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Emeritus Professor David Lindley

Colleagues will be deeply saddened to learn of the death on 20th August of David Lindley, Emeritus Professor in the School of English. The following obituary has been prepared by the School of English.

David was born in 1948 in Wolverhampton, and from Wolverhampton Grammar School went on to study at Pembroke College Oxford. He taught for brief periods at Lincoln College Oxford and the University of Stirling, before settling permanently in Leeds in 1978. Throughout his time in the School of English David’s contribution was distinguished by excellence across all areas of academic activity – student education, research, and academic leadership. He was promoted to a Senior Lectureship in 1985, to a Readership in 1995, and to a Chair in Renaissance Literature in 2000. He served twice as Head of School and also as Pro-Dean for Research in the Faculty of Arts before retiring in 2013.

Poetry and music, the court masque, and the plays of Shakespeare were the principal areas of David’s research and established him as a scholar of major international standing. His edition of The Tempest, published in 2002 in the New Cambridge Shakespeare series, reshaped thinking about the play. It explores The Tempest’s complex inheritance and its postcolonial legacy while exposing the pivotal roles performed by song, dance, and harmony.  
More generally, David demonstrated that music was an integral part of early modern culture and its politics. He worked extensively on court festivals, publishing a ground-breaking anthology of those pre-operatic entertainments, Court Masques (1995), and editing a dozen more in the multi-volume Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson (2012). His books include monographs on the Elizabethan poet-composer Thomas Campion (1986) and Shakespeare and Music (2006).  The latter gives a comprehensive account of the subject, from philosophical theories to the practicalities of social performance. His intimate knowledge of the theatre tradition is further displayed in his study of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s various Tempests in the ‘Shakespeare at Stratford’ series – a book that ranges much further than the title implies, for he probably watched more productions of that play than anyone has ever done. 

Arising out of his scholarly engagement with the Stuart court, David’s monograph The Trials of Frances Howard (1993) was in the vanguard of new work reappraising the status and gender troubles of the early modern aristocratic woman. This ground-breaking study is an exemplary critique of the writing of history (and led to television appearances as an expert on Who Do You Think You Are? and The Mysterious Mr Webster).
His excursions outside the Renaissance field include an edition of The Beggar’s Opera and a book on the lyric. More recently, in 2013 David was Sam Wanamaker Fellow at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, produced an edition of The First Quarto of ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ (2020) and at the time of his death was editing plays by John Marston, another dramatist obsessed by music.

He was a well-known figure at international conferences, where his amusing, forthright, and sometimes exasperated views were widely appreciated, along with his generous encouragement of young scholars.
David’s contribution to the School of English was outstanding. He was an energetic and astute organisational thinker who brought his intellectual curiosity into the day-to-day workings of academic life. His understanding of how teaching and research might flourish together laid the foundation for the School’s success in the 1990s and 2000s. His innovative leadership when Head of School was characterised by a creative restlessness combined with foresight, wisdom, and practical imagination. He cared deeply about his students and colleagues and saw clear, well-informed process as the best means to equity; and while always ardent in his search for improvement, he had little time for those who lacked compassion for others.  

David’s contribution to the wider University was also considerable. A long-standing and eloquent member of Senate, he contributed to its debates with characteristic passion, intelligence, and good humour. He served on numerous University committees including, most notably, the Academic Development Committee. His deep commitment to understanding the interface between school and university was reflected in his membership of the Joint Matriculation Board (1988-1992) and the University’s Collegiate Board in the 1980s and early 1990s when he worked with Leeds College of Music, Wakefield College, and Bretton Hall.

David’s aesthetic preferences and enthusiasms were always clearly visible. He was an ardent admirer of music composed before 1750 and an inveterate opponent of operatic vibrato.  The vehemence with which he championed his favourite composers – Tallis, Campion, Purcell, and, of course, J.S. Bach – and poets – Herbert, Donne, and Shakespeare – was matched by a profound modesty about his own achievements, academic and musical. He played the organ with real aplomb at countless University graduation ceremonies and was organist and choir master at St Peter’s Church, Thorner, the village in which he made his home for more than forty years. He is survived by his wife Margaret (known as Bridget), his son Jonathan and his partner Amanda, his son Christopher and his wife Lindsay and their son Henry.