About the author: Joan H. Pittock is the Retired Director of the Cultural History Centre and of the Thomas Reid Institute in Aberdeen University. She is also founder-editor of the Journal of the British Society for Eighteenth Century Studies and past President. Her publications include The Ascendance of Taste; Aberdeen and the Enlightenment; and Concepts of Culture.1999 0-7734-8212-1
The Oxford Chair of Poetry has been a unique focus for the scholarly, poetical and critical interpretation of poetry, only briefly interrupted twice by world war, since the first professor was appointed in 1708. Its donor, Henry Birkhead, was a well-known Oxford scholar and poet. The story of his life is told here for the first time, largely from original sources. His writings relate to his over-riding preoccupation with scholarship and the ways in which he reacted to the times into which he was born, seeing in poetry a living force preserving the ideals not only of his youth but of a more gracious and spiritual world.