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Stephen Ryle

Colleagues in Classics are sad to record the death, in January 2019, of Mr Stephen Ryle, who was Lecturer in Classics at Leeds 1988-2007.  The following tribute has been contributed by Dr Emma Stafford.

Born in October 1941, Stephen was educated at Westminster Cathedral School (1950-55) and Douai School, Woolhampton (1955-60) before reading Classics at Trinity College, Dublin.  He graduated with a first-class BA (Hons) in 1964, and an MA in 1965. 

He took up the post of Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Latin at Liverpool in 1966, at the same time working on a BLitt as a member of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, a qualification he gained in 1968.  From 1969 he was Lecturer in the Department of Latin at Liverpool, where he taught until 1988, when he moved to the Department of Classics at Leeds, where he worked until his retirement in 2007.

Stephen’s teaching at Leeds was in classical Latin language and literature, the latter taught in both the original and via English translation.  In addition to grammar and text classes, he taught a first-year module on Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and more advanced ‘special subject’ modules on the Odes of Horace, the Roman Novel (Petronius and Apuleius) and Roman Historiography (Livy and Tacitus).

His research, however, was in Neo-Latin literature, producing articles on a variety of authors of the Renaissance period.  He had a particular interest in the Renaissance humanist Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, and will be remembered especially for the edited volume Erasmus and the Renaissance Republic of Letters (Turhout: Brepols 2014).  This is based on papers originally delivered at an international conference Stephen co-organised at Corpus Christi College, Oxford in September 2006, timed to mark the centenary of the publication of the first volume of Percy Stafford Allen’s ground-breaking edition of Erasmus’ letters.  With a foreword by Lisa Jardine, the volume has been described as ‘an excellent sampling of contemporary scholarship on Erasmus’ (review by Mark Crane in Renaissance and Reformation 37 (2014) 311-12), indispensable to future work in the field.

Another branch of Stephen’s research interests was in Renaissance music, as attested by a paper in the volume The Secular Latin Motet in the Renaissance (ed. Richard Rastall, Edwin Mellen Press 2010).  This was an interest grounded in practice, as Stephen was a fine tenor, singing at various times with the William Byrd Singers in Manchester and the Leeds Festival Chorus, and with the Yorkshire Bach Choir.

Stephen continued to pursue his academic interests, as well as his music, well into retirement.  He was a regular visitor to a number of research libraries and supported research events both at Leeds and at his alma mater, Corpus Christi College, Oxford.  At the time of his death he had been working on volume 74 of the University of Toronto Press’ Collected Works of Erasmus series.  He had completed editorial work on half of the volume, and had nearly finished his own translation of the Apologia adversus libellum Stunicae qui titulum fecit Blasphemiae et impietates Erasmi (‘Apology against the work of Jacobus Stunica entitled “Blasphemies and Impieties of Erasmus”’).  Others are now completing the volume, which will be a fitting testament to Stephen’s scholarship.

He will be remembered by those who worked with him as an unassuming and gentle man, but capable of surprising, for example with his liking for fast cars.  He was a long-time supporter of Everton FC, although in later years he preferred cricket, visiting Lords when he could, especially for the Ashes.  His quiet presence will be missed.