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Andrew Cecil Bradley

Professor of Poetry, Oxford
1851 to 1935

Andrew Cecil Bradley (1851-1935) was a literary critic and professor of literature and poetry at the Universities of Liverpool, Glasgow and Oxford. He was one of the most highly regarded English critics of Shakespeare. Bradley was born at Park Hill, Clapham, Surrey on 26th March 1851. He was the fourth and youngest son of the twenty-one children of Charles Bradley (1789-1871), former vicar of Glasbury, noted evangelical preacher, and leader of the so-called Clapham Sect.

Bradley began his education at Cheltenham college in 1864 and went to Balliol College, Oxford as a classical exhibitioner in 1869. In 1874 he was elected to a fellowship at Balliol, and the following year he was appointed lecturer in English and then later in Philosophy, where he remained until 1881.

In 1882, Bradley became the first to hold the chair of literature and history at University College, Liverpool. He spent eight years in this position before moving to Glasgow University, where he was elected to the chair of English language and literature. He intended to retire in 1900 and devote himself to his critical work, but was elected in 1901 to the professorship of poetry at Oxford. He published Shakespearean Tragedy, a monumental work, in 1904. He was ineligible for re-election to the chair of poetry, and declined an offer to become the chair of English literature at Cambridge. He resumed his retirement, devoting the rest of his life to his scholarly work. He delivered two courses of Gifford Lectures at the University of Glasgow in 1907 and 1908. The unrevised manuscripts of the first course were edited and assembled by his sister and sole literary executrix, Marian de Glehn, and published posthumously as Ideals of Religion (1940). The second course of lectures remains unpublished.

Honorary degrees were awarded Bradley by the universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool and Durham. He was elected to the British Academy in 1907 and made honorary fellow of Balliol in 1912. Bradley, unmarried, passed away in London on 2nd September 1935. His will established a research fellowship for young scholars of English Letters.

Select Bibliography: A Commentary on Tennyson’s In Memoriam (1901) Shakespearean Tragedy (1904) Oxford Lectures on Poetry (1909) A Miscellany (1929) Ideals of Religion (1940). See also: Katherine Cooke, A. C. Bradley and His Influence in Twentieth-Century Shakespeare Criticism (1972) G. K. Hunter, ‘A. C. Bradley's Shakespearean Tragedy’, in Essays and Studies by Members of the English Association (1968).

  • Brannon Hancock, University of Glasgow