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Ian Donaldson (1935-2020) and CWBJ: a personal view from Martin Butler

Posted by: pcaton 1 year, 1 month ago

Working with Ian Donaldson and David Bevington on the Cambridge Ben Jonson was the most enjoyable, and stressful, period of my professional life. The intellectual rewards were huge, but another level of reward came from the people involved, the wonderful team that we assembled and the special pleasure of being in virtually day-to-day contact with Ian and David. As personalities they were completely opposite. David was a bundle of explosive energy, a sender of immense and frequent emails, endlessly worrying away at details, and involved in so many other editions he sometimes had to ask which set of guidelines we were using (guidelines he had largely written himself). Ian, by contrast, radiated calm, the reassuring presence with a clear overall vision and a confident sense of how to carry it through. He was also intimately familiar with Jonson’s language and canon, and had an unrivalled knowledge of the critical history. He could effortlessly summon up the precise allusion, cross-reference, or date that you needed – a crucial skill in helping editors shape their introductions and commentaries. But he wore all this so lightly that you barely knew you were being encouraged down particular paths. It’s a great talent to know how to get everyone to feel part of a common enterprise. There’s a lot of variety in CWBJ, as we thought it important to recruit a team with many interests and strengths, but the underlying unity is principally his achievement.

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