Jenkyns, Richard 1949–
Jenkyns, Richard 1949–
(Richard Henry Austen Jenkyns)
PERSONAL: Born March 18, 1949, in Steyning, England; son of Henry Leigh (a civil servant) and Rosalind (Home) Jenkyns. Education: Balliol College, Oxford, B.A., 1971, M.A., 1974, M.Litt., 1975. Religion: Episcopalian.
CAREER: Oxford University, Oxford, England, fellow of All Souls College, 1972–81, fellow and tutor in clas-sics at Lady Margaret Hall, 1981–, lecturer in classical languages and literature, 1981–99, professor of the classical tradition, 1999–, public orator, 2004–; University of Bristol, Bristol, England, lecturer, 1978–81; Boston University, Boston, MA, visiting professor, 2002–03.
AWARDS, HONORS: Conington Prize, Oxford University, 1978, for dissertation on the Renaissance pastoral; Arts Council National Book Award for Creative Nonfiction and "Best First Work" Award from Yorkshire Post, both 1981, both for The Victorians and Ancient Greece.
Three Classical Poets: Sappho, Catullus, and Juvenal, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1982.
Dignity and Decadence: Victorian Art and the Classical Inheritance, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1992.
(Editor) The Legacy of Rome: A New Appraisal, Oxford University Press (New York), 1992.
Virgil's Experience: Nature and History, Times, Names, and Places, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1998.
A Fine Brush on Ivory: An Appreciation of Jane Austen, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2004.
Westminster Abbey, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2005.
Contributor to Oxford History of the Classical World, edited by John Boardman, Jasper Griffin, and Oswyn Murray, Oxford University Press, 1984. Contributor to periodicals in the United States and England.
SIDELIGHTS: Richard Jenkyns is a professor of classics who is very interested in England's Victorian era—not only its literature, but also its customs, society, architecture, art, and other aspects. His scholarly books have therefore ranged over many subjects relating to either Greece and Rome, Victorian England, or a combination of the two. Jenkyns studies how the classical period influenced nineteenth-century sensibilities in such works as his award-winning debut book, The Victorians and Ancient Greece.
In 1992's Dignity and Decadence: Victorian Art and the Classical Inheritance, Jenkyns writes about Victorian painting and architecture and how it was influenced by the art of Greece and Rome. The author-scholar lends a wry tone to his study, as he sometimes pokes fun at certain Victorian pieces that he finds humorously stuffy and prudish. As Frank M. Turner noted in a Victorian Studies review, the book possesses an "ironic, if not fundamentally hostile, attitude toward his subject. In his stance of bemused cultural superiority to the Victorians, Jenkyns is much more lively and opinionated than many of us who rather like them better." Turner went on to praise Jenkyns's observations on neo-classical architecture, while considering the author's discussions about sculpture to be "less strong." The reviewer also pointed out that "there is virtually no consideration of the role of archeology in determining neo-classical themes and the responses to them,… [nor any] attempt to relate the classicism of Victorian art, architecture, and sculpture to Victorian historical, religious, and literary studies of the ancient world." In a Notes and Queries article, however, contributor Stuart Gillespie commented that Dignity and Decadence is a "very readable book." Jenkyns, Gillespie noted, admits that he is not an authority on many of the subjects about which he writes; nevertheless, the author's "sensitivity as a critic triumphs over his lack of specialist expertise."
Although Jenkyns realized that numerous texts had already been written about the author Jane Austen, he penned A Fine Brush of Ivory: An Appreciation of Jane Austen anyway because he felt he could lend readers some fresh, personal views on her. Indeed, the book offers no dramatic insights into Austen's work, but critics still enjoyed his comments on such classics as Pride and Prejudice. Jenkyns's "lucid and lively study makes even dreary Fanny Price of Mansfield Park seem worth another reading," remarked Mary Ellen Quinn in Booklist. Spectator contributor Victoria Glendinning called A Fine Brush of Ivory an "agreeable and lively book."
As with his study of Austen, Jenkyns wrote Westminster Abbey to express his appreciation for art, while also offering some pertinent information about one of England's most famous buildings. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that Jenkyns "is particularly poetic in writing about light in the building." "A mellifluous writing style caps this splendid reading and learning experience," concluded Brad Hooper in Booklist.
Jenkyns once told CA: "Part of the fascination of the ancient world for me is that it is a world so unlike our own: Our usual assumptions and presuppositions just won't fit. And yet the classical tradition has had an im-mense influence upon our own culture. The Victorians, in turn, are fascinating because they seem now both close to us and distant, both like us and unlike us. To study the influence of ancient Greece upon them—an influence that has usually been underestimated—is to learn something about both the past and ourselves. The Victorians and Ancient Greece is an attempt to understand the nineteenth century by looking at one aspect of its culture; it therefore moves around between literature, history, politics, art, architecture, philosophy, and religion. Energetic, sometimes absurd, the Victorians are now a fashionable subject—but then they deserve to be."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 15, 2004, Mary Ellen Quinn, review of A Fine Brush on Ivory: An Appreciation of Jane Austen, p. 194; January 1, 2005, Brad Hooper, review of Westminster Abbey, p. 804.
Contemporary Review, December, 2004, review of Westminster Abbey, p. 380.
Library Journal, November 1, 2004, Kathryn R. Bartelt, review of A Fine Brush on Ivory, p. 83.
New Republic, August 10, 1992, review of Dignity and Decadence: Victorian Art and the Classical Inheritance, p. 39.
Notes and Queries, March, 1993, Stuart Gillespie, review of Dignity and Decadence, p. 110.
Publishers Weekly, February 7, 2005, review of Westminster Abbey, p. 56.
Spectator, October 2, 2004, Victoria Glendinning, review of A Fine Brush on Ivory, p. 43.
Victorian Studies, autumn, 1993, Frank M. Turner, review of Dignity and Decadence, p. 142.