Beer, John B. 1926–
Beer, John B. 1926–
(John Bernard Beer)
PERSONAL: Born March 31, 1926, in Watford, Hertfordshire, England; son of John Bateman (a civil servant) and Eva Beer; married Gillian Patricia Kempster Thomas (a university teacher), July 7, 1962; children: three sons. Education: St. John's College, Cambridge, B.A., 1950, M.A., 1955, Ph.D., 1957. Hobbies and other interests: Travel, music, and walking in town and country.
CAREER: Cambridge University, St. John's College, Cambridge, England, research fellow, 1955–58; University of Manchester, England, lecturer in department of English, 1958–64; Cambridge University, fellow of Peterhouse, 1964–93, emeritus fellow, 1993–, university lecturer, 1964–78, reader, 1978–87, professor of English literature, 1987–93, emeritus professor, 1993–. Coleridge Bicentenary Lecturer at Christ's Hospital and Highgate, 1972; visiting professor, University of Virginia, 1975; visiting lecturer in India, 1978–79, 1993, in Korea, 1985, in Hong Kong, 1993, 1999, in Japan and Singapore, 1999, and Claremont, 2001. Military service: Royal Air Force, 1946–48.
MEMBER: British Academy (fellow).
AWARDS, HONORS: Litt.D., St. John's College, Cambridge, 1993.
Coleridge, the Visionary, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1959, Collier Books (New York, NY), 1962, reprinted, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1978.
The Achievement of E.M. Forster, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1962, Barnes & Noble (New York, NY), 1963.
(Editor) Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Poems, Dutton (New York, NY), 1963, revised edition, 2000.
Milton, Lost and Regained, British Academy (London, England), 1964.
Blake's Humanism, Barnes & Noble (New York, NY), 1968.
Blake's Visionary Universe, Barnes & Noble (New York, NY), 1969.
(Editor and contributor) Coleridge's Variety: Bicentenary Studies, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1974.
Coleridge's Poetic Intelligence, Barnes & Noble (New York, NY), 1977.
Wordsworth and the Human Heart, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1978.
Wordsworth in Time, Faber (London, England), 1979.
(Editor, with G.K. Das, and contributor) E.M. Forster, a Human Exploration: Centenary Essays, New York University Press (New York, NY), 1979.
(Compiler with wife, Gillian Beer) Heroes and Victims: Poems, Macdonald Educational (Morristown, NJ), 1979.
(Compiler, with Gillian Beer) Magic and Mystery: Poems, Macdonald Educational (Morristown, NJ), 1979.
(Compiler, with Gillian Beer) Taking a Closer Look: Poems, Macdonald Educational (Morristown, NJ), 1979.
(Compiler, with Gillian Beer) Telling a Story: Poems, Macdonald Educational (Morristown, NJ), 1979.
William Blake, 1757–1827, Profile Books (New York, NY), 1982.
(Compiler, with Gillian Beer) Delights and Warnings: A New Anthology of Poems, Macdonald Educational (Morristown, NJ), 1984.
(Editor and contributor) A Passage to India: Essays in Interpretation, Barnes & Noble (New York, NY), 1986.
Romantic Influences: Contemporary—Victorian—Modern, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1994.
Questioning Romanticism, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1995.
Romantic Consciousness: Blake to Mary Shelley, Pal-grave Macmillan (New York, NY), 2003.
Post-Romantic Consciousness: Dickens to Plath, Palgrave Macmillan (New York, NY), 2003.
William Blake: A Literary Life, Palgrave Macmillan (New York, NY), 2005.
Also author of Against Finality, the inaugural lecture at Cambridge, 1993. General editor, Coleridge's Writings, 1990–; also editor of Aids to Reflection, Volume 9 of The Collected Coleridge, 1993. Contributor to books, including The English Mind, edited by H.S. Davies and G. Watson, Cambridge University Press, 1964; S.T. Coleridge, edited by R.L. Brett, Bell, 1971; Romanticism in Contemporary European Poetry, edited by E. van Itterbeek, Louvain, 1983; Modernita dei Romantici, edited by L.M.C. Jones, and others, [Naples, Italy], 1988; Cambridge Guide to the Arts in Britain, edited by B. Ford, 1989, 1990; The Coleridge Connection: Essays Presented to Thomas McFarland, edited by R. Gravil and M. Lefebure, 1990; Coleridge and the Armoury of the Human Mind, edited by P.J. Kitson and T.N. Corns, 1991; Tennyson: Seven Essays, edited by Philip Collins, 1992; Imagining Romanticism, edited by P. Otto and D. Coleman, 1992; Historicizing Blake, edited by S. Clark and D. Worrall, 1994; Moving the Borders, Milan, 1996; Corresponding Powers, 1997; and A Companion to Romanticism, 1998. Contributor to Encyclopaedia Britannica. Contributor of articles to journals, including Blake Newsletter, Cambridge Review, Charles Lamb Bulletin, Journal of English and Germanic Philology, Modern Language Review, New Statesman, Spectator, Review of English Studies, Times Higher Education Supplement, Times Literary Supplement, and Wordsworth Circle.
SIDELIGHTS: Cambridge University professor emeritus John B. Beer is a scholar of English literature best known for his studies of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth, though he has also written on such important literary figures as William Blake, John Milton, George Eliot, and E.M. Forster. Reviewing Beer's 2005 William Blake: A Literary Life, Wordsworth Circle critic Morton D. Paley found the author "has performed the biographer's task admirably: to present ones subject as a person and not merely as a poet, artist, or an historical figure. Beer is also a pleasure to read, a rare author whose prose is clear, crisp, [and] pointed."
In one of his more recent works, Providence and Love: Studies in Wordsworth, Channing, Myers, George Eliot, and Ruskin, he analyzes the writings of several prominent authors to discuss the evolving concepts of divine providence and love as reflected in literature. "By 'Providence' he means the supernatural guidance that gives a shape to human affairs, "explained Robert Langbaum in Victorian Studies;" while 'love' in the nineteenth century, as Beer shows, was a way of giving shape to life even when the existence of God was doubted." Discussing books ranging from Robinson Crusoe to Jane Eyre, Middlemarch, and Rose La Touche, the author demonstrates the influence of Charles Darwin and changing social forces that had an impact on literature through time, especially in attitudes about divine influence on the world. "All this is powerfully narrated," commented Langbaum. "Indeed the last two chapters, on Eliot and Ruskin (the best), are movingly eloquent. The whole book is rewarding."
Beer once told CA: "In recent years I have been particularly interested in two related themes, which formed the topics of my twin books on Wordsworth. It is sometimes assumed that the unconscious was 'discovered' by Freud, but close study of Romantic and nineteenth-century literature shows that the phenomena which he was investigating had been a subject of deep interest for at least a century. Since analytic tools were not available, however, writers were forced to deal with it through their own art, concentrating on the creative powers of the psyche rather than on its functions of adaptation. Alongside this interest there persisted a belief in the power of the 'heart,' developed out of the eighteenth-century cult of sensibility and adopted as a counterweight to mechanistic interpretations of the world. To many modern readers the latter is simply embarrassing, but without an understanding of and allowance for it, we misread a good deal of nineteenth-century literature…. I am also interested in the interrelation of forms and energies as a theme both in the subject matter and in the creative work of the same period."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Biography, winter, 2006, Michael O'Neill, review of William Blake: A Literary Life, p. 201.
Notes and Queries, March, 1997, E.D. Mackerness, "Questioning Romanticism," p. 125.
Victorian Studies, autumn, 2001, Robert Langbaum, review of Providence and Love: Studies in Words-worth, Channing, Myers, George Eliot, and Ruskin, p. 103.
Wordsworth Circle, fall, 2003, Adam Potkay, review of Coleridge's Writings, Volume 4: On Religion and Psychology, p. 180; fall, 2005, Morton D. Paley, review of William Blake, p. 156.