Academic journal article Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature

Barfield's Books

Academic journal article Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature

Barfield's Books

Article excerpt

OWEN Barfield was a formidable intellectual. Educated at Highgate School, London, he gained a first-class honors degree in English, graduating from Oxford University in 1921. A year later, he took the B. Litt. degree by dissertation that became the foundation for his important Poetic Diction: A Study in Meaning, published in 1929. Friends from his Oxford years included C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Lord David Cecil. A prolific author, Barfield enjoyed a long life, born in 1898 and dying in 1997. Inevitably, Barfield acquired many books, some of which he drew upon in his work and some he annotated at length. In 2001, Waterfield's, the now-defunct Oxford bookseller, produced three catalogues containing Barfield's books and other materials.

Walter Hooper, the eminent "Inklings" scholar and biographer, one of Barfield's executors, and author of the Barfield entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB), chose Waterfield's to deal with the books, and they were catalogued by Ann Gate of Waterfield's Books of Oxford. (1) Inevitably, the catalogues reflect only a portion of the books Barfield accumulated over the course of a long life; they represent an accurate record of what remained. Eighty percent of the books in the first two catalogues, which exclusively describe Barfield's books (185 and 186), were sold. The items remaining largely unsold were Barfield's Rudolf Steiner books. They were passed on to a member of Barfield's family and likely will go to the Wade Centre at Wheaton College, Wheaton, outside Chicago, Illinois that already has a small collection of Barfield's manuscripts and books. (2)

Gate's catalogues (185 and 186) are divided into sections. The first (185), "Religio Philologi Books from the Library of Owen Barfield Part One: Early Years and Major Themes," consists of six sections. The first, "Early Years," covers Barfield's "Highgate School, 1906-1916" experiences (items 1-17). These 17 items are not unsurprisingly the classics privileged English school children of the early twentieth century were expected to study, including Aesop and Euripides. There are two copies of the latter: One is the fifth edition of Gilbert Murray's translation into English Rhyming Verse, published in 1911 in the Athenian Drama series, the third volume. Barfield's copy is inscribed "Owen Barfield--/ Nov. 9th 1914 / from Grandmama / [and] Auntie Minnie." In other words, a sixteenth birthday present (item 3). The other Euripides is the second volume of the Oxford Pocket Classics of his Opera Omnia with Barfield's extensive penciled notes, especially in the Bacchae--no doubt a set text (item 5). There is also a copy of a 1916 report of Robert P. Kemp's translation of Georg Aulenrieth's An Homeric Dictionary (item 6).

Other classical texts include Horace, Juvenal, and Livy (items 7-9), Propertius, Sophocles, Tacitus, Theocritus, Thucydides, and Xenophon (items 12-17). The most expensive items, priced at 15 [pounds sterling] (in 2001, approximately US $28), (3) are Aesop, Homer, Livy, and Propertius (items 1, 9, 12). All have Barfield's signature. There is a copy of Robert Browning's Poetical Works, the sixth volume of a seventeen-volume edition published in 1911. This volume contains "Red Cotton Night--Cap Country [and] The Inn Album (Arestophanes' Apology [and] The Agamemnon of Aeschylus)" and is inscribed to Barfield by his aunt Minnie Shoults: "Owen Barfield /April 1915 / M. S." (item 4). A copy of Victor Hugo's The Outlaw of Iceland, translated by Sir Gilbert Campbell and published in 1912, is inscribed "Owen / with Grandmama Barfield's / love / Christmas 1913" (item 2). The classical emphasis of these books surviving from Barfield's school days at Highgate is a reminder that in 1916 he won a classical scholarship to Wadham College, Oxford, but his attendance was delayed by war service. (4)

THE second category of books, "World War I and Oxford, 1917-1921" (items 18-81), survive from these years. …

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