Professor Thomas P. Roche (In Memoriam, June/July issue) was one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. His love of John Donne, Shakespeare, W.B. Yeats, and other great writers was contagious. I still carry around scraps of the immortal poems he introduced his students to. When I was a student a Princeton in the early ’60s, the English department was an exciting environment. Passionate scholars were devoted to close reading, the discovery of deep meanings, and the celebration of great literature, free of the political furies that seem to poison academia today. Erwin Panofsky at the Institute for Advanced Study and D.W. Robertston, the great lecturer on Chaucer, were major influences. I spent some bacchanalian evenings with Professor Roche and others students, along with Professor Hans Aarsleff, Sherman Hawkins, and the famous critic and poet R.P, Blackmur. Professor Roche was a fun and engaging teacher, but he didn’t have much patience for fools. I still have his comments on an irreverent essay I wrote about Milton’s “Lycidas.” — “This is the most disgusting effusion I have ever read — a hatchet job of unparalleled ignorance, a monument to the failure of the imagination...” I’m saving those words for my epitaph.
In Response to: In Memoriam