David Lindley, 1948-2021

Tributes paid to an expert on Renaissance literature notable for his ‘amusing, forthright and sometimes exasperated views’

September 30, 2021
David Lindley, 1948-2021

A leading authority on music and drama in the age of Shakespeare has died.

David Lindley was born in Wolverhampton in 1948 and studied at Wolverhampton Grammar School before going on to Pembroke College, Oxford. Although he taught briefly at Lincoln College, Oxford, and the University of Stirling, he spent virtually his whole career at the University of Leeds.

Having joined as a lecturer in English in 1978, Professor Lindley was promoted to senior lecturer in 1985, reader in 1995 and finally chair in Renaissance literature in 2000. He also served twice as head of the School of English. He eventually retired in 2014 and became an emeritus professor, although he remained very active as a researcher.

A keen organist and choirmaster in his local village, Professor Lindley devoted much of his work to the relationship between the “harmonious sisters” – literature and music – in the early modern period. As well as scholarly editions of plays by Ben Jonson and John Marston, he produced the monograph Thomas Campion (1986) on the Elizabethan poet-composer, a celebrated study of Shakespeare and Music (2006) and an edition of Shakespeare’s most musical play, The Tempest (2002, 2013), which also explores its deeply contested postcolonial legacy. He was Sam Wanamaker fellow at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2013 and collaborated with Bill Barclay, the director of music there, on a collection of essays titled Shakespeare, Music and Performance (2017).

Martin Butler, professor of Renaissance drama at Leeds, described Professor Lindley as “a well-known figure at international conferences, where his amusing, forthright and sometimes exasperated views were widely appreciated, along with his boundless but critical embrace of new ideas and generous encouragement of young scholars and entrants to the profession”.

Professor Butler also paid tribute to Professor Lindley’s book about a countess convicted of murder, The Trials of Frances Howard: Fact and Fiction at the Court of King James (1993), as “an exemplary critique of the writing of history” that “challenges the gender biases at work not only in Howard’s own age, but those which have persisted in more recent accounts”.

This book also led to two television appearances for Professor Lindley: on a 2012 episode of the BBC series Who Do You Think You Are? devoted to the actress Celia Imrie, a direct descendant of Howard’s, and a 2014 documentary about the playwright John Webster, The Mysterious Mr Webster.

Professor Lindley died of a sarcoma on 20 August and is survived by his wife Bridget, two sons and a grandson.


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