Late Friends

Professor John Beer, FBA,  

John Beer, Emeritus Fellow of Peterhouse and distinguished scholar of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, died on 10 December 2017, aged 91 years. Since the 1970s  his lectures were keenly anticipated highlights of the Wordsworth Summer Conference, and we mark his passing with great sorrow.   

Molly Lefebure, FRSL

Molly Lefebure (1919-2013) was a wartime journalist, a novelist, a children's author, writer on the topography of Cumbria, biographer, and independent scholar. She was also a force of nature, a loyal and life-enhancing friend, and one of the defining personalities of Richard Wordsworth's Wordsworth Conference.
She lectured brilliantly on innumerable topics, including the poetry of Humphry Davy, the work of Sara Coleridge (fille), and the murderous art of Burke and Hare. With her husband John Gerrish who died in November 2012, also at 93, she also presented the lake district through slides and classical music. 
was responsible for the Conference tradition of fell-walking and cultural excursions, which she conducted with brio and expertise for three decades of the conference.
She is shown above taking tea at Rydal Mount in 1982 and opposite with the actor John Rowe at the Wordsworth Winter School in in 1993.

Molly Lefebure's contributions to literary studies include:

Samuel Taylor Coleridge: a Bondage of Opium (1974),
The Bondage of Love: a Life of Mrs Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Thomas Hardy's World (1987)
Private Lives of the Ancient Mariner: Coleridge and his Children (forthcoming in September, 2013).


Thomas McFarland, who died in September 2011, aged 84, was one of the greatest of Coleridgeans and a most loyal member of the Conference community. His Coleridge and the Pantheist Tradition (OUP, 1969) remains one of the indispensable works on Coleridge's thought; Romanticism and the Forms of Ruin: Wordsworth, Coleridge and Modalities of Fragmentation (Princeton University Press, 1992) contains seminal essays on Wordsworth and Coleridge. McFarland's most memorable lectures at the conference included vibrant instalments of his commentary on Coleridge's 'Logosophia', intended for The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Volume 15: Opus Maximum (Princeton, 2002). As a lecturer, a walking companion, a conversationist, and a friend, Thomas McFarland is greatly missed.  He is pictured (opposite) above Buttermere and Crummock, and (below) on Coniston Old Man with Jack Stillinger, Paul Magnuson, Frederick Burwick, Bill Ruddick, Robert Barth, Paul Sheats and others at the 1988 conference, and on Great Gable in 1989, with Richard Gravil.

Professor Thomas McFarland

A festschrift for Thomas McFarland, with contributions by Ian Wylie, Nicola Trott, Nicholas Roe, Molly Lefebure, Grevel Lindop, Tim Fulford, James Engell, Frederick Burwick, Elinor Shaffer, Anthony Harding, Jonathan Bate, H W Piper, Robert Barth and John Beer, remains available as an ebook:

 The Coleridge Connection: Essays for Thomas McFarland (1990)


The Rt Hon. Michael Foot PC

Michael Foot who died in March 2010, was a regular lecturer at the Wordsworth Summer Conference. A leader of the Labour Party, and a scholar of Swift, Hazlitt and Byron, he was always a popular and welcome friend. He is pictured here in the 1980s, after a reading of 'Michael' in Greenhead Ghyll (with him at the front of the picture are Robert Maniquis, Pamela Woof, and Duncan Wu). 

And below, walking around the lake, pursued by the media, and at the podium. Michael's lectures were punctuated by periodic verbal jousts on Romantic Jacobinism, with Thomas McFarland, above.


Professor Stephen Maxfield Parrish

Stephen Parrish, Goldwin Smith Professor of English Emeritus at Cornell, and general Editor of the Cornell Wordsworth, died on Jan. 11 2012 aged 90. His appearances at the Summer Conference were all too rare, but were always enjoyed and always nurturing. Parrish worked in naval intelligence in World War II and the Korean War. His excellent book, The Art of the Lyrical Ballads (1973), was one of the landmark books of that era, and helped to bring the lyrical ballads back into critical currency after long periods of excessive focus on the blank verse philosophical poet. His great memorial is the Cornell Wordsworth edition which he managed in a fashion appreciated by all who co-operated with him in that monumental task. He is shown at right and below with Sally Bushell (editor of the final volume of the series) at the party celebrating the completion of that great project.



 Professor Norman Fruman

Norman Fruman, who died on 19 April 2012 at the age of 88 was a vivid presence at several Wordsworth Conferences, a good friend, a great correspondent, and of course, a controversial figure. His brilliant 1971 book Coleridge : A Damaged Archangel, which put the entire Coleridge establishment on the defensive for many years, was puckishly described by one reviewer as 'an explosive gift to all Coleridgeans'. Norman also wrote on Wordsworth and on Salinger and with great knowledge and enthusiasm on contemporary poetry. An engaging obituary notice by Steve Balch can be found on the website of the Association of Literary Scholars and another has been published by the New York Times. The photo at the right shows the charm and vivacity we all knew and relished; he is shown below in conversation with a laid-back Richard Wordsworth.