The Times/1904/Obituary/Norman MacColl

Obituary: Mr. Norman MacColl  (1904) 

Source: The Times, Friday, Dec 16, 1904; Issue 37579; pg. 11; col F — Obituary. Mr. Norman Maccoll.

Mr. Norman Maccoll

A large circle of literary friends will learn with much regret of the sudden death of Mr. Norman Maccoll, for many years the editor of the Athenæum. Mr. Maccoll was born in 1843, and was therefore only 61 at the time of his death, which tool place suddenly yesterday morning at is residence, 4, Campden-hill-square. He was the only son of Alexander Stewart Maccoll, of Corstorphine, Edinburgh, and was educated at Downing College, Cambridge. He took a second class in the Classical Tripos in 1866, and three years later was elected a Fellow of his college, after having in 1868 gained the Hare Prize by his essay on "The Greek Sceptics from Pyrrho to Sextus," a subject which he treated, said the Spectator, "with a power and mastery which enable him to make his hundred pages a very complete and lucid exposition." Young Maccoll came to London, and on January 21, 1872, entered himself as a law student at Lincoln's Inn. He was called to the Bar November 17, 1875, but had little or no practice, although he kept is name up in chambers in Lincoln's Inn. He applied himself to journalism and literary criticism, and after the resignation by William Hepworth Dixon of the editorship of the Athenæum in 1869 was appointed by Sir Charles Dilke editor of that periodical, an office which he held for over 30 years, and which was the chief achievement of his life. In many respects he was an ideal editor. A man of wide culture, exact scholarship, and great literary judgment, he was in full and perfect sympathy with the great movements in literature, science, art, and the drama, all being subjects dealt with in the Athenæum. The high position held by that journal is undoubtedly largely due to the zeal, energy, and ability of its late editor. To these active qualities Mr. Maccoll added the no less valuable passive qualities of tactfulness, good taste, and good feeling. He knew the advantages of a silent tongue and a cautious pen. He was shrewd, discreet, and ever alive to the possibility of being made a tool for private spite. He quarrelled with nobody, not even with his contributors, and pursued his professional life, not perhaps widely known by the general public, but respected by everybody in the United Kingdom who had to do with books. He was elected a member of the Athenæum club in 1887, and was a constant reader in the library. He was also a member of the United University Club. He took a practical interest in all great literary undertakings. The Dictionary of National Biography, to which he was a contributor, owed much to his good offices. He suggested the advisability of publishing in the columns of the Athenæum the list of the proposed names, and the offer was gladly accepted by publisher and editor. He gave special attention to the valuable annual reviews of foreign literature supplied by distinguished writers of the respective countries. In 1888 he published "Select Plays of Calderon," with notes and in 1901 resigned the editorship of the Athenæum, being succeeded by Mr. Vernon Rendall, who had rendered him faithful service as sub-editor. A number of literary friends, with the late Sir Reginald Pelgrave in the chair, entertained Mr. Maccoll at a dinner at the Criterion to do him honour on his retirement. Each year afterwards, however, he took up his old seat for a month during his holiday of his successor. He wrote very little, and the last work to which his name was attached was an edition of the "Exemplary Novels of Cervantes," produced in 1902.

The editorial career of Mr. Maccoll was an honour to journalism; and to his notable intellectual qualities he added the pleasing graces of a warm heart and a gentle and modest disposition. He was of a genial and social nature, ever ready to give information, especially on matters connected with his favourite study, Spanish literature. He had a sly sense of humour, and could tell a good story, and was entirely destitute of malice, or, indeed, of any other of the evil passions usually supposed to prevail among literary critics.

This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.