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Maurice Bowra

Sir Cecil Maurice Bowra (April 8, 1898 - July 4, 1971) was an English classical scholar, teacher, and wit.

He was born in Kiukiang, China to English parents.

In 1922, he was appointed warden of Wadham College at Oxford University, and kept that post for the rest of his life. He was also professor of poetry 1946-1951 and vice chancellor 1951-1954. He was knighted in 1951.

In his lengthy tenure as Oxford don, Bowra had contact with a considerable percentage of the English literary world, either as students or as colleagues. The character of Mr Samgrass in Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited is said to be modelled on Waugh's teacher Bowra.

Bowra quotes:

"My dear, buggers can't be choosers", explaining his marriage to a "plain" girl.

"I expect to pass through this world but once and therefore if there is anybody I want to kick in the crotch I had better kick them in the crotch now, for I do not expect to pass this way again."

"With one or two exceptions, colleges expect their players of games to be reasonably literate."

"Splendid couple - slept with both of them", on hearing of the marriage of a well-known literary pair.

"Like our Lord and Socrates, he talked much but published little", speaking of Isaiah Berlin.

In 1992, Wadham College named its Bowra Building in its honor.


(need rest of books)


Hugh Lloyd-Jones, (ed.), Maurice Bowra: A Celebration (London, 1974) N. Annan, The Dons (Chicago, 1999)