Kathleen Mary Tillotson (KT), b. 3 April 1906, d. 3 June 2001, the daughter of journalists Eric and Catherine Constable, was brought up in Berwick-upon-Tweed. Her parents were both members of the Society of Friends (Quakers) and she attended Ackworth School, Pontefract, and The Mount, York. She herself officially dissociated from the Society of Friends in 1949.
She graduated in English from Somerville College, Oxford, in 1927, and then studied for the B.Litt under David Nichol Smith and George Gordon, her fellow students including Geoffrey Tillotson and John Butt. She started work as part-time Assistant in the English Department at Bedford College in 1929, supplementing her income with further part-time work at Somerville and St Hilda's Colleges, Oxford. She gained promotion in 1933 to junior lecturer and in 1937 to lecturer (still part time), and became a full-time lecturer in 1939. She was promoted to Senior Lecturer in January 1947, in October of that year became a University Reader, and was appointed Hildred Carlile Professor of English Literature in 1958, from which post she retired in 1971.
She married Geoffrey Tillotson (GT) in 1933. Born on 30 June 1905, he was from a Yorkshire family, his parents poor mill-workers. His father, John Henry Tillotson, left the mills in 1909 to become agent for the Refuge Assurance Company of Skipton. GT attended the Glusburn Elementary School from 1910 to 1918. His parents could not afford to send him to Grammar School, but the Elementary School headmaster secured for him the patronage of Sir John Horsfall, mill-owner and philanthropist, and he attended the Keighley Trade and Grammar School and in 1923 gained a place at Balliol College, Oxford. He was enabled to attend university by the grant of a Major County Scholarship, and gained his BA degree in English Language and Literature 1927. He then studied for the B.Litt., writing a thesis on William Browne's 'Britannia's Pastorals', supervised by Percy Simpson. He lectured in English at the College of Technology, Leicester, 1928-1929, but was unhappy there. He was writing poetry and short stories, and had had verse published in 'Oxford Poetry', so his father allowed him six months at the family home to finish his thesis and try to establish himself as a journalist. He was awarded his B.Litt. on completion of thesis 1930, a temporary post as English Master at Castleford Grammar School dispelled the fear that he could not teach, and he had some pieces accepted by the 'Times Literary Supplement'. In 1930 he succeeded John Butt in the post of Sub-Librarian of the English Schools Library in Oxford, his income supplemented by a War Memorial Studentship from Balliol College and a little teaching. In 1931 he gained a post as Assistant Lecturer at University College, London, under C.J. Sissons and R.W. Chambers, and was promoted to Lecturer in 1934. In 1939, as the Second World War threatened London, UCL was evacuated to Aberystwyth, but GT looked for war work and in the spring of 1940 was appointed Assistant Principal in the Ministry of Aircraft Production. The University of London acknowledged the distinction of his continuing academic work by conferring upon him in 1942 a Readership in absentia. In 1944 he was appointed Professor of English Language and Literature at Birkbeck College, where he could teach (since teaching was confined to weekends) with his Ministry work until he was released from war work early in 1945. Apart from a year as Visiting Professor at Harvard, USA (1948), he remained in the Chair at Birkbeck until his death in 1969.
GT worked with John Butt on the re-establishment of Alexander Pope's reputation. His volume of the Twickenham edition of Pope's works, under Butt's general editorship, was published in 1940. The Tillotsons were jointly commissioned to write the volume on Victorian literature for 'The Oxford History of English Literature', but Kathleen Tillotson's involvement with the Clarendon Dickens and the Pilgrim edition of Dicken's letters left her no time to work on the project, and she had to leave it to GT. His work was never finished, and KT edited his drafts to publish as 'A View of Victorian Literature' (published 1978).
His major publications were 'On the poetry of Pope' (1938), the Twickenham edition of Alexander Pope's 'The Rape of the Lock' (1940), 'Thackeray the novelist' (1954), 'Pope and human nature' (1958), 'Augustan Poetic Diction' (1964), 'Thackeray: the critical heritage' (ed., with Donald Hawes, 1968), and the Riverside edition of Charlotte Bronte's 'Villette' (1970), and he published collected essays and lectures in the volumes 'Essays in criticism and research' (1942), 'Criticism and the nineteenth century' (1951) and 'Augustan studies' (1961).
Kathleen Tillotson collaborated with J.W. Hebel and Bernard Newdigate on the Shakespeare Head Press edition of the works of Michael Drayton, and was appointed editor on Hebel's death in 1934. Volume V, containing her introductions and notes to the variant readings, won the British Academy's Rose Mary Crawshay Prize in 1943.
She worked with John Butt on Dickens's novel plans, publishing 'Dickens at work' in 1957, which led to the launching of the Clarendon Dickens - the first edition to establish critical texts of the novels. She and Butt were General Editors, and she edited 'Oliver Twist' (published 1966). After Butt's death, she continued as solo General Editor until joined by Professor James Kinsley in 1976, then was solo again after his death in 1984. Eight of the novels whose editions she was supervising had been published by the time of her death.
She was also a member of the editorial team working on the letters of Charles Dickens for the Pilgrim edition, having joined the Advisory Board in 1963,and was sole editor of Volume 4, published in 1977. She continued as General Editor, with Graham Storey, until a depressive illness in 1995 curtailed her work, but she is acknowledged as 'Advisor' to the last four volumes, and was still in touch with her network of correspondents up to her death.
Apart for the works of Drayton and the Clarendon and Pilgrim Dickens, her major publications were 'Novels of the Eighteen-Forties' (1954), 'Dickens at work' (with John Butt, 1957) and the Riverside edition of Wilkie Collins's 'The Woman in White' (with Anthea Trodd, 1969), and she wrote introductions for Dent's editions of Trollope's Barsetshire novels.
The Tillotsons published jointly collected essays, 'Mid-Victorian Studies' (1965), and the Riverside edition of Thackeray's 'Vanity Fair' (1963).
The Tillotsons undertook advisory work for publishers, for government departments and for academic institutions, and were members of numerous literary societies. A great deal of correspondence has survived from these activities and with friends they made throughout their lives.
Kathleen Tillotson's father Eric Constable was descended from Quaker families in Ireland and her mother Catherine was the daughter of Thomas Davidson, Quaker minister based in Fritchley, Derbyshire; Professor Tillotson inherited the 'old family papers' including letters, 1754-1927, journals, 1830s-1870s, photographs, and the journalism of John Lamb of Belfast, 1849-1856.