University of Cambridge, 4 Mill Ln, Cambridge CB2 1RZ
Bletchley Park, 30 Roche Gardens, Bletchley, Milton Keynes MK3 6BN
20 West Rd, Cambridge CB3 9DL, UK
High Mead, 5 Upper Way, Great Brickhill, Milton Keynes MK17 9AZ, UK
Frank Laurence Lucas (28 December 1894 – 1 June 1967) was an English classical scholar, literary critic, poet, novelist, playwright, political polemicist, Fellow of King's College, Cambridge, and intelligence officer at Bletchley Park during World War II. He was part of the Cambridge Apostles. He is now best remembered for his scathing 1923 review of T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, and for his book Style (1955; revised 1962), an acclaimed guide to recognising and writing good prose. His Tragedy in Relation to Aristotle's 'Poetics' (1927, substantially revised in 1957) was for over fifty years a standard introduction. His most important contribution to scholarship was his four-volume old-spelling Complete Works of John Webster (1927), the first collected edition of the Jacobean dramatist since that of Hazlitt the Younger (1857), itself an inferior copy of Dyce (1830). Eliot called Lucas "the perfect annotator",[note 1] and subsequent Webster scholars have been indebted to him, notably the editors of the new Cambridge Webster (1995–2007). Lucas is also remembered for his anti-fascist campaign in the 1930s, and for his wartime work at Bletchley Park, for which he received the OBE.
From February 1921 to 1929 Lucas was married to the novelist E. B. C. Jones (1893–1966), known as "Topsy" to her friends. She was the sister-in-law of his former supervisor at Trinity, Donald Robertson; he got to know her after reading and admiring her first novel, Quiet Interior (1920). Jones dedicated two novels to Lucas and based two characters on him – Hugh Sexton, gassed in the War, in The Singing Captives (1922), and Oliver in The Wedgwood Medallion (1923), a Cambridge classics graduate now studying the Elizabethan drama. Lucas based the character Margaret Osborne in The River Flows (1926) on her – a semi-autobiographical first novel that shifts some of his experiences of 1919–1920 to 1913–1915. The character Hugh Fawcett ("the best brain in the Foreign Office" but not much use as a matchmaker) was based on John Maynard Keynes. Through the Apostles Lucas was associated with the Bloomsbury Group,[note 5] Virginia Woolf describing him to Ottoline Morrell as "pure Cambridge: clean as a breadknife, and as sharp". To Lucas, interviewed in 1958, Bloomsbury had seemed "a jungle": "The society of Virginia and Leonard Woolf, Duncan Grant, Clive Bell and Vanessa Bell, and Lytton Strachey was far from being in the ordinary sense a happy family. They were intensely and rudely critical of each other. They were the sort of people who would read letters addressed to others. They tormented each other with endless love affairs. In real crises they could be generous, but in ordinary affairs of life they were anything but kind ... Dickinson and E.M. Forster were not really Bloomsbury. They were soft-hearted and kind. Bloomsbury was certainly not that." Jones's admiration for George Rylands undermined the marriage by 1927. After affairs with Dora Carrington (d.1932) and Shelagh Clutton-Brock (d.1936), in December 1932 Lucas married the 21-year-old Girton Classics graduate and sculptor Prudence Wilkinson (1911–1944). His travel writings, accounts of their long walks through landscapes with literary associations, date from the years of his second marriage (1932–1939): From Olympus to the Styx (1934), a book on their 1933 walking tour of Greece (one of five journeys he made to that country), 'Iceland', a travelogue on their 1934 journey to the saga sites, included in the original edition of his The Decline and Fall of the Romantic Ideal (1936); and journal-entries on their visits to Norway, Ireland, Scotland, and France. In these years they were frequent visitors to the home in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence of Marie Mauron, whose Provençal stories Lucas translated. From Olympus to the Styx argues for the return of the Elgin Marbles: "Considering what was to come, the much-abused 'theft' of the sculptures from the Acropolis by Lord Elgin was an undoubted blessing, though it was carelessly carried out, especially in removing the Caryatid from the Erechtheum; it would none the less be a graceful act for England to return them now to Athens." Prudence Lucas, as well as sharing these interests, designed the costumes and sets for the first production (1938) of his Icelandic tragedy The Lovers of Gudrun. Her nervous breakdown in 1938 is touched on in Lucas's Journal Under the Terror, 1938 (1939); Lucas sought help from, among others, Wilhelm Stekel, whom he met in London in 1939, but the rift proved irreparable. The emphasis on psychology in his post-war books – Literature and Psychology (1951), Style (1955), The Search for Good Sense (1958), The Art of Living (1959), the essay on 'Happiness' in The Greatest Problem (1960), The Drama of Ibsen and Strindberg (1962) – reflects an interest shared with his third wife (1940–1967), the Swedish psychologist Elna Kallenberg (1906-2003), whom he married in 1940 – "the stranger who came to me from beyond the sea when I most needed her" (Elna Kallenberg had flown from Sweden, with special permission from the Home Office, to join him in late 1939). They had two children, Signe and Sigurd. Lucas returned time and again in his books to the theme of happiness, and in 1960 summed up his thoughts on happiness thus: "Vitality of mind and body; the activity to employ and maintain them; the zest and curiosity that they can animate; freedom to travel widely in nature and art, in countries of the world and countries of the mind; human affections; and the gift of gaiety – these seem to me, then, the main causes of happiness. I am surprised to find how few and simple they are."
F. L. Lucas lived at 7 Camden Place, Cambridge, from 1921–25; at 20 West Road, Cambridge from 1925–39; at High Mead, Great Brickhill from 1939–45; and again at 20 West Road, Cambridge, from 1945 until his death in 1967. The dissident Czech academic Otakar Vočadlo (1895–1974), Lucas's Prague correspondent in 1938-39 and a concentration camp survivor, celebrated his restoration, during the Prague Spring of 1968, to his Chair of English at Prague, by giving a course of lectures on Webster in memory of Lucas, whose support for the Czech cause in 1938–39 had not been forgotten. D. W. Lucas, the classical scholar (1905–85), Fellow of King's College, Cambridge, University Director of Studies in Classics, and Perceval Maitland Laurence Reader in Classics, was F. L. Lucas's brother.
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