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.

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

E150/2014 - English Language Checker (Grade B3)

On Application: Council of Europe: The European Court of Human Rights’s judgme...

Marketing Executive

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Charter Selection: A professional services company ...

Project Manager - Bristol South West

£400 - £450 per day: Orgtel: Project Manager (PM), Key Banking Client, Retail ...

Principal Engineer – Biomass

£45000 - £55000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil