John Sparrow, Warden of All Souls, was a notable character in post-war Oxford. He was educated in the old-time classical humanist tradition, and this remained his field even as the world about him changed. A man with a brilliant mind, he is often remembered negatively – as a bogeyman to progressives because of his outspoken conservatism – and as a disappointment to those who expected a more solid academic achievement. It was felt that his talents were too widely scattered.
Presenting hitherto unpublished letters and papers which vividly evoke the contemporary Oxford scene, Peter Raina traces this scattering of talent. Sparrow may have been a generalist, but he dabbled in depth in many disciplines. He was an expert on Latin, on law, on inscriptions, on rare books and on poetry. Above all he was a tireless supporter and friend of other academics and poets in a special generation. The book gives context to his circles of influence and to his uncompromising intelligence and distinct charm.