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'My Husband's First Scholar': F R Leavis & R G Cox

'My Husband's First Scholar': F R Leavis & R G Cox by COX, Reginald Gordon; F R Leavis; I A Richards; L C Knights etc (1935)

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Author: COX, Reginald Gordon; F R Leavis; I A Richards; L C Knights etc
Title: 'My Husband's First Scholar': F R Leavis & R G Cox
Year: 1935
Publisher: Unpublished
Place: Cambridge; Manchester
Dust Jacket: No
Signed: Yes
Price: £2000
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The Archive of Reginald Gordon Cox, F R Leavis's first scholar at Downing College and a lifelong Leavisite, academic and friend of Lionel Knights. A highlight of the collection is a set of contemporary notes on I A Richards' Cambridge lectures on the novel and semantics, a comprehensive record of musical activities at Downing undertaken by Cox in the company of his great friend Wilfrid Mellers but perhaps most interesting of all documentary evidence of an academic life spent propagating Leavis's work and ensuring mutual support among his disciples in the world beyond Cambridge.

Cox (known as Gordon) was born on 7 May 1914, attended Grantham School, won an Open Scholarship to Downing and a Double First in 1935, becoming F R Leavis's first Downing scholar. He was Literary Editor of The Granta as an undergraduate, 1934-5, and went on to a Research Fellowship at Downing being awarded a Ph.D. in 1940 under the supervision of Arthur Quiller Couch - ‘Nineteenth Century Periodical Criticism’.

Following war service in the Middle east ‘on ambulance work’ he was briefly Assistant Lecturer in English at Aberystwyth University before moving to Manchester University at the behest of his friend Lionel C Knights (see correspondence). Cox married in 1949 and continued to play an active role in intellectual life in Cambridge and Manchester, regularly addressing the Doughty Society at Downing in the 1950s, teaching at Bassingbourn College under the young David Holbrook (correspondence) and helping to run the Manchester Lit and Phil Society. Every phase of his personal and private life is represented in this collection which reveals the closeness of his relationship with F R and Queenie Leavis and the lifelong inspiration that he took from their teaching and that of I A Richards and other members of the Cambridge English Faculty in the early 1930s.

Cambridge Lecture Notes, Walker’s Kenbury Ring Book ‘The Age of Johnson’, printed lecture list followed by Cox's manuscript notes on the lectures he attended: The Age of Johnson S.T. Roberts 1740-1785; ‘18th C. Prose – [L J] Potts’ ‘C18th Life and Thought – [Basil] Willey] (Willey’s Eighteenth Century Background appeared 1940 so this represents an early airing for these ideas. Small portrait head at end of these notes – perhaps representing Willey?) [Dadie] ‘Rylands. Form and Style in Poetry’ [pp] 28

Most significant are the two course taught by I A Richards which were scrupulously recorded by Cox:

‘The Novel – [IA] Richards’ ‘Aim of course: Can novel rank with other lit. forms? Books discussed Ulysses, The Secret Agent, The Turn of the Screw… Le Rouge et le Noir’. Discussions of each of these works. Ulysses: ‘Aim – an increase of consciousness in extent, intensity and degree of awareness… Questions raised: 1/ What is the function of consciousness in life’ (Richards had taught Ulysses from the mid 1920s onwards, even smuggling a copy into the USA to teach at Harvard in 1931.) On Turn of the Screw: ‘James not concerned with art apart from his own – No feeling for nature etc. Always core of story is something horrible or squalid or unspeakable’.

‘Lent 1933 Philosophy or Rhetoric [I A] Richards’: 'Programme of course: Chief uses of language/ Nature of “statement”/ What is a question?/ Indirect statement – metaphor’. Technical notes re philosophical difficulties of representation and utterance. Question of ‘say’. Explores the idea of the Loch Ness Monster to consider web of Denotation and Connotation. In their content these lectures looked back to Richards' 1920s work on semiotics and his collaborations with C K Ogden as well as forward to his soon to be published 1936 study, The Philosophy of Rhetoric.

Cambridge Reading Notes: Notes, 1933-1934, Walker’s Kenbury Ring Book: Cox's undergraduate reading notes from books including Alfred W ‘Pollard on Miracle Plays’, ‘Donne. [George] Williamson. The Donne Trad.t.’ Notes on Donne in Grierson’s edition, [Walter] ‘Raleigh on Par. Lost’, EMW ‘Tillyard – Constr.n of Par. Lost’

Cox was a keen violinist and close friend of his fellow Leavis protege and academic Wilfrid Mellers. (William L Cuttle writes of Cox in a printed recommendation contained in the collection: 'He is a violinist, and both as an undergraduate and as a graduate and Fellow he did most valuable and hard work for our Musical Society'. Cox's friendship with Mellers and their collaborations are represented in more than fifty college programmes, notes, photographs and other ephemera:

Wilfrid Mellers Folder (White)

1 ‘Wilf Mellers and his Boys will Play… in the College Hall - John Buddy Morel The Red Hot Crooner’ Pencil cartoon of Mellers on verso of Downing College Kitchen printed bill

2 ‘Wilfred Mellers at Downing early 1930s, Postcard original photo in mount

3 Small dossier of ‘Prints Cambridge people’ several Downing shots with ‘Granchester May 1939’ group shot, Postcard and one other

4 DCMS 'A Violin and Piano Sonata Recital by Antoinette and Edmund Rubbra, College Hall', June 3rd 1939, printed programme with Mellers’ report in The Griffin, single sheet (Rubbra was Mellers’ composition teacher).

5 DCMS Pianoforte Recital by W H Mellers, November 4th, 1934, Programme, bifolium

6 DCMS and Doughty Society Recital by W H Mellers, April 21st, 1940, Programme, bifolium, Regent Press

7 Fitzwilliam House Musical Society, Concert of Light Music, Sunday 6th March, Cox playing in Haydn quartet, Mellers playing Couperin and Weber

8 Typed letter from WFM to GC c1952, University Birmingham headed paper about a lecture and a recital

9 TLS from WFM to GC, University Birmingham headed paper about the recital

10 Autograph Letter from WFM to GC, University Birmingham headed paper recommending contact with Kenneth Muir and praising Marianne Moore

11 TLS from WFM to GC, University Birmingham headed paper about recitals

12 Draft ALS from GC to Kenneth Muir arranging for WHM to lecture and recital in Manchester as well as Liverpool

13 ALS from Muir about arrangements

14 TLS from WFM to GC, arrangements

15 TLS from WFM to GC, involving Eric Mackerness’s involvement and need for a gramophone; ALS from John Wary re arrangements

16 TLS from WFM to GC, re invitation to Colin Mason and his Grove article

17 Card from WFM ‘don’t want to go to the Halle’

18 ALS from H Proctor Gregg apologising for failing to see WHM lecture

19 TLS from WHM on response to offence given by lecture: ‘I don’t know what the academic objections to my talk can have been. The notion that Elizabethan music is impersonal etc is hardly academic and just ignorant… Thanks for authoritative cat news…’

20 DOUGHTY SOCIETY [Cox listed as Vice President alongside Leavis and others in programme] 5 Programmes for Michaelmas 1949, Lent 1950, Easter 1950, Lent 1951, Easter 1951, Cox slated to talk on Friday 1st June,’Anti-Romanticism in some Victorian Reviews’. ALS from K. Mayhead (Secretary) making invitation to speak. 1 TLS and 2 ALS re Cox’s arrangements to speak

21 1953-4 TLS from A Kelk, signed card AK, 4 ALS from G A Earl arranging for GC to talk about the Chicago Aristotelians

22 7 ALS 1956 J D Kimber soliciting a paper for the Doughty Society on ‘some 19th century topic’ which changed to ‘Twentieth Century Shakespeare… certainly very acceptable’ Fius Pike 3 ALS writes 24th February promising that ‘Dr Leavis will probable entertain you in Hall beforehand.

23 May Week Concert in the College Hall, Sunday June 7th, 1936, DCMS, dominated by WM with reports in the Griffin

24 Anniversary of the Laying of the Foundation Stone of the College in 1807, 18 May 1936, Programme with portrait of A C Seward.

25 DCMS Informal Smoking Concert, March 2nd 1933, GC playing violin in Beethoven trio, singing in Sea Shanties

26 To the Subscribers to the Master’s Portrait Fund, November 1933, GC’s name among subscribers

27 DCMS Concert December 5th, 1933,

28 DCMS Smoking Concert, Monday, March 12th 1934

29 DCMS Recital Maud Bell, Dorothy Hogben (composer)

30 DCMS May Week Concert, June 10th, 1934

31 DCMS Pianoforte Recital, Sunday November 4th, 1934

32 DCMS Recital Jean Robson and Peggy Male, Sunday November 25th, 1934

33 DCMS Concert Wednesday December 5th 1934 with one other

34 DCMS Programme of Orchestral Concert, Wednesday March 13th

35 Further 29 Concert Programmes from Cox’s undergraduate years, mixture of DCMS and Cambridge University Musical Club, several annotated by Cox with his response to the Music

‘Downing College Entrance Scholarships’ – mimeographed foolscap examination papers, [ff] 10 (Leavis's letter of recommendation mentions Cox's involvement in the Entrance Scholarship exams.)

Miscellaneous Portraits 1934-36’ small photo album of Cox family members and friends, punting scenes including Cox in ‘Cambridge May 1935’ and holiday snaps.


1 ‘I have known Dr R.G. Cox for a period of a dozen years.’ FR Leavis, Typed letter of recommendation for ‘Dr R G Cox’, 1945, with half a dozen copies: ‘He more than bore out the promise on which he was awarded his Entrance Scholarship… on the strength of his brilliant record, he was elected to a Research Fellowship… He helped me at Downing… he has the gifts intellectual and personal, that make an effective teacher… he will undoubtedly publish distinguished books.’

2 Recommendation with copies by William L Cuttle, ‘He is a violinist, and both as an undergraduate and as a graduate and Fellow he did most valuable and hard work for our Musical Society

3 Arthur Quiller Couch (Cox's Ph.D. Supervisor) Recommendation and copies from ‘The Haven, Fowey’ praising ‘so sensitive a scholarly mind… a fine sense of style… and a developed critical judgment.’

4 R G Cox's CV detailing academic career to 1946

5 Lionel (LC) Knights: Knights was a close friend of Cox, a fellow Leavisite in the north who observed to Cox that: 'There will be quite a Scrutiny enclave' after the Manchester appointment that he engineered for his pal.

A L C Knights Typed Letter Signed, January 1947, recommending that Cox applies for his soon to be vacated post at Manchester, describes faculty and ‘the occasional cracks about “Cambridge criticism”… not hard to parry

B TLS 24th Jan 1947, following up with some detail about Manchester syllabus

C ALS, Tells Cox that Professor H B Charlton is prepared to wait ‘for the right man’ WITH draft letter from Cox about letting his name go forward despite letting down Aberystwyth.

D TLS ‘Personally I hope you will come her, though I suppose I am being self-sacrificing…’

E TLS, from Charlton inviting RG; ALS making arrangements, TLS confirming.

F LCK makes arrangements

G 3 letters appointing GC and letters of congratulation with letter advising Cox of duties at Manchester and ANS from J D Jump

I TLS from Knights applauding his appointment: ‘There will be quite a Scrutiny enclave, if I manage to recruit the men you wot of. Enough to encourage Leavis to stir up a minority movement to incorporating Yorks and Lancs in Cambridge’.

H TLS from


A 7 TLS FROM G A Sutherland about moving in to Dalton Hall, University of Manchester, rationing etc with dozen further documents about being appointed resident tutor there etc.

B Small dossier of correspondence and ephemera relating to Cox’s involvement with Dalton Hall. Letters discussing students ‘He is not intellectually very bright I am afraid’ from Sutherland at Dalton Hall, recommendations for the library for vetting by Cox: ‘We don’t object to books because they are of particular interest to specialists but in general we like books that are of some interest to others as well.’ Cox’s notes for film showings and musical programmes.

C The English Association, Manchester: Notes from Arthur H White promoting a talk by Arnold Kettle with ensuing correspondence arranging Cox’s membership and a lecture on ‘Shakespearean criticism since Bradley’.

D Association of University Teachers’ documents

E Photo Album 1956-7, Cox family life and children including RGC dressed in a toga for a party!


A group of Cox’s own Lecture Notes for delivery during his short-lived posting at Aberystwyth, no doubt reused at Manchester, amounting to several hundred pages of RGC manuscript:

1. ‘Aberystwyth Lectures – medieval literature’, The Cantab File, W Heffer and Sons, c100 pp, 10 Lecture series on Chaucer, Parlement of Fowls, Troilus and Canterbury Tales. Occasional inserts and additions.

2 ‘Aberystwyth 1946-7… Set Books’ c100 pp Lecture notes on The Squire’s Tale, Much Ado, Rape of the Lock, Culture and Anarchy and The Old Wives’ Tale. Neatly set out long hand full lecture notes.

3 'Lectures 1550-1660 pp Non-dramatic verse prose’, c100, MXN Ring Binder. Probably Manchester.

4 ‘Lecture Notes Jacobean Dramatists’, black lever arch folder, c100pp manuscript notes with book lists and roneod handouts.


Cox was married on December 31st 1949 to Marjorie McHattie at Emmanuel Congregational Church, Cambridge, reception at the Dorothy Café. This folder contains around 150 letters and documents relating to this event including copious letters of congratulation from around the University, especially Newnham and Downing. Invitees included the Leavis with two excellent letters from Queenie Leavis to Cox’s bride to be:

1. Q D Leavis, 2 pp ALS, ‘Dear Marjorie, (if you will permit the liberty – but Gordon was my husband’s first Downing scholar so we have already felt a peculiar interest in him)’ 21.12.1947 on headed paper: QDL regrets her inability to attend the wedding as ‘it is impossible for a single-handed mother with a young family to go out alone’. There is advice for the newly weds ‘I only hope that with two professions between you you’ll have time to enjoy each other. It’s better to let everything else go in favour of that, at any rate temporarily.’

2 ALS from QDL, March 14th 1950, jokes that ‘Gordon had better get Manchester to offer Frank a D.Litt’ if they are ever to meet in the north, offering to get Frank to give Gordon a ‘talking-to’ if he fails as a husband. Literary chat about trouble getting John Speirs' book published ‘so Frank wrote to [T S ] Eliot who after reading it jumped at it and actually wrote to thank us for giving them the chance to bring it out.’ Mentions typing all 100,000 words of The Common Pursuit and being ‘anxious to see the result.’ Refers to Wilfrid Mellers’ divorce: ‘We always thought it an utterly unsuitable marriage from the start…’


(White lever arch folder)

The Village College, Bassingbourn, 5 lively ALS from David Holbrook to RGC struggling with bureaucracy to involve him in teaching at the College; printed Prospectus for 1954/55 and a mimeographed prospectus for a residential course.

Varied correspondence including Alan Pryce Jones commissioning a review of Empson’s The Structure of Complex Words, commissions from Andor Gomme for TLS, letters and syllabus for RGC’s teaching at Grantley Hall; Bowdon Lectures etc etc.


Folder of correspondence relating to RGC’s involvement as Hon. Sec of the society in the early 1960s including manuscript obituary material relating to the sudden death of the President, Leonard Cohen (1905-1971)

Collection of about a dozen printed volumes of Memoirs and Proceedings of the Manchester Lit & Phil with galley proofs of articles edited by Cox laid in and correspondence with authors including W M S Russell, Professor Hinshelwood, Professor F A Wells, Professor A B Semple, H L Penman, Dr N F Astbury, Wallace Robson, Donald Garside, Jean Heywood, G Norman Burckhardt, William Clissitt

FR Leavis revisited – Scrupulously maintained Cuttings book charting F R Leavis’s activities through press clippings 1960-1978, including obituaries.
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