Academic journal article Australian Journal of French Studies

In Memoriam: Alan Rowland Chisholm

Academic journal article Australian Journal of French Studies

In Memoriam: Alan Rowland Chisholm

Article excerpt

Preface (2014) by Wallace Kirsop

Stan Scott (1927-2014) died just before he could be asked to write a brief preface to his AJFS obituary of A. R. Chisholm. It therefore falls to the commissioning editor of that tribute to provide a context for a remarkably sensitive and perceptive portrait of a man who was the most influential university teacher of French literature in twentieth-century Australia. That the readers of the present number lose by this substitution goes without saying.

Scott himself was one of the most diversely talented pupils of the master, as those who attended the funeral on 22 January 2014 learnt from the speeches made by neighbours, family members, colleagues and friends. It is to be hoped that these threads can be drawn together in print for the benefit of younger colleagues at risk of neglecting the achievements of a scholar whom the University of Melbourne culpably declined to promote beyond the rank of Senior Lecturer.

Unlike Gardner Davies, Lloyd Austin and James Lawler, Stan Scott remained faithful to his native Melbourne, limiting his European visits to the period of his doctoral studies in the 1950s and to sabbatical leaves, before his premature retirement in 1984 gave him the opportunity for one last long sojourn in France and Italy. For this reason he remained closer to Chisholm, to whose Department of French he had been recruited in 1956. Intime he became not only his teacher's confidant, but also his literary executor. It was a task he took very seriously, preparing both a biography of Chisholm, which Melbourne University Press took so long to consider that he withdrew the manuscript, and an edition of the verse, which the Press refused. After these frustrations Scott did not persist, although some of us had the benefit of a private reading of the life. It is comforting to report that late in 2013 he agreed to allow the biography to be made available online through the Institute for the Study of French-Australian Relations. Much remains to be done to bring everything of Chisholm's that Stan Scott preserved and gathered to readers who deserve to have laid out for them the complexities and ambitions of Australian literary and intellectual life in the twentieth century.

When AJFS celebrated Chisholm's eightieth birthday - a little late - in 1969, it was Scott, along with Lloyd Austin, who gave advice on the choice of contributors. Stan's own article was on Dante, one of the main objects of his research and reading over many years. Like Chisholm he ranged widely and well outside the boundaries set by his professional appointment. Also like Chisholm, he had the art of writing with elegance and concision, qualities that stood him in good stead for the entry he provided on his teacher for the Australian Dictionary of Biography in 2007. ADB's straitjacket can be uncomfortable, but Stan Scott was equal to the task of saying the essential and suggesting hidden depths in a strictly limited number of words. It was more than appropriate that one intellectually curious and quite adventurous conservative should record the career of another from an earlier generation. Historians and the general public wedded to clichés about radical academics need to learn that challenges and innovation do not reside exclusively on the Left.

Alan Rowland Chisholm, Emeritus Professor of French in the University of Melbourne, died of heart failure, at the age of ninety-two, on 9 September 1981. He is mourned by his daughter Mimi, some relatives in New South Wales and countless students, colleagues and friends throughout the world.

It is not easy to sum up a man of so many capacities - poet, essayist, thinker, scholar, critic, linguist, soldier, teacher - and, for all our devotion and partiality, we can hardly avoid circumscribing so ample a mind and sensibility. Besides, no individual, least of all a great one, can be known completely: not all the primary sources can ever suffice.

For an eventual life and first assessment of Chisholm we have some essential personal documents (birth and marriage certificates, degrees, awards, passports and the like), diaries including a most informative war diary, travel notes and valuable lists of books read at various periods of his life. …

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