Obituary: Professor C. P. Magill

The German scholar Charles Philip ("Peter") Magill was the son of an Irish civil servant, and one of his early memories was of being escorted to school by a British soldier with a fixed bayonet. This experience played its part in the development of his constant adult desire to see literature in its social and historical context.

Physically he was wiry and compact, and his scholarship - one might say accordingly - was unfussy, economical and, above all, lucid. He hinted in conversation that far too many publications in his field were characterised by other virtues. Like many truly erudite men, he claimed to know little, but wrote informatively on 19th-century German literature and its reading public, and on the 18th-century classics.

Studies of German and Austrian comedy, Goethe, Schiller, J.P. Hebel and Heine are prominent in his output, which was mostly in the form of essays in academic journals. His German Literature, a survey from the Middle Ages to the present century, was published in 1974. As a co-editor of the academic journal German Life and Letters over 20 years he did much to guide and encourage younger colleagues. His advice was always perceptive and valuable.

Magill's First in the Modern Language Tripos at Cambridge in 1932 was followed by three years as a schoolmaster at Haberdashers, and then by some years spent in research, leading to appointment to the staff of the German Department at University College London in 1938. He spent the war years with the Royal Artillery, the London Irish Rifles, the Intelligence Corps and the British Military Mission to Yugoslavia.

After a period back on the staff of London University he was appointed to the Chair of German at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, in 1952, where he also served as Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Vice- Principal of the college. His tact and discretion made him an excellent head of department, and students and colleagues alike enjoyed generous hospitality from him and his beloved wife Kathleen.

During his 19 years in office, Aberystwyth was struggling to come to terms with the fact that its pre-war nonconformist ethos would have to change as new generations of emancipated students arrived to rebel against the Old Order. Magill did much to ease the inevitable developments, and frequently defused potentially difficult situations by a humorous remark, causing indignant moralists to find their rage turning to laughter. The Festschrift presented to him in 1974 commented, appositely, on his "shrewdness of judgement and exemplary diplomacy".

He could always see the best in everyone, without being blind to the worst. One did not mess with "CPM", as those who attempted anything less than honest and fair found to their cost. Be four-square with him, however, and he was kindness itself.

Charles Philip Magill, German scholar: born Dublin 11 December 1910; Professor of German, University College of Wales, Aberystwyth 1952- 71 (Emeritus); married 1934 Kathleen Thomson (died 1990; one son, one daughter); died Croydon 10 January 1997.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the world's leading suppliers and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee