Distinguished author to visit Shrewsbury to lift the lid on ‘A Shropshire Lad’

Peter Parker is visiting Shrewsbury on October 12 to talk about his new book Housman Country. Photo: Lucinda Douglas Menzies
Peter Parker is visiting Shrewsbury on October 12 to talk about his new book Housman Country. Photo: Lucinda Douglas Menzies

Fans of A.E. Housman’s ‘A Shropshire Lad’ will get the chance to learn the secrets behind the famous poetry collection and its author when a distinguished biographer visits Shrewsbury to talk about his major new book.

Peter Parker, who appeared at this year’s Hay Festival, will visit Shrewsbury on Wednesday October 12 to talk about his latest work ‘Housman Country: Into the heart of England’.

The book has received rave national reviews since its publication in the summer.

His talk, beginning at 7.30pm, at St Alkmund’s Church, St Alkmunds Square, promises to give a fascinating insight into how A Shropshire Lad came to be written, the life of the shy and distant poet Alfred Edward Housman and why the book has had an enduring influence on English culture and the very notion of ‘Englishness’.

A Shropshire Lad, a collection of 63 poems, has become one of the most popular books of poetry ever written, but it made little impact when it was first published in 1896 by the hitherto unknown Housman, a 37-year-old professor of Latin at University College London.

Housman was obliged to contribute £30 towards its initial run of 500 copies, but it later went on to become a publishing sensation and one of the most influential works of English literature. It has never been out of print in its entire 120-year history.

In fact Housman was not a Shropshire lad at all. He was born just outside of Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, but it was the Shropshire hills, seen on his western horizon, that influenced his imagination.

Parker, who was brought up in Herefordshire, close to the Shropshire border, uses the poems themselves as a prism through which to examine England and Englishness.

It is a wide-ranging study that argues there is much more to the poems than a nostalgic hankering for an unspoilt English landscape. His book also contains a full transcript of A Shropshire Lad.

The talk has been organised by Susan Caroline, of Shrewsbury’s independent bookshop Pengwern Books.

She said: “This is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the man and the ideas behind this famous poetry collection. Who doesn’t know that ‘quietest places under the sun’ quote?.

“It seemed fitting to invite Peter Parker to come and talk about his new book, Housman Country, in the actual county that inspired the poems at the heart of this work.”

Mr Parker’s previously published works include ‘The Last Veteran’, ‘The Old Lie: The Great War and the Public-School Ethos’ and the lives of J.R. Ackerley and Christopher Isherwood.

Tickets for the talk, priced at £10 and under 21s £6, are available from Pengwern Books, in Fish Street, on 01743 232236 or online at https://www.wegottickets.com/event/376571 for full-price tickets and https://www.wegottickets.com/event/376572 for under-21s.