Date of this Version
The George Eliot Review 45 (2014)
Andrew Missak: Cleverley Brown died peacefully at home on 21 January 2014, days short of his sixty-fourth birthday, and only months after his retirement from the position of Development Director for Academic Publishing at Cambridge University Press. He joined the Press as a Graduate Trainee in 1976, and over subsequent decades was influential in developing first the literary studies list, then Humanities and Social Science more broadly, and finality the whole of Academic and Professional Publishing. While he had an extraordinary range of interests, his scholarly heartland was Victorian fiction: his Cambridge doctorate was on 'The Metaphysical Novels of Edward Bulwer Lytton' (1979), and of his subsequent publications, the most notable is his definitive edition of Romola for Oxford's Clarendon Edition of the novels of George Eliot (1993). A Cambridge person through and through, it was a source of pride to Andy that he should bring out a major scholarly work from a rival press. Certainly his adherence to the belief that the great university presses have a responsibility to support major scholarly editions served Cambridge well in many of the ventures now in train or brought to a successful conclusion.
I met Andy Brown in 1992, on his first visit to Australia. My colleague Judy Johnston and I were in the early stages of work on our edition of George Eliot's journals, while he was in the final stages of preparation of the Clarendon Romola. We were not at a loss for conversation, though I'm not sure how much talking I did. I certainly remember a vigorous discussion of the question of how far explanatory annotation in a scholarly edition ought to be pursued, the highlight being Andy's disquisition on a passage in Romola about the preparation of purple dye. I was to come to recognize the erudition and the eloquence he displayed as characteristic, along with the element of self-mockery that pervaded the utterance.
To clarify my memory after the lapse of time, I located the passage of twelve lines in the second paragraph of chapter xxxviii, concerning the derivation of the family name of Bernardo Rucellai, an historical figure who appears in the novel. The name 'Rucellai', George Eliot explains, comes from 'a little lichen, popularly named orcella or roccella, which grows on the rocks of Greek isles and in the Canaries' that when exposed to light 'under certain circumstances' gives out 'a reddish purple dye, very grateful to the eyes of men’. What is there to be said about this prime example of George Eliot's pedantry? The editor identifies her likely authority, and more. Andy's note depends from the phrase, 'under certain circumstances', and reads 'In his end of Marietta de' Ricci (almost certainly GE's source) Luigi Passerini notes that to produce the dye the lichen had to be mixed with urine'. Provision of George Eliot's unexpected source for the information on marine biology (Marietta de' Ricci, 1841, is a novel by Agostino Adamello) creates an opportunity to include further detail from that source, not strictly relevant, but surely irresistibly indelicate. Did George Eliot herself hold back from explaining 'certain circumstances'? Andy raised the question in conversation, but left it implicit in his explanatory apparatus. My justification for labouring the point is that this small example is of a piece with innumerable other instances of Andy's elegant editorial decisions, deft exercise of critical judgment and potent scholarly argument.