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MR Society

Professor Vincent Newey (1943–2020). An obituary by Bob Owens

I write with deep sadness to say that Vincent Newey, one of the best and most sympathetic critics of the writings of William Hale White (‘Mark Rutherford’), has passed away. He was a member of the Mark Rutherford Society since its foundation, and we mourn his passing.

Vince was born and raised in the West Midlands. His teaching career began at the University of Liverpool in 1967, where he remained for twenty-two years before his appointment as Professor of English at the University of Leicester. He took early retirement in 2006, due to ill health.

A brilliant literary critic, Vince ranged widely over poetry of the pre-Romantic and Romantic periods (Cowper, Gray, and Goldsmith, as well as Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, and Byron) and the work of several nineteenth-century novelists (Eliot, Dickens, Hardy, and ‘Mark Rutherford’). He published three outstanding books – Cowper’s Poetry: A Critical Study and Reassessment (1982), Centring the Self: Subjectivity, Society and Reading from Thomas Gray to Thomas Hardy (1995), and The Scriptures of Charles Dickens: Novels of Ideology, Novels of the Self (2004) – and edited numerous collections of essays, including the pioneering volume, The Pilgrim’s Progress: Critical and Historical Views (1980). His publications on White included the following articles and chapters:
  • Mark Rutherford’s Salvation and the Case of Catharine Furze’, in Mortal Pages, Literary Lives: Studies in Nineteenth-Century Autobiography, ed. Vincent Newey and Philip Shaw (1996)
  • Mark Rutherford and John Bunyan: A Study in Relationship’ (Mark Rutherford Society Newsletter, September 2007; reprinted in Bunyan Studies, 16, 2012)
  • ‘Bunyan’s Afterlives: Case Studies’, in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress: Reception, Appropriation, Recollection, ed. W. R. Owens and Stuart Sim (2007)

  • Among the Insurgents: William Hale White and George Eliot’ (Mark Rutherford Society Newsletter, July 2009)
  • ‘Centring Bunyan: Macaulay, Froude, Hale White’ (Bunyan Studies, 17, 2013)
  • Bunyan and the Victorians’, in The Oxford Handbook of John Bunyan, ed. Michael Davies and W. R. Owens (2018).
As with every piece Vince published, his writings on White/Mark Rutherford present a master-class in the art of literary criticism. Dr Michael Davies (University of Liverpool) has well described Vince’s ‘enviable style’ as ‘one that combines acute insight and sensitivity to language and form with an ambitious intellectual vision, all shaped by a delicate yet robust prose crafted to convey something profoundly engaging and perceptive’. A collection of essays, Literature and Authenticity, 1780–1900, published in Vince’s honour in 2011, includes an ‘Afterword’ paying full tribute to his achievements, and to his incomparable strengths as a reader, teacher, critic, colleague, and friend.

Vince passed away on Saturday 16 May 2020, aged 76. He is survived by his wife Sue, and their two sons, Matthew and Nathan. He will be greatly missed by his many friends and colleagues in the world of English studies.

Bob Owens