Obituary: Colin Hardie
Thursday 05 November 1998
Born in 1906, he was the third son of Professor William Ross Hardie, a Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, and Professor of Humanity (i.e. Latin) at Edinburgh University. He followed in the footsteps of his elder brother W.F.R. Hardie, later to be President of Corpus Christi College, that nest of classicists, from Edinburgh Academy to Balliol, where he was Warner Exhibitioner and Honorary Scholar. From Balliol he secured Firsts in Mods (1926) and Greats (1928) and harvested the distinguished classical prizes Craven Scholar (1925), Ireland Scholar (1925), Hertford Scholar (1926) and Gaisford Prize for Greek Prose (1927), to be appointed to a Junior Research Fellowship in his college, 1928-29. He was elected a fellow and tutor in 1930.
Three years later, on 1 February 1933, Hardie, to his surprise, was unanimously elected Director of the British School at Rome. There had been support for the candidacy of Aubrey Waterfield but his wife, Lina's, known hostility to Fascism ruled him out. The British School was a very unpolitical place. "Modern politics, whether British or Italian, were simply never discussed," said the Roman historian E.T. Salmon. Hardie considered that he owed his post to Sir George Hill, the Director of the British Museum.
"I was not sorry to leave Balliol where I did not get on with the Master, A.D. Lindsay," he later recalled. "I greatly enjoyed my stay in the British School at Rome in 1930-31, after the awful winter in Vienna of 1929, trying to learn German and falling for the baroque architecture at Melk, despite the snow." Hardie was 27. His librarian, E.K. (the future Sir Ellis) Waterhouse, who was appointed in September 1933, was a year older. Their students were not much younger and included such Rome Scholars as Dick Thomas (Painting) and Wilfred Fairclough (Engraving).
In "those distant Roman days, Ellis Waterhouse and I had a wonderful time, Arcadian almost," Hardie wrote in 1973. Fairclough never forgot "a most hilarious and irreverent pilgrimage to Calcati". Hardie remembered excursions into the Campagna and one with Thomas and Waterhouse "as far as Lecce and Otranto in pursuit of Norman castles and cathedrals and the rich baroque of Terra d'Otranto, with fine specimens in almost every village".
"An entry into Roman society," he wrote,
many English and Americans among them, as well as Gladwyn Jebb, much the most intelligent of our staff, and Philip Nichols at the embassy, gave me a wider range of acquaintances and experience. The finances of the school were in difficulties owing to the devaluation. I was often rather naive, weltfreund was Waterhouse's word . . . When the Abyssinian war broke out [in 1935] Waterhouse and I were given leave of absence and sent to Greece and Syria, Jerusalem and Istanbul together, most enjoyably.
Those "distant Roman days" laid a firm foundation for Hardie's knowledge of, and love for Italy and its language. His scholarly work was to be devoted to Virgil, as in his Vitae Vergilianae Antiquae (1954), and to Dante, in his Waynflete Lectures to celebrate the seventh centenary of Dante's birth (1965) and his knowledge of the medieval topography of Florence. The fun of the excursions and his modestly described naivety did not detract from "his personal care of the students and his useful reports on their work", as one of the trustees of the school, Campbell Dodgson, recorded in 1935.
For instance, Hardie wrote of Fairclough that, being "rather older" (he was a year younger than Hardie), "he has a clearer idea of what he wants and can do. He feels he can work well in Rome and likes the school. I like both the work and the man and think he will do well." He did. The shrewdness and accuracy of Hardie's assessments are the qualities which a college tutor needs and these he took with him in 1936 to Magdalen College - where he remained (with a break for war service in the War Office and the Inter- service Topographical Department of the Admiralty) for 37 years.
It was at Magdalen in 1940 that Hardie took Fairclough on a tour and up the Founder's Tower from which the etcher planned his largest plate, 16 by 18 inches. It was an ambitious bird's-eye view, as pioneered by David Loggan in his Oxonia Depicta (1665). An edition of 75 proofs was published by Blackwell's in 1947. To another friend from his Roman days, the artist Alan Sorrell (best remembered for his archaeological reconstructions of Roman and prehistoric Britain), Hardie turned for a conversation piece. The painting was commissioned in 1953, and completed the following year for a hundred guineas. Hardie appears among the subjects together with Gilbert Ryle, C.S. Lewis, J.A.W. Bennett, Christopher Driver and Alan Raitt (Raitt is now the sole survivor). Entitled The Senior Common Room at Magdalen, it hangs in the Old Practice Room at the college.
To his undergraduates, reading for Mods, Hardie as a tutor appeared shy, retiring, somewhat remote. Even the most callow undergraduate can usually detect true scholarship and and, while even his brightest pupils "never felt quite up to his level", they knew that he was "a real scholar". His heart was in Dante and he brought his pupils to Virgil through Dante, and to Homer through Virgil.
While his tutorials were limited to single pupils, concentrating on Latin and Greek compositions, and were "pretty austere", he also gave a weekly class, for as many as 12, back in 1958. His classes were wide- ranging. One was on "The Origins of the Festival of Christmas". In his lectures he had his own ideas. He was not a cold Oxford logician. As befitted a future Public Orator, he recognised the importance of Milman Parry's Homeric studies in which he convincingly proved, what had been previously suspected, the strong oral tradition which underlay the Odyssey and the Iliad. Those who stayed on as graduates got to know Hardie better. They found him "very kind" and that he took a close and friendly interest in their work and careers.
Hardie took pride in his later contributions to the Papers of the British School at Rome. He turned away from his study of Dante because he was concerned at the
neglect by the Italians of Commander R.F. Paget's great discovery of the Antrum [cave] at Baiae and its publication in the Papers in 1967 . . . We agreed that it is an elaborate structure for Bacchic initiation into the mysteries of the Underworld. Paget was much disappointed that no notice had been taken of it. After his death I wrote to the Superintendent of Antiquities in Naples . . . Only in 1987 and 1989 were there two dismissive ref-
erences to the Antrum as "simply" a tunnel to obtain hot water (50 feet uphill!).
Hardie contributed the topographical and archaeological appendix, the choice of maps and illustrations, notably on the Cave of the Sibyl, to R.G. Austin's edition of Aeneid book vi, published in 1977.
Resident members of Oxford University become members of Congregation, the dons' House of Commons, and may attend ceremonies such as the annual Encaenia in the Sheldonian Theatre which is presided over by the Chancellor. The larger part of the proceedings of Encaenia is carried out by the Public Orator, who presents the honorands receiving degrees. Hardie was Public Orator from 1967 until 1973. He was renowned for his Latin style which his great friend Austin Farrer, Warden of Keble, described as "memorable and sophisticated". The Latin text is accompanied by an English translation. The latter gave Hardie more trouble than the former because he thought in Latin, and had to translate into English. The English was no less felicitous.
Hardie had a quiet wit, an elegance of thought and an attentive care in composition which were appreciated as much by the recipients as by the audience. Among those whom he presented for honorary degrees were Willy Brandt, Ted Heath and Indira Gandhi. It was the last which he liked doing best, in 1971.
To the Public Orator also fell the duty of delivering the Creweian Oration, recalling events of the past academic year and commemorating the university's benefactors. Even more to be enjoyed were those special occasions when honorary degrees were presented to a single recipient. In praising the work of Sir Karl Parker, for the Ashmolean Museum, in 1972, Hardie, having spoken of Watteau, referred to "another master of Arcadian magic", Samuel Palmer: "Nowhere are moons so full, clouds so massive and brilliant, twilights so mysterious, sheep so woolly. I wish I had time to embark with him for Cythera."
In Oxford, Hardie and his devoted wife of 58 years, Christian Lucas, who also gained a First in Greats, lived at 63 The High, across from Magdalen. Memory recalls their hospitality at an excellent lunch in July with his own strawberries, first grown on an allotment during the Second World War and then in a garden which he shared with Farrer, at which Peter Greenham, a Magdalen man, and his wife, also a painter, Jane Dowling, were present.
On his retirement to Rackham Cottage, near Pulborough in Sussex, he continued to garden and took up forestry. From there he wrote on his 84th birthday, "I decline steadily but am still fairly active." He admitted to missing "the resources of Oxford, friends and libraries". To both he gave much. He was a staunch and true friend to learning and to those values which it should nourish.
Colin Graham Hardie, classical scholar: born Edinburgh 16 February 1906; Junior Research Fellow, Balliol College, Oxford 1928-29, Fellow and Classical Tutor 1930-33; Director, British School at Rome 1933-36; Fellow and Tutor in Classics, Magdalen College, Oxford 1936-73; Public Orator, Oxford University 1967-73; married 1940 Christian Lucas (two sons); died Chichester, West Sussex 17 October 1998.
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