Fall 1985 • Vol. VII No. 4 Personally Speaking |

Sir William Empson (1906-1984): A Memoir

From the rosy brick of the small first court at Magdalene College, Cambridge, a door surmounted with the arms of the founder and the motto Garde Ta Foy leads to the cloisters where Empson once slept out; they form an arcade below the library of Mr. Samuel Pepys. In this very small but exclusive society, formed by a Tudor peer out of a friary, Empson spent his Cambridge years of 1925-1931; first reading mathematics; graduating; Senior Optime (Second Class Honors). He switched to English under the young Ivor Richards, who has recorded that the first 30,000 words of Seven Types of Ambiguity appeared in the autumn of 1928 after a fortnight's intense activity. Empson thought, lived, worked with speed and intensity beyond all parallel. Cambridge still feels small, but a good place from which to survey the galaxies—the radio telescope at Gamlingay—was built immediately after World War II by volunteer student labor. Cosmic and local scenes interact in "Sleeping Out in College Cl

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From the rosy brick of the small first court at Magdalene College, Cambridge, a door surmounted with the arms of the founder and the motto Garde Ta Foy leads to […]

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