WORLD-OBITS-L ArchivesArchiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2007-09 > 1190548309
From: "Peter McCrae" <>
Subject: [WORLD-OBITS] BRIGGS: Julia Ruth Ballam sep,2007
Date: Sun, 23 Sep 2007 12:51:49 +0100
Last Updated: 3:54am BST 21/09/2007
Julia Briggs, who has died aged 63, was a scholar, writer and critic who
brought the study of women's literature and children's writing to the fore
in British universities.
Julia Briggs took exceptional interest in her students
Her courage in espousing these often unfashionable areas of study was allied
to a warm and encouraging spirit which made her want to share her
enthusiasms with her students - and to inspire them in their own study.
Julia Ruth Ballam was born in London on December 30 1943, the elder daughter
of Harry Ballam, a successful advertising man who put the lion on the
British egg, and his wife Trudi, who had been a commercial artist. Able to
read by the age of three, Julia attended South Hampstead High School and in
1963 won a scholarship to study English at St Hilda's College, Oxford.
There her glittering career was momentarily interrupted when she became
pregnant with her first son, Jonathan, in 1964; subsequently she became
probably the first woman to escape being sent down for this "offence". She
lost her scholarship, married his father Peter Gold, and graduated with a
After graduation she went on to complete a BLitt on the 19th-century ghost
story, which became her first book, Night Visitors: the Rise and Fall of the
English Ghost Story (1977), which she dedicated to her father's memory. In
the meantime her first marriage failed and in 1969 she married Robin Briggs,
a fellow of All Souls, and the father of her other sons, Simon and Jeremy.
They were divorced in 1989.
In 1978 she became a fellow of Hertford College, Oxford, where she taught
for the best part of 20 years. In 1983 she published The Stage-Play World:
Texts and Contexts 1580-1625 (revised in 1997), an invigorating study of
Elizabethean and Jacobean theatre.
She then finished Donald Crompton's book on William Golding, A View From the
Spire (1985), after Crompton's death.
While becoming an important member of the Oxford English faculty and a
chairman of the Faculty Board and a chairman of Examiners, she also
continued to pursue her own diverse literary interests. In 1987 she
published the biography A Woman of Passion: the Life of E Nesbit, a
sparkling account of the children's author which ranks as one of her finest
The title was also revealing. Julia Briggs had an unusually vivid character
for a scholar, combining beauty, grace and style with an exceptional
interest in her students - and an ability to nurture their individual
talents which made her a much-loved teacher. Her instinctive insight and
care for others was one of her greatest gifts.
In 1995, following her failure to win a lectureship at Oxford, Julia Briggs
left the university to which she had dedicated much of her life to take up
the position of Professor of Literature and Women's Studies at De Montfort
University. There she began her biography of Virginia Woolf, which was
interrupted in 1999 by breast cancer. She overcame illness to finish
Virginia Woolf: an Inner Life (2005), which took the radical course of
viewing Woolf's life through her writings rather than the other way around.
In 2006 Julia Briggs was appointed OBE, and had many more projects under way
for the future when her cancer returned as a brain tumour. She remained
cheerful and resourceful, turning at the last to the children's books she
adored and to the family she always valued more highly than academic
She is survived by her three sons, one of whom, Simon, is a cricket writer
for The Daily Telegraph.
|[WORLD-OBITS] BRIGGS: Julia Ruth Ballam sep,2007 by "Peter McCrae" <>|