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Page 23, 10th March 1973

10th March 1973
Page 23
Page 23, 10th March 1973 — Obituary: Edward L. Surtz Si
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Obituary: Edward L. Surtz Si

Aubrey Noakes writes: It was with much sadness that I heard from Father F. Torrens Hecht, SJ, Rector of the Jesuit Community, Loyola University of Chicago, of the sudden death there of Father Edward L. Surtz, SJ, the distinguished scholar and Professor at Loyola, especially since I had had the honour to contribute to the splendid festschrift assembled as a tribute to him by Father Germain Marc'hadour. This constituted the November 1971 issue of that excellent publication Moreana, which Father Marc'hadour edits from the University of Angers.

A graduate of John Carrol University in 1931 Father Surtz went on to collect academic laurels, degrees, and distinctions thereafter in the way some people collect stamps or butterflies. His abiding love, though, appears to have been the great classics of English literature, about which he wrote with great scholarship and urbanity.

Like most Jesuit scholars his literary output included, the by now, almost mandatory thesis on the work of Gerard Manley Hopkins, but he was perhaps most at home with the great writers of the Elizabethan and Stuart periods. For many of us Father Surtz will be remembered with gratitude for two of the most stimulating and gracefully written books on More, The Praise of Pleasure: Philosophy, Education and Communism in More's Utopia, (Harvard University Press, 1957); and The Praise of Wisdom: A Commentary on the Religious and Moral Problems and Backgrounds of St. Thomas More's Utopia, (Loyola University Press, 1957). And of course, there is volume IV in the Yale University Press edition of The Complete Works of St. Thomas More, on which he collaborated with Professor J. B. Hexter. This volume consists of the original Latin text of More's classic, with a translation, lavishly annotated, and two lengthy essays by the editors.

As I remarked to the Abbe Marc'hadour when he was assembling his festsclzrift, Father Surtz's work on Utopia makes us all "see much more clearly how very important—indeed, how central it is—to an understanding of More, to get our thoughts right about Utopia and its significance to both the moral and intellectual development of the great Tudor Lord Chancellor and Martyr." So many writers in the past have been inclined to "explain away" Utopia as an incidental, literary frolic of More's that it seemed worth saying at the time, and I feel it still holds good.

In this context mention should also be made of his The Works and Days of John Fisher: An Introduction to the Position of St. John Fisher (1469-1535) in the English Renaissance and Reformation, (Harvard University Press, 1967).

I understand that at the time of his death Father Suriz was engaged, among other things, on a fresh examination of Henry VIII's divorce, which draws on material not hitherto utilised, which he had garnered after agreeably laborious researches in the Public Record Office, and in the libraries and archives of Paris, Rome, Naples, Florence, Bologna, and Venice. We trust that in due time the fruits of this research will see the light of day, to remind us, a shade sadly, but proudly too, of the great loss sustained by the world of scholarship, and by the Jesuit community at Chicago in particular, by the death of this distinguished scholar-priest at the comparatively early age of sixty-four.