Splendor of Heart, Walter Jackson Bate and the Teaching of Literature

Boston David R. Godine, 2013.

splendor-of-heartA short memoir/biography, mostly about a great teacher, Jack Bate, and his ideas about literature and life. Bate wrote great, prizewinning biographies of John Keats and Samuel Johnson. Part two of the book is an extended interview with Bate (and a bibliography of his writing) conducted by another of his students, John Paul Russo, biographer of I.A. Richards.

REVIEW. First published December 15, 2013 (Booklist)

This slim, small book packs a sweet wallop, both emotionally and intellectually.  Nearly everyone recalls an influential teacher, but the professor Richardson recalls–in such emphatic detail and confiding prose–is Walter jackson Bate (1918-99).  Bate intially taught a sophomore-survey English class at Harvard in the 1950s, and in brief, anecdotal chapters, Richardson remembers him then and in later years, quoting from works Bate loved and rounding out his memories with interludes of walks, visits to Bate’s farm, or trips through a forest in an old jeep.  The book’s first half is chapbooklike–quoting many treasured poems and ideas–and Richardson also recalls Bate’s verbal mannerisms so readers can nearly hear his enthusiasm.  The book concludes with a wide-ranging interview with Bate by John Paul Russo; the discussion moves from Coleridge to Freud and further limns Bate’s ideas on education and educating.  Bate won two Pulitzers (John Keats, 1963; Samuel Johnson, 1977), among other awards; this little gem shows he is still much remembered, and literary readers will find themselves also being taught by Bate.–Eloise Kinney

Buy Book