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The Brangwyn memorial plaques to Edward FitzGerald: the mystery deepens

January 30, 2017

Earlier posts* on the Brangwyn memorial plaques to Edward FitzGerald raised the question of the location of the plaque that was once on the wall of Bredfield House where FitzGerald was born, and whether the plaque now hanging in SOAS might be this memorial.  We asked whether anyone in the vicinity could possibly check out the SOAS version. 

p1020744Two readers, F Diba and Garry Garrard, kindly responded with photos, for which many thanks.   They show conclusively that the SOAS plaque is another version of the one in Cambridge, not the Bredfield one which apparently showed only FitzGerald’s birth date, not his life span.  Garry has also provided  some interesting comments and speculations on how the plaque might have found its way to SOAS.  Joe Cribb, the grandson of the carver of these plaques, also comments that the SOAS version would have been a new carving, and has slight differences from the similar Cambridge version.

Garry Garrard writes.

As Bill and Sandra suggested, since I was vaguely in the area, I paid a visit to SOAS to investigate the Fitz plaque. The good news is that I found it easily; the bad is that it is not the Bredfield plaque. The photos show, from the way the dates are included, that clearly it is a twin of the one in Cambridge. So, we still do not have an answer to “What happened to the Bredfield plaque?

p1020745There is, though, an additional question now. Why is the plaque on the wall in SOAS? I think I can offer a possible explanation but not, I am afraid any solid evidence.

The first director of SOAS was Sir Edward Denison Ross, a linguist who made even Cowell’s multi tongued ability fade into the background. He read 40 languages and spoke most of them. He was appointed in 1916 when the School of Oriental Studies was inaugurated (the African part was added later), and remained until he retired in 1937/8.

Denison Ross was one of Edward  Heron-Allen’s key advisors when he made his translation of the Bodleian manuscript and seems to have been as enthusiastic as EH-A himself who, in 1898, wrote by way of recognition of assistants “…and from Professor E. Denison Ross, who has taken a keen interest in my work, even to the point of going through the whole with me line by line and note by note, and without whose help I should even now have hesitated to give the results of my labours to the world.” At this time Denison Ross was Professor of Persian at University College, London.

His retirement from SOAS coincided more or less with the preparation of the FitzGerald plaques. It seems at least possible that he commissioned the additional plaque and had it installed in SOAS as a parting gesture.

Now we need some documentation! Just to reinforce the Denison Ross theory, I have just noticed (see August 2016 post) that he is among the named sponsors of the plaque in Ganz’s leaflet, along with Heron-Allen, Eben Francis Thomson and one Alfred McK Treherne (probably Terhune).

Note on the photos. One is easy enough, a simple picture of the SOAS plaque. The other shows its surroundings as anything but salubrious. The stained white porcelain is a disused drinking fountain!

* The earlier posts on this subject are to be found on:

https://omarkhayyamrubaiyat.wordpress.com/2016/08/19/memorial-plaques-to-edward-fitzgerald/.  and

https://omarkhayyamrubaiyat.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/more-on-the-brangwyn-memorial-plaques-to-edward-fitzgerald/

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