John Sparrow (academic)
Early life and education
He was born on 13 November 1906 at New Oxley, Bushbury, near Wolverhampton, and died on 24 January 1992 at Iffley, near Oxford. His father was Isaac Saredon Sparrow, a barrister who had inherited wealth through the family business as prominent Midland ironmasters. John Sparrow was the eldest of five children, born to Isaac and Margaret Sparrow (née Macgregor).
Sparrow briefly attended the junior house of Wolverhampton Grammar School, but was soon moved to Brockhurst at Church Stretton in Shropshire as a boarder. Not long after, in September 1916, when he was nearly ten, he was sent to a preparatory school called The Old Hall at Wellington in Shropshire. His formal education followed at Winchester College and New College, Oxford.
Sparrow was elected Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, in 1929, winning a prize fellowship the same year H. L. A. Hart sat (unsuccessfully) for the first time. He became Warden of All Souls (1952–77) in an election in which he famously defeated A. L. Rowse. He was also a Fellow of Winchester (1951–81) and an Honorary Fellow of New College (1956–1992). In Oxford he was well known as a book-collector and bibliographer, and became President of the Oxford University Society of Bibliophiles, in which role he influenced a generation of Oxford bookmen. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).
- Half-Lines and Repetitions in Virgil (1931)
- Sense and Poetry. Essays on the Place of Meaning in Contemporary Verse (1934)
- Independent Essays (1963)
- Controversial Essays (1966)
- Mark Pattison and the Idea of a University (1967)
- Visible Words. A Study of Inscriptions in and as Books and Works of Art (1969)
- Too Much of a Good Thing (1977)
- Renaissance Latin Verse. An Anthology (ed. with Alessandro Perosa, 1979)
- Words on the Air. Essays on Language, Manners, Morals and Laws (1981)
One of his best known remarks describes the dog as "that indefatigable and unsavoury engine of pollution".
- Annan, Noel, The Dons (London: HarperCollins, 1992), pp. 193–208
- Bowra, Maurice, Memories 1898–1939 (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1966), pp. 179–82
- Lowe, John, The Warden: a Portrait of John Sparrow (London: HarperCollins, 1998)
- John Sparrow article in Oxford DNB
- Nicola Lacey, A Life of H. L. A. Hart: The Nightmare and the Noble Dream, Oxford University Press: 2004 (ISBN 0-19-927497-5), p. 40.