E. M. W. Tillyard

Eustace Mandeville Wetenhall Tillyard OBE (19 May 1889[1] – 24 May 1962) was an English classical and literary scholar who was Master of Jesus College, Cambridge from 1945 to 1959.[2]


The English Faculty
Speak, Muse, awhile, of those fall'n angels there,
Who long to split each Muse's separate hair;
Who analyse the poets' every freak,
And label it as "direct" or "oblique".
I. A. Richards thinks there's nothing finer
Than one year at home, then three in China.
Cigar in mouth, with coffee-pot nearby,
Sir Arthur lectures in a poet's tie.
Blue wool and tweed hide F. L.'s manly heart:
He has the poet's hat – if not his art.
Rylands abounds in scintillating wit;
The girls in raptures at his lectures sit.
Dear Dr Tillyard, full of common sense,
Is obvious to all, however dense.
These and their like, from their own subjects fell
Into this Faculty, this English Hell.
[From a student verse-satire by J. M. MacNaughton in The Granta, 25 January 1939, p.195]

Tillyard was born in Cambridge. His father Alfred Isaac Tillyard had served as mayor of Cambridge, and his mother Catharine Sarah née Wetenhall was a proponent of higher education for women. The author and mystic Aelfrida Tillyard (1883–1959) was an older sister.[3] He was educated at the Perse School and Jesus College. He was interested in the classics and archaeology, and in 1911 went to Athens to study at the British School of Archaeology.[2]

His knowledge of Greek helped him during the First World War, where he served with the British Expeditionary Force (1915–1916), the Salonika Force (1916–1919) and then as liaison officer with the Greek headquarters (1918–1919).[2] He was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 1919 Birthday Honours "for services rendered in connection with military operations in the Balkans."[4] He also received the War Cross from Greece.[2]

Following the war, he returned to Cambridge and devoted himself to the newly established English School. According to The Times, "Although not one of the Founding Fathers of the School, he rapidly became one of its central figures and its leading statesman — a position which, in spite of many changes in organization and personnel, he never really lost until his retirement from his University Lectureship in 1954. His influence was not mainly due to his very considerable gifts as a University politician; it was essentially the result of his whole-hearted devotion to the cause of English. Others may have won more widespread celebrity as scholars or as critics, but everyone in Cambridge knew that Tillyard, because of his selfless and unremitting thought and care for the good of the School, was its chief mainstay."[2]

Tillyard was a Fellow in English (1926–1959) at Jesus College, later becoming Master (1945–1959). He is known mainly for his book The Elizabethan World Picture (1942), as background to Elizabethan literature, particularly Shakespeare, and for his works on John Milton.[2] He is credited with having put forward the view that Elizabethan literature is not representative of "a brief period of humanism between two outbreaks of Protestantism" (viz., the English Reformation and the Thirty Years' War), but rather representative of a theological bond in England that allowed for a continuation of the medieval view of World Order.

His historical scholarship and contextual analysis informed the study of 16th-century literature and became the foundation for much of what Cambridge undergraduates would study in preparation for their examinations.

Personal lifeEdit

In 1919, Tillyard married Phyllis Mudie Cooke, a classical archaeologist.[5] They had one son and two daughters, Angela and Veronica, who died in 2017 and 2019 respectively.[5] He died in Cambridge, aged 73[2] and is buried in Histon Road Cemetery, Cambridge.


  • The Athenian Empire and the Great Illusion (1914)
  • The Hope Vases: a Catalogue and a Discussion of the Hope Collection of Greek Vases with an Introduction on the History of the Collection and on Late Attic and South Italian vases (1923)
  • Lamb's Criticism. A Selection from the Literary Criticism of Charles Lamb (1923)
  • Milton: Private Correspondence and Academic Exercises (1932) with Phyllis B. Tillyard
  • The Poetry of Sir Thomas Wyatt: A Selection and a Study (1929)
  • Shakespeare's Last Plays (1938)
  • The Personal Heresy: A Controversy (1939) with C. S. Lewis
  • The Elizabethan World Picture: A Study of the Idea of Order in the age of Shakespeare, Donne & Milton (1942)
  • Published by Pelican Book: The Elizabethan World Picture, 1972 and later prints.
  • Shakespeare's History Plays (1944)
  • Milton (1946)
  • The Miltonic Setting: Past and Present (1947)
  • Poetry and Its background: Illustrated By Five Poems 1470-1870 (1948)
  • Shakespeare's Problem Plays. Chatto and Windus, London 1949.
  • Studies in Milton (1951)
  • The English Renaissance, Fact Or Fiction? (1952)
  • The English Epic and its Background (1954)
  • The Metaphysicals and Milton (1956)
  • The Nature of Comedy and Shakespeare (1958)
  • The Epic Strain in the English Novel (1958)
  • Poetry Direct and Oblique (1959) Chatto & Windus
  • The Muse Unchained: An Intimate Account of the Revolution in English Studies at Cambridge (1958)
  • Myth and the English Mind (originally Some Mythical Elements in English Literature) The Clark Lectures (1959-1960)
  • Essays Literary & Educational (1962)
  • Shakespeare's Early Comedies (1965)
  • Comus & Some Shorter Poems Of Milton (1967) with Phyllis B. Tillyard

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Eustace M W Tillyard in the 1939 England and Wales Register". Ancestry.com. 29 September 1939. Retrieved 2 December 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Dr. E. M. W. Tillyard: English Studies at Cambridge". The Times. 25 May 1962. p. 18.
  3. ^ "Personal Papers of Aelfrida Tillyard - Archives Hub". Retrieved 2017-08-10.
  4. ^ "No. 31373". The London Gazette (Supplement). 3 June 1919. p. 6949.
  5. ^ a b Tillyard, Stella (11 Jun 2017). "Angela Yaffey". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 December 2018.
Academic offices
Preceded by
Wynfrid Laurence Henry Duckworth
Master of Jesus College, Cambridge
1945 - 1959
Succeeded by