Professor Emeritus Hugh Ormsby-Lennon (Class of 1966)

Hugh Ormsby-Lennon grew up in London, a few houses from the British Museum and attended City of London School from 1958 to 1966. Hugh moved smoothly up the A stream, leaving from Joe Hunt’s History Sixth to King's College, Cambridge. Hugh was always a surprise: a cockney, born within the sound of Bow Bells; he was also Irish and, as the years went by, an American. Both his parents were free-thinkers but he was baptised both in the Church of England and in the Roman Catholic faith. His school years were spent living in Museum Street in Bloomsbury, and wherever he went he took a Bohemian atmosphere with him. Hugh acknowledged that at school he was a ‘nerd’ and he certainly was no whizz at sport. He dodged Confirmation Classes and detested the then-compulsory CCF, during whose “butts” shooting practice he would deliberately focus on others’ targets. It would be no exaggeration to call him an intellectual from his earliest years.

From King's, Hugh won a Thouron Scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania where he got his PhD under Paul Korshin in 1977 for which he was awarded a Distinction. From there he remained in the United States at jobs in various universities until he was tenured at Villanova University. He retired from the Chair of English there in 2018, some 30 years later. His principal academic interest was English Literature of the Eighteenth Century, and most particularly Dean Swift. Hugh was the first graduate student to deliver a paper at The American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. A distinguished scholar, he wrote effortlessly and turned out a long list of reviews and essays, and four books - the most celebrated of which is Hey Presto! Swift and the Quacks.

He loved the 18th Century English colonial heart of Philadelphia, and he became a guide at the local Georgian church in whose box pews the British are said to have stabled their horses during the Revolutionary War. Hugh was however aware of and interested in much beyond the 18th Century, and was always available to give opinions about Dr. Who or James Bond, or whatever had caught his or any of his students’ eye.

Hugh returned to London in 2018 to live in Great Percy Street with his wife Margaret and attended informal OC gatherings at The Cheshire Cheese in Fleet Street. Never one of robust fitness, sadly he suffered a heart attack and died on Christmas Eve of 2020.  He will be missed by scholars of the Eighteenth Century, by his former colleagues, by his friends, particularly those who knew him as classmates, and by his dear wife Margaret.