Jack, Malcolm Roy 1946-
JACK, Malcolm Roy 1946-
Born December 17, 1946, in England; son of Iain Ross and Alicia Maria (Eça de Silva) Jack. Education: University of Liverpool, B.A. (honors), 1967; London School of Economics, University of London, Ph.D., 1974.
House of Commons, London, England, clerk, 1967—; House of Commons, Ways and Means Committee, private secretary to chairman, 1977-80; Agriculture Select Committee, clerk, 1980-88; House of Commons, clerk of supply, 1989-91, clerk of standing committees, 1991-95, secretary to House of Commons Commission, 1995-2001, clerk of the journals, 2001-02, clerk of legislation, 2003.
Beckford Society (chairman, 1996—), Johnson Club (secretary, 1998—), Highgate Literary and Scientific Institute.
Hong Kong Government Scholar, 1964-67.
Corruption and Progress: The Eighteenth-Century Debate, AMS Press (New York, NY), 1989.
(Editor) Vathek and Other Stories: A William Beckford Reader, Pickering (London, England), 1993.
(Editor) Episodes of Vathek, Dedalus (Cambridge, England), 1994.
William Beckford: An English Fidalgo, AMS Press (New York, NY), 1996.
Sintra: A Glorious Eden, Carcanet Press (Manchester, England), 2001.
WORK IN PROGRESS:
Research for a book on Lisbon earthquake of 1755.
While working his way up the career ladder of the Parliamentary hierarchy, becoming Clerk of Legislation for the House of Commons in 2003, Malcolm Roy Jack has also earned a reputation as a solid historian of eighteenth-century British and Portuguese politics and personalities. After publishing The Social and Political Thought of Bernard Mandeville, an appraisal of the prominent eighteenth-century economic theorist and author of The Fable of the Bees, Jack followed up with Corruption and Progress: The Eighteenth-Century Debate, an analysis of one of the thorniest issues for Mandeville and other political thinkers of his era. "The Focus of this highly readable volume by Malcolm Jack is the eighteenth-century 'corruption debate' whose central paradox as formulated by Jack was that 'material progress entails moral decline,'" explained Eighteenth Century Studies contributor Kathleen Szantor. In addition to Mandeville, Jack focuses on Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Scottish philosopher Adam Ferguson, all of who wrestled with the hope for a utopian future of material prosperity for all and the ancient fear that such prosperity inevitably leads to moral decline. Jack elaborates on the divergent approaches of these three men, with Mandeville an unabashed proponent of progress, even if meant encouraging humanity's selfish passions, and Rousseau searching for a way out of this conundrum through re-education that stresses community, with Ferguson coming down in the middle between these two positions. Not everyone was pleased with the results. "It is an unfortunate, but not fatal flaw in Jack's otherwise valuable monograph that he seems to have slighted the [economic] dimension of Scottish moral theory," wrote Ronald Hamowy in Eighteenth Century Scottish Studies. Still, "Jack's rekindling of the debate is timely as present-day political and economic conditions worldwide give rise alternately to optimism and pessimism concerning progress," concluded Kathleen Szantor in her review.
In later works, Jack has gone further afield, covering two of the more exotic personalities of the era. In 1993, he coedited The Turkish Embassy Letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu with Anita Desai. Denounced in her time by Alexander Pope as a "Lewd Lesbia," Lady Montagu is seen today as one of the best female poets and most skillful essayists of her era. From 1716 to 1718, she was stationed with her husband at the court of the "Sublime Porte" in Istanbul, the exotic capital of the Ottoman Empire. Jack's and Desai's selections cover this remarkable period in Lady Montagu's eventful life. "As well as the obvious value of the letters for their wealth of historical, social, and cultural detail, the Turkish Embassy Letters are of great interest for what they reveal of Mary Wortley Montagu's reactions to finding herself in a country which would have seemed entirely alien … to her contemporary correspondents," noted Review of English Studies contributor Harriet Devine Jump.
That same year, Malcolm Jack edited Vathek and Other Stories: A William Beckford Reader, a collection of tales by another controversial figure from the era. A few years later he published a biography of the author, titled William Beckford: An English Fidalgo. Bisexual and a dabbler in black magic, Beckford was an early Romantic and a pioneer of Gothic novels. In 1784, he was accused of sodomizing a sixteen-year-old boy and fled to Portugal, where he lived in self-imposed exile from English society as an unofficial "Fidalgo," or Portuguese gentleman, having affairs with both men and women, while developing aesthetic and architectural ideals that he put into practice in Portugal, and later in England after he returned to his native country. In addition to his stories, Beckford's literary reputation rests on a series of rather sanitized travel journals from his travels in Portugal and Spain, and in trying to bring Beckford to life, Jack focuses on this period in Beckford's dramatic life. "Unfortunately … Malcolm Jack writes at times like a tremulous Victorian maiden aunt, never quite bringing himself to say what he so evidently wants to, which is that Beckford was very queer indeed," according to a Times Literary Supplement reviewer. However, Eighteenth Century Studies reviewer Kevin Berland found that "Jack presents a compelling vision of the force of Beckford's charismatic presence and imagination."
Jack has also published an appreciation of Beckford's primary refuge in Portugal, titled Sintra: A Glorious Eden. For centuries, Sintra has housed the palaces and pleasure domes of Portuguese royalty, and with its mix of Celtic, Roman, and Arabic influences, it remains one of the most treasured spots for travelers and residents alike. "Jack's own enchantment with the town is strong enough to convince us that this remarkable spot will somehow survive Lisbon's insidious suburban creep northwards," concluded Times Literary Supplement reviewer Jonathan Keates.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Eighteenth Century Scottish Studies, 1992, Ronald Hamowy, review of Corruption and Progress: The Eighteenth-Century Debate, pp. 14-15.
Eighteenth Century Studies, autumn, 1992, Kathleen Szantor, review of Corruption and Progress, pp. 202-205; spring, 2000, Kevin Berland, review of William Beckford: An English Fidalgo, pp. 457-460.
Review of English Studies, May, 1996, Harriet Devine Jump, review of The Turkish Embassy Letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, p. 304.
Times Literary Supplement, January 9, 1998, review of William Beckford, p. 27; December 20, 2002, Jonathan Keates, review of Sintra: A Glorious Eden, p. 27.