E. V. Gordon
Eric Valentine Gordon
|Died||29 July 1938 (aged 42)|
|Known for||Pioneering research on Old Norse|
(m. after 1930)
|Influences||J. R. R. Tolkien|
Eric Valentine Gordon (14 February 1896 – 29 July 1938) was a Canadian philologist, known as an editor of medieval Germanic texts and a teacher of medieval Germanic languages at the University of Leeds and the University of Manchester.
He was educated at Victoria College, British Columbia and McGill University. In 1915 he was one of the eight Canadian Rhodes Scholars, in his case studying at University College, Oxford. He joined the Canadian Field Artillery in 1916 but was discharged for medical reasons. He worked for the rest of the First World War for the Ministries of National Service and of Food.
Returning to Oxford in 1919, Gordon took a second-class BA in 1920, partly under the tutelage of J. R. R. Tolkien. He began a B Litt degree at Oxford, but abandoned it upon his appointment to the English Department at the University of Leeds in 1922.
University of Leeds
Gordon worked at Leeds from 1922 to 1931, introducing first Old Norse and later modern Icelandic to the curriculum. While at Leeds, he wrote his An Introduction to Old Norse (first published 1927) and collaborated with Tolkien, who worked at Leeds from 1920 to 1925, particularly on their edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (first published 1925). After Gordon arrived at Leeds, Tolkien wrote in his diary "Eric Valentine Gordon has come and got firmly established and is my devoted friend and pal."
Gordon was promoted to a Professorship of English Language in 1926 following Tolkien's departure and oversaw the University Library's acquisition of the library of Bogi Thorarensen Melsteð, establishing the library as one of the world's best Icelandic collections. Accordingly, for his services to Icelandic culture, Gordon was made a Knight of the Royal Icelandic Order of the Falcon in 1930.
With Tolkien, Gordon also began the Viking Club. In this club they would read Old Icelandic sagas (and drink beer) with students and faculty, and invent original Anglo-Saxon songs. A collection of these was privately published as the book Songs for the Philologists. Most of the printed editions were destroyed in a fire and only 14 or so books are said to exist.
Gordon was active in the Yorkshire Dialect Society. On Gordon's departure from Leeds, he was succeeded by Bruce Dickins. Among Gordon's best Leeds students were the scholars Albert Hugh Smith, J.A. Thompson, the translator of Halldór Laxness's classic novel Independent People, and Ida Lilian Pickles, whom he married in 1930. Together they had four children (the eldest of whom, Bridget Mackenzie, went on to lecture in Old Norse at Glasgow University); Tolkien composed them a long Old English praise-poem in the Old Norse drottkvætt-metre, entitled Brýdleop, as a wedding present.
University of Manchester, and death
In 1931, Gordon was made Smith Professor of English Language and Germanic Philology at the University of Manchester where his research focused on Old and Middle English. Among his students was A. R. Taylor, who later succeeded Gordon at Leeds. He died unexpectedly in 1938 of complications following an operation to remove gallstones. After his death, Gordon's widow Ida took on a number of his teaching duties at Manchester, finishing and posthumously publishing a number of his works, before retiring in 1968.
Select bibliography and archives
An extensive bibliography of Gordon's publications can be found in Tolkien the Medievalist, edited by Jane Chance (London: Routledge, 2003), pp. 273–74.
In 2014, the estate of Gordon's eldest daughter Bridget sold a collection of letters to the Brotherton Library of the University of Leeds, written variously to Gordon and his wife Ida by J. R. R. Tolkien. Mackenzie passed Ida and Eric Gordon's books to St Andrews University Library.
- 1925 Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, co-edited with J. R. R. Tolkien, Oxford University Press, 211 pp.; Revised edition 1967, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 232 pp.
- 1927 An Introduction to Old Norse, Revised edition 1956, revised by A. R. Taylor; Reprinted 1981, Oxford University Press, USA; 2nd edition
- 1937 The Battle of Maldon
- 1953 Pearl
Articles and notes
- 'Scandinavian Influence in Yorkshire Dialects', Transactions of the Yorkshire Dialect Society, 4.24 (1923), 5-22
- 'Philology: General Works', in The Year's Work in English Studies, 1922, ed. by Sidney Lee and F. S. Boas (London: Oxford University Press, 1924), 18-24
- 'The Date of Hofuðlausn', Proceedings of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society: Literary and Historical Section, 1 (1925), 12-14
- and A. H. Smith, 'The River Names of Yorkshire', Transactions of the Yorkshire Dialect Society, 4.26 (1925), 5-30
- 'Old English Studies', in The Year's Word in English Studies, 1924, ed. by F. S. Boas and C. H. Herford (London: Oxford University Press, 1926), 66-77
- 'Middle English', in The Year's Word in English Studies, 1924, ed. by F. S. Boas and C. H. Herford (London: Oxford University Press, 1926), 78-98
- 'Scarborough and Flamborough', Acta Philologica Scandinavica, 1 (1926–27), 320-23
- 'Old English Studies', in The Year's Word in English Studies, 1925, ed. by F. S. Boas and C. H. Herford (London: Oxford University Press, 1927), 67-82
- 'The Traditions of Kormáks saga’, Transactions of the Philological Society (1931-32), 39-67
- 'The University of Iceland', Universities Review, 5 (1932), 26-30
- 'Introduction', The Saga of Hrolf Kraki, trans. by Stella M. Mills (Oxford: Blackwell, 1933), vii-xii
- and C. T. Onions, 'Notes on the Text and Interpretation of Pearl’, Medium Ævum, 1.2 (September 1932), 126–36, 2.3 (October 1933), 165-88
- ‘Wealhþeow and Related Names', Medium Ævum, 4.3 (September 1935), 169-75
- 'The Date of Æthelred's Treaty with the Vikings: Olaf Tryggvason and the Battle of Maldon', Modern Language Review, 32.1 (January 1937), 24-32
- and Eugène Vinaver, 'New Light of the Text of the Alliterative Morte Arthure’, Medium Ævum, 6.2 (June 1937), 81-98
- 'On Hrafnkels saga Freysgoða’, Medium Ævum, 8.1 (February 1939), 1-32
Creative writing and translations
- 'The Lay of Attila', Microcosm, 7.4 (Winter 1922), 22-25
- 'A Ballad of Tristram', Gryphon, 4.3 (December 1922), 94 (repr. in Leeds University Verse, 1914-1924, ed. by the English School Association (Leeds: Swan Press, 1924)
- 'The Lay of Thrym', Microcosm, 7.3 (autumn 1922), 3-5
- 'The Lay of Wayland', Microcosm, 8.3 (autumn 1923), 20–23.
- 'A Skald's Impromptu', in A Northern Venture: Verses by Members of the Leeds University English School Association (Leeds: Swan Press, 1923), 6
- 'They Sat There', in A Northern Venture: Verses by Members of the Leeds University English School Association (Leeds: Swan Press, 1923), 7
- 'Sú klukka heljar' and 'When I'm Dead', in Songs for the Philologists, with J. R. R. Tolkien et al. (London: Department of English and University College, 1936), pp. 16, 26.
- trans., Scandinavian Archaeology, by Haakon Shetelig and Hjalmar Falk (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1937)
- Songs for the Philologists
- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
- J. R. R. Tolkien
- An Introduction to Old Norse
- Archival material at Leeds University Library
- The Guardian (1938), p. 11.
- Unless otherwise stated, information in this entry derives from Douglas A. Anderson, ' "An Industrious Little Devil": E. V. Gordon as Friend and Collaborator with Tolkien', in Tolkien the Medievalist, ed. by Jane Chance, Routledge Studies in Medieval Religion and Culture, 3 (New York: Routledge, 2003), pp. 15–25. ISBN 0-415-28944-0.
- For a biography of Gordon's aunt and mother, see Jean Barman, Sojourning Sisters: The Lives and Letters of Jessie and Annie McQueen (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003).
- Carpenter, Humphrey (2000). J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography. New York: Houghton Mifflin, page 111. ISBN 0-618-05702-1.
- University Library, Leeds, A Catlogue of the Icelandic Collection (Leeds: University Library, 1978), p. vii.
- Douglas A. Anderson, ' "An Industrious Little Devil": E. V. Gordon as Friend and Collaborator with Tolkien', in Tolkien the Medievalist, ed. by Jane Chance, Routledge Studies in Medieval Religion and Culture, 3 (New York: Routledge, 2003), pp. 15–25 (at p. 18). ISBN 0-415-28944-0.
- TolkienBooks.net – Songs for the Philologists
- Halldór Laxness, Independent People, trans. by J.A. Thompson (London: Harvill Press, 1999), p. 1.
- Bridget Mackenzie, 'Corrienessan', Ambaile: Highland History & Culture: http://www.ambaile.org.uk/detail/en/1268/1/EN1268-corrienessan.htm.
- Leeds, Brotherton Library, Tolkien-Gordon Collection, MS 1952/2/16.
- C. E. F. [Christine Fell], 'Arnold Rodgers Taylor', Saga-Book, 23 (1990–93), 489–90.
- "Tolkien-Gordon Collection". Leeds University Library. Leeds University. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
- Tolkien-Gordon Collection, Leeds University MS 1952.
- Gordon Collection.