Graham Storey

Editor of Dickens's letters
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The Independent Online

When, in 2002, Oxford University Press brought out the last of the 12 substantial volumes of the Pilgrim Edition of The Letters of Charles Dickens, it was the crowning achievement of Graham Storey's life. As first a co- editor and then the senior editor, he had been involved in the project since the early Sixties.

Despite all the demands of his post as a fellow at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, he had worked with infinite patience and unremitting zeal at tracing a number of hitherto unknown letters and then collaborating in annotating the whole vast collection with scrupulous care. It was this sleuth-like search for correspondence that first brought us together. Resident in Japan, I had been shown a Dickens letter in Tenri University and wrote to tell him, then a stranger, of its existence.

His appointment as OBE in 1997 was a fully deserved reward for almost 40 years of dedicated work. Each volume was greeted with enthusiasm. John Carey's description "a masterpiece of imaginative scholarship" summed up the general verdict. Previously Storey had also been praised for his work in editing Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Humphry House was busy on the editing of Dickens's letters when he died suddenly, aged 46, in 1955. Storey helped his widow, Madeline House, with his papers, completing a second edition of House's The Note-Books and Papers of Gerard Manley Hopkins (1937), published as The Journals and Papers of Gerard Manley Hopkins (1959), and then embarked with her on The Letters of Charles Dickens, the first volume of which was published under their joint editorship in 1965.

Graham Storey was born in 1920. His father, Stanley, was a successful dental surgeon, whose wealth was partly derived from his wife and partly from the family firm of wine merchants, Asher-Storey. Another son, the favourite, had died unnecessarily from a medical accident while serving in the forces during the Second World War. After that tragedy the expectations of his desolated parents were focused on Graham, now the only child, in a way that he sometimes found oppressive.

Storey went to St Edward's School, Oxford. There followed a "good" war as a lieutenant in the Royal Artillery, 1941-45, during which he was mentioned in despatches and also formed a close friendship with a fellow officer, Robert Runcie, later to become Archbishop of Canterbury. When Runcie married, Storey served as his best man.

Having achieved an MA at Trinity Hall (1944), he did not immediately opt for an academic career but instead read for the Bar at the Middle Temple. Though called in 1950, he never practised, but instead took up the offer of a fellowship at Trinity Hall. From 1949 the college became the centre of his existence. He served variously as Senior Tutor, 1958-68, and Vice-Master, 1970-74, before being elected Emeritus Fellow on his retirement in 1988.

Through a friendship that was to last a lifetime with the writer and antiquarian book dealer John Chancellor, he was invited by Chancellor's father, Sir Christopher Chancellor, chairman of Reuters, to write a history of the firm to mark its hundredth anniversary. He accomplished this task with his usual skill and despatch, and the book, Reuters' Century, was well received on its publication in 1951.

Diffident and modest, Storey had none of the all too often meretricious brilliance that can make a don into a university celebrity. But he was an excellent tutor, at once perceptive, patient and sympathetic. Though he struggled to conceal that he was not naturally at ease with people other than his intimates, he would sometimes betray this fact by some physical clumsiness. Professor Robert A.D. Grant of Glasgow University, once a youthful colleague at Trinity Hall, recalls an occasion when Storey was expecting Stephen Spender and his wife as guests of honour at one of his convivial parties. The Spenders were late. Suddenly his mounting nervousness and the increasing pressure of his fingers on his wineglass caused him involuntarily to snap its stem.

Storey had many valued and devoted women friends, but he was, to use a euphemism once favoured by obituarists, "a confirmed bachelor". He thought, with touching ingenuousness, that this was a secret to all but his fellow homosexuals, and took considerable pains to ensure that it remained so. People would smile indulgently at these futile attempts to conceal what they already knew and in no way regarded as reprehensible.

In his later years, having vacated his rooms in college, Storey lived in a former coaching inn in nearby Caxton, closely fronting the main road. There were extensive grounds behind, with a duck-pond fenced in with wire netting to exclude predatory foxes and an orchard where apples rotted in tall grass. Storey's welcome to his guests was always warm; but the rambling house, of considerable historic and architectural interest but of little aesthetic appeal, was far from warm during the winter months. His parents had lived in beautiful Manting House in Meldreth only a few miles away. It was as though Storey were vainly trying to recreate that paradise of his youth.

In his later years, though well off, Storey became, like many elderly people, increasingly parsimonious. But the generosity of his spirit was boundless. Despite his formidable intellect, he retained a sweetness of nature right up to the time of his death. I had occasional arguments with him but never a quarrel in all the years of our friendship. He rarely said a malicious word even about people who fully deserved one.

For someone who had shown so much gallantry during the war, he was surprisingly squeamish. When, in the vaguest terms, I once began to describe a haemorrhage that I had recently suffered, he began groaning, "Oh, stop, stop, stop!" and then all but fainted.

Francis King