Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Peter Lewis RIP

I was very sad this morning to hear from a friend of the death of Peter Lewis, doyenne of British historians of medieval France, author of Later Medival France , the standard work in English on the subject, and a Fellow of All Souls.

The notice on the college website is as follows: 

Peter Lewis 1931-2014 

It is with great sadness that the College announces the death on 30th July of Peter (Shervey) Lewis, MA, FRHistS, Membre de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, Fellow of All Souls 1953-98 (Fellow Librarian 1982-98) and Emeritus Fellow from 1998. There will be a Memorial Service in All Souls College Chapel at 2:15pm on Saturday 11th October 2014. 

I attended Peter Lewis' seminars at All Souls on later medieval France from 1994 until 1998, when he retired. They were the quintessence of Oxford scholarship and I revered him as the type of don you expected to meet here. He was the master of his subject, and also, to my mind the personification of academic courtesy.Thus after each seminar those attending were invited to sherry in his rooms, high up in the Great Court of the College. Here there was academic converse but also genuine friendliness and a sense of shared intersts and enthusiasms.

I have two abiding memories of him in particular. On one occasion in the questions after a seminar he had chaired he started a remark by saying "Now was it Dubuy, or Contarmine or [various other distinguished French historians were mentioned] who had the idea that [whatever the point was].... oh no [striking his forehead with the palm of his hand], it was me." 

The other is more personal. When I gave a seminar paper on my work on Bishop Fleming at All Souls in, I think, 1997, I had just begun when the door at the far end of the room opened and in came Peter Lewis, who virtually never came to such things. I was flattered and somewhat surprised. After the paper was delivered (and I think well received, but that is no matter to this story) I thanked him for coming, and received the reply "You always come to my seminars, so I though I would come to yours." I was struck then, and continue to be, by such courtesy from an academic demi-god to a middle-aged postgraduate. 

A great and distinguished historian and a gracious and dignified human being.

May he rest in peace.

1 comment:

Zephyrinus said...


Requiescat in pace.