A FORGOTTEN POET

Posted by Admin on Monday, 25th July 2011, 12:13

The son of the Reverend James Shearman, at one time an incumbent at East Cowes, Arthur Thomas Shearman, D. Litt., M.A., from 1914 until his death at seventy, lived in Beech Villa (now 28) Bellevue Road, Cowes, a modest semi-detached house a hundred yards or so from my birthplace.

Born in Wrangle, Lincolnshire, he soon showed signs of the outstanding mental powers that took him to great heights in the academic world. Educated at Kingswood School, Bath; University College, Aberystwyth; and University College, London, he became a Joseph Hume Scholar in political economy, and gained his M.A. in 1897. At the peak of his career he was a Fellow of London University. In 1905-6 he lectured on advanced logic at University College. In 1908-9 he lectured on the history of psychology. Between 1908-11 he was commissioned by the Institute of France to do research connected with an international edition of Leibnitz’s works.

Shearman’s published works included The Development of Symbolic Logic (1906), The Scope of Formal Logic (1911), and The Essence of Logic.

His wife, Louise Ellen, daughter of Mr R. W. Olver, B.A., LL.B., predeceased him in 1903, a bereavement probably responsible for his becoming a recluse. In the early ‘Thirties when first I met him, he lived with his dog amidst a profusion of books and manuscripts – his longest journey a daily walk to the top of the hill and back. When a boy, I often saw him, a big man in an old-fashioned frock coat, limping slightly as he tried to keep pace with his energetic Airedale.

Once when I went to see him, he was testing a new typewriter. His previous machine (a ‘Ghost’?) had typed with the result hidden from sight. He seemed mildly astonished when I recognised his test line as the opening of Lycidas. On that day, Plato, Aristotle, and Spinoza were conspicuous on his table, and the Eclogues of Horace lay open on the floor.

He was, I discovered, interested in stenography, and when I told him I was teaching myself the Pitman Method, he showed me a number of shorthand journals.

In addition to being a philosopher and logician, Dr Shearman was a prolific poet. His The Isle of Wight and Other Poems was published in 1920; The Gardener – A New Georgic in 1922; Peary and Other Poems in 1923; Also in that year appeared his English translation of Virgil’s Georgics, which it would be interesting to compare with those by C. Day Lewis and K. R. Mackenzie. There followed, The Climber in 1924; Thought and Song in 1925; The Concrete and his Collected Poetical Works in 1928. In my bookcase I have Additional Poems and Beyond the Earth and The Teacher.

The first (mainly apostrophic in the second person singular has many fine images and a solemn grandeur that reminds one of Wordsworth – a resemblance probably intentional, for in a letter to his friend, Professor A. Wolf, M.A., D. Litt., he reveals he has written ‘something fuller in the spirit of Spinoza, Wordsworth, and Goethe’.

The second has gentle humour:

‘Who would not sing Deaville, that model head
of copious auburn hair – or was it red?
of comfortable girth – or shall I say
more comfortable with some part away?’.

On one occasion I sounded him for his opinion of the current top novelists – H.G. Wells, Arnold Bennett, and John Galsworthy. He told me he no longer read them. I inferred he thought them unworthy of his attention.

T. C. Hudson

© T. C. Hudson.
This article may not be reproduced without prior permission of the author.

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