Obituary: Maurice Kinch
Thursday 25 February 1993
MAURICE KINCH came, by an unusual and highly personal route, to be a devotee of the works of the literary critics FR and QD Leavis and a notable contributor to other people's appreciation of their standing and achievement.
A non-academic in literary studies, Kinch had progressed from Trowbridge Boys' High School via Bath Technical College to teaching metal and woodwork in Wiltshire schools until 1960, when he became a Local Government Officer. In 1966 he began to lecture in Public Administration at Norwich City College, where he worked for an External London B Sc (Econ) degree.
He published in the college magazine an 'Appreciation and Check-list of the works of QD Leavis' (1977). Her essays on the novels of Margaret Oliphant and his growing interest in book-buying had led him in 1976 to begin a correspondence with Mrs Leavis. ('He is the world's best discoverer of rare books,' she said.) The staggering range of her reading and enthusiasm as well as a meeting at her house in Cambridge inspired Kinch to a commitment which lasted for the rest of his life.
He aimed to trace the extent and power of the Leavises' teaching and writing - most strikingly in FR Leavis and QD Leavis: an annotated bibliography (1989) published in the 'Garland Bibliographies of Modern Critics and Critical Schools' series, a task he took on at the death of his friend John Kimber, in collaboration with William Baker. It is a vastly detailed and intelligent survey of the Leavises' work and critical reception from 1930 to the mid-1980s, containing abstracts of over 280 of their books and articles plus a thousand or more about them.
Earlier, the Dutch English-language journal English Studies, had published a lost, seminal essay by FR Leavis, La Poesie anglaise et le monde moderne: etude de la situation actuelle, published in Les Cahiers du Sud (Marseilles) in 1930, retranslated into English by Maurice Kinch and his wife, Peggy: a piece which he showed to have interesting links with Leavis's later New Bearings in English Poetry. The US magazine Modern Age published in 1991 Kinch's review of QD Leavis's Collected Essays, Volume 3, where generous acknowledgement of the editor's work is complemented by some strict and precise reservations. Recently, in the face of relentless illness, he produced a much-needed index to the Leavises' joint study Dickens the Novelist.
Unable to take any more of the bureaucratic and management absurdities in 'education', Kinch retired in 1983, aged 55, to run, with Peggy, the Whitehall second-hand bookshop in Bradford-on-Avon. Many callers found fascination not only in the stock but also in the proprietor's keen and enlivening interest in literature. Many friendships resulted and too many of us now feel the loss.
Countless men and women have been inspirited by the Leavises' heroic enthusiasm for literature and its meaning in life. Surprising numbers, like Maurice Kinch, made an entirely personal acquaintance with those writings, not by standard academic ways. At a time when the star of the Leavises was waning in university studies he played an indispensable role in refuting platitudinous and too often second-hand charges; he also demonstrated the irreplaceable insights and benefits which the Leavises gave to readers of English, American and Continental literature.
Maurice Kinch was unaffected, direct, meticulous, warm, delicately courteous, caustic, impassioned and unfailingly hospitable. The circle of friends which he and Peggy nourished is varied and widespread but they will be at one in mourning his early death, and the absence of his intellectual and humane example.
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