Tributes on the passing of the world-renowned Hardy academic Professor Rosemarie Morgan (formerly of Yale University)
9th November 1938 - 9th December 2020
It’s hard to say how much I owe to Rosemarie Morgan. Years ago I was one of those adjunct scholars, getting short-term jobs at various universities, despairing in the belief that no one had bothered to read that book of mine. I used to poke in on the old Hardy Listserv, and—lo and behold!—one day I was contacted by Rosemarie (a name I’d known for years but never did I think I’d hear from the person who held it), who had not only read my book—but she told me she was putting together the Thomas Hardy Association and she wanted me to be a part of it as the scholar in charge in the Films webpage.
Becoming part of TTHA coincided with my finally being offered a tenure-track job, and publications in Rosemarie’s Ashgate Research Companion and in an issue of The Hardy Review helped me get that tenure—and to create something of a name for myself. These things were all done with Rosemarie’s support, her belief, and, yes, even her metaphorically shaking a fist at me. I always enjoyed speaking with her and exchanging emails with her, hearing that take-no-prisoners bluntness and experiencing that love of life I associate with her.
Thanks for everything, Rosemarie. I can only try to now pay it all forward.
Among my many fond memories of Rosemarie the most detailed involve our work together organizing the two “Hardy at Yale” conferences in 2007 and 2011. Since she was “on site,” Rosemarie had far and away the more taxing and stressful tasks, because not only was she in charge of arranging the initial logistics, but also in confronting the various hitches that inevitably arise when putting together complicated scholarly events. Food that seemed poised not to arrive on time, locked doors that were supposed to be open, distribution of water bottles, speakers not sure quite how to locate the room in which they were assigned to be presenting, I might have been the one running about reacting to such issues, but Rosemarie was the one who solved them. And she did so with the cheerful, energized good will that was so central a part of her character.
It was also Rosemarie who suggested and arranged for our two special guests at the conferences – Andrew Motion for “Hardy at Yale I” and Douglas Yeo for “Hardy at Yale II.” Obviously having the Poet Laureate in attendance was a wonderful experience, and he gave an enthralling lecture and reading. I was a little more uncertain about Douglas Yeo, since I wasn’t sure how a collection of literary critics would respond to someone whose musical specialty was the serpent—but he was brilliant. It was clear that the audience enjoyed itself immensely, and that was down to Rosemarie. Her characteristic kindness and generosity will be missed by everyone who knew her.
The death of Rosemarie Morgan is a great loss to the Hardy world. She always had such incredible energy and enthusiasm, allied to first-class scholarship, and was hugely influential through her academic writings, her participation in Thomas Hardy Society Conferences, and in particular for her creation of the Thomas Hardy Association, which under her dynamic leadership became for many years such a major force in Hardy studies reaching out to Hardy students, scholars and enthusiasts throughout the world. Without her vision, determination and energy, it just would not have happened. It is hard to believe that one person could achieve so much; she will be sorely missed.
I first met Rosemarie at the 1982 Thomas Hardy Society Summer School in Weymouth, which I was directing for the Society. I was immediately struck by her vitality and enthusiasm, and the way in which at that and at later Summer Schools /Conferences she threw herself into not just the academic programme but also the social side, including singing and country dancing, and the famous evening poetry readings on Weymouth Beach. Although we only actually met up at these biennial events, they were (at least to me) memorable meetings, developing as we both became increasingly involved in the Hardy world. I always had considerable fellow-feeling for Rosemarie. We both of us led seminars and lectured at Conferences. Celebrating Thomas Hardy, the book of the 1994 Conference lectures which I edited for Macmillan, included Rosemarie’s lecture from that year, while in later years she edited my work for a number of articles in the Thomas Hardy Review and two chapters in the Ashgate Research Companion to Thomas Hardy. As well as a shared understanding of the issues around editing academic papers, there was also the shared experience of conference organisation, I in organising a number of the Thomas Hardy Society Conferences, while Rosemarie (without I think the kind of back-up that I had in the THS) created and directed the superb Hardy at Yale Conference in 2011. We had many enjoyable and lengthy letter and later email conversations concerning these things.
I am particularly grateful to Rosemarie for her enthusiastic support of my own Hardy writings. I was so pleased when she asked me for my first contribution to the Hardy Review, welcomed my further contributions, and then later asked me to contribute two chapters to the Ashgate Research Companion. While I was conscious of the fact that nearly all the other contributors were professional academics (while I am a now retired Librarian) Rosemarie encouragingly made it clear that she regarded my work in just the same way as theirs. The last time I actually met her was at the 2014 Hardy Conference, when she generously took me, Tracy Hayes and others to lunch at the Springhead at Sutton Poyntz where we had wide-ranging conversations over a long lunch in the sunny pub garden – a lovely final memory. I shall miss all those conversations, both in person and by email, and I find it hard to believe that I will never see her again.
I first "met" Rosemarie when she reviewed my book, Thomas Hardy: The Poems, and I felt an immediate kinship with her because she had so fully understood the project and my approach to separating Hardy's life from his work. Of course, I had long been familiar with her incomparable Hardy scholarship, so reading her review left me a bit starstruck. Nonetheless, I reached out via email to thank her, and we had a lovely exchange about Hardy, the Thomas Hardy Association, and more. At one point, she mentioned Robert Schweik, the eminent Hardy scholar, and I remarked that I had known him since my early childhood; he was a colleague of my father's in the English department at SUNY Fredonia. When he retired, he gifted me a number of his books that I proudly retain in my collection. She shared wonderful stories about him and then asked me to review a new release for The Hardy Review, which I promptly did; soon thereafter, she asked if I would be interested in reviving the Hardy Poem of the Month.
We collaborated on the PoTM facebook page and, eventually, on migrating the PoTM to the Hardy Association's listserv. While the posted poems occasionally prompted a robust conversation, she was consistently disappointed by the lack of response, and we spoke often about how to encourage more participation. The PoTM limped along in fits and starts, but Rosemarie was its cheerleader -- and mine -- at all times. We spoke frequently of meeting in person, but we never did, which will remain a great disappointment to me. I consider her both a mentor and a friend, a towering intellect and a person utterly committed to helping younger, newer scholars feel welcome in the field. So much of our discipline is competitive and cutthroat, but Rosemarie, who could easily have displayed such qualities, given her standing and status, was entirely the opposite. Her warmth, encouragement, humility, genuine dedication to learning and teaching, and pure love of literature are a model for all of us. Every time we interacted, she reminded me of why we study literature; she never lost sight of its beauty and power, and she did everything she could -- for me and for countless others, colleagues and students alike -- to share the profound experiences of literature as widely as possible. There was a purity and a democratizing in her approach that should be the standard to which each of us aspires.
I am forever grateful to Rosemarie for her trust in me, for inspiring me, and for demonstrating what our field can be at its very best: intellectually rigorous but also unfailingly kind.
One December morning of a terrible year that has just departed, when I looked at my face book feed, I stumbled upon the shocking news opened by a Hardy scholar. And, immediately I wished it were not true. Professor Rosemarie Morgan – as I had addressed her while first introducing myself long back in 2013, right after my PhD on Hardy was awarded, had been an important influence and encouraging presence in my academic life since then. As several junior Hardy scholars would agree, beneath her strict veneer and meticulous scholarly ways, lay the warm heart of a mentor who knew how to detect the possibilities within a scholar almost intuitively. It was solely her interest in my project, of having located several of Hardy’s Indian Correspondents from the manuscripts of the unpublished letters at the Hardy Archives (Dorset County Museum), which made me turn to them as serious findings worthy of being documented. For this I shall remain indebted to her. There have been cherished long interactions with her, via mail, related to Hardy and a lot of other things in these seven long years. Not only had her editing of my essays in The Hardy Review taught me ways to improve my academic writing, the opportunity of meeting and interacting with her in Dorchester, and later also in my Kolkata, had revealed to me more than an undisputed scholar. She came across to me as a dynamic and adventurous person with a zest for life and inquisitiveness for knowing new cultures. The sights and sounds of Kolkata, its colonial imprints, its museums, its food, its street hawkers, rickshaw pullers all seemed to make her beam with joy and I shall always choose to remember her as this warm-hearted human being, with the unforgettable sparkle in her eyes!
Some time ago a poem of mine which made a reference to Hardy’s poetry was published in The Hardy Review. As a result, Rosemarie Morgan and I briefly communicated.
Some two years ago, I wrote an article critical of Thomas Hardy for not having supported and nurtured his wife’s early writing aspirations. Whilst visiting a Dorset school to run a Thomas Hardy Poetry Workshop, I received an e-mail welcoming the article and suggesting the arrangement of a brief discussion of its contents.
I had previously and for some time been an admirer of Morgan’s Women and Sexuality in the Novels of Thomas Hardy written some twenty five years ago at a time when much of its content was still breaking new ground. I had also taught Far from the Madding Crown to Sixth Formers using the Penguin edition co-edited by Rosemarie Morgan in early 2020. Consequently, I was a little nervous of speaking with Professor Morgan who, I had frequently heard, did not suffer fools gladly.
As soon as I read the e-mail, I asked a colleague to cover for me for a brief moment whilst I made ‘an urgent call’. Why I felt that I had to respond to the e-mail so promptly is beyond me. However, with the usual trepidation when talking to an editor about one’s own work; mixed with the feeling that I might be a fool who would barely be suffered, I dialled the number.
It all started rather badly when I greeted Rosemarie with a cheery ‘good afternoon’ and got a seemingly aloof ‘good morning’ (different time zones play havoc with one’s dignity!).
The conversation was much longer than I anticipated. And Rosemarie was kinder than anything that I was led to expect. We talked about my essay at some length (I still shudder at the mobile bill for that month). I explained what I was trying to prove. Rosemarie disagreed in a courteous and gentle way. Furthermore, she listened very carefully to my thesis and, as we went along, she allowed me significant leeway so that we were slowly beginning to meet half way. Whereas I supplied some second-hand evidence for what I wished to say about Hardy the writer’s self-engrossed neglect of Emma Hardy’s authorial efforts, Rosemarie offered much stronger first-hand evidence of why she disagreed with my thesis.
We joked quite a lot about our differences and ended up agreeing to differ which helped a great deal in diminishing my feelings of being a recalcitrant student standing before an awesome professor. Nonetheless, our positions were nearer at the end of the conversation than at the beginning. She ended up agreeing that the essay would be published in a forthcoming The Hardy Review. I thanked her and promised to keep in touch.
Not long after, Rosemarie fell ill and the Review ceased its work.
My brief encounter with Rosemarie Morgan came late in life. Still, I was fortunate even for this brief glimpse of a reputedly indomitable academic who initially frightened me but who quickly entered my treasury of fond memories. Rosemarie will live on for a long time to come through her wonderful writings and editorial productions.
A Tribute from her son Adam
My mother was born in London to the sound of air raid sirens, WW2. Brought up in a large rambling country mansion, she and her three sisters were left to their own devices for much of their childhood, exploring and playing in local farmland and countryside. After a chequered school experience she met my father. They eloped to Gretna Green to marry when she was only just 17 and gave birth to me a year later!
Rosemarie had a rich and varied life with many struggles, achievements and passions which she pursued with vigour. I was fortunate enough to share some of these: tennis,pickleball, skiing, gardening, animals, wildlife and hen keeping.
As a mother, grandmother, great grandmother, sister and friend, she was loving and supportive. She was caring and wise. Life was imbued with fun, discovery, tremendous enthusiasm, confidence and a sense of purpose. We have all been touched by her kindness and generosity of spirit. Her zest for life and motivation to succeed was inspiring, breaking the boundaries and exploring beyond.
Mum’s solution to long summer holidays when we, as children (myself and sisters) started to get bored at home, was to pile us into a campervan and to take us on road trips across Europe to Greece and back, to Spain and back. I have vivid memories of sleeping on the foot hills of Mount Olympus, thinking about the deities, what a rich educational experience!
Rosemarie was devoted to gardening and tending to her plants. She would spend a few hours each day weeding, pruning, planting, admiring and tidying.She created a beautiful back garden at her home in New Haven, admired by tenants and neighbours. Different varieties of rose, Japanese Maple and many other flowering plants.
As a backyard hen keeper, Rosemarie was equally devoted to caring for her hens. She had many extraordinary experiences with hens over the years. One evening she confronted a raccoon who had a hen in its mouth. She managed to rescue the hen from the beast’s jaws, then went inside to wash the wound and to stitch it. She kept the hen on her bed and nursed her back to good health over a few weeks. About ten years ago, The New York Times published a feature page article reporting on her success in changing local government ordinances, thus allowing people to keep hens in their gardens. She got the law changed ! No problem was too big.
Rosemarie’s love of skiing was made possible after weeks of determined efforts to overcome her fear on the slopes. She was still practising perfect turns at the age of 80 ! In a similar effort to overcome fear, she signed up for a white water rafting experience, terrifying and exhilarating!
Another of Rosemarie’s passions was tennis. She captained teams for many years. She also established an inner city tennis project in New Haven. As in other areas of her life she brought huge energy and enthusiasm to the sport. Here’s what some of her tennis buddies had to say:
“We had such fun together playing together, in matches at the club, or at districts - sharing a hotel room with her was always such fun !!!”
“What a good, kind, brave, witty, smart woman she was !”
“Your mum added spice to life, spice to my tennis, spice to our tennis parties. She was just lovely. And her spirit will not be forgotten by anyone who has known her !”
“She was a memorable person and I am sure Heaven doesn’t know what hit them! I am sure she is enjoying tennis and organizing matches up there as well.”
“Rosie thought we had a wonderful tennis partnership, which she thought was like a marriage! I thought so too….I can’t tell you how much fun I had with your mom, the tennis, the tennis parties. We kept busy with all of that and your mum was the spice in all of it! And she was so kind and thoughtful. Bringing me eggs...She loved her friends, her family, her chickens, her cats, her home. She was a very bright light.”
“Rosie was our fearless Captain on and off the tennis court.”
The day before she died, we played Pickleball together. Our opponents were struck by her energy and fast reactions. We beat them !
In 1979, Mum started her Ph.D. at the university of St. Andrews. I was in my final year there as an undergraduate. St. Andrews has an ancient custom of welcoming bejants and bejantines ((1st year students) into the fold. The final year students would adopt a bejant/ine as their academic son or daughter then show them the ropes and generally give them a good time. Eyebrows were always raised when I introduced Mum as my academic daughter and when she introduced me as her academic father!
It was through an introduction to my English tutor, Phillip Mallett, that she embarked on a thesis that led to the publication of her first book ‘Women & Sexuality in the Novels of Thomas Hardy’. She was always very proud of the fact that she continued to receive royalties from this book to the present day, unheard of with most academic publications!
In 1998 Rosemarie published the first edition of the Thomas Hardy Review, under the auspices of The Thomas Hardy Association (TTHA) which she founded. She designed the TTHA website and managed all aspects of networking, publishing, editing, mailing, accounting, conference organisation- no mean task!
She received a BBC literary website award for her design and attracted subscriptions from Universities and individuals worldwide. Peter Bayley, former Berry Professor of English Literature at St. Andrews, described her as “a quite outstanding scholar and a critic of unusual originality and insight.”
I am immensely proud of her achievements in the academic world. She was always so deprecating about any recognition of her achievements. As a visiting professor and keynote speaker she was thrilled to be invited to Ireland, France, Japan , India, Canada, USA and the U.K. As in her personal, life she was an inspiration to many. She inspired others to have the confidence to pursue their own passions.
Here is what some of her academic colleagues have had to say:
“She has long supported my work, and that of so many others, and was a giant in our field. I will miss her so much as both a friend and colleague.”
“Rosemarie was always so vibrant and alive”
“I found her most kind and helpful in the years of my research.”
“What a loss to us all. I had hoped she would recover from her stroke a few years ago. She kept us connected with many affirmations and notices; indeed I felt her to be the heart of our endeavors. May her insouciant spirit yet influence us…”
“I know so many of us have been touched by Rosemarie, both personally and in our intellectual pursuits. She was truly a remarkable scholar and has consistently shaped Hardy Studies for the better. She will be so very missed, and we will not be the same without her.”
“She meant so much, gave so much to so many, including my wife Mary Lynn Bensen (the real Hardy scholar--not I so much) and to me, as she anointed me her next poetry editor, but the issue never had a chance to come out, though she worked on it. She'd published a couple of my wife's articles and was encouraging her to send more. Truly, Rosemarie seemed inexhaustible, both in knowledge and energies. Such a loss! Your mother was one-of-a-kind. In the very good sense.”
Dr. Robert Benson
“Rosemarie was a true force of nature and will be greatly missed. I appreciate her trust in handing over the Book Reviews section to me, and I enjoyed her quirky wit through the years. You could always expect the unexpected from her!”
“She was the first person to ever take my work seriously, and she gave me my first break - reviewing a book in TTHA. For that I will always be exceptionally grateful. She went from colleague, to mentor, to friend. I will always remember her waspish wit and wicked smile. The world will be a much sadder place without her.”
Dr. Tracy Hayes
“Rosemarie is a great loss to the Hardy world. She always had such incredible energy and enthusiasm, allied to first-class scholarship, and I very much admired the way she set up the Thomas Hardy Association and made it such a force for good in Hardy studies. It is hard to believe that one person could achieve so much. On a personal level, I am so grateful to Rosemarie for her friendship and in particular for her enthusiastic support of my own Hardy writings. I was so pleased when she asked me for my first contribution to the Hardy Review, welcomed later contributions, and then later asked me to contribute two chapters to the Ashgate Research Companion. While I was conscious of the fact that nearly all the other contributors were professional academics (while I am a now retired Librarian) Rosemarie encouragingly made it clear that she regarded my work in just the same way as theirs. She achieved so much, and will be sorely missed. I find it hard to believe that I will never see her again, but I will always treasure the memories I have of her.”
“I will miss her cheerful, if virtual, presence. Her grasp and energy for Hardy matters was extraordinary, though I only met her once, at one of the few Dorchester conferences that I have been to, but I remember her vividly, and her vividness!”
Prof John Hughes
A Poem For Rosemarie
“Strong as a lion, energetic
Who blamed all male authors
You reclaimed Thomas Hardy
As a man who understood women and desire.
You fought the good fight, a free spirit,
Generous, passionate, stubborn sometimes…
Are you going Rosemarie?
In time still we see your smile
Your hair a bit wild
Your kindness to animals
Your deep love for your family—
And hardily editing your journal
And lovingly spreading the words of Thomas Hardy…”
Catherine Lanone, 14th December 2020
“I had been exceptionally lucky to be able to spend a day out with her when she visited India, Kolkata, My University, and our conversations around Hardy, her family, her house in USA, her excitement to see the Museum here are fondly remembered...these make her much more than just a critic and scholar, who has shaped my literary and scholarly acumen, but a strict mentor and a warm friend who is always there to guide!...I, my students whom she met and interacted with, and the whole Hardy community are in deep mourning for the spark called Rosemarie gone out of their lives!”
Dr. Oindrilla Ghosh
“To me she always seemed to be a whirlwind of energy, fun and laughter—I will never forget her inspiring lectures and our never-ending talk and funny jokes during the conference weeks in Nagoya, Japan. She will be dearly missed--she will be forever in my heart…. I’ve never met anyone like Rosemarie. Her sweet caring personality is terribly missed.”
“We appreciated her liveliness, her straightforwardness, her clear-cut views. Her contribution to Hardy Studies, with the creation of the Hardy Review at Yale, and the online site that went along with it, was a major one, and we dearly hope it will go on with the same gusto. She not only crossed the Atlantic with Hardy under her arm, but she was also, undeniably, one of the actors who bridged the gap between English-speaking specialists of Hardy and their French counterparts, for which we are all very grateful. She will remain in our memories as one of our most active interlocutors in the field of Hardy studies.”
Prof. Isabelle Gadoin
“She was always generous with advice, but what I mainly treasured and enjoyed was her sense of humour, which could best be described as rollicking - not an attribute associated with all academics - or with Hardy come to that! I shall miss her very much, as all must who knew her.”
“I am remembering her vivacious look.”
She touched many people’s lives and lived her life to the fullest.