A. L. Rowse by Ottoline Morrell, 1926.
National Portrait Gallery. Licenced under CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0

A. L. Rowse


A. L. Rowse (1903–97), Cornish historian, was educated at Christ Church, Oxford, and elected a Prize Fellow of All Souls in 1925. He was a lecturer at Merton College, 1927–30, and taught also at the London School of Economics. His books include Sir Richard Grenville of the Revenge (1937), William Shakespeare: A Biography (1963), Simon Forman: Sex and Society in Shakespeare’s Age (1974), All Souls in My Time (1993), and poetry gathered up in A Life (1981). Though he failed in 1952 to be elected Warden of All Souls, he was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1958 and made a Companion of Honour in 1997. See Richard Ollard, A Man of Contradictions: A Life of A. L. Rowse (1999), and The Diaries of A. L. Rowse (ed. Ollard, 2003).

TSE, who for a while knew him as ‘Al’, wrote to Geoffrey Curtis, 1 May 1944: ‘Rowse is an old friend of mine, and a very touching person: the suppressed Catholic and the rather less suppressed Tory (with a real respect for Good Families), the miner’s son and the All Souls Fellow, the minor poet and the would-be politician, the proletarian myth and the will-to-power, are always at odds in a scholarly retiring mind and a frail body. He is also very patronising, and one likes it.’ Rowse hailed Eliot as ‘nursing father to us all’, and dedicated The Expansion of Elizabethan England (1955) to ‘T. S. Eliot who gave me my first introduction to the world of letters.’