Obituary: Professor Maurice Cranston

ALTHOUGH Michael De-la-Noy's obituary of Professor Maurice Cranston (8 November) correctly emphasises the qualities that made Cranston an eminent scholar, admired teacher, and loved friend, it includes two remarks that distort the true picture, writes Professor William Letwin.

According to Mr De-la-Noy, Cranston was 'always self-conscious about his lack of a public- school education'. I find this quite unbelievable. Never during the 30 years that we spent together as close friends and colleagues did he say a word that suggested any such thing. Besides, it would have been totally out of keeping with his mature character, from which self-consciousness in the sense of self-depreciation on account of presumed flaws in his family background or upbringing was entirely absent.

Secondly, Mr De-la-Noy asserts that Cranston was 'largely self-taught'. It is hard to tell what this is supposed to mean. Cranston was taught, and by his own account, well-taught, in his undergraduate course at Oxford as well as at some of the 'succession of schools' he attended, including - as he wrote in an autobiographical sketch - an institut in France and the Tunbridge Wells Techinical Institute and School of Art. Besides that, of course he taught himself - as any intellectually adventurous pupil and student would and as all proper scholars must. Unfortunately the statement that he was 'largely self- taught' may be constructed as indicating that he was an autodidact, subject to the well-known failings of that breed. Any such suggestion would totally misrepresent Cranston, the breadth and depth of whose learning and the solidity of whose judgements were and will be lauded and honoured by his peers.