Read The Invention of Love by Tom Stoppard Online


It is 1936 and A.E. Housman is being ferried across the river Styx, glad to be dead at last. His memories are dramatically alive. The river that flows through Tom Stoppard's The Invention of Love connects Hades with the Oxford of Housman's youth: High Victorian morality is under siege from the Aesthetic movement, and an Irish student called Wilde is preparing to burst ontoIt is 1936 and A.E. Housman is being ferried across the river Styx, glad to be dead at last. His memories are dramatically alive. The river that flows through Tom Stoppard's The Invention of Love connects Hades with the Oxford of Housman's youth: High Victorian morality is under siege from the Aesthetic movement, and an Irish student called Wilde is preparing to burst onto the London scene. On his journey the scholar and poet who is now the elder Housman confronts his younger self, and the memories of the man he loved his entire life, Moses Jackson - the handsome athlete who could not return his feelings. As if a dream, The Invention of Love inhabits Housman's imagination, illuminating both the pain of hopeless love and passion displaced into poetry and the study of classical texts. The author of A Shropshire Lad lived almost invisibly in the shadow of the flamboyant Oscar Wilde, and died old and venerated - but whose passion was truly the fatal one?...

Title : The Invention of Love
Author :
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ISBN : 9780802135810
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 112 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Invention of Love Reviews

  • Kelly
    2019-04-30 04:54

    The second Stoppard play that I've read that obsesses on the nature of man's quest for knowledge, examines the motives of the industries (if you want to call them that) of people who are paid to do it, and tries to make the audience answer, really, what the benefit is of knowing obscure bits of knowledge that have little to no impact on how you balance your checkbook or design a house.I do think that Arcadia stated the issue more simply and beautifully and poignantly, from the brief elegance of, "Its the wanting to know that makes us matter," to Septimus' glorious evocation of the continuous march of humankind, showing how nothing is ever really lost. But The Invention of Love has its own way of looking at the matter, woven into a story that has its own deep sadness and inevitable comedy, and it has a new obsession that couldn't be stated in a more lovely, Shakespearean-esque way. The Invention of Love centers on classical scholars and poets of the classical style, set in Oxford and a Greek religious afterlife, in the midst of Aesthetes and the practical, disinterseted immortals, amongst endlessly repeating memories and intervals of new discovery. It is absolutely obsessed with language. Characters endlessly correct each other on proper and likely readings and misinterpretations of various Latin and Greek phrases, and insist on getting the words right. "The words, what were the words?" This whole play is like Hamlet repeating "Words, words, words," over and over again, sometimes as a song, sometimes as an intensely insane rant. Stoppard explores the idea, an idea that he dismissed in Arcadia, that the individual way that knowledge is discovered and expressed matters- not merely the idea and application of the idea itself. The personal stamp of the person who brings it to public knowledge matters. Who we acknowledge as the inventor matters. Arcadia made the case that as long as we are passionate in what we want and need to know, it does not matter much the way that we personally find to search for our truths, whether they be trivial, personal, or earth shaking, and that knowledge lost will be found again if humanity needs it, when it needs it. Invention of Love is a bit more indulgent of the idea that individual discoveries, and by extension, individual people at specific times matter. Its a bit more of a nostaglic love letter to scholars than Arcadia was- although it certainly pokes fun at the pompous and ridiculousness of most of them. That certainly isn't all this play is about, of course. It is also, as the title would suggest, about forms of love, especially those considered not quite "right" at the time, about friendship, the Aesthetic movement within the Victorian morality of the age. I responded to Stoppard's version of A.E. Housman and his unrequited love of an athlete named Moses Jackson. It is gently and not so gently heartbreaking to watch his feelings grow throughout the play and the ultimate culmination that Housman reaches at the end. Oh also, for those fans of Oscar Wilde, he's talked about for a good bit of the piece, but doesn't make a cameo appearance until the end, so you'll have to stick around after intermission to get a glimpse of him.Well worth it, as always.

  • M
    2019-05-23 06:03

    Every time I read a play by Tom Stoppard, I feel reborn.

  • Jim Coughenour
    2019-05-20 07:15

    Unexpectedly moved (it was late) by a recent poem of the week, I've been reading the new Penguin edition of A. E. Housman, and (in turn) its introduction by Nick Laird prompted me to dig out The Invention of Love. I missed Stoppard's play when it premiered at ACT in 2000 – why? I don't remember, but I'm ashamed.As usual with Stoppard, the drama is a dazzling bricolage of biography and literary quotation. If I hadn't read Laird and Richard Ellmann's matchless biography of Wilde, I would have missed much more than I did. Stoppard's a genius and he can't help showing off. AEH, the ghost of Housman standing on the bank of the Styx, is hardly a subject you'd expect to find moving – but accompanied by the banter of other ghosts boating by (Wilde, Ruskin, Pater, and various comely lads), the dead man is eloquent.He would not stay for me; and who can wonder?He would not stay for me to stand and gaze.I shook his hand and tore my heart in sunderAnd went with half my life about my ways.Yes, it's all very sad (that was Housman shaking hands with the Oxford chum he was in love with, who shrugged him off, moved to India and married), and Stoppard makes everything of the pathos and pathetic comedy of Housman. He was a queer one, both an acerbic scholar of the classics ("beyond serious dispute, among the greatest of all time"; "a scholar worshipped and hated for his meticulous standards and his appalling sarcasms on the unscholarly"*) as well as a sentimental poet of homoerotic necrophilia – elegant elegies to "all those ploughboys and village lads dropping like flies all over Shropshire," as one of Stoppard's characters remarks. The first readers of A Shropshire Lad "might well have been puzzled by its corpse-strewn landscape and wondered what massacre or epidemic had laid so many of Terence's friends low; if they're not in the pub it's because they're already in the churchyard." The book made barely an impression when it was published in 1896, but it seemed to be "in every pocket" of the doomed young men marching off to France in 1914. "As Robert Lowell observed, it was as if Housman had foreseen the Somme." (All this from Alan Hollinghurst's introduction to the very slim ff selection.)This review is already too long for saying so little about Stoppard - but one more footnote. In 1887 Édouard Dujardin published a "stream of consciousness" novel, Les Lauriers sont coupés. James Joyce credited it with inspiring the "interior monologues" of Ulysses. When it was translated into English in 1938, it was titled We'll to the Woods No More, which resonates with the fading echoes of Edwardian England and inspired all manner of melodies. One night poking around the internet, I discovered how this happened. Housman, of course, translating a French line from Théodore de Banville – and this review will fade out itself with these perfectly plaintive lines:We'll to the woods no more,The laurels are all cut,The bowers are bare of bayThat once the Muses wore;The year draws in the dayAnd soon will evening shut:The laurels all are cut,We'll to the woods no more.Oh we'll no more, no moreTo the leafy woods away,To the high wild woods of laurelAnd the bowers of bay no more.

  • Moira Russell
    2019-05-24 00:06

    Even better than 'Arcadia,' and that's really saying something.***(from a 2004 blog post)Damn, that is a smashin' play. The circularity of it all got a little tiresome towards the end ("Mr. Stoppard doesn’t borrow other dramatists’ plots. He has no need. He has no plots" -- John Heilpern in the Observer), and was the most annoyingly-Stoppardian thing about it, but I loved the long monologues about literary scholarship and Latin love poetry, real prose structures, and most of AE's lines direct from his own mouth -- or pen, rather. Those are probably just the things that would make it unpalatable to a larger audience, but hell, if they want to watch Baywatch, let them eat cheesecake. The play offers great possibilities mandere for the actors playing AE, Housman, and Wilde (and why is Wilde stuck in there? As kinsman and foil to the poet-scholar, inevitably; but at his appearance if you know he died in 1900 the brain skips in that groove, 1900-1936, 1900-1936, until Stoppard shows his poetic license and registration) but the other characters are mostly ciphers, except for a few moments with Chamberlain. It'd be lovely to see what great elderly character actors could do with monuments such as Jowett and Ruskin, though. (I freely admit my heart warmed toward Housman not just because I learned he was at "their" St. John's College but also that he gutted Jowett like a fish.) Further showing up the rather false flashiness of pairing Wilde and Housman, as Michael M. Thomas observes, "Housman would have been writing Last Poems in Cambridge at almost the exact same time as, 80 miles to the southwest in London, T.S. Eliot would have been putting the finishing touches on The Wasteland....What a pairing! If ever there was a made-for-Stoppard juxtaposition, wouldn't it be these two men, dry in a dry season?"But in a very real sense that doesn't matter, given such stuff as Housman's two different sayings of "Corruption?" -- "Oh, corruption" and not just the is-love-real-or-is-it-only-invented arguments which give the play its title, but also one of the best moments in theatre ever: "You think there is an answer: the lost autograph copy of life's meaning, which we might recover from the corruptions that have made it nonsense. But if there is no such copy, really and truly there is no answer." And in that you see text and breath alloyed together, as if they weren't really separate at all.Invention is sort of a lot more unwieldy and awkward than the sleekness of Arcadia, but at the same time, everything happens _offstage_ in Arcadia -- Byron, Thomasina's (spoiler), what happens to Septimus -- and Housman is on the stage so much in Invention it's quite the opposite, he's there _all the time,_ and the emotion just sears your heart. -- I do quibble with some of the ways he _portrayed_ Housman -- he has AE crying out to Mo, "You're half my life!" when in reality what we have isHe would not stay for me, and who can wonder?He would not stay for me to stand and gaze.I shook his hand and tore my life in sunderAnd went with half my life about my waysin a poem. Which Mo probably never read. And deliberately didn't understand, if he did read it. And I really doubt AE would have blurted out anything like that. I can understand why Stoppard does it, but...well, anyway, it's a quibble.Anthony Lane's NYorker article on the play is really amazing. "Lost Horizon: the Sad and Savage Wit of AE Housman" (He says in either the intro to Nobody's Perfect or a Tina Brown encomium that her query about the piece was, 'Is Housman hot?')

  • Leigh
    2019-05-22 06:56

    Basically, let us summarize my rhapsodizing thus: I want Tom Stoppard to write my life.HOUSMAN: Scholarship... [is] where we're nearest to our humanness. Useless knowledge for its own sake. Useful knowledge is good, too, but it's for the faint-hearted, an elaboration of the real thing, which is only to shine some light, it doesn't matter where on what, it's the light itself, against the darkness, it's what's left of God's purpose when you take away God. It doesn't mean I don't care about the poetry. I do. Diffugere nives goes through me like a spear.... The recovery of ancient texts is the highest task of all - Erasmus, bless him. It is work to be done. Posterity has a brisk way with manuscripts: scholarship is a small redress against the vast unreason of what is taken from us - it's not just the worthless that perish, Jesus doesn't save.

  • Julia
    2019-04-26 03:58

    my senior year high school english teacher recommended this to me, because of The Classics (and indeed the moment a line of vergil about the styx was spoken aloud i knew i was Home), but little did she know that this play is in fact an assemblage of all i've ever loved: classics! aesthetics! homosexuality! pretentiousness! pretentious homosexuality in oxford! delicate meditations/vignettes on youth, death, and scholarship! oh god this play is my happy place. and i should maybe be ashamed that what my taste in literature comes down to is gay english snobbery, but...well, yes, in many ways my taste in literature is gay english snobbery.

  • Letitia
    2019-05-24 06:02

    Though true to his usual loquacious brilliance, Stoppard is a bit indulgent in this work. I found myself rolling my eyes after fourteen obscure literary references and nineteen syllable words. All right Tom, we know you're brilliant. Quit showing off. Just write us a thought-provoking story.

  • M
    2019-05-20 06:55

    Here is where I say that if you saw me reviewing like a maniac on my Anne Carson kick recently (If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho and Autobiography of Red), you have probably noticed by now that I have a thing for my memories of high school Latin, and for classicism in general. You will if you are some creepy expert on me (or actually know me in real life) also know that I'm a total sucker for Arcadia: A Play, which is honestly more hilarious and well-crafted and heartbreaking than any other play I can think of written in my lifetime off the top of my head.So what I'm saying is, how did I not find THIS until now? (Read someone else's review for the summary. I'm in rapture mode here.)I will note, for your information and my own amazed serendipity, that I happened to be retranslating last week precisely the Horace poem this whole play hinges on (classical scholar Housman's favorite, which is probably why my high school Latin teacher's favorite, which is probably why MY favorite), which so apropos of this exact time of year runs: Horace Ode IV.7TRANSLATION by me.(the only word I leave untranslated is pietas and its adjective pius, which is sort of the word they would have used for if you crossed mythic cherry-tree George Washngton with Gandhi with Patrick Henry--pious, selfless, virtuous, and utterly abjectly devoted to everything a good Roman should do, even at the cost of his own life. Its usage here is rather shocking.)The snows have passed away, and now the grass returns to the fields,and the leaves upon the trees.The earth is changing faces, and the waning riversoverflow their banks.A Grace, with (all) her Nymphs and sisters twinned,Dares to lead a chorus in the nude."Do not hope for immortality," warns the year, and the hourwhich snatches away the kindly day.(This) warm breeze softens the frost, (but) summer soon will trample spring,and then itself begin to die, just as, whenfruitful autumn has poured out its bounty, without delaythe stifling winter hastens back.For speedy moons restore in time their losses in the sky:but when we sink belowto where pius Aeneas and wealthy Tullus and Ancus wait,we are but dust and shadows.Who knows if any gods above will tack tomorrowto the running total of our days?All that will outwit posterity's greedy handIs what you deed your own delightful self.And when you sink below, to where Minossits his solemn judgment,Torquatus, (friend!): not family ties nor eloquencenor even pietas will bring you back.For Diana cannot free her chaste Hippolytusfrom the shades beneath,nor Theseus ever from dear Perithousrip the chains of Lethe.-----------Ahem.It's really those last two lines, far superior in the Latin, which haunt this play. In the tattered mythology that remains to us, Theseus and Perithous were kings, dearest of friends, close in that particular ancient Greek male way that blurs the homosocial and the erotic. In a twist on the Orpheus tale, the literature holds that they BOTH go down to the underworld on a quest to drag off Persephone as Pirithous' wife (They'd already stolen an underage Helen, who creepily enough was going to be locked away till she was of age--obviously she doesn't stay kidnapped by them, because fate has made an appointment for her in Troy), and are trapped by Hades. It isn't until (in one of those comic-book-like crossovers that pop up in ancient myth) Herakles rolls through on one of his labors, sees a fellow hero in a jam, and drags Theseus out to the light. But Perithous is out of luck, because he has offended the gods by wanting a goddess as his wife--when Herakles tries to tear him from the spot he is chained, the whole Earth shakes and he is forced to give up.It's about death, hilariously so (as Housman being ferried by Charon over the river Lethe crashes into Three Men in a Boat including Jerome K. Jerome), but more than that it is of course about love (especially frustrated, hidden, unrequited, forbidden love), and what it cannot conquer (time, prejudice, the closet, and our own naivete). Amid a swirl of British Public School buggery jokes, nods to the Aesthetics, Wilde swallowing up the horizon, and endless obsessive little comic battles over the translation of the 10 or so poems I know anything about in Latin -- not to mention, as with the Carson, the terrible sense of loss of so many beautiful works -- well, this play is among other things about how no beauty you ever perceive in your entire life will evade death, no love no matter how strong will slow it down, and how all the dreams of being transmuted into heroism you ever hold will shatter against the sturdy certainties of life--including those that say "the love of your life may not love you back, or be ABLE to love you back." But it tells you so, in the soaring tradition that Arcadia seems to have started, by making one laugh to tears and then revealing profound beauty and poignancy, which is how art makes all of this bearable and even noble, even as at other times it has been complicit in fostering all the illusions life tends to shatter. And it will accomplish this by first making you laugh and then by making you wonder and then by making your heart stop cold in your throat, where only then you realize it had been beating for the past half hour. And then offering perhaps its greatest solace in the giddy Wildean perversity where it began.And I really should be asleep but I wanted to say that some things are worth going giddy over, and I will probably see this in the morning and tear it to pieces. (Yes, I edited this in the morning. Amazing how coherent I could be while literally passing out in bed on melatonin, but worth pulling out other themes than merely the mortal ones.)

  • Sarah
    2019-04-28 03:56

    This is my favorite Stoppard play (though The Real Thing and Jumpers come close), mainly because I used to be a Classics nerd and already appreciated Housman's contributions to that field and to poetry in general. This play has all the classic Stoppard ingredients: good banter, beautifully-stylized language, and emotional truth. I'm a sucker for a good, unconventional unrequited love story, and Stoppard communicates Housman's longing for his straight friend Moses beautifully.Housman himself (by whom I meant the elder Housman - labeled "Housman," if I remember correctly, to distinguish him from the younger "AEH," with whom he interacts) is so fully-formed, his characterization so subtle and interesting, that he steals every scene he's in. His personality is part self-deprecation, part wounded pride, part wry humor and part abject (but not maudlin) longing. Though this is a love story, in the end this play is patently about Housman's relationship with himself, and the various happy and tragic ends to which we refract our longing through our own conceptions of self.Oscar Wilde pops in every now and then, to sometimes-hilarious, sometimes-thoughtful effect. If you, like I do, believe that he's the only fun thing to come out of the Victorian era, and especially if you like Classics, I highly recommend this play.

  • Kyle
    2019-04-28 02:01

    A mature entry by Stoppard that casually shuttles back and forth in time, going all the way back to classical antiquity to bring Charon on stage to ferry a few of the departed into Hades. The scholar-turned-pining-patent-office-poet Housman has plenty to time to review his life, even meeting with a younger version of himself near Oxford's Hades. Much of the politics get churned up in the Stygian waters, glimpses of a different world at the end of the nineteenth century.

  • Magda
    2019-05-22 04:05

    Kissing girls is not like science, nor is it like sport. It is the third thing when you thought there were only two.

  • Julia
    2019-04-24 03:57

    I feel like this is honestly probably the best play I've ever read

  • Martin Michalek
    2019-05-16 02:00

    This play is typically Stoppardian, which isn't to say that all of Stoppard's plays contain these traits—meta-theatre, parallel universes, notions of entropy that would make any person with a semblance of what entropy actually is lose his or her shit, a not so surreptitious attempt at writing literary canon fan-fic, etc., etc., etc.—no, not every play contains these traits, but they're in his plays and this one brings them together enjoyably. It's not as good as [i]Arcadia[/i] but it's fine. Its portrayal of Housman is a bit too bleak; one hardly finds the poetic Housman in the play. Perhaps that's good, though, because the dryness of Housman's poetic persona is counter-balanced by Stoppard's excellent handling of Housman-the-critic, who sweats over the thought of whether an 'r' in a manuscript of Catullus was actually a 't'. The passion of Housman comes out in these moments. But it doesn't come out nearly enough (no pun intended). For being a play on the invention of love, Stoppard's handling of Housman as a maudlin love poet is tepid; and his portrayal of Wilde is akin to doing shots of amaro.

  • Shawn
    2019-05-23 03:17

    I imagine that one of the reasons that this is not among the more often performed of Stoppard's plays is the fact that it contains so much Latin and Greek, and is peripherally about so many long-dead scholars known to few today. (Although, it also gives a few nods to Pater, Ruskin and Jerome K. Jerome, and a good deal more than a nod to Wilde.) And I don't think that it comes up to the very high standard of Arcadia, or even Travesties, although it has many of the same kinds of wonderful and delightful flights of verbal virtuosity that make many of us love Stoppard.The tone is (appropriately for a play that mentions Catullus and Propertius so often) elegiac, and that's appropriate also for the life it deals with, repressed and restrained as it was by Housman's time and society and character. (Wilde gives Housman's ghost a parting scolding for the sadness of his life as he's being ferried over by Charon, but not everyone, after all, can be as bold as Oscar.)

  • Syl
    2019-05-25 05:01

    By far one of the most beautiful plays I've had the pleasure to read. Meticulously blending together all of my interests into a witty, amusing, yet also heartbreaking piece: Stoppard has captured my heart. I'm surprised I wasn't made aware of him sooner. The worlds of different times folded into one another, breathed, drifting in and out and away on Charon's boat. An old Housman seeing a young Jackson and feeling the tug of his heartstrings all over again "Mo...!". Scenes of a schoolboy crush and scenes of shattering heartbreak. Layers and layers of references you have to peel apart. I found myself subconsciously imitating Stoppard's style in an essay I happened to be writing alongside my perusal of this play. Housman is one of my most beloved poets, and this play is an exquisite testament to his life.

  • Adam Lam
    2019-05-05 03:14

    The numerous alliterations to Greek tragedy, Latin and ancient Greek expressions, and references to the Victorian era make it difficult to read, but the plot is so moving it's worthwhile. As the original New York production team gave viewers a 30-page booklet for background info, I recommend reading the play alongside a study guide (you can find one online from the American Conservatory Theater or the Guthrie Theater).

  • Paul O'Leary
    2019-05-06 06:00

    Absolutely delightful Stoppard play focusing on aesthetics, love, and scholarship at Oxford in the time of A.E. Housman. Magnificent to read. It must be spectacular to watch. I'm envious of anyone playing Wilde in this. Stoppard has written a gift to the dead aesthete and an absolute prize for any actor charged with the role.Housman was a middle-tier poet, mostly known for his book of verse called A Shropshire Lad. Apparently he was also a skilled scholar of the classics. A few readers have objected to the inclusion of Latin minutiae throughout this play. I can't see how this could be helped, though, given the points Stoppard is trying to make. This contrast between poetry as love and the scholarly "science" is basically what the play is about as Stoppard explores the differences or rather contrasts between the two "vocations". Housman honestly acknowledges he is two very different people from the beginning of the play; though perhaps, he alludes, more than a bit of an unfortunate admixture. In the midst of this, Stoppard also addresses Housman's loving devotion to a fellow classmate, who does not return his love. Housman eventually confronts his "love", but just as quickly backs away from it. On the cusp of passionate tumult, he backs away into a quiet, studious retreat. A few have commented that the focus of his affection isn't worth the squint, yet to me the muse comes off as drearily average and simply un-homosexual. Just to empathize the dichotomy running through the play, Housman's inamorato is studying the hard sciences. There's a delightful portion of the play when Wilde(or Stoppard, technically) would have us rethink any of our suspicions, at least aesthetically, as he tells the subject of Housman's affections that his "thigh is a poem". Pater, Ruskin, and Jovett make appearances. If a reader is somewhat familiar with Pater's license, Ruskin's peculiar morality and Jovett's dishonesty of convention then this play will read more smoothly. Also, the news media of that day is humorously poked at a bit. At one point, Wilde runs through his list of important friends to Housman, though it is his mentioned journalist friends that will ultimately seal his(Wilde's) penal fate. The basic theme seems to be the road/vocation relinquished.... We're left to believe that Housman sacrificed his poetry for scholarly science and lost out in that bargain. Behind this is Housman's squandered desire for sensual love. This holds the key to all the play's tragic contradictions. Unchampioned, it perished on the same vine as Housman's poetry. How complete this sacrifice made is evident when Chamberlain tells the elder Housman that a new word has been created, homosexual, to describe "the love that dare not speak its name". Housman weakly replies that mixing Greek with Roman is barbarous. The classicist has indeed swallowed him whole. Stoppard helps our judgement of affairs by portraying Housman's method of scholarship as being little more than mean-spiritedness and waiting about for that great philological discovery, whether in word or, dare to dream, "undiscovered" manuscript. Wilde is trotted out in the end for an amazing interaction with the old Housman. Wilde comes off as the whole player who has enjoyed the game of life, prison not withstanding. More than having enjoyed the game, as Wilde tells us, he turned life into poetry itself. Wilde confidently knows who he is and has no regrets. Housman really cannot claim either as an achievement. Some would say this makes Wilde the hero of the play. Clearly, this isn't the case. Housman's life, love, and equivocating choices have created the remembered events which constitute this play; he is actually clearly the "hero" for Wilde as he is his creator and re-creator. As well as his own. Ultimately, the moral to the story seems to be if you can't live life as poetry in your own time, the next best thing is to leave something true of yourself to endure, even as bloodless poetry on a page. Yet the latter undoubtedly requires the former.... Both grow typically in tandem or else perish, often through murder-suicide. Removed from that by a step or two, or more, is the "science" and those practitioners clinging to it. Through both Housmans, Stoppard is making a very clear statement with this play as to where we should be looking for humanity's real light and where all love is invented and sung.

  • Rachel
    2019-04-24 03:56

    Funny, whimsical and moving - and literally about the invention of love, the word, the poetry, the meaning. Tom Stoppard is just so clever, and knows so much, yet presents it in such a light and careless way. "Oh yes, I know scads about AE Housman's life of literary criticism - don't you?" Not to mention it was about boylove, and Oxford, two subjects very dear to my heart.Housman I will take his secret to the grave, telling people I meet on the way. Betrayal is no sin if it's whimsical.DID I MENTION IT WAS FUNNY?(view spoiler)[Ruskin When I am at Paddington I feel I am in hell.Jowett You must not go about telling everyone, Dr Ruskin. It will not do for the moral education of Oxford undergraduates that the wages of sin may be no more than the sense of being stranded at one of the larger railway stations.BECAUSE IT IS.AEH Confronted with two manuscripts of equal merit, [Franken] is like a donkey between two bundles of hay, and confusedly imagines that if one bundle were removed he would cease to be a donkey.WITTY AS ... A REALLY WITTY THING.Chamberlain 'But this unlucky love should last When answered passions thin to air.'Did you send them to Jackson, the ones you didn't put in your book?AEH No.Chamberlain Saving them till you're dead?AEH It's a courtesy. Confession is an act of violence against the offending.Also? HEARTBREAKING.Wilde [...] Art cannot be subordinate to its subject, otherwise it is not art but biography, and biography is the mesh through which our real life escapes. I was said to have walked down Piccadilly with a lily in my hand. There was no need. To do it is nothing, to be said to have done it is everything. It is the truth about me. Shakespeare's Dark Lady probably had bad breath - everyone did until my third year at Oxford - but sincerity is the enemy of art. This is what Pater taught me, and what Ruskin never learned. Ruskin made a vice out of virtue.Wilde The betrayal of one's friends is a bagatelle in the stakes of love, but the betrayal of oneself is a lifelong regret. Bose is what became of me. He was spoiled, vindictive, utterly selfish and not very talented, but these are merely the facts. The truth is he was Hyacinth when Apollo loved him, he is ivory and gold, from his red rose-leaf lips comes music that fills me with joy, he is the only one who understands me. "Even as a teething child throbs with ferment, so does the soul of him who gazes upon the boy's beauty; he can neither sleep at night nor keep still by day," and a lot more besides, but before Plato could describe love, the loved one had to be invented. We would never love anybody if we could see past our invention. Bosie is my creation, my poem. In the mirror of invention, love discovered itself.And I loved his Wilde, although ... what he said about 'inventing' the person you love? It made me feel a little uncomfortable, a little too much like that's really true. I don't want that to be true. (hide spoiler)]

  • Eric Norris
    2019-05-05 03:10

    I think this is my third or fourth time reading this play and it gets richer each time. I saw it in its original Broadway run twice. I think, after Arcadia, it is my favorite Stoppard play. It is a sort of temporally disjointed dream fantasy which takes place on the River Styx as A.E. Housman (scholar/poet) is being ferried to the Underworld. The elderly Housman confronts himself as a young man and the Victorian mileu in which he grew up, most importantly his unrequited love for Moses Jackson, the young athlete Housman meets at Oxford, and how that bond changed Housman's life. It is also about the end of one era--the Victorian era--and the transition to another--the 20th Century. In this we might see A.E. Housman and Oscar Wilde (another character here) as transitional figures in the play and as foils: Housman, whose unrequited love he turns to textual scholarship, and a kind of stoic and faithful loneliness; and Wilde the asthetic genius brought to financial ruin and an early death by publicly acting on his passion and turning his life into a work of art. Both Housman and Wilde are tragic figures. They are also transitional figures, commas, so to speak. "There is truth and falsehood in a comma," Housman says in the play. In another scene another character reports one of Wilde's quips about commas “I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.” Here is the difference between the two men in a nutshell, as Stoppard depicts them. Housman is talking to himself as a young man. Wilde to his contemporaries. One regards the comma a toy, the other a dividing line between worlds.But they do not seem to be adversaries to me, even though Wilde is inclined to criticize Housman. Housman never criticizes him back. Wilde sacrifices his life to his art. So does Housman. At least here, if I am understsnding the play. Housman quietly makes those little corrections in the texts of the ancients where homosexuality had been written out. Where the sexes of pronouns were changed. By passing on a line of Aeschylus. Where some insertion corrupts the text, he seeks the truth. He dissolves his affection into scholarship. It is a thankless task. But somebody has to do it. Theseus has to at least try to free his friend, Pirithous, chained in Hades, even if he can't.He would not stay for me, and who can wonder? He would not stay for me to stand and gaze.I shook his hand, and tore my heart in sunder, And went with half my life about my ways.

  • Jee Koh
    2019-05-21 04:03

    Poet or ScholarSingapore Jade had been insisting that I read this Stoppard play for quite some time, and finally made it impossible for me to put her off by giving me a copy the other day. Plays don't come alive to me until I see them performed, and The Invention of Love struck me, on first reading, as more brainy than acute, more showy than moving. But Stoppard's Housman and Wilde came back to me again and again in the last few days, while I was waiting for the bus, or listening to a friend's chatter, or working out in the SAFRA gym near my house.The desire to lay down your life for your lover. A desire represented in the play by repeated references to the Theban band, an army made of same-sex lovers, slaughtered by the Macedonians. Housman wants to lay down his life for his love, Moses Jackson, but the latter is straight and does not love him back, and Housman remains closeted all his life. Wilde, on the other hand, gives his life and reputation for his love, refusing to run from standing trial.The serious Housman. The apparently frivolous Wilde. Housman was a first-year student at Oxford when Wilde was in his final year there. Housman is going to be a scholar of Greek and Latin, Wilde an Aesthete of Life. Housman raises points of linguistic interest in Catallus. Wilde raises witty epigrams quoted around the university. Wilde receives a First in Finals. Housman is ploughed by the Finals because Propertius, his life work, is not on the examination.You cannot be a poet and a scholar of the first rank; you must choose. The poet's supreme god is beauty but the scholar's ultimate goal is knowledge. In life, as well as career, Housman chooses to be a first-rank scholar. Wilde chooses to be a poet.The love elegy, like the motor-car and the telephone, had to be invented. Homosexual love had to be invented. Housman decides not to invent homosexual love, but to live a life of permanent longing. Wilde is a self-invention.Which of the two men lived a better life? What regrets and joys attend each man waiting by the river for Charon?

  • Dani Peloquin
    2019-05-01 06:08

    I had read this play a couple of years ago but was unable to finish it because of time constraints. However, I soon realized that I may have cast the book aside not because of time constraints but because the play was just not good! In fact, it has taken me almost a week to even write this review because I have been conflicted on how to describe it and how to phrase my reactions to the story.The Invention of Love tells the life story of the poet A.E Housman as seen from his eyes after he has died and is traveling down the River Styx. He watches as scenes from his life are played out in front of him. Many include his professors and fellow scholars at Oxford University as they express their views of Housman. It soon becomes clear that Housman's life was complicated by his homosexuality. This is further clarified in the second act in which Oscar Wilde becomes a character in the play.Though the plot seems simplistic, there are a great deal of underlying themes that make the play an interesting read. Stoppard litters the play with allusions to mythology and classical literature. Classical creatures such as Hades make various appearances as Stoppard connects mythological tales to Housman's life. It also explores the mythology of life and how people view their own lives as they live it as opposed to reflecting on it after the events have occurred. Stoppard allows Housman to talk to his younger self as well as the other characters in the play which creates an interesting tension and dynamic.Despite Stoppard's quirky way of storytelling, there is no saving this play. The classical allusions come off as being bombastic and simply an excuse for Stoppard to brag of his knowledge on the subject. At times Housman's soliloquies are overblown and merely a lecture on mythology. The theme of homosexuality is nothing new or introspective and actually feels like a cheap trick used to "increase ratings" (as they do on television shows). Overall, I was under-whelmed. I was hoping for more mythology and less

  • Marina
    2019-05-05 01:12

    I don’t feel even remotely wise or eloquent enough to review this play. Just for you to get an idea, I’ll admit to not knowing who A.E. Housman was when I started reading this. Pretty dumb, eh, considering HE IS IN THE COVER?!The plot: A.E. Housman dies an old man, and in his way to the Underworld (ferried through the Styx/Thames), he sees scenes of his life in Oxford pass before him… Literally. His friends (including the love of his life), his teachers (John Ruskin!), the famous & disreputable alumni (Oscar Wilde!), all discuss, essentially, love: in theory, in academia, in poetry, and only in A.E. Housman’s particular case, love in real life—or the lack of it.The most academic bits (the invention of love of the title refers to the first poems about love, Roman and BC) were, sometimes, difficult to follow. But not the kind of difficult that makes you want to stop reading, but the kind that makes you want to understand it and makes you read it and re-read it an research it. What Stoppard does, like in Arcadia, is question the job of the academia, but emphasizing the importance of the search for knowledge.The play was beautiful. Housman’s unrequited love for his friend Moses was sad and beautiful, and the writing was splendid, of course. It takes some guts to write famous writers (and great epigraph-er Oscar Wilde) and make up new words for them. I loved it and enjoyed it, and although maybe this one is more ~~intelligent (I don’t think that’s the word, but I lack the one I’m thinking of), Arcadia was better. More beautiful, more poignant, and better. To me—OF COURSE.

  • Tom Marcinko
    2019-05-21 02:07

    I’ve really been getting into Stoppard lately, but—all right, most of this play went over my head. I got most of the references in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and Travesties, but this one is about Victorian literary men who I’m mostly only glancingly familiar with: A. E. Houseman, Walter Pater, John Ruskin, Benjamin Jowett, Jerome K. Jerome, and, oh, look, Oscar Wilde makes a late appearance. Too erudite for this Yank. But it’s Stoppard, so it has some great lines.Charon: Everyone is here, and those that aren’t will be. …AEH: …Well, I don’t suppose I’ll have time to meet everybody.Charon: Yes, you will…Kissing girls is not like science, nor is it like sport. It is a third thing when you thought there were only two.Like everything else, like clocks and trousers and algebra, the love poem had to be invented. After millenniums of sex and centuries of poetry, the love poem as understood by Shakespeare and Donne, and by Oxford undergraduates—the true-life confessions of the poet in love, immortalizing the mistress, who is actually the cause of the poem—that was invented in Rome in the first century before Christ. The French are the best cooks, and during the Siege of Paris I’m sure rats never tasted better, but that is no reason to continue eating rat now that coq au vin is available.Life is brief and death kicks at the door impartially. Euripides wrote a Pirithous, the last copy having passed through the intestines of an unknown rat probably a thousand years ago if it wasn’t burned by bishops—the Church’s idea of the good and the beautiful excludes sexual aberration, apart from chastity, I suppose because it’s the rarest.Wilde: …before Plato could describe love, the loved one had to be invented. We would never love anybody if we could see past our invention.

  • Mark Johnson
    2019-05-02 06:18

    Just when you think Tom Stoppard can't get any more dense, along comes this play, which is almost impossibly intellectual. I got ahold of it after awhile, then lost it, then got it back, and was highly impressed with what I understood. I imagine I'll read this play a few more times in my life, my appreciation growing every time I re-read.

  • Konrad
    2019-05-21 03:00

    Erudite & emotional, my first Stoppard. Of the life of A. E. Housman (1859-1936) & we are present at his end as he considers his past life & deliberates: of his squandered/ not-squandered (long unknown & never reciprocated) forever love for college chum Moses Jackson; of his life's work editing, translating, studying, academia-ing of the Ancients, i.e. his commitment to the humanities, to scholarship for scholarship's sake.The easy logic would establish Housman's dusty devotion to scholarship as the bitter symptom of his rebuffed affections for another man (during a time in England when Wilde would be imprisoned several years for 'gross indecency'). "And he ran to the corrupted texts, to the poetry of the pederastic Greeks," so says that logic. Yet Stoppard's never lets Housman's academic career appear colorless, never as some neat and tidy result -- though it is vexed, surely, as all our pleasures are. When chit-chatting with his younger self, the elderly Housman both recommends relaxing his younger self's zeal for study & instead smell outdoor roses & dwell in the present, while continuing to champion the autonomous, & therefore, productive grand cause of scholarship. Why not both? Ah, if only we had more than one life!& passages from Horace's elegy to the athlete Ligurinas, "To Venus," ['At night I hold you fast in my dreams, I run after you across the fields of Mars, I follow you into the tumbling waters, and you show no pity'] serve to voice Housman's hush-hush desire for this Mo, a runner. Goodness, I cried. For yes there is longing and regret, but more potent: some of the knottiest courage I've ever read.

  • John
    2019-05-20 07:04

    I love some of Stoppard's work, but not all of it. This is an instance in which his erudition descends into tedious self-indulgence. I think it's safe to say that any play which incorporates copious quotations in both Latin and Greek, as well as obscure references to the academia of Victorian England, is performing a disservice to its audience. (In support of this assertion, it should be noted that a 30-page reference booklet was provided to audiences for the initial New York production.) Naturally, critics lauded this as a masterpiece, and audiences and readers, led by their noses, fell into Pavlovian agreement, lest they appear unrefined. But, although it will win me no friends, and I expose myself to accusations that I'm an uneducated, dim-witted boor, I still insist that this is a perfect example of why the theater arts are growing increasingly moribund (a contention which is borne out by the latest statistics). The Emperor wears no clothes."The Invention of Love" is slightly less exasperating than "Arcadia," but, in this reader's (and writer's) opinion, is a sucker-punch delivered to an unsuspecting audience who are likely, in the privacy of their own thoughts, to wonder why they shelled out umpteen dollars to sit through an evening of esoteric trivia and irrelevancies. Stoppard's work increasingly resembles the dramatic equivalent of the Second Viennese School's music, in that it is likely to vastly alienate and erode, rather than embrace and build, an audience for its art form. In short: Who cares?

  • Alexander Miles
    2019-05-14 00:19

    I don't usually read plays. Not that I have anything against them, they just rarely get into my list with all the other to-read material out there. This is the first I've read of Stoppard, and outside of the 1990 film adaptation of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (which was quite good), first exposure to his plays at all. I don't have much background in greek and latin, or encyclopedic knowledge of victorian writers, legislators, journalists, and other personalities, so a good deal of the details were lost on me. This is not to say that I wasn't able to form cohesive pictures of the characters (or rather people portrayed) by the end; just that the outside context was missing. That all being said, there are far too many great lines in this play to ignore, and a lot funnier than the glance led me to believe. I've been told that a good production of Stoppard's plays is required for the full experience, and having read this one, I'd be eager to attend. I can recommend this play (for reading, anyhow) to readers who already enjoy plays, or are just looking for some razor-witted jokes to chuckle along with. If you don't particularly care for wit or plays (wha?!), then it's probably fine to give this a pass.

  • John
    2019-04-28 23:56

    I honestly would never have imagined that Tom Stoppard could top what I have long considered to be his masterpiece, The Real Thing, but The Invention of Love quite possibly does just that. A densely allusive belly laugh of the brain from beginning to end, intensely tragic and gloriously uplifting at once, ultimately a journey (with Charon no less) to gaze into Nietzsche’s abyss with the dead AEH — and the abyss gazes back with at least a little bit of a smile. No matter how pointless life may be, it’s fun, damn it! I was laughing out loud as I read each page (just as I laughed out loud — embarrassingly, the only one in the audience at Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre to do so — at the “Screw the whales, save the gerund” joke in The Real Thing all those years ago) but . . . .as Houseman says in Act II, “if you can’t read Latin go home, you’ve missed it!” . . .

  • *heartrl*
    2019-05-22 08:12

    UPDATE: In retrospect I am giving this play 4 stars- It is esoteric and a nod to the knowing- but it left me thinking quite a bit, looking a lot of things up and learning- what more can you ask for from a piece of art. I still think it's slightly pretentious, but that is transcended by it's beauty.Great, and beautiful play- esoteric and slightly indulgent, but beautiful and sad. I think a lot of it was lost on me and I would really need to see a good production of it. I did really enjoy parts of it, but a lot, to be honest, I just had to keep reading through without understanding the references. I get the gist though and I would give it four stars for story alone. The language it was pulls it down for me, at times captivating and gorgeous, it seems to revert to language that can only be understood by someone who already had a great knowledge of this era and so seemed like a nudge to the knowing rather than a celebration of the story.

  • stephanie
    2019-05-04 05:06

    i heard this was coming to broadway (years ago now) and thought to myself, i really don't know how they are going to pull that off - because, well, there isn't really a lot of action in the play. through a twist of fate my sister and i got tickets to the opening night of previews for dirt cheap and met robert sean leonard after. i confessed to him my initial skepticism and he agreed he felt the same way - but this was stoppard, after all. i think i benefited from reading it a few times before i saw it, because there are so many layers and textual jokes that fly over your while watching an engaging performance. the part that sticks with me is the part leigh quoted in her review, and also the image of that day at the track, the blond adoinais sprinting for the finish. sad and glorious at the same time.