Articles About (from Medium Ævum)
|Chrétien de Troyes and the Troubadours: Essays in Memory of the Late Leslie Topsfield, by Peter S. Noble, Linda M. Paterson||Medium Ævum Vol. 55, No. 1 (1986), 144-145||
|NICHOLAS MANN, L. T. TOPSFIELD (1920-1981)||Medium Ævum Vol. 51, No. 1 (1982), 1-2||
L. T. TOPSFIELD (1920-1981)…
Dels vostres trobars esmeratz,
de las bontatz,
del pretz, del sen, de las rictatz,
en degran esdevenir iai
sel cui pieitz vai.
(Guiraut de Bornelh)
LESLIE Topsfield's death on 3 November 1981 has robbed Medium Ævum of its new Romance Editor within months of his assuming office.
He was of course no stranger to the journal, or to the Society for the Study of Mediæval Languages and Literature, with which he had long been associated as a member of the Executive Committee and even briefly as Treasurer; but we had much appreciated the help which he had given with the planning of the next few numbers, and keenly regret so brutal an interruption of his collaboration.
He had brought with him to the Editorial Board the fruits of long editorial experience and exemplary scholarship: a past Secretary of the Modern Humanities Research Association (1950-1955), Editor of the Year’s Work in Modern Language Studies (1955-1957), and contributor to a number of learned journals, he had commended himself to the international scholarly world with his edition of the works of the troubadour Raimon de Miraval in 1971, and to a much wider public with two major studies: Troubadours and Love (1975) and Chretien de Troyes: a Study of the Arthurian Romances (1981; reviewed in this issue, p. 125). It was utterly characteristic that in these most recent works he was concerned to bring difficult and erudite issues to life, and to make the subjects to which he had devoted some 30 years of teaching in Cambridge as vital to his readers as they were to himself.
Following in the best tradition of his master (and Master of his college, St Catharine's) H. J. Chaytor, he strove to communicate his knowledge of the Middle Ages not solely to a privileged academic audience, but also to increasing numbers of undergraduates who without his stimulus might have remained resolute modernists: in a concrete sense he is one of the unsung heroes of that struggle to revive mediaeval studies which has been such a conspicuous feature of the last two decades. As a pupil, one could not but share the infectious enthusiasm with which  he spoke of the troubadours; one could not but admire the breadth of interest and range of reference which illuminated his every discussion and tutorial; one could not but be grateful for the generous way in which he gave of his time to anyone who shared, or longed to be admitted to, his deepest concerns. Nor was his generosity merely academic: his wife Valerie, with whom we mourn, joined with him in hospitality to generations of pupils.
His was the art of the passionate educator, which made of the troba clus a troba leu even for the uninitiated. But above all it seemed that for Leslie Topsfield that jois which is so central to Provençal poetry was not solely a matter of academic enquiry, but an active principle of life: he truly relished his subject, and gave each one of us a taste for it; such indeed was his involvement with it that we firmly believed that he would regularly debate college affairs in tenso form. Without him, Provençal studies in Britain would be much the poorer; his scholarship, however, will endure; it is his human qualities, and above all his wisdom, kindness and modesty, that should not be forgotten.