Robert William Victor Gittings CBE
(1 February 1911 – 18 February 1992), was an
. In 1978, he was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial
for The Older Hardy
Southsea, the son of
Surgeon-Captain Fred Claude Bromley Gittings and his wife Dora
Mary, née Brayshaw, the young Gittings was
educated at St Edward's School, Oxford, where he was taught by George Mallaby, and Jesus College,
Cambridge, where he arrived in 1930 with a scholarship, gaining a First in 1933.
later wrote the article on George Mallaby in the Oxford Dictionary of
While still at school he published poems and thus encountered
, a lifelong friend.
Cambridge, he was encouraged by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, editor of the
Oxford Book of English
Verse, whose rooms in college were near his, and in 1931
he was awarded the Chancellor's
gold medal for English verse.
In 1933, Gittings was elected a research fellow of Jesus College
and became a history supervisor in 1938.
In 1940. he took a job with BBC Radio
producer and writer, remaining with the Corporation twenty-three
years. He made broadcasts for schools, dramatizations of history
and literary programmes, and contributed to radio programmes such
as Poets and Poetry
, World History Series
, and The World of Books
He continued to write verse, and his first major book,
(1950), was well reviewed. History and
poetry combined in him into the ability to bring the past to life.
In all, he published twelve volumes of poetry.
In 1954, his biography John Keats: the Living Year
published, to be followed in 1956 by The Mask of Keats
and in 1960 by Shakespeare's Rival
. He left the BBC in
1964. His John Keats
(1969) was awarded the WH Smith Literary Award
, and he also
wrote scholarly studies of Thomas
: The Young Thomas Hardy
(1975), The Older
(1978, awarded the James Tait Black Memorial
) and (with his wife, Jo Manton) The Second Mrs
As a playwright, Gittings naturally specialized in radio drama, but
he also wrote plays for Women's
, This Tower my Prison
Conflict at Canterbury
(1970) for the Canterbury Festival
, a double act with Frances Horowitz
, was performed from 1971
until 1978, when Horowitz died.
With Jo Manton, he wrote Dorothy Wordsworth
(1985) and the
same year published his last book of verse, People, Places,
. His last book, Claire Clairmont and the Shelleys
printed a few days before his death.
Gittings married Katherine Edith Cambell, a Cambridge contemporary
who had been at Girton College and was known as Kay, and they had two sons, called
Robert and John, together, but this marriage ended in
In 1949, he married secondly Joan Greville Manton,
called Jo, who was a BBC colleague and also a biographer
. They had one daughter.
A tall man, Gittings had a high forehead and bald head, a warm
personality and fine sense of humour. He played several sports,
, and golf
, and was still playing
cricket in his seventies.
He had 4 Great Grandsons:Robert, Oliver, Henry and Harry.He also
had 2 Great Granddaughters:Lucy and Sarah.
He died at
Chichester on 18 February, 1992, and was cremated.
- Wentworth Place (1950),
- John Keats: The Living Year, 21 September 1818 to 21
September 1819 (London: Heinemann, 1954)
- The Mask of Keats (1956)
- Shakespeare's Rival (1960)
- This Tower my Prison (1961)
- John Keats (1969)
- Conflict at Canterbury (1970)
- The Young Thomas Hardy (1975)
- The Older Hardy (1978)
- (with Jo Manton) The Second Mrs Hardy (1979)
- (with Jo Manton) Dorothy Wordsworth (Clarendon Press,
1985, ISBN 0-1981-8519-7)
- People, Places, Personal (1985)
- Claire Clairmont and the Shelleys (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992, ISBN
- Tolley, G., Gittings, Robert William Victor (1911–1992),
poet and writer in Oxford Dictionary of
National Biography online version (subscription required), accessed 10
- Gittings, Robert, Mallaby, Sir (Howard) George Charles
(1902–1978) in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford
University Press, 2004
- Times Literary Supplement, 31
March 1950: "...lines that hold fast in the memory"
- awarded the WH Smith Literary Award
- awarded the James Tait Black Memorial