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Alexander Norman (Derry) Jeffares

We are very sorry to have to report the death, on 1 June 2005, of Professor Alexander Norman (Derry) Jeffares, who was Professor of English Literature at Leeds from 1957 until 1974.

Born in August 1920, Professor Jeffares was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, where he read Classics, and the University of Oxford; he held Doctorates from both institutions. He taught at Dublin, and the Universities of Grningen and Edinburgh, before being appointed, in 1951, as Jury Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Adelaide. By this time, he was already a highly successful and popular teacher, displaying that enormous energy and zest for literature and life which were to be the hallmarks of his career. He also had a list of distinguished publications to his name, including the first fruits of what was to be a lifetimes study of, and writings on, W. B. Yeats.

Professor Jeffares joined Leeds in 1957, as Professor and Head of the Department of English Literature. Four years later, he was appointed as the first Chairman of the School of English, established through the union of two previously separate departments. Throughout his seventeen years at Leeds, he was to exert a profound and creative effect on the development of the School. By dint of his energy, enthusiasm, vision and determination, he built up an extensive network of overseas contacts and collaborations, many with African countries, helping to make Leeds a thriving hub of activity for the pioneering study in Britain of Commonwealth, American and Anglo-Irish literature. He was instrumental in setting up the International Association for the Study of Anglo-Irish Literature (IASAIL) in 1968, his contribution being later recognised in his being named Honorary Life President of the Association in 1978. He was one of the founder contributors, and later Director, of the International Yeats Summer School, established in Sligo in 1960 and still flourishing. At Leeds, he nurtured, encouraged and supported a host of younger scholars and the School of English enjoyed a rich and diverse postgraduate population. In his autobiography, the late Professor Jack Morpurgo wrote of Professor Jeffares that it was he beyond all others who, as Chairman, had so organised the Leeds School of English as to endow it with prestige greater than that of most Departments of English in British universities and inferior to none. The Jeffares household was also known for the warmth, reach and generosity of its hospitality.

In 1974, Professor Jeffares moved from Leeds to take a Chair at the University of Stirling, where he remained until his retirement in 1986. He developed extensive connections with Scottish literary life, chairing the Literature Committee of the Scottish Arts Council (1979-1983) and Book Trust Scotland (1984-1989). He served as Deputy Chair of the Scottish Arts Council from 1980 until 1984, and as President of the International PEN Scottish Centre from 1986 to 1989. At Stirling and in retirement, Professor Jeffares also continued his own remarkable record of scholarly activity: the list of his publications in Whos Who covers a period of nearly sixty years, beginning with Trinity College, Dublin: drawings and descriptions (1944) and concluding with the joint editorship of Letters to W. B. Yeats and Ezra Pound from Iseult Gonne, a girl that knew all Dante once (2003). The many intervening volumes and articles include W. B. Yeats, Man and Poet; W. B. Yeats: a New Biography; Images of Invention: Essays on Irish Writing; A History of Anglo-Irish Literature; Yeatss Poems; The Irish Literary Movement; Irish Love Poems; A Pocket History of Irish Literature; and Irelands Love Poems: Wonder and a Wild Desire. Other authors upon whom Professor Jeffares wrote include Congreve, Farquhar, Goldsmith, Maria Edgworth, Sheridan, Swift, George Moore and Whitman. He was the editor of A Review of English Literature from 1960 to 1967, and general editor of Writers and Critics from 1960 to 1973. He created and edited from 1980 an extensive range of student literary guides in York Notes with Librairie Du Liban and later Longman. He was a director of the book publishers Colin Smythe Ltd from 1978; in 2001, he edited The Poems and Plays of Oliver St John Gogarty for the company and had recently written the introduction to their forthcoming edition of the Collected Poems of James Stephens. Just before his death he saw the completion of a four-volume anthology of Irish literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries which he had co-edited. Two volumes of his own poems, Brought up in Dublin and Brought up to Leave, were published in 1987. Indicative of the affection and esteem in which he was held, a Festschrift under the title Literature and the Art of Creation: Essays and Poems in Honour of A. Norman Jeffares was compiled for him in 1988.

The numerous accolades and distinctions bestowed upon Professor Jeffares during his lifetime included Fellowships of the Royal Society of Literature, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Royal Society of Arts; and honorary doctorates from the Universities of Lille and Ulster. Professor Jeffares is survived by his wife, Jeanne, and daughter, Bo.