A State of Just Tolerable Discomfort

A.E. Housman; Letter to Gilbert Murray
23 April 1900 

Dear Murray,
I have put off thanking you for the Andromache till I could send the Euripidea. It is very interesting, very unlike anything one could have anticipated, and the end of it really moving. The piece of verse on p.70 is so good that I wish you could write more. Ancient Greece, as you depict it, is rather more Medieval than I thought it was, but I don’t know how far this may be due to the notions I attach to words: the word ‘lord’ always carried me into the middle ages, and even ‘castle’, though I suppose it ought not. I rather doubt if man really has much to gain by substituting peace for strife, as you and Jesus Christ recommend. Sic notus Ulixes? do you think you can outwit the resourceful malevolence of Nature? God is not mocked, as St. Paul long ago warned the Galatians. When man gets rid of a great trouble he is easier for a little while, but not for long: Nature instantly sets to work to weaken his power of sustaining trouble, and very soon seven pounds is as heavy as fourteen pounds used to be. Last Easter Monday a young woman threw herself into the Lea because her dress looked so shabby amongst the holiday crowd: in other times and countries women have been ravished by half-a-dozen dragoons and taken it less to heart. It looks to me as if the state of mankind always had been and always would be a state of just tolerable discomfort.

The Bacchae, Iph. Taur., and Medea are the only three plays that I have really studied. I don’t know if you are editing the fragments, so I don’t send my conjectures on them. I enclose my own essay at an Andromache, only it is an Alcmaeon.

When are we going to the music-hall?

Yours very truly

A.E. Housman

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