Mackail Correspondence

Scope and Content

Letter from the 'Times' and from Cholmeley to Mackail concerning R J Cholmeley's edition of Greek poet Theocritus's 'Idylls'.

Administrative / Biographical History

John William Mackail was a classical scholar, literary critic, and poet, born at Ascog in the parish of Kingarth, Isle of Bute, on 26 August 1859. In his early career he worked at the Ministry of Education (1884-1919). He was later Oxford Professor of Poetry (1906-1911), and President of the British Academy (1932-1936). He was a friend of William Morris, and wrote the 1899 official biography. He also published works on Virgil, the Latin poets, the Icelandic sagas, Shakespeare and the sayings of Jesus. He married Margaret Burne-Jones (1866-1953), the only daughter of artist and designer Edward Burne-Jones.

Many honours came to Mackail. He was president of the Classical Association, which he helped to found, in 1922-1923; he was also president of the English Association in 1929-1930 and of the newly formed Virgil Society in 1945. In 1914 he was elected FBA and served as president from 1932 to 1936. In 1924 he was appointed professor of ancient literature in the Royal Academy. He received honorary degrees from the universities of Edinburgh, St Andrews, Oxford, Cambridge, London, Belfast, and Adelaide. He was elected an honorary fellow of Balliol in 1922. In 1935 he was appointed OM.

Mackail was a tall man and always good-looking; in later life his white hair added a dignity and beauty to his face. He had a fine voice and a meticulously clear enunciation, enhanced by a trace of Scottish intonation. He was suave and courteous and always an interesting talker, but reticent as to his own beliefs and feelings. He died at his home, 6 Pembroke Gardens, Kensington, London, on 13 Dec 1945.

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