Obituary: Professor Barbara Hardy

Emeritus Professor of English Literature

Barbara Hardy, who died on 12 February 2016 aged 92, was Emeritus Professor of English Literature at Birkbeck, and one of the most distinguished Victorian scholars and literary critics of her time.

Born in Swansea, Barbara Hardy studied at University College London, graduating with a BA in 1947 and an MA in 1949. She was appointed Assistant Lecturer at Birkbeck in 1951, moving to Royal Holloway as Professor in 1965, before returning to Birkbeck in 1970 as the first Geoffrey Tillotson Professor of English Literature. She had been Reader-elect when Tillotson, the distinguished specialist in eighteenth-century poetry, was chair of the Department of English.

In 1959, she published the highly acclaimed The Novels of George Eliot: A study in form, which set the foundations for her distinguished career and did much to revive academic interest in Victorian literature.

Barbara Hardy was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1997 and a Senior Fellow of the British Academy in 2006. She published a memoir, Swansea Girl; a novel, London Lovers; and three volumes of poetry, Severn Bridge, The Yellow Carpet and Dante’s Ghosts. Her final book, on Ivy Compton-Burnett, was published in March 2016.

Her former colleague, Professor Peter Mudford, recalls that Barbara ran a happy and stimulating department, “where the best interests of her students were always pre-eminent”. This was shown in her lifelong enthusiasm for Birkbeck, where she continued to run the Poetry Workshop long after her retirement.