Professor David Bradshaw, 1955-2016

Portrait of the late Professor David Bradshaw

The Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh project is deeply sad to announce the untimely passing of our Co-Investigator, David Bradshaw. David had been ill with cancer for some months.

Below are some personal memories of David from members of the CWEW team.








From Barbara Cooke:


I first met David Bradshaw in 2013. We were both on our best behaviour. I’d just joined the project as a Research Associate, and was putting big efforts into looking mature and capable. David had invited me to Worcester College, where he worked, and I’d put on a decent dress and some heels for once.


This impression of smooth efficiency was a little dented over lunch, when I dropped a whole bread roll into my soup. I ignored this and David, gallantly, did likewise. We chatted about the project, which he likened to a juggernaut, discussing deadlines, funding and my role in the scheme of things. So far, so formal.


After lunch, however, disaster struck. We took coffee in the senior common room and, cup in saucer in hand, I managed to trip over a doorframe. I landed face down in front of a cheery fire and two surprised dons. There was the customary stunned silence before David helped me to my feet. And then, we laughed.


We struggled on gamely through the afternoon debating schedules, editorial boards and other serious matters, but then one of us would catch the other’s eye and we’d dissolve into giggles again. I might have lost a little dignity that day, but that was probably a good thing. And I gained a friend.


As the season turns, I’ve been thinking a lot about David. This was his favourite time of year, and last September he told me he’d be happy if it wasn’t the last autumn he saw. I almost wrote to him several times, commenting on the darker nights and chillier mornings, but it felt like tempting fate. And now he’s gone, leaving us on the hottest September day for a hundred years.


Over the coming weeks, there will be many obituaries celebrating David’s extraordinary critical talent and describing the hole his passing has left in modernist studies. Indeed, he was one of the cleverest people I’ve had the honour to know but, more importantly, he was also one of the kindest.


Even the most eloquent writers can be struck dumb by tragedy. Not so David, even when the tragedy was his own. He always had le mot juste, whether to comfort another or narrate his own demise. And he could find humour in the darkest places.


We will all miss him, very much.




From Martin Stannard:


David and I first crossed paths on 2 June, 1995. We were both giving papers at a Centre for English Studies conference in London, ‘Writing the Lives of Writers’. He was then, I think, planning a new biography of Aldous Huxley. Afterwards we arranged to meet in a pub where we talked at ridiculous length, laughing our way through most of it. I knew immediately that he would become a friend. He never changed, even when so terribly ill. Brilliant, witty, learned, intellectually subversive, he was always a joy. During his last months, emails laced with gallows humour would leave me amazed at his resilience.


Over the years before CEWEW, we would meet occasionally, and especially when he became external examiner for Leicester’s MA in Modern Literature. It was fascinating to see him at work: adhering to only the highest standards, reading everything scrupulously. And then to see him over dinner: modest and funny, scrupulously downing the red wine.


One of the great recent scholars of modernism, David had no ‘side’. As Chair of Oxford’s Faculty of English, his ability to think both strategically and empathetically doubtless contributed towards his success, as it did when he chaired our Editorial Board: very jolly occasions under his aegis. One never left him without feeling enlivened, and longing for the next encounter. We’ll miss him terribly.




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Barbara Cooke

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Research Associate for the Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh project.

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11 responses to “Professor David Bradshaw, 1955-2016”

  1. Anne Fernald

    I am so so so sorry to hear this devastating news. He helped me immeasurably in my work on Woolf & Mrs. Dalloway, but, as you put it so beautifully, he also was kind and funny and he made me so happy. Every time I saw him was a joy.

  2. David Bradshaw (1955-2016) R.I.P. | The Evelyn Waugh Society

    […] The death has been announced of Professor David Bradshaw of Worcester College, University of Oxford. He was Professor of English Literature and author of The Hidden Huxley (1994). He edited and wrote the introduction to several novels, including the Penguin Modern Classics 2001 edition of Waugh's first novel Decline and Fall. Professor Bradshaw was also Co-Investigator with Professor Martin Stannard of the Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh project at University of Leicester. Memoirs by other members of the CWEW project may be seen at this link.  […]

  3. In memoriam to David Bradshaw | Blogging Woolf

    […] to Mr. Bradshaw, who has been called “one of the great recent scholars of modernism,” prevailed on the list after news of […]

  4. Patricia Wylie

    I am deeply saddened by the death of David Bradshaw. His incredible intellect, his undaunted spirit and his energy will continue to fill the halls of Worcester College for years to come. It was a privilege to learn from him and to know him for the three short summers that he shared with his American students. Those summers and memories of David will remain glorious in my memory.

  5. Colin Farnworth

    I became aware only a few moments ago that David had died. I knew of his illness from am exchange of emails we had where we discussed the viability of a school is remarksble, given his academic achievements,that we sat in the same classroom all those years ago in Broken Cross Secondary School for Boys in Macclesfield Cheshire.Failure of his 11 plus did not appear to stunt his development but his career may serve to discredit it’s resurgence. David Bradshaw is someone that I rejoice in having known.I am sure that he is sadly missed by many.

    1. Ruth Crowe

      I am deeply saddened to learn of David’s untimely passing. I knew him at St Andrews Primary School in Macclesfield. I thought then he would become a star football player versus a star academic. He was a late developer but once he caught the ball there was no stopping him. He was a real force of nature. May his star still shine brightly on all those whose paths he crossed.

  6. Susan Thompson

    I am deeply saddened to learn today that David has died. We shared a house when we attended Newcastle University. There were 6 of us in that house and oh what parties we had! He was at my 21st and my wedding. We also had some lively arguments!
    We lost touch over the years but I was so proud to hear of his literary achievements and that he became a Professor at Oxford.
    Oh David, was it really that long ago that we were young and vibrant with our whole lives ahead of us?!
    Carpe Diem.

  7. Dan Perez

    I have not talked to David in over twenty years and only learned of his passing today when I received some alumni information from the University of Georgia. I met David as a study abroad student and was one of the hundreds (maybe thousands) of students lucky enough to enjoy his tutelage and companionship. As an American at Oxford I was of course terrified I would make a fool of myself the first time we met for tutorial (I did) but his patience and good humor quickly put me at ease. He had the ability to to connect with students and use his intellect to support and embolden rather than criticize or belittle. Later, as a graduate student, David would generously assist me in writing my thesis and even join my thesis committee for my oral defense.

    I’ve often thought about David through the years and his impact on me is much greater than the brief time I had to know him. David was brilliant, funny and kind – the perfect model of a modern Oxford don. Despite so much time passing, learning he’s gone saddens me immensely.

  8. James Cross

    David Bradshaw remains a presence in my life; for me, he has not gone “gentle into that goodnight.” In 1996, we shouldered the responsibilities for a summer institute endorsed by the College Board to provide professional development for new and experienced AP English Literature teachers from around the world. Over the course of the twenty one years that we worked together, we formed a collegiality anchored in not only literature, pedagogy, and expository writing, but in wine drinking, calves liver eating, football playing (World Cup tactical debating,) cricketing, curry eating, garden strolling, and laughing, a relationship that was more than a Brit and Yank just getting together to share literary knowledge. He was our Captain Huck who guided our literary raft, and now he has become our “bright star” steadfast and hanging in the summer seminar room at his beloved Worcester College…”Good night, sweet prince…”

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