Augustus Theodore Bartholomew

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Augustus Theodore Bartholomew
Born 1882 (1882)
Died 1933 (1934)
Nationality British
Occupation Librarian of Cambridge University

Augustus Theodore (Theo) Bartholomew (1882 – 1933) was a bibliographer and a librarian at Cambridge University for over twenty-five years. He was the youngest child of a large family, his father having died shortly before his birth. He grew up in Fowlmere, near Cambridge, and attended the Nonconformist Grammar School in Bishop's Stortford. His mother's lack of funds forced him to quit school at an early age and seek employment nearby. In spite of his limited education, Bartholomew felt from an early age a definite desire for a career in books. At the age of 17, he found a job as "Second-Class Assistant" at the University Library at Cambridge, earning 10 shilings a week. In 1901 he was able to enter Peterhouse, Cambridge, as an undergraduate, graduating in 1904. After graduation, the library remained the focus of his life. He began by cataloguing Lord Acton's donation to the library – a task which took nine years. Bartholomew was exempted from military service during the First World War by reason of his poor eyesight. During the chaotic war years, Bartholomew's sane and precise habits became vital to the smooth functioning of the library.

In 1926, Bartholomew began to suffer from bouts of depression, which eventually developed into an all-consuming melancholy. This serious affliction was quite satisfactorily cured by a program of psychological intervention. In the years left to him, Bartholomew applied his characteristic sense of cleanliness and order to his new home in Millington Road. He had inherited good taste in furniture from his family, who came from a long line of cabinet-makers. To this he added his knowledge of books and prints, and with these he decorated his house, and so began to enjoy a well-deserved domestic comfort. His enjoyment was cut short; in 1932 he began to suffer from severe headaches, caused by high-blood pressure. Within a year he was dead, at the age of 51.

Bartholomew left behind him not only his considerable contributions to the life of the University Library, but also his bibliographical research (he was a major collector of Butleriana, and he was the first to assemble a preliminary biography of Frederick Rolfe), and a number of friends and colleagues who missed his pleasant company. In his youth, he had been a member of the circle of handsome (and sometimes homosexual) young men who congregated at Charles Edward Sayle's house in Cambridge. These included Rupert Brooke and Geoffrey Keynes, who remained a close friend throughout his life. Bartholomew frequently corresponded with authors he admired, including Henry James and Ralph Chubb, a younger Cambridge poet whose homosexual poems and paintings had inspired Bartholomew's interest. James was sufficiently intrigued by Bartholomew's letters to make the journey to Cambridge, sleeping uncomfortably at Sayle's house. The embarrassing details of this meeting were later recounted by Geoffrey Keynes. The task of writing Bartholomew's obituary fell to Keynes. He used the occasion to fondly recall his friend, saying:

He combined in a remarkable degree the qualities of human sympathy and common sense, and these with his imperturbable temper and wide knowledge made his small room in Cockerell's Building a constant place of call both for readers and for other members of the Library staff.

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