Professor William Tydeman (1935- 2018)
Professor Bill Tydeman, who has died at the age of 83, joined the English Department at what was then the University College of North Wales in 1961, straight from studying for his B.Litt. at Oxford University. He had matriculated at University College, Oxford, after a short-service commission in the Royal Corps of Signals. There followed a glittering undergraduate career, culminating in a congratulatory First and marked, too, by a busy and productive engagement in student drama productions. His early research, also at University College, was devoted to the poetry of the Tudor period, particularly the poetry of Thomas Wyatt; his edition of English Poetry 1400-1580 was published in 1970. By this point, though, his interests were already extending into the Tudor and Elizabethan theatre and this was the core area of his research throughout his career. His best-known publications were The Theatre in the Middle Ages (1978), English Medieval Theatre 1400-1500 (1986) and editions of Four Tudor Comedies and Two Tudor Tragedies in the Penguin Classics series. With his colleague Vivien Thomas, he assembled a volume on the sources of Christopher Marlowe’s plays in 1994; his last major work was to coordinate the labours of ten scholars to produce The Medieval European Stage 500-1550 (2001).
However, Bill’s academic interests were never narrow. He ventured into the Romantic period, co-editing with Professor Alun R. Jones, collections of critical work on Coleridge and Wordsworth for Macmillan’s well-known Casebook series, and an important edition of Joseph Hucks’ A Pedestrian Tour Through North Wales (1979). He also ranged into later periods of English theatre. He edited the plays of Tom Robertson and also published on Oscar Wilde, a particular interest, including a book on the stage history of Wilde’s Salome, with a younger Bangor colleague, Steven Price. For the centenary of the founding of the University in Bangor, with characteristic enterprise, Bill edited The Welsh Connection, a collection of essays on the literary connections between Wales and England, which gathered essays by current and former members of the Department, including Alun Jones on Wordsworth, Peter Field on Shakespeare and Tony Conran on Hopkins.
All this perhaps gives some sense of the energy which made Bill Tydeman such a presence in the Department and infused his teaching. His flair for drama made him an unusually effective lecturer, especially on Shakespeare, and he was a constant source of ideas for new seminar courses, from Renascence poetry to Oscar Wilde. As if his teaching load were not sufficient to occupy his time and energy, Bill also directed a number of productions of early English plays in Bangor Cathedral, most memorably a production, with a large cast, of a ‘Bangor cycle’ of medieval biblical plays, constructed from the most dramatic and powerful plays of the medieval cycles of York, Chester and Wakefield.
Bill Tydeman became Acting Head of Department on the retirement of Alun Jones in 1982 and was awarded a personal chair before being formally appointed to the Chair of English, which he held until his retirement in 1997, by which time he had become the head of a combined School of English and Linguistics. He had assumed the headship of the Department of English at a singularly challenging time both for the Department and for the institution. Savage cuts to the budget for higher education nationally occasioned a rapid and somewhat haphazard reduction in staffing levels. In the case of the English Department a complement of nineteen teaching staff in the academic year 1981-82 was at a stroke reduced to thirteen. Bill’s leadership, characterised by his manifest decency and honesty, raised morale, encouraged those still engaged to accept the new and more demanding working conditions, and carried the Department through the crisis without any detriment to the learning experience of the students. This was typical of his leadership; over his tenure of the headship he proved a consistently supportive and enabling presence in the professional lives of his colleagues.
In 2003 Bill and his wife Jackie moved to Devon, where she died in 2009. He leaves two daughters, Jo and Rose, and five grandchildren.
Prof. Tony Brown
Prof. Tom Corns
Publication date: 15 November 2018