Helen Darbishire

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Helen Darbishire, CBE, FBA (1881–1961) was an English literary scholar, who was Principal of Somerville College, Oxford from 1931 until her retirement in 1945.[1]


Helen Darbishire was born in Oxford, the daughter of Samuel Dukinfield Darbishire, a physician at the Radcliffe Infirmary. She was educated at Oxford Girls' High School before going as a scholar to Somerville College, Oxford, where she graduated first-class in English in 1903. After being a visiting lecturer at Royal Holloway College, she returned to Somerville as a tutor in English in 1908. In 1925-6 she held a visiting professorship at Wellesley College. On her return to Oxford she was appointed university lecturer. In 1931 she succeeded Margery Fry as principal of Somerville, resigning her university lectureship (though continuing to teach and lecture). Darbishire remained principal of Somerville until her retirement in 1945, overseeing considerable building expansion at the college.[1]

Her work as a literary scholar focussed on Milton and Wordsworth.


In 1947, Darbishire was elected a Fellow of the British Academy (FBA).[2] In the 1955 Birthday Honours, she was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).


  • The early lives of Milton, 1932
  • The poet Wordsworth, 1949
  • The poetical works of John Milton: with translations of the Italian, Latin and Greek poems from the Columbia University edition, 1952


  1. ^ a b 'Obituary: Miss Helen Darbishire, former principal of Somerville College', The Guardian, 13 March 1961
  2. ^ "DARBISHIRE, Helen". Who Was Who. Oxford University Press. April 2014. Retrieved 20 April 2017. 

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Academic offices
Preceded by
Margery Fry
Somerville College, Oxford

Succeeded by
Janet Vaughan