Obituary: Richard Pearson

We are sad to report the death of Richard Pearson, who was in his early fifties. He was a keen supporter of BAVS, an energetic delegate at its founding conference, and regularly gave papers at the annual conferences thereafter. Having undertaken his undergraduate studies at the University of Newcastle, Richard subsequently proceeded to postgraduate work at the University of Nottingham (MA) and then the University of Manchester (Ph.D). In 1992 he was appointed to a lectureship at what became the University of Worcester. He was later awarded a chair, and with other colleagues was instrumental in setting up an MA in Victorian Studies. Richard eventually became head of the School of Arts and Humanities, a post which he held from 2002 to 2008. He then moved to NUI Galway, and was appointed to a permanent lectureship there in 2013. Richard Pearson’s published research initially centred upon archaeology and anthropology as refracted in 19C fiction and drama, but he also focused particularly upon the oeuvres of Thackeray, Dickens, Wilkie Collins and William Morris.  His publications included an edited collection, The Victorians and the Ancient World (Cambridge Scholars, 2006), and his monograph, Thackeray and the Mediated Text (Routledge, 2000/2018); he subsequently edited a 6-volume series of the W.M.Thackeray Library (Routledge pb, 2018),  and produced a monograph on Victorian Writers and the Stage (Palgrave, 2015). In  The Victorians and the Ancient World Richard oversaw an excellent series of readings of the Victorian cultural preoccupation with modern civilisation and its ‘primitive’ counterparts, and demonstrated, by his astute editorship, how the vogue for archaeological and philological study went hand-in-hand with complex issues of class, gender and colonialism. Arguably Richard’s most significant contribution to Victorian studies was his work on drama, especially in bringing back to scholarly attention lesser-known dramatic works.  He was editor of a digital edition of Collins’s plays, and oversaw an AHRC-funded digital project on mid-Victorian drama more widely. Victorian Writers and the Stage offered an inventive and illuminating account of the neglected and overlooked dramatic productions of Dickens, Browning, Collins and Tennyson in a period of supposed dramatic decline. Most recently he had been working on the plays of the Irish writer, Joseph Stirling Coyne, a regular contributor to Punch in the Victorian period.

It remains to add that Richard was a valued friend and colleague, someone who led by example on departmental and university issues, and who was a creative and enabling leader and team-player, and a welcoming and positive presence both academically and socially. He will be deeply missed by family and friends, and by the wider community in Victorian studies.

Roger Ebbatson (Lancaster University)

Martin Willis (Cardiff University)