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Seize the day – a first edition of A Shropshire Lad sells for £3,250


A Shropshire Lad, sold for $3,250

Seize the day, it’s a mantra we hear almost daily across social media and pop culture. One hundred and twenty years after the publication of A Shropshire Lad, a first edition of A.E. Housman’s famous book of poetry – which encourages readers to act while they can – has sold for £3,250 on AbeBooks.co.uk.

Housman’s collection of 63 poems was rejected by several publishers, so he paid for 500 copies of the book to be printed by Kegan Paul in 1896. This is the most expensive copy of A Shropshire Lad to sell on the AbeBooks marketplace, which has been selling used and rare books since 1996. The bookseller was Peter Harrington from London and the buyer was located in North America. The book had been rebound in dark green morocco leather. Its original cover was a plain, modest affair. An unrestored first edition sold for £1,000 in 2010.

This collection of poems is known for its themes of mortality and rural life. In 1899, Victorian Britain was mourning the loss of soldiers from the Second Boer War but that death-toll would pale in comparison to what was to come. The book’s popularly drastically increased during World War I as almost every British family was touched by the conflict.

During these decades, the idyllic rural life described by Housman was rapidly disappearing as urban living thrived and the English countryside switched to mechanised agriculture. The poet famously describes Shropshire as “the land of lost content.”

Many of the subsequent covers of A Shropshire Lad illustrate the rural life saluted by Housman.

Although Housman (1859-1936) is buried in Ludlow in Shropshire, he did not have strong links to the county. He was born near Bromsgrove in Worcestershire, and was educated at St John’s College, Oxford. He went on to become a Latin scholar at University College London and later Cambridge.

This sale shows interest in A Shropshire Lad has not dimmed. Housman’s core message of ‘seize the moment’ is as strong as ever.

A Shropshire Lad is referenced frequently in popular culture with excerpts regularly quoted in films. A Shropshire Lad appears in numerous novels, including Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, E.M. Forster’s A Room With a View, Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa and Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising.

Find copies of A Shropshire Lad.

A Shropshire Lad by A.E. Housman

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