A tribute to Professor Richard Terry Back

It is with great sadness that we record the death of Richard Terry, our long-standing colleague and friend, a stalwart presence at the BSECS Annual Conference and member of the BSECS Executive Committee (2014-2017).


Professor of Eighteenth-Century Literature at the University of Northumbria which he joined in 2008 from the University of Sunderland, Richard was a brilliant and wide-ranging scholar. His monographs Poetry and the Making of the English Literary Past, 1660-1781 (OUP, 2001), Mock-heroic from Butler to Cowper: an English genre and discourse (Ashgate, 2005), and The Plagiarism allegation in English literature from Butler to Sterne (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) were much admired, and he was also the author (with John Strachan) of a widely-used introduction to Poetry (Liverpool UP, 2000, 2nd ed 2011), and editor of a collection of essays to celebrate the tercentenary of the Scottish poet James Thomson (author of ‘Rule Britannia’). More recently, and in collaboration with Helen Williams, he wrote a number of articles uncovering important new material on the life of John Cleland, and together they brought out a new edition of Cleland’s Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure with Broadview Press in 2018. Richard and Helen, joined by Peter Sabor, were working on an edition of Cleland’s correspondence, due to come out with Cambridge University Press; Helen and Peter will have to carry on this work without him.


Our loss is both personal and professional. Richard was a key mover in eighteenth-century studies in Britain. He was a founder member in 2004 of the North East Forum in Eighteenth-Century and Romantic Studies, bringing together postgraduates and established academics alike from the whole region, and providing impetus and support to many and also, importantly, to the field itself. He joined the BSECS Executive Committee as an Ordinary Member in 2014, and became Assistant Treasurer (a thankless but essential job) the year after, remaining in that capacity until 2017. At Northumbria, he served variously as Head of Humanities, Associate Dean for Research, and he was Northumbria’s academic lead for the AHRC Northern Bridge Doctoral Training Partnership. He was a brilliant mentor for young colleagues joining the profession: he was just so interested in them, so generous, so supportive and enabling. We vividly remember his very particular brand of kindness, which was active, enthusiastic, and unobtrusive, helping us negotiate the academic world, or just the BSECS annual conference, and making sure we knew the way to the Rose and Crown pub. Those of us lucky enough to have been there wax lyrical about the brilliant keynote lecture he gave to the BSECS postgraduate conference in 2013 from Laurence Sterne’s own pulpit in St Michael’s Church, Coxwold. He was apparently also a seriously committed football fan, sometimes dashing off from a meeting or seminar to attend a match, and launching into complex disquisitions about play over a pint that others struggled to follow. At the time of his sudden death after a brief illness, Richard was due to take up a Leverhulme Fellowship to research a new monograph, provisionally entitled A Sense of an ending: life assurance and the English novel, 1700-1900. A sense of an ending! How bitter! Our shocked sense is that there should have been no ending but instead a happy continuation of important work.


How did he have time to do all this and mean so much to so many? Richard Terry was a man of stature, and we wish he were still around so we could tell him so. To those for whom this loss is sharpest, his wife Carol and children Hannah and James,  we send our deepest condolences.