Essay Writer

BURTON, Richard

Meeting Mrs. Jenkins

New York: William Morrow & Co., 1966

8vo, pp. 24. Original tan three-quarter boards, lettered in gilt to spine and with device in gilt to front panel. Photographic dustwrapper with author's portrait to rear panel and subject's portrait to front. Red endpapers. A near fine copy in a very good dustwrapper with a couple of small closed tears and light wear to spine ends.


The literary scholar Nevill Coghill [1899-1980] was Tutor of English Literature at Exeter College, Oxford, for more than thirty years. The two men first met in 1944, when Burton studied English at Oxford for six months while doing his National Service in the RAF. Coghill was Burton's tutor, and also directed him as Angelo in an OUDS production of Measure For Measure after Burton had auditioned with a rendition of Hamlet's 'To be or not to be...' speech which Coghill later described as 'the most perfect rendering I had ever heard.' Later, Coghill paid tribute to Burton's intellect as well as his talent: 'I have had students of very great gifts and many of very little. But I have only had two men of genius to teach: W.H. Auden and Richard Burton. When they happen, one cannot mistake them.'

Burton's regard for Coghill was equally strong. The two remained in constant touch down the years, and in 1964 Burton drove to Oxford to introduce Elizabeth Taylor to his old tutor and friend. During the visit the plan was conceived to stage an OUDS production of Doctor Faustus to raise funds for the University Playhouse. Burton was as good as his word, and in 1966 the show ran at Oxford for three weeks, directed by Coghill, and starring undergraduate members of OUDS alongside the most famous couple in the world. (The production was filmed in Rome the following year, financed by Burton, directed by Coghill, and featuring the same cast.)

This copy of Burton's how-we-met love letter to his wife, Elizabeth Taylor, comes from Coghill's library, and has his 'Passport to Burton Party' laid in, with his name written in an unknown hand along the lower edge. Quite which party this was is unclear: Burton threw quite a few, and a handwritten date of '26 Feb 1972' suggests it wasn't to mark the publication of this book, which had happened six years previously.

Keywords: Richard BURTON Nevill COGHILL"

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