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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Herbert Paul Grice and Marcus William Dick


"Scarborough-born, Winchester-educated philosopher Marcus William Dick came to the University of East Anglia in Norwich in October 1963 as Professor of Philosophy, and I was one of his first students", a member to the Grice club once wrote.

"He was one of the most interesting men I ever met," this Grice club member goes on, "and one of the kindest too -- although clearly a tortured soul in some respects. I continued to see him after I graduated, and was devastated when he died."

Dick was possibly the first alphabetically ordered member of J. L. Austin's "kindergarten"

Marcus William Dick was a fellow and senior tutor at Balliol College, Oxford. He had been educated at Winchester.

There is a memorial plaque on a wall at Balliol with his name on it. 

Dick would of course move on to then newly minted University of East Anglia where he was appointed a full Professor of Philosophy.

By that time, perhaps he was an Austinian no more. 

Indeed, he was a Priorian, before he was an Austinian.

Other monsters at UEA/Norwich include Grice (Godfrey Russell, not Herbert Paul), and M. Hollis. 

In the English Department, A. N. Wilson and M. Bradbury were also good.

Dick's early education he received at Winchester. 

While still at Oxford, Dick was associated with the South-African logician A. N. Prior."

This was a very witty South-African logician.

Very witty by the title of all his essays in his posthumous collection on tense logic with the Clarendon Press.

In 1956, Dick indeed helped Prior organise the first "Logical Colloquium" held at Oxford (indeed in England) in 1956.

A small ad-hoc committee was formed, and Marcus Dick arranged for a lecture room at Balliol -- which was very kind of him, because you cannot have a colloquium without a room ("Room" is one of the most complex concepts to analyse philosophically).

We actually have a interesting little detail available to us on that event.

On July 15, 1956, at 10:30 in the morning, Dick chaired a session:

C. A. Meredith: Theory of Deduction in Combinatory Logic.

To my surprise, Dick was actually quoted in 
public, albeit from memory, in a "Daily Mirror" column."

In the quote, Marcus Dick displays a bit of academic arrogance.

Or does not! 

Perhaps the author displays a bit of inverse snobbery!

Brodhurst spoke to Marcus Dick, then senior tutor at Balliol, and an old Wykehamist.

"Tiger Pataudi, oh yes, the cricketer,” sniffed Marcus Dick, “quite brainless I should think, and my dear old boy, there are thousands wanting to read History.”

There is some of publishing history on Marcus Dick. 

In 1952, Dick revised the 5th edition of "Oxford, As it was yesterday and as it is today" by Christopher Hobhouse."

By 'revised' Dick meant that he almost re-wrote it!

MY KIND OF READING! But give me Zuleika Dobson anyday! 

Or Tom Hughes at Oxford, even!

In 1956, Dick provided the text -- not the photographs -- for "A Portrait of Oxford." 

These were words for a selection of photographs by A. F. Kersting, if you've heard of him (and even if you haven't). 

My kind of coffe-table reading. 

Oxford can have some fascinating little corners, etc, and photographed in the early morning or at sunset, can look pretty glorious. 

The Meadows, The Cherwell, The Isis, Parson's Pleasure. 

Lots of aquatic views (Magdalen Bridge) out of which you can get a few impressionistic snapshots. 


Some can find no publishing history for Dick's wife, but that of course shouldn't mean that it doesn’t exist.

It is impossible to tell from this distance, and with only little bits of information floating around, the what-and-why of anything.

These are only tiny glimpses into a life.

Marcus Dick died in 1971.

His date of birth isn’t listed in the Peerage report, only the year of his death.

But he was born in 1920 in Scarborough. Although at least one source gives his year of birth as 1926.

Even the omission of his year of birth by the Peerage is somewhat revealing.

Like the Wikipedia entry on Cressida Dick, Dick's daughter, someone seems to have taken good care to make sure the maternal side of Cressida’s family is well-represented.

But NOT her brilliant father’s side.


There was heart-break before his death.

The Dicks had officially split up three years before that, divorcing in 1968.

It was upon seeing that little bit of info about the divorce that one's mind can suddenly get turned on the 1951 film, "The Browning Version", based on the Rattigan play, the story of a life-battered gentle public-school classics teacher (although Dick taught PPE, rather than Lit. Hum.) suffering various indignities, including an unfaithful wife.

(There is a re-make with Albert Finney, which I prefer).

Not that I am implicating (as Grice would have it) that I have any clue as to why the Dicks, two scholars, divorced. 

Most likely they didn't get on well together. (This is an example Grice gives in "Meaning": "He cannot get on with his trouble and strife").

"I often think of that film when public-school teachers are mentioned. And some may think of "Goodbye Mr. Chips". Or others of "Accident" when OXONIAN dons are mentioned.

One guess is that the split was a long time in coming, as these things don't usually happen overnight -- unless when they do.

Marcus Dick had taken the position of Professor of Philosophy University of East Anglia sometime after 1963.

Dick is mentioned several times in "The History of the University of East Anglia, Norwich" by M. Sanderson.

Sanderson is especially concerned with Dick's political stand. Dick had taught officially PPE at Oxford, and Sanderson is critical that Dick's attitude to the teaching of politics (or lack thereof!) was transmitted to Norwich!

The implicature by Dick is that possibly politics is NOT part of 'philosophy'. (Grice, being Lit. Hum., never had to deal with this little problem!)

Dick is referred to by Sanderson as one of the original scholars, though, as he should!

Norwich is about 170 miles -- or three hours drive -- away from then Dick family home in Oxford.

In Cecilia Dick’s obituary we see she was promoted from lecturer to Ordinary Fellow in 1965 and a year later appointed Domestic Bursar.

Cecilia Dick's promotion and extra duties no doubt provided extra income, if we must be indiscreet.

That would have been right around the time husband Marcus was heading off to East Anglia.

It was also a year after her own father Wing Commander Denis Alfred Jex Buxton, died at age 69.

Husband Marcus, the logician, was probably no wing commander -- if you get the implicature (I don't). 

Cecilia Dick would herself die at the age of 68.

Her mother would die in 1970, a year before Marcus Dick.

Should we idealize Marcus Dick?

Interestingly, in 1979, Dick's daugther Cressida attended Balliol where Dick had taught for decades.

Again, in 2002, on November 21 (if you have to be specific), Cressida Dick gave a speech to Balliol alumni."

In a most moving part of the speech, Cressida Dick spoke of her beloved father, who had been a Fellow and Tutor at Balliol for years.

In Oxford, everybody loved Marcus Dick!

Cressida Dick, Dick's daughter, was born on October 16, 1960.

So let me end with another quote, from Chaucer, the lament of Cressida’s namesake.

Alas, of me until the world’s end shall be wrote no good song.

Unless somone does write a good song! As they should?

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