Enid Starkie (1898-1970) was a literary critic whose love of France lead her to study and write on authors such as Baudelaire, Gide, Flaubert and Rimbaud. She was a fixture of the Oxford academic scene from her first arrival at Somerville College in 1916 until her death in 1970.
When Starkie started at Oxford in 1916 women were not allowed to matriculate and therefore could not obtain a degree. It was only in October 1920 that women were permitted to matriculate and, using their previously gained examinations, were awarded degrees for the first time. Starkie, having completed her examinations in Modern Languages with distinction in June 1920, matriculated and graduated as BA on 30 October 1920.
After a brief period away from Oxford to obtain her doctorate at the Sorbonne in Paris and to teach at Exeter University, she returned to Somerville as the Sarah Smithson Lecturer in French literature. She made her home at Somerville becoming a fellow, and later reader in French literature. During her career she successfully campaigned for the Professor of Poetry at Oxford to be a poet, rather than a critic, and helped raise the profiles of those she wrote about, including securing honorary doctorates for Gide and Jean Cocteau.
After her death, Starkie’s papers were deposited in the Bodleian for use by her friend, and former student, Joanna Richardson to write her biography.
Dr Joanna Richardson (1925–2008) studied Modern Languages at St Anne’s Society, Oxford, and after graduating with a third-class degree began graduate study under Enid Starkie. Her thesis was rejected and she was not awarded a DPhil at the time, it was only in 2004 she was awarded DLitt from the University of Oxford for her published body of work. She published her first biography in 1952 on Fanny Brawne, muse of poet John Keats. This started a fascination with the subject and during her life she wrote biographies on British and French 19th-century figures including Keats, Tennyson, Baudelaire and Verlaine. She was awarded the prix Goncourt for biography for Judith Gautier, 1989, the first time someone outside of France, and a woman, won the prize.
These collections consist of Starkie’s papers, along with Richardson’s working notes, as well as some personal papers of Richardson’s.