Just after bonfire night in 1989, Stephen Medcalf, who was tickled by the idea of being photographed at home, wrote to me , ‘I do not promise not to tidy it a bit … a clergyman in Norfolk told me what my room looked like from the way I sat in my chair at breakfast, he said he could see all my books would be ranged round where I could reach out for them without getting up. ‘
Previous occupants at 61, New Road in Lewes, a terraced cottage on the hill just under the castle, had painted a jungle-scape after Le Douanier Rousseau above the front room chimney piece, and Stephen had hung his family portraits against it. After lunch at the Lewes Arms he posed serenely, cross-legged in front of the fireplace and Magus-like on the doorstep. The photographs lay in a drawer until he died in 2007.
Stephen Medcalf (1936-2007), English scholar, academic , bibliophile and mystic, taught at the University of Sussex from 1963 until 2002.
Books were his merchandise and eclectic dog-eared volumes from second-hand bookstalls were his chosen tokens of favour. Here he was in his element, like a troglodyte in his cave camouflaged against tannin-soaked carpets and brown leather bindings.
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