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'Truthe is the beste'

A Festschrift in Honour of A.V.C. Schmidt


Nicolas Jacobs and Gerald Morgan

The thirteen essays in this book, presented in honour of Dr A.V.C. (Carl) Schmidt, are designed to reflect the range of his interests. Dr Schmidt, who was a Fellow at Balliol College, Oxford from 1972 until his retirement in 2011, is best known for his comprehensive four-text edition of Piers Plowman, the fruit of a lifetime’s work on that text. He has also made a major contribution to the study of Chaucer and the medieval English contemplatives, and these authors also find a place in this collection. The essays presented here are intended to build upon the legacy of Carl Schmidt’s exemplary scholarship.
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← xxii | 1 → SEAMUS PERRY

Classically, being a Balliol man involves something more than being a man whose academic position happens to be at Balliol. That is a lesson I learned when, still a youngish fresh Fellow, I dutifully wore a College tie to a gaudy: ‘Good of you to wear that’, said a well-disposed pillar of the Senior Common Room as we trudged up the staircase to high table, ‘especially seeing as you’re not one’. No: a real Balliol man is a tutor at the College who has previously been an undergraduate there. It is a stiff test that most of humanity is bound to fail: it excludes, for example, many recent Masters as well as most of the Fellowship; and, in truth, these more inclusive days have seen it become a dwindling category. But the Senior Common Room I joined still boasted several representatives of the species. A few weeks after arriving at the College a colleague explained to me at lunch that he had not only succeeded his tutor but even moved in to occupy his old set. When I expressed surprise at such an odd turn of events, he asked me rhetorically: what is an academic career, but moving from a Balliol chair to the left of the fireplace to the well-worn Balliol chair to the right?

Of that select group, Carl Schmidt was one of the most celebrated. Balliol man and boy, a prodigious undergraduate whose startling intellectual prowess was still vividly...

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