George Patrick Goold, classicist: born London 15 May 1922; Professor of Greek and Latin, Harvard University 1965-73; Professor of Latin, University College London 1973-78; Editor, Loeb Classical Library 1974-99 (Emeritus); William Lampson Professor of Latin Language and Literature, Yale University 1978-92 (Emeritus); married 1944 Elizabeth Sharples (one son, one daughter; marriage dissolved), 1974 Philippa Forder; died Holyoke, Massachusetts 5 December 2001.
G. P Goold was for 25 years, until his retirement in 1999, the Editor of the Loeb Classical Library, the series founded by James Loeb in 1911
to make the beauty and learning, the philosophy and wit of the great writers of ancient Greece and Rome once more accessible by means of translations that are in themselves real pieces of literature, a thing to be read for the pure joy of it, . . . and to place side by side with these translations the best critical texts of the original works.
Ninety years after the first 20 titles appeared in 1912, the series now runs to 493 volumes.
Under Goold's editorship the library gained steadily in professional standing and international prestige. As he himself noted, the increasing dominance of English as a second language helped its success. As Editor he firmly upheld its original policy of being as accessible to non-classicists as to classical scholars. By the time of his retirement in 1999 he justly felt that the Loeb Classical Library had become one of the most important and influential projects for Classics in the world.
During a career of some five decades in which he held chairs of Classics or Latin on three continents and came to be recognised as a pre-eminent scholar in his field, Goold never lost either his engagingly open manner and open mind or the distinctive accent of his native London. His prodigious and exact knowledge of Greek and Latin literature, from Homer to the early Middle Ages, was combined with sharp insight and a fine sense of style, providing just the qualities needed to excel as a critic and editor of ancient texts.
After leaving St Clements Danes School in London, where his favourite subjects were Latin, Greek, French and German, George Patrick Goold entered military service in 1941. In common with many gifted young linguists on both sides of the Atlantic, he was assigned eventually to code-breaking, ending his Second World War service at Bletchley Park.
Thence he entered University College London, where he took his first degree in Classics and then his doctorate, completing his doctoral thesis while already teaching at University College, Hull. His 1954 thesis, a commentary on the first book of the Latin astronomical poet Manilius, and a translation of the whole Astronomica, presaged a continuing interest and some of his most significant scholarly contributions.
In 1955 he moved to Cape Town as Professor of Classics, where he delivered his inaugural lecture in Afrikaans. His next post was at the University of Manitoba, 1957-60, and from there he moved to University College, Toronto, 1960-65. In keeping with his unfailing reverence for the most gifted classical scholars of the past he arranged a reprint in 1962 of Richard Bentley's dazzling critical essay Epistola ad Joannem Millium, providing an illuminating and eloquent introduction.
Latin poetry had always been Goold's primary interest, and in 1965 he published his most substantial paper, "Amatoria Critica", a 100-page discussion of Ovid's erotic verse, in Harvard Studies in Classical Philology. He was already at work on his most ambitious project, a new critical edition of Manilius, whose complexities had engaged the labours of A.E. Housman for several decades. This was published in 1985, but was preceded by a simpler version and translation in the Loeb series in 1977.
In 1965 he moved to Harvard as Professor of Greek and Latin and vecame Chairman of the Classics Department in 1971. He had every reason to expect that he would stay permanently at Harvard, where he became Chairman of the Classics Department in 1971, but when he was invited in 1973 to take the chair of Latin at University College London, the sentimental appeal of its association with Housman, together with the prospect of succeeding his admired mentor Otto Skutsch and returning to the scene of his own training, persuaded him to accept.
He arrived at an inauspicious moment for Classics, the period of shrinkage and rationalisation. Disappointed to find that so much of his time and energy was devoted to struggles to prevent the loss or downgrading of positions, he did not hesitate after five years to return to the United States, where he became Lampson Professor of Latin at Yale until his retirement in 1992.
Shortly before his appointment in London Goold had been asked to become the general editor of the Loeb Classical Library. The administration of the library was located at Harvard, but the editorial offices were still in London at that time. His arrival brought new life and higher standards to the series. He not only gave detailed guidance to individual editor-translators, but also began at once to improve the text, translation and notes of older volumes as they came due for reprinting.
His expert knowledge of Latin and Greek and of the transmission of texts assured the reliability of the original texts and the accuracy of the translations. Besides his thorough revisions of Ovid, Catullus, Virgil and others, he also contributed, in addition to Manilius, two fresh volumes of his own to the series, a new Propertius in 1990 and the Greek novelist Chariton in 1995. He also carried forward unflinchingly a less scholarly improvement of the series that has attracted considerable public interest. The Obscene Publications Act of 1959 made it possible to translate into explicit English many passages that previously had been veiled in paraphrase or left untranslated.
Goold was independent and innovative in his approach to scholarship and teaching. Whilst at Harvard, to the consternation of some of his colleagues, he enthusiastically introduced a novel method for teaching beginner's Greek. As a true philologist he was a devoted master of words. In his writing, always lively and vigorous, he moved effortlessly from playfulness to grandeur as the subject required, just as he could move from a clear-headed article on the early history of the Homeric poems to a convincing attack on the authenticity of the Helen episode in Aeneid 2 introduced into the text by Servius. His independent texts of Catullus (1973) and of Horace (1977) were privately printed, and his text of Catullus was published with a translation and valuable auxiliary material in 1983. He was President of the American Philological Association in 1986, and in 1994 he was elected a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy.
In quiet retirement in western Massachusetts George Goold continued to work on classical projects, ably aided by his wife, herself a professional classicist and his long-standing collaborator in his work on the Loeb Classical Library. He also returned to his interest in French literature, carefully studying the new evidence for the text of Proust's major work. His intense and unfailing loyalty to his friends, colleagues and pupils assured a stream of correspondence. Among his last publications was an extensive memoir of Otto Skutsch for the 1994 Proceedings of the British Academy.
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