R.G Cholmeley

Many thanks to Geraldine Porter for the following information about UQ’s first Classics lecturer from the Pelican Record Vol. XIV, No. 5 at Corpus Christi College, Oxford:
Cholmeley came up to Corpus from St Edward’s School as a Scholar in 1890.He took his degree in 1894 with a First in Mods and a Second in Greats. In 1893 he won the Chancellor’s Prize for Latin Verse – “The Stone Age” – in Lucretian hexameters. He coxed the Torpid in 1891 and 1892 and the Eight in 1893. He grew taller while he was up, but was always slightly built. The writer remembers how Cholmeley – below the average height – commonly walked about Oxford in company with the tallest man of his year.
Between 1895 and 1915 he held various educational appointments at home and in the dominions, interrupted by a spell of service with the Imperial Yeomanry in South Africa. When the war broke out in 1914 he was Lecturer in Greek and Librarian in the University of Queensland at Brisbane. He was making a good thing of the Library in that infant University. The writer visited him there in 1913, and appreciated the librarian’s enthusiasm and his judgement in the selection of books. However, spare of frame as he was and none too robust, a scholar to his finger-tips and getting on towards middle age, he was still a born fighter, and he left his Greek class and his Library to join in the great conflict. Returning to England, he accepted a commission in the Cheshire Regiment, but not for office work nor any of the tasks appropriate to middle age: he must be in the trenches, for choice the front trench, or, better still, out beyond the front trench. He was wounded twice, and it was “keenness in volunteering for every raid and patrol, and fearlessness and untiring energy in collecting information for his brigade” as forward observing officer, that won him his Military Cross.
At one period of his life he had devoted his leisure to acquiring Russian, and after the Armistice he served with the British troops in North Russia. He was drowned on the night of August 16, “washed overboard while overhauling machine guns which were required for action at daybreak. The vessel was heavily laden and behaving badly in a very heavy sea, hence this imperative duty was dangerous.” The quotation is from an official letter, and it adds, “Capt. Cholmeley’s death is greatly to be deplored. His zeal and energy were an example to all ranks; in him the Service has lost a very capable and gallant officer.” He leaves behind him a widow and one daughter. Cholmeley will be remembered for his edition of Theocritus, a work of great promise, first published in 1901, while he was serving in the South African War. He had left it to others to revise his proofs, and the book appeared with many misprints and some judgements which he might afterwards have reconsidered, thereby incurring some unfavourable criticism. It is now in its second and revised edition, and can be judged on its merits. A more elaborate work than any earlier English edition, it breaks new ground and shows a wide range of reading, especially in the Alexandrian and later writers. It is a young man’s book, always clever and bright, and revealing something of its author’s combativeness. Perhaps his views will not all stand the test of time, but any future editor will always have to reckon with him, and the edition contains some emendations which are almost certainly right.
He was always a spirited and dashing verse-composer in various metres, both in Latin and especially in Greek – for his heart was in Greek – and it is greatly to be hoped that some of these may be collected and published. He was an omnivorous reader. In the trenches he read the Odyssey twice, the Iliad, some Plato and Herodotus; also Caesar, “one of the finest books ever written,” he called it; and in hospital in Oxford, suffering from a painful wound, he was found poring over the Republic and Leaf’s Homer and History. He leaves behind him the memory of a fine scholar and an intrepid spirit.

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