Winchester College Publication Winchester College Classic Talks - Page 10

Gilbert Murray (1908–36: Figures 17–18) had equally little regard for Bywater. There are many beautiful things in Greek literature, he remarked: I dare say Bywater knows that, but I cannot see him ever persuading anyone else of it. Most would say, I think, that Murray has been the most distinguished holder of the chair: maybe not the greatest scholar, though that is arguable, but surely the greatest person. He was a man of letters as much as a scholar, and a man of the theatre too: his verse translations of Greek Figure 17 Gilbert Murray; by tragedy were widely performed and made George Charles Beresford, vintage the plays accessible to a much broader print, 1916 audience. He himself figures, under a very light disguise, as a character in George Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara. He was a public figure in other ways too, a prominent liberal (and not loved for that in Christ Church: he would dine on Friday nights, when he could invite undergraduates of other colleges and have someone to talk to), and then one who played a leading role after the First World War in the League of Nations. In old age this lifelong teetotaller was told to drink half a bottle of sherry every evening for his health. I’ve been looking for a doctor like that all my life. Figure 18 Gilbert Murray, aged 88; by Lawrence Toynbee, 1950 18 E. R. Dodds (1936–60: Figure 19) was the unexpected name that Murray put forward to Stanley Baldwin. Dodds was a lecturer at Birmingham University at the time, best known for his expertise on Neoplatonism (or ‘Neoplatonic poppycock’, as an unsympathetic Oxford don put it). The succession was expected to go to one of two local Oxford heavyweights, but Murray did not have much regard for either. Dodds was duly made to feel unwelcome both in the university and in the college; he remarked later that he would have been much happier had he Figure 19 E. R. Dodds; by been appointed to another post that came Walter Stoneman, February 1945 up in the same year, that of Head Gardener at St John’s. ‘What did you do in the war, Doddsy?’ was the unfriendly greeting of one of the disappointed Oxford candidates, Maurice Bowra, and this touched a strong reason for his initial unpopularity: Dodds was an Irishman and felt that the Great War was not his war, so was effectively a conscientious objector; Bowra had fought in the trenches. Dodds was an undergraduate during the war, and the Master of University College made it clear to him that he would not be welcome to return and finish his course. Feelings towards him warmed (he was in fact an extremely nice man, with an impish and rebellious streak: I met him a few times), and by the end of his tenure he was recognised as a very great scholar, arguably the best of the lot. He too was a man of letters, a great friend of T. S. Eliot and a patron of Louis MacNeice. His immense feeling for poetry comes over in his writings, particularly his edition of Euripides’ Bacchae. Sir Hugh Lloyd-Jones (1960–89: Figure 20), the first whom I knew well, partly because his daughter Antonia was my college pupil (that Figure 20 Sir Hugh Lloyd-Jones 19