Obituary : Professor Kenneth Muir

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Kenneth Muir appointed me as a lecturer to his English Department at Liverpool in 1971, when I was 23, writes Hermione Lee [further to the obituary by Professor Philip Edwards, 2 October]. With his colleagues Kenneth and Miriam Allott, he taught me two of the most important lessons in academic life: generosity and kindness towards junior colleagues, and a complete commitment to research as well as teaching.

Though reserved, and as an administrator autocratic (departmental meetings lasted for about 10 minutes before lunch, and ended, it used to be said, when his stomach began to rumble), he was not aloof. He liked nothing so much as to tell his stories of his days as a young anti-establishment lecturer in York and Leeds, and of his lifelong, dedicated commitment to the Labour Party.

He wrote and edited with amazing fluency (Kenneth would write an article while waiting for a train or in the gaps between tutorials, so the stories went) and told me: "Always have the next book started before you get the proofs of the last one."

He was a Shakespearean scholar with a true passion for the theatre, and he was an impressive amateur actor of the old school, with a fine, deep, rotund speaking voice. To mark his retirement from Liverpool in 1974, we put on a production of The Tempest, directed by Nicholas Shrimpton. I played Miranda to Kenneth's Prospero, and was always moved by the dignity and fierceness of his performance. He could be a coldly angry man, and it showed up well in this part.

I also read with him in a performance of Auden's The Sea and the Mirror, and at his death I call to mind with affection and respect his reading of Prospero's ironical farewell to Ariel: "But now all these heavy books are no use to me any more, for / Where I go, words carry no weight."