- 1887-1978 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
16 boxes: paper (correspondence, sketches, notes relating to teaching, published articles and extracts etc); photographs; press clippings.
2 photograph albums.
5 bound volumes, typescript; 1 bound MS volume.
Name of creator
Born in London on 27 Aug 1886, eldest of the three sons of the Rev. Dr James Gow (1854-1923), fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge and headmaster of Nottingham high school and later of Westminster School, and his wife, Gertrude Sydenham Everett-Green (1855-1942). He was grandson of the historian Mary Anne Everett Green (1818-1895), and nephew of novelist Evelyn Everett-Green; also, which may have been significant for his interest in the visual arts, of watercolourist Mary Lightbody Gow (1851-1929), and Keeper of the Royal Academy Andrew Gow (1848-1928), whose circle included Poynter and Alma-Tadena and after whom he was christened. He was educated at Nottingham high school, at Rugby School, and at Trinity College, Cambridge, to which he went with a classical scholarship in 1905. While a student, he won numerous prizes, and obtained first classes in both parts of the classical tripos (1908 and 1909), with a distinction in classical archaeology. He, along with Justin Brooke, Rupert Brooke, and Hugh Wilson, helped found the Marlowe Dramatic Society. He began a systematic study of early French, Italian, Dutch and Flemish painting in 1910, visiting galleries abroad in spring or autumn, sometimes both. He won a Trinity prize fellowship in 1911, and took on pupils, but though he applied several times for permanent teaching posts in Cambridge he was unsuccessful; he therefore, after a term at Winchester College, became a master at Eton College and remained there through the First World War, being disqualified for military service by a heart murmur.
He returned to Trinity and resumed his fellowship in 1925 as college and university lecturer, becoming tutor in 1929 and serving as praelector from 1946-1951. He served in turn on the Council of the Senate and on the Faculty General Board, and was chairman of the Board of Fine Arts. He was Brereton Reader of Classics at Cambridge from 1947-1951, and was awarded honorary degrees from Durham and Edinburgh universities. He published a large number of articles for 1913, many on Theocritus, of whose collected works he published a highly-regarded edition in 1950. He followed this in 1952 with an edition of the other Greek bucolic poets, publishing a translation with notes of the work in 1953; in the same year he and his friend A. F. Scholfield brought out an edition of the Hellenistic didactic poet Nicander. Later, his work concentrated on the epigrams of the Hellenistic Greek Anthology, and he published an edition of the "Garland of Meleager" in 1965 and the "Garland of Philip" in 1968, in collaboration with Denys Page.
He was a syndic of the Fitzwilliam Museum from 1934 to 1957, and his collection of works by Degas, Rodin and Forin was left to it in his will. To the National Gallery, of which he was a trustee from 1947 to 1953, he left the collection of photographs of paintings which, along with his personal library of books on art, did much to stimulate the interest of undergraduates; they often visited him in the evening to socialise. Despite his dry and severe manner, many students greatly profited from his teaching and company, and the monthly circular letter he wrote to pupils on active service during the Second World War, published in 1945 as "Letters from Cambridge", reveal the warm heart and sense of humour known by his friends. His senior colleague A. E. Housman, shortly before his death in 1936, paid tribute to him: "No one could have a better friend than I have found in Gow".
Gow published a thoughtful and revealing memoir of Housman, acted as his literary executor, and supervised a reprint of his edition of Manilius. Other friends included the classical archaeologist and art historian John Beazley, and George Orwell, whose tutor at Eton he was.
Gow enjoyed fishing, royal tennis, and skating, until impaired health in later life precluded them. He died on 2 February 1978.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Content and structure area
Scope and content
Personal material of A. S. F. Gow is catalogued under (A): this includes early biographical material he compiled for his nephew Sir Michael Gow, two photograph albums, and correspondence, particularly letters (1907-1920) from William Ridgeway. There is also a handwritten biography, perhaps by Gow, of Cyril Mowbray Wells with other material relating to Wells.
Academic papers, (B), include notes on classical texts, (?1928-1951) some for lectures given by Gow, and items found with the notes, as well as part of Gow's dissertation for a Fellowship at Trinity in 1911.
(C) comprises articles by Gow,"A Cambridge Seal Box of the Seventeenth Century" (1934); "Sir Stephen Gaselee, 1882-1943 - a memoir" (1944), with related material including correspondence, press clippings and so on. (E) consists of items removed from the printed books left by Gow to Trinity College Library (now catalogued under the shelfmark GOW), including correspondence, photographs, press clippings and reviews.
Material related to A. E. Housman (F) includes Gow's "A. E. Housman - a biographical sketch" (1936), along with related items such as corrections, reviews (1936-1938) and correspondence (1936-1963); a letter to J. W. Mackail by Housman, 25 Aug 1922, with a draft copy of his "Last Poems" and comments on it, and portrait sketches of Housman, some inscribed to him by William Rothenstein. There are also newspaper reviews of Housman's inaugural lecture as Professor of Latin at University College (1892, published in 1937) and of his edition of Manilius (1938). Items relating to Housman removed from printed books left by Gow to the Library also fall under this class; several of these are letters from the authors of books on Housman to Gow, such as Laurence Housman, Percy Withers, John Carter and Henry Maas.
Items related to academic societies and institutions fall under the (G) class: reports by the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies (1899-1904) and the British School at Rome (1904-1919); accounts of excavations in Cyprus from the Journal of Hellenic Studies (1887-1891).
Finally, there are six bound volumes with Gow's bookplate (H) containing transcripts of Housman's lectures. Five are typescript: three transcripts of Housman's notes now in Cambridge University Library, "The Application of Thought to Textual Criticism" (containing note of thanks to Gow from 'B[ertram] G[oulding] B[rown]), "Ovid, Heroides I-IV" and "Ovid, Heroides VI-XII" (with additional MS notes by Gow); "Horace, Odes I-III" (transcript of notes taken at Housman's lectures by S. L. Franklyn in 1932, corrections from Housman's lecture notes by B. Goulding Brown 1940-1941); "Plautus, Captivi" (transcript of Housman's notes lent to assessors in the Classical Tripos part II, 1932). The last volume contains MS lecture notes by Gow on Housman's "The Application of Thought to Textual Criticism" (1292), "Notes on Martial", and an index; loose inside, a printed sheet of extracts from Manilius', with M. S. additions in pencil, and M.S. notes by Housman.
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
System of arrangement
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
Items not available for viewing: two letters between Elizabeth II and Sir Michael Gow, 30 June 1965 (A/2/6/28-29); letters received by Gow from students, 1940-1945, and in response to his publication "Letters from Cambridge" (1945 onwards).
Conditions governing reproduction
Language of material
Script of material
Language and script notes
Physical characteristics and technical requirements
Item level description of photographs in albums and loose papers (series A-G). Note that this is a legacy finding aid, with some errors and misspellings; it does not include the bound volumes of Housman's lectures.
Uploaded finding aid
Allied materials area
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
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Subject access points
Place access points
Name access points
- Housman, Alfred Edward (1859-1936), poet and classical scholar (Subject)
- Gow, Sir James Michael (1924-2013) army officer (Subject)
- Wells, Cyril Mowbray (1871-1963), cricketer, rugby footballer and schoolmaster. (Subject)
- Ridgeway, Sir William (1858–1926) Knight, classicist (Subject)
- Gaselee, Sir Stephen (1882-1943) Knight, librarian and classical scholar (Subject)
- Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies (Subject)
- British School at Rome (Subject)
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Level of detail
Dates of creation revision deletion
Collection level record created by Rebecca Hughes in June 2019, using the printed finding aid of unknown date and authorship.