The Other Inklings | Lord David Cecil

A while back, I started introducing you to the Inklings of Oxford. Why? Because the Inklings was a legendary writer’s group that gave birth to such masterpieces as The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia.

But there were more people in the Inklings than just C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. Let’s take some time and meet a few of the lesser-known Inklings.

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I’m a firm believer that bad things happen for good reasons. I believe that this was the case with Lord David Cecil, Oxford professor, historian, biographer, and our next lesser-known Inkling.

Lord David was a delicate child who developed a tubercular gland at the age of eight. Due to the required surgery and recovery time, he spent large amounts of time in bed, where he developed his love of reading. And if you consider a love of reading anything less than a wonderful thing, you and I won’t see eye to eye on a lot of things (because you are wrong).

Cecil was the grandson of Lord Salisbury (a 19th-century British Prime Minister) and the son of James Gascoyne-Cecil (the 4th Marquess of Salisbury). Born on April 9th, 1902 in London, Lord David was the youngest of four children, meaning that his title of Lord was one of courtesy only.

Lord David attended Eton College and Christ Church, Oxford before becoming a Fellow of Wadham College, Oxford from 1924 to 1930. Cecil published his first book, The Stricken Deer, a study of poet Thomas Cowper, in 1929 and made an immediate impact as a literary historian. He went on to write studies on Walter Scott and Jane Austen.

In 1939, Cecil became a Fellow of New College, Oxford. After a brief stint in 1947 at Greshem College in London, Lord David returned to the University of Oxford in 1948 as a Professor of English Literature until 1970. During his tenure, Lord David published studies of Thomas Gray, Thomas Hardy, Dorothy Osborne, Walter Pater, and William Shakespeare. But he did not limit his studies to literary figures, covering distant relative Lord Melborne, visual artists Max Beerbohm, Edward Burne-Jones, Augustus John, and Samuel Palmer, as well as a number of others.

Having established himself as an authority on the arts from his volume of work, Lord David Cecil appeared frequently on BBC television in his retirement.

Cecil died on January 1st, 1986, leaving behind three children: actor and journalist, Jonathan Hugh; historian, Hugh Peniston; and literary agent, Alice Laura. He was preceded in death by his wife Rachel, author of popular novel, Theresa’s Choice.

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