to Olympus by Zeus’ eagle. By some accounts, Ganymede was Zeus’ lover and the myth served as religious justification for homosexual activity.

Balliol bugger

A bugger is a sodomite, rascal or worthless person, but this reference is to an actual person. In 1875, William Money Hardinge was discovered to have received letters from Walter Pater signed, "Yours lovingly." This caused much turmoil in the colleges, particularly when it was coupled with Hardinge’s outlandish behavior. A formal complaint was reported to Benjamin Jowett. The complaint was accompanied by copies of the offensive sonnets; Jowett promptly dismissed Hardinge from the college. Jowett also broke off any personal connections he had with Pater.


One of the works of Plato.

Sir Thomas Herbert Warren

(1853-1930) He became a fellow and tutor of Magdalen College in 1877, during Oscar Wilde’s fourth year there. He was made president of the college in 1885 and remained in that position until 1928. AEH took tutorials from him before his Mods and Warren was one of the testimonial letter writers for AEH for the Latin Professorship at UCL.

Munro’s Catullus

(1819-1885) H.A.J. Munro, a Latin scholar from Cambridge who published Criticisms and Elucidations of Catullus in 1878. In it, he maintained it was necessary to interpose particular aspects of the ancient texts because they had been wrongly recorded by the original transcribers. As the play relates, other scholars believed such modifications to be presumptuous. Generally AEH admired Munro’s work. More.


A bookshop in Oxford opened in 1879 by the man for whom the shop is named.

‘The Marriage of Peleus and Thetis’

Catullus 64. It was at the marriage of Peleus and Thetis that Eris, the goddess of discord, threw an apple marked "For the Fairest." Three goddesses wanted it and eventually Paris, a Trojan prince, was chosen to judge among them. Each goddess bribed him and he accepted Aphrodite’s offer of the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen, married to Menelaus. Paris visited Helen and Menelaus in Sparta and was received graciously as a guest. Paris stole Helen away to Troy and thus sparked the Trojan War, when all the Greeks came to the support of Menelaus.

Frederic Lord Leighton

(1830-1896) Prestigious English painter. The 1855 purchase of one of his paintings by Queen Victoria marked the entry of worldly academia into England, consisting of forms associated with Classical and High Renaissance styles.


Probably referring to the Argonauts who hoped to capture the Golden Fleece. The Argonauts took their name from the ship, the Argo, named after its shipwright, Argos. According to legend, the Argo was the first vessel that held more than two men.

Golden Fleece

The fleece of a ram that had saved Phrixus and his sister from sacrifice and took them to Colchis, where Phrixus was welcomed by the king, Aeetes. Phrixus sacrificed the lamb in thanks and the Golden Fleece remained in Aeetes’ possession until Jason led a band of heroes to Colchis to capture it. More.

emersere feri candenti e gurgite vultus aequoreae

From Catullus 64. Jowett’s rendering with feri reads, "And the wild faces of the sea-nymphs emerged from the white foaming waters." With Munro’s suggested change of freti for feri, it would read "And the faces of the sea-nymphs emerged from the white foaming waters of the channel."

monstrum Nereides admirantes

The next line from Catullus 64 translated by Jowett as "staring in amazement at the sight."


Latin, ut – "as"; et – "and"; aut – "or"

Verona Codex

A codex is a manuscript. The codex of Verona refers to the manuscript of Catullus discovered c. 1300, copied and then promptly lost again.

Codex Oxoniensis

One of the three copies from the lost Verona Codex, which was found in the Bodleian library by Robinson Ellis around 1860.

Robinson Ellis

(1834-1913) Classical scholar. He was a fellow of Oxford University from 1858 until 1913. In 1885, AEH submitted his edition of Propertius to the Oxford University Press and it was Ellis who not only convinced the Press it wasn’t in their best interest, but wrote the refusal letter himself, pointing out to Housman the deficiencies in his text. More.

Emil Baehrens

(1848-1888) German classical scholar. He published editions of many classical Latin works, including of Catullus, Gallus, Homer, Seneca, Cicero, Ovid and Propertius.


The top mark an undergraduate can receive on his Finals.


(55/43-16BC) The greatest elegiac poet of ancient Rome, a contemporary of Virgil and Horace. His first four elegies are addressed to the lover "Cynthia." He was widely appreciated in his time, and had such an impact on his successors, including Ovid, that they emulated and borrowed from him. By the Renaissance, however, he was only studied by scholars, a practice which continues to this age, although the self-awareness evident in his poems resonates with a modern audience. His only extant works are the four books of elegies. More.

trippery emporium

A vacation spot.

Aristophanes, The Frogs

comedy in which the god Dionysus judges between Euripides’ and Aeschylus’ dramatic talent. Charon ferries Dionysus to Hades where Aeschylus and Euripides argue about who gets the place of honor at Hades’ table. Aristophanes was an Athenian playwright generally considered to be the greatest ancient writer of comedy. His eleven surviving plays include The Clouds, The Wasps, Lysistrata and The Frogs.


The Greek god of wine and fertility as well as the Greek patron god of the stage.


(525/524-456/455 BC) The first great classical Greek tragedian. He created not only memorable stories with artful and lyrical structures, but fully utilized the staging effects available in his day and added a second actor. He participated in the Dionysian festivals and won 13 prizes. His seven surviving tragedies are Persians, Seven Against Thebes, Suppliants, Prometheus Bound and his masterful work, the only surviving Greek three play cycle, Oresteia (Agammenon, Libation Bearers and Eumenides). More.


A lost play of Aeschylus. It is known because of a reference to it in Plato’s Symposium and some fragments believed to belong to this play, which Plato relates as being about Achilles and Patroclus. The Myrmidons were the fierce and devoted followers of Achilles.


For his transgression against the Greek gods, he was condemned to Hades to roll a stone uphill, only to have it always roll down.


Greatest hero of the Greeks during the Trojan War. To avenge his friend Patroclus’ death, he killed the great Trojan hero Hector only to be killed in turn by Hector’s brother Paris, whose arrow was guided by Apollo to find the only vulnerable spot on Achilles – his heel – left unprotected by his goddess mother when she attempted to give Achilles immortality.


Achilles’ best friend. He was killed by Hector during the Trojan War when he was mistaken for Achilles while wearing Achilles’ armor. Hector, Priam’s son, then desecrated Patroclus’ body. Achilles killed Hector and desecrated his body in revenge.

‘Does it mean nothing to you, the unblemished thighs I worshipped and the showers of kisses you had from me.’

Part of the known fragment from the lost Aeschylus play The Myrmidones.

Where is thy sting?

1 Corinthians 15:55 "O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?"


Another term for the final examination for the degree of B.A. Housman’s Greats consisted of papers on ancient history, logic and moral and political philosophy, including the works of Plato, Aristotle, Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Plutarch, Cicero, Sallust and Tacitus.


From the Old Testament, the territory occupied by the Moabites, close relations to the Hebrews, comprising the highlands east of the Dead Sea, now modern Jordan.

Mount Pisgah

Part of the mountain range known as Pisgah or Phasga. It is from this range that Moses views the promised land. The mountain range is one of the natural boundaries of Moab.


The promised land of the Israelites, which they inhabited after the captivity.

Clee Hills

Small hills in Shropshire. Shropshire is very flat country not very far above sea level.

Siege of Paris

1871. Also known as the Paris Commune, the insurgency was led by the people who feared a reinstatement of the monarchy which had been subdued and then removed as a result of the French Revolution, 82 years earlier. The actual siege lasted only two months and ended when the government infiltrated the ranks of the Commune, ending the siege in a bloody, weeklong aftermath.

coq au vin

Braised chicken in a red wine sauce, frequently served with baby vegetables which have been similarly braised. It is a delicacy of French Provincial cooking.

Alfred burning the cakes

Saxon king Alfred the Great who, after fleeing from an invasion in 878, was chided by a peasant woman for letting her loaves burn by attending to his weaponry instead of watching her bread.

Cynthia prima suis miserum me cepit ocellis

Latin, the first line of Propertius’ elegies. Housman translates the line as, "Cynthia who first took me captive with her eyes," and AEH quickly reminds him not to forget "miserum," or "poor me."


Baehrens’ emendations to Propertius, published in 1873.

Frederick Apthorp Paley

(1815-1888) Published a text of Propertius in 1853. He was a professor of Cambridge.

Lucian Mueller

(1836-1889) German classicist who published editions of Catullus, Tibullus and Propertius, all of which were standard German scholarly editions.

Moriz Haupt

(1808-1874) German classicist who published the Teubner Propertius, which proceeded Mueller’s, in 1853.


German classicist who published an 1883 criticism of Propertius.


Undergraduate poetry prize at Oxford established by Sir Roger Newdigate in the 18th century. It came with a cash prize.

French novel

The social problem novel of the late 19th century which is embodied in Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary.

monument more lasting than bronze as Horace boasted

From Horace Odes III.

‘fallen like a flower at the field’s edge where the plough touched it and passed on by’

The last line of Catullus 11.

Emathiae tutamen Opis, carissime nato

Latin, from Catullus 64. AEH translates the line as "Protector of Emathia, most dear to the son of Ops."

Thou ailest here, and here.

From Matthew Arnold’s poem Memorial Verses, a poem about Goethe.


Roman goddess of the earth and fertility, wealth and abundance. She is the sister and wife of Saturn, god of agriculture, who is regarded as the father of Jupiter, among others.

Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff

(1848-1931) German classicist whose studies advanced knowledge in the historical sciences of metrics, epigraphy, papyrology, topography and textual criticism. He is called the greatest Hellenist of modern times, transforming the discipline from the 19th to the 20th century.

Richard Bentley

(1662-1742) British clergyman and classical scholar. He was educated at Cambridge and later held a professorship and was Master of Trinity College, where he was also the Regius Professor of Divinity. He created a body of works which furthered textual scholarship. AEH greatly revered Bentley, saying of him, "Bentley would cut up into four of me." More.


Tree held as sacred to the goddess of love in Greek and Roman lore and its sprigs were used as an emblem of love.


In Greek legend, the son of Theseus and Hippolyta, the Amazon queen. After Hippolyta died, Theseus married Phaedra. Phaedra soon fell in love with Hippolytus, made advances towards him, was rejected by him and told Theseus that Hippolytus had tried to seduce her. Phaedra committed suicide in her grief and Theseus, believing the worst of his son, called on a favor from Poseidon to take Hippolytus’ life, discovering only afterwards that his son was "pure of stain."


The Roman goddess of nature, fertility and childbirth, closely identified with Artemis, the Greek goddess of similar characteristics. Artemis is said to have told Theseus that his son was innocent of Phaedra’s accusations.

Diffugere nives

The title of Horace’s poem (Odes IV.vii) that describes Theseus and Pirithous’ adventure in the underworld.


When Pirithous and Theseus tried to take Persephone, Hades received them cordially, but then tricked them into chairs and bound them there. The chairs are described variously, but one account calls them the "chairs of forgetfulness" ("Lethe") which binds them with serpents.

when thou art kind I spent the day like a god: when thy face is turned away, it is very dark with me

From Paidika by 3rd century AD Greek poet Theocritus, but very possibly an older sentiment expressed in earlier poetry.


Directly, frankly.


(55-19 BC) Roman poet. Only two books of his poems survive, both treating subjects of love.

the snows fled, and the seasons rolling round each year but for us, when we’ve had our turn, it’s over!

A quote from the first stanza of Diffugere nives.

Field of Mars

Mars was the Roman god of war and the Roman people modeled themselves on him. The Field of Mars, the Campus Martius, was dedicated to the god and located just beyond the city walls. The army drilled and athletes were trained for competition on the Field of Mars.


The river that runs through Rome.

vester for tuus

Latin, meaning "of you," referring to more than one person, and "yours," respectively.


(9th or 8th c. BC) Widely-accepted author of the Greek epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey. The Iliad details the story of Achilles and his role in defending the Greeks in the Trojan War. The tale describes the controversy between human fate and the gods’ intervention (or lack thereof) and explores many of the great historical characters of Greek antiquity.


The Greek god of love and sexual desire.

The Loves of Achilles

A lost play of Sophocles.


(484-406 BC) The last of Athens’ three great dramatists, following Aeschylus and Sophocles. He won the first prize at only four competitions, compared to Sophocles’ 23. He is frequently parodied by Aristophanes, a suggestion of his importance to the tragic art of the time. Euripides’ characters differ most from his peers in that their downfalls stem almost entirely from themselves and are not a necessary result of a rejection from the gods. Among his 19 extant plays are Alcestis, Medea, Trojan Women, Hecuba, Andromache, Electra, Ion, Helen, Orestes and Iphegenia at Aulis.


A lost play of Euripides.


The subject of some of Horace’s odes.


The sophists gave great importance to rhetoric rather than to substance, something which Plato speaks violently against in many of his dialogues, especially Sophist, in which he proclaims Sophists to be charlatans and not to be true teachers.

Sacred Band of Theban youths…Battle of Chaeronea…Philip of Macedon

"A battalion composed entirely of friends and lovers; and forms a remarkable example of military comradeship. The references to it in later Greek literature are very numerous, and there seems no reason to doubt the general truth of the traditions concerning its formation and its complete annihilation by Philip of Macedon at the battle of Chaeronea (BC 338). Thebes was the last stronghold of Hellenic independence, and with the defeat of the Theban Band Greek freedom perished. But the mere existence of this phalanx, and the fact of its renown, show to what an extent comradeship was recognized and prized as an institution among these peoples." (from Edward Carpenter’s Ioläus). More.

ice held in the hand by children

A reference to the fragment from Sophocles’ lost The Loves of Achilles. "When ice appears out of doors, and boys seize it up while it is solid, at first they experience new pleasures. But in the end their pride will not agree to let it go, but their acquisition is not good for them if it stays in their hands. In the same way an identical desire drives lovers to act and not to act."


Latin, meaning "to break off, to break away."

the Golden Age

The time of the Titans marked by innocence and a lack of strife or injustice. The Titans were overthrown by the Olympians whose time was the Silver Age.

First … Second … Third … Pass

For an Oxford degree, a First is the best rating, equivalent in many regards to an A, and so forth down the line. Below a Third is either Pass or Fail.


Section of London where AEH shared an apartment with Jackson and Jackson’s brother shortly after coming to London to work in the patent office. AEH moved out in 1885, though the exact circumstances are not known.


To study.


A publication that reviewed Wilde’s plays. It does not seem to be associated with the better-known The Daily Sketch, which started in 1909.

Why, Ligurinus, alas why this unaccustomed tear trickling down my cheek?

From Horace’s Odes IV.i, which AEH translates this line and its following lines as "but why, Ligurinus, alas why this unaccustomed tear trickling down my cheek? Why does my glib tongue stumble to silence as I speak? At night I hold you fast in my dreams, I run after you across the Field of Mars, I follow you into the tumbling waters, and you show no pity."