We write to share the sad news that Vincent Newey, one of the great Bunyan scholars of his generation, has passed away.
Vince was born and raised in the West Midlands. His teaching career began at the University of Liverpool in 1967, where he remained for twenty-two years before his appointment as Professor of English at the University of Leicester. He took early retirement in 2006, due to ill health.
An outstanding literary critic, Vince’s specialisms encompassed the poetry of the pre-Romantic and Romantic periods (Cowper, Gray, and Goldsmith, as well as Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, and Byron) alongside the work of several nineteenth-century novelists (Eliot, Dickens, Hardy, and ‘Mark Rutherford’). He published two monographs – Cowper’s Poetry: A Critical Study and Reassessment (1982), and The Scriptures of Charles Dickens: Novels of Ideology, Novels of the Self (2004) – and edited numerous collections of essays.
Members of the International John Bunyan Society will be familiar with the publications that Vince produced on Bunyan. The first was his ground breaking edited volume, The Pilgrim’s Progress: Critical and Historical Views (1980), which included his own fine essay ‘Bunyan and the Confines of the Mind’. Vince also contributed chapters in N. H. Keeble (ed.) John Bunyan: Conventicle and Parnassus (1988), W. R. Owens and Stuart Sim (eds.) Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress: Reception, Appropriation, Recollection (2007), and Michael Davies and W. R. Owens (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of John Bunyan (2018). His articles on Bunyan included‘Wordsworth, Bunyan and the Puritan Mind’ (1974);‘Dorothea’s Awakening: The Recall of Bunyan in Middlemarch’ (1984); ‘The Disinherited Pilgrim: Jude the Obscure and The Pilgrim’s Progress’ (1987); ‘Mark Rutherford and John Bunyan: A Study in Relationship’ (2012); and ‘Centring Bunyan: Macaulay, Froude, Hale White’ (2013).
As with every piece Vince published, his writings on Bunyan present a master-class in the art of literary criticism. Each displays the hallmarks of his enviable style: one that combines acute insight and sensitivity to language and form with an ambitious intellectual vision, all shaped by a delicate yet robust prose crafted to convey something profoundly engaging and perceptive. A collection of essays, Literature and Authenticity, 1780–1900, published in Vince’s honour in 2011, includes an ‘Afterword’ paying full tribute to his achievements, and to his incomparable strengths as a reader, teacher, critic, colleague, and friend.
Vince died on Saturday 16 May, aged 76. He is survived by his wife Sue and their two sons, Matthew and Nathan. A member of IJBS for many years, he will be missed, and we mourn his passing.
Michael Davies and Bob Owens