d.m. Herbert H. Huxley

University of Victoria
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From the Canadian Classical Bulletin, with the kind permission of John G. Fitch:

Herbert Henry Huxley, Professor of Latin at the University of Victoria from 1968 to 1979, died on 5 May in Cambridge, England at the age of 93. Educated at Manchester Grammar School and St John’s College, Cambridge, he held positions successively at the Universities of Leeds and Manchester before coming to Canada.

HHH had a wide-ranging interest in Latin verse of all periods, contributing, for example, a useful article on the Latin poems of George Herbert (1593-1633). In 1961 he published a school edition of Books 1 and 4 of Vergil’s Georgics. His real talent, however, lay in writing Latin verses (both translations and original compositions), in a variety of metres, quantitative and accentual. Though his verse is characterised chiefly by its elegance and wit, it takes on real poetic power on those occasions when it deals with love and loss, with mortality and with religious themes. His version of Landor’s “Well I remember how you smiled” is at least as good as the original. Guy Lee identified correctly the “inspired simplicity” of Huxley’s style in a poem like his “Eucharistic Hymn”. “If one can write like that,” commented Lee, “one has not lived in vain.”

Huxley’s mind turned unerringly to the quaint and recherché, perhaps as an antidote to a certain melancholy. Characteristic titles of his publications are “Two Sanskrit Epigrams & Epitaph on an Unknown Female Corpse (Kipling)” and “Sir Winston Churchill, Aeneid VII and the Vocative Case”. He claimed that his paper “It” had the shortest title of any learned article in Classics. Wit was characteristic of his conversation as of his writing. On one occasion a colleague who rejoiced in the surname Currie happened to be late for a faculty meeting. As we waited, “Currie a non currendo” murmured Herbert — a mot that survives though the topic of the meeting is long forgotten.

In relations with colleagues, alas, he could be fierce and even destructive. But he could be charming in company, and was amazingly patient and entertaining with children. He was particularly interested in “town and gown” relations, offering many non-credit courses for mature students and even co-leading a group to Greece. Shortly after coming to Victoria he co-founded the Classical Association of Vancouver Island, which has grown and thrived to this day and is his best Canadian memorial.

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