Thursday, December 01, 2016


E.C. Marchant

There is no entry for E.C. Marchant (1874-1960) in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and so far as I can tell there was no necrology for him in any of the classical periodicals. Thanks very much to Alan Crease, who sent me Marchant's obituary from the Times (June 20, 1960):
Mr. E. C. Marchant, for many years Sub-Rector of Lincoln College, Oxford, and a well-known classical scholar, died yesterday at his home at Oxford at the age of 95. He was a man of vigorous mind, unmethodical as an administrator (though with a gift for rapid improvisation), with a lively humour, a shrewd appreciation of human nature, and a devotion to the classics which made him in his day a notable Oxford personality. His keenness of mind remained with him well after his ninetieth birthday.

It was a delight to his friends when visiting the shrunken figure, huddled in shawls, to observe the bright eyes and darting comments which showed how close was the touch he still kept with the affairs of his college and university. Edgar Cardew Marchant was born in 1864, the son of John Marchant, solicitor, and from Christ's Hospital went up to Peterhouse, Cambridge.

He was an assistant master at St. Paul's School from 1887 to 1891, in the great days of Dr. Walker's High Mastership, and after a brief return to Peterhouse with a fellowship he took over in 1894 part of the classical work of the upper eighth at St. Paul's. The single-minded ruthlessness of a regime designed to produce first-class classical scholars was something which, like others subjected to it, he admired without being blinded to its defects. Injuries received in a riding accident forced him to resign in 1899, but he became a fellow of Lincoln in 1901 and was sub-rector from 1907 to 1937, returning again to the sub-rectorship from 1942 to 1947.

During all these years he worked tirelessly, particularly on Xenophon (of whose works he edited the Oxford Classical Text), on Thucydides, and on his teaching. He examined frequently in the public schools where he made the first contacts with some of his ablest pupils. In 1914 he married Miss Ethel Winifred Mallet, and moving out of college he began to develop the interest in gardening that was to become his chief hobby in later life. He sometimes took a despondent view of classical studies when he saw the decline from those standards that had been reached at St. Paul's in the last decade of the nineteenth century. But he battled vigorously in their cause, and his teaching had an accuracy, lucidity, and simplicity which made it a model of its kind.

His temperament was mercurial, but company infallibly revived him and he had a buoyancy and vivacity which made him an entertaining companion. And beneath his gaiety there was a true human understanding and a practical sympathy to which his pupils owed much. One of his gifts was an alto voice which made him in great demand for many years at concerts at school or college, and a telegram received from Wells Cathedral Choir on his ninetieth birthday gave him special pleasure.

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