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Obituary: Dr Sylvia Morton

Members will be very sorry to learn of the death, on 4 January 2004, of Dr Sylvia Morton, former Lecturer in the Department of French.

Dr Mortons longstanding friends and colleagues have contributed the following obituary:

Sylvia Morton joined the relative calm of the Leeds French Department after two years as lectrice in the turbulence of the University of Paris at Nanterre, where she had a ringside view of the events of May 1968. She graduated from Bedford College, London in 1964 with first class honours and earned her doctorate with a thesis entitled Marcel Schwob and English Literature, an appreciation of Schwob as scholar, critic and translator and introducer to the French of such English authors as D G Rossetti, George Meredith and R L Stevenson.

Appointed as a temporary Lecturer at Leeds in 1969, and to a permanent post in the following year, Sylvia joined enthusiastically in the broad range of teaching and departmental activities, including for many years participation in the interdepartmental committee organising excursions and meetings for the school foreign language assistants in the Leeds area. At the same time she maintained her special interest in La Belle Epoque and in early twentieth-century writing, an interest which had as a spin-off an impressive student performance of Alfred Jarrys Ubu Roi. Collaboration with Dr T V Benn on the twentieth-century French section of The Years Work in Modern Language Studies demonstrated the catholic reach of her knowledge and her ability to get to the heart of an argument and rapidly assess its intellectual quality. This capacity also governed her teaching where her incisive comments quickly forced the discarding or rethinking of unsatisfactory arguments. By an endearing irony, such clarity of thought was translated onto paper in a handwriting celebrated in the annals of the Department for its indecipherability.

To be admired at least as much as her intellectual qualities were the courage and cheerfulness with which Sylvia managed the long-standing illness which finally compelled her early retirement at the end of 1987. Throughout her time in the Department, she was unfailing in the discharge of her teaching and administrative commitments, asking for no special treatment and always presenting an appearance of equanimity and control, and retaining her nicely understated, self-mocking sense of humour, no matter what the difficulties. In this too she was an example both to her colleagues and to the generations of students who passed through the Department in their time here.

The funeral will be held at 11.40am on Monday 19 January 2004 at Lawnswood Crematorium, Otley Road, Leeds 16. Family flowers only, please; donations in memory of Dr Morton may be made to the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Published: 12 January 2004