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David Daiches

A Celebration of His Life and Work

William Baker is Presidential Research Professor, Department of
English/ University Libraries, Northern Illinois University. He co-edits The Year’s Work in English Studies (OUP).

Michael Lister is a writer and independent researcher who lives in Edinburgh. He regularly reviews works on Scottish literature for several literary journals, and has published various articles about David Daiches.

David Daiches (1912–2005) was the first Professor of English at the University of Sussex. His distinguished career over more than half a century encompassed Universities on both sides of the Atlantic. His publications were prolific, extending to over one hundred books, three hundred articles, media and television, plus recordings. This Celebration of His Life and Work will include essays on his literary achievements in the areas of Scottish Literature, the Novel, Poetry and New/Historical Criticism and the American connection, and the academic as populariser, by distinguished scholars and critics.

The book will appeal to historians of twentieth-century literary and cultural criticism, the history of twentieth-century universities, students of Scottish and American Literature, and the relationship between the academic and journalism in the twentieth century.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-159-7
Hardback Price: £55.00 / $67.50
Release Date: December 2007
Page Extent / Format: 320 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No


Introduction: The Biography
William Baker
Introduction: A Personal Reflection
Michael Lister

Part I: Essays

From Two Worlds to God and the Poets: David Daiches’ Role as Critical Mediator Martin Bidney
David Daiches and the Idea of a New University
Lord Asa Briggs

Was Too: Time Passed With David Daiches
Janet Burroway

Longer Days
Jenni Calder

Bridge Building
Jenni Calder

God and the Little Poets: On David Daiches and Muriel Spark
Owen Dudley Edwards

David Daiches and John Milton
Alastair Fowler

Repaying a Debt: David Daiches and Scottish Literature
Douglas Gifford

David Daiches on Scottish Literature
Andrew Hook

Scottish Literature at the Crossroads: An Encouraging Voice
R.D.S. Jack

‘One City’ of Fragments: Robert Louis Stevenson’s Second (Person) City Through David Daiches’ Personal Eye
Caroline McCracken-Flesher

Destinations of Choice: Stevenson at Vailima, Hardy at Max Gate
Michael Millgate

Daiches and the Modern
Ira B. Nadel

David Daiches’ The Novel and the Modern World (1939) and the Reclamation of Joseph Conrad’s Literary Reputation
John G. Peters

The Allusive Hume: With Specific Reference to John Milton and Matthew Prior
John Valdimir Price

David Daiches: The Family Background
David Daiches Raphael

Co-Ordinate Points: A Portrait of David Daiches
Alan Riach

David Daiches: A Founding Dean of the University of Sussex
Angus Ross

Le Bon David: A Tribute to a Unique Scholar, Critic, and Literary Historian
Ian Simpson Ross

Looking into ‘Mézeray’
Roger Savage

David Daiches and Scotland
Paul Henderson Scott

‘A Very Strange Plant’: Carlyle, John Mitchel, and the Political Legacy of Swift
David R. Sorensen

Two Medieval Hebrew Devotional Poems: Convention, Evaluation, and ‘Platonic’ vs. ‘Metaphysical’ Poetry
Reuven Tsur

Separation and Synthesis: Understanding the Two Worlds of David Daiches and Jane Austen
Melora G. Vandersluis

Part II: Bibliography

David Daiches: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography, 1923–2006
William Baker and Michael Lister


Several essays dwell on the Scottish theme, and on the extraordinary neglect of Scottish literature which prevailed in the Cambridge of Dr Leavis and elsewhere. Daiches developed his romantic childhood response to the novels of Walter Scott and R. L. Stevenson and to the poems of Burns and the mournful ballads of Flodden into adult admiration, and was partly successful in convincing others. He loved Scott from the age of eleven when he fell for Rob Roy in a dramatized version in which the evil Rashleigh’s face glowed a corrupt green, Rob Roy himself sported a fine red beard, and the painted mountains and lochs and waterfalls of the set at the King’s Theatre gave him his first (and, he claims, quite accurate) view of the Highlands. He wrote autobiographically of his early affection for The Talisman and Ivanhoe, which he experienced as novels of religious tolerance, and in his landmark two-part article in Nineteenth Century Fiction, published in 1951, he wrote critically and appreciatively of the great Scottish novels. Scott, claims the Scott scholar and editor Andrew Hook, remained in 1950 ‘a totally neglected writer’, and Daiches’s advocacy had a considerable impact. Daiches tackled the ‘paradox of Scottish culture’ (which was the title of one of his works) from many angles, and was proud, says Hook, to have been a ‘modern pioneer in Scottish literary studies, mapping roads for others to follow’. His father was a great admirer of David Hume, the hero of the Scottish Enlightenment, and Daiches, in his tributes to Scottishness, was also paying tribute to his father.
From “A happy dualism”, Margaret Drabble, TLS

David Daiches had an enormous impact on Scottish literature throughout his long life, even though all but six years of his professional career was spent furth of Scotland. His work (perhaps most centrally The Paradox of Scottish Culture (1964)) was an inspiration to many in the field, and the near thirty years of retirement spent in his beloved Edinburgh made him seem the Scottish academic institution that he had never been in reality. Not that that was his choice: Alan Riach’s sly sharp poem in this collection shows how Daiches’ desire to make Scottish literature central to the Scottish universities helped to lose him a job at least one of them (‘Dear boy, can’t you see ?/ There are English girls taught here !/That must never be !’. Pertinently, Riach currently holds what to this day is the only established chair of Scottish literature in Scotland. Despite much progress towards self-respect for our national literature, there are still places in the Scottish university system where the brilliance of a Daiches might find itself at a disadvantage by virtue of this specialism. Prophets without honour have always been a Scottish specialism, if not uniquely so. Insofar as this is no longer true, David Daiches did much to help bring it about, and this is reason enough for a collection in his honour. Nonetheless, A Celebration is rather unfocused: more of a ceilidh than a seminar. It is not a festschrift, though some of its essays could find a place in one; it is not a biography, though some of its reminiscences belong in one; it makes little attempt to define Daiches’ achievement or its limits. Two Worlds (1956), Daiches’ own autobiography of his Edinburgh childhood, deservedly has a central place, and there is some allusion to the doubleness of his experience as a Jew in Scotland rendering him alert to the many doublenesses of Scottish culture: but anyone expecting a discussion of Daiches’ vis-à-vis G. Gregory Smith or Karl Miller will be disappointed. A number of the authors want to claim him centrally as a Scottish critic; a number understandably stress his contribution to English literature. Yet the man himself, the centre of his achievement, remains elusive. Even at the end of his long and distinguished life, his 90th birthday was celebrated by literary Scotland mainly because BBC journalist David Stenhouse made a proposal to the Association of Scottish Literary Studies to do so: the original impulse did not come from the academy. In life, Daiches never quite became the literary lion whom all adore; he eluded some of the marks of distinction or recognition that might have been expected. The Masson Professor at Edinburgh in the 1980s, Wallace Robson, achieved an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; Daiches is still without one, though his father Salis has an entry. This collection celebrates David Daiches, but it does not try to define his importance or evaluate his achievement: and that is what needs to be done.
International Review of Scottish Studies

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