Tributes to Peter Cochran

Please feel free to share tributes to Peter, or ideas for the memorial in the ‘Leave a Reply’ box below.

All the messages of support and those sharing stories about Peter and have been very much appreciated, they’ve been a big comfort to us since he died. Thank you all very much, Abi and Emily Cochran (Peter’s daughters).


Obituary in the Times Higher Education by Mathew Reisz


Tribute from the Herts & Essex High School


Tribute from Byron Society of America


An appreciation of Peter Cochran on


PETER COCHRAN ­ THE PIONEER OF POST­GENTLEMANLY SCHOLARSHIP – A Tribute from Dr Lucia Leman, University of Nottingham

4 Responses to Tributes to Peter Cochran

  1. Christine Kenyon Jones says:

    Peter Cochran 1944-2015: a brief appreciation

    The effects of the loss of Dr Peter Cochran on 20 May 2015 on Byronists and Byron studies worldwide will be immeasurable.

    Peter himself had for many years given up trying to summarise the huge range of his contributions, and his entries in the programmes for Byron events yield only bland overviews such as ‘Peter Cochran edits the works and correspondence of Byron on the International Byron Society website’ (London, 2013) and ‘Peter Cochran has written innumerable articles on Byron, edited Byron’s text for Garland and others, edits the Newstead Abbey Byron Review and is Research Fellow of the School of English of Liverpool University. He is currently working on an edition of Michael Rees’s translation of Teresa Guiccioli’s Lord Byron’s Life in Italy’ (Liverpool 2003). At Dublin in 2005 he mentioned that he had become a Senior Research Fellow at Liverpool and ‘hosts the celebrated Hobby O website’.

    Such descriptions are of course woefully inadequate in representing Peter’s work, and it is characteristic of his generosity of spirit and his wish to share everything he wrote with everyone possible, and also the fact that he was an early and enthusiastic pioneer of information technology, that it is to Peter’s own website that we must go to see something of the great extent of his expertise, his huge industry in transcribing and editing Byronic texts (including the diary of Hobby O – John Cam Hobhouse), and his deeply knowledgeable but fiercely independent commentary on almost all aspects of matters Byronic.

    The task of writing Peter’s obituary will be demanding (although I understand an autobiography has been found in his house in Cambridge, among the hordes of material there on Byron and his other enthusiasms, which included a boundless knowledge of film and television drama). I assume Peter may have had his first taste Byron’s work during his undergraduate degree in English at Cambridge, but it was not until after he had established successful careers, first as an actor (including for the Royal Shakespeare Company) and then as teacher and Head of Drama at the Hertfordshire & Essex High School for Girls, that Peter really encountered Byron, and that this encounter led him to study for his PhD with Professor Drummond Bone at the University of Glasgow.

    This is how Peter describes it:

    I am, in Christian terms, a godless person, but I also know that here are fairies at the bottom of my garden; to keep them happy and at a distance, I never go into it. But one fairy had come in to visit me instead on this day, unheeded: he was plump, beautiful, supernaturally pale, with blue-grey eyes (one smaller than the other) and curly, slightly receding hair. His right foot was twisted because of a malformation of the Achilles’ tendon, and he had no earlobes […]. He’d got in from the garden via a narrow gap between the loo window and its frame, which I’d been meaning for some time to have replaced. And as I stood there [ …] he descended upon me: for, as I scanned down my old pupils’ notes to The Vision of Judgment , a strange hot flush ascended from my ankles to my hairline, and I knew that, whatever else happened, I was doomed to make an edition of, at the very least, this poem, and on my beloved Amstrad to boot. I knew, also, that for the rest of my days, my destiny would be entwined inextricably with the life, works and reputation of Lord Byron. Four years later I had a PhD, being an edition, incorporating a new text – done directly from the manuscript – of Byron’s the Vision of Judgment. And I haven’t stopped since.

    He went on to edit (almost always from the original sources) most of Byron’s verse and prose, as well as many collections of letters to Byron, and to publish commentary on many aspects of Byron’s life and times, including his book reviews which became a touch-stone for Byron criticism. Characteristically, he made all these available online in easy-to-use formats to anyone who was interested, and his website became the source for Byron scholars, critics and enthusiasts worldwide.

    While the website shows the depth and range of Peter’s work, it cannot represent his great and inimitable personality. All of us will have our own memories of his ebullience, his wit and humour, his enthusiasm, his strong likes and equally strong dislikes, and the powerful sense of his presence in a room, which was perhaps related to his abilities as an actor and director. He was at his most stimulating when often also at his most combative, and the individuality of his ‘take’ on Byron (which was often painfully critical for many of us) gave an edge and excitement to what otherwise might be bland or over-academic debates. I have sometimes thought the effect of Peter’s presence may have been a little like that of Byron himself – intelligent, generous, funny, enthusiastic, challenging and always interesting and exciting , although sometimes also a little alarming.
    Through his scholarship, energy, friendship and exceptional generosity, Peter has helped to bring countless people into the Byron ambit, and to make us all better Byron scholars and critics, and his work and his memory will live on through the Byron community in that most positive of ways. In the last few weeks we have been privileged to receive his daughter Abi’s touching and sensitive accounts of his final illness and death, and these have reminded us that he was also a dearly-loved father and grandfather, and we share our great sorrow at his early death with his family and all those who have been close to him.

    Dr Christine Kenyon Jones
    Research Fellow, King’s College London

  2. A formidable mind, a generous heart, a scholar of profound learning, he enlivened every gathering with his erudition and wise wit. His visit to the United Arts Club in Dublin was hugely enjoyed. Rosemarie Rowley, Irish Byron Society

  3. Lynn Woodward-Baker says:

    As a teacher I’ve been asked to attend our professional development day tomorrow with a ‘story’ connected to a teacher, past or present, who has really inspired us.

    I attended Margaret Dane school in the late 1970s and was fortunate to have Peter as my A level English tutor. I remember my teenage self being mesmerised by his fresh and engaging approach, amused by his less traditional ways and the trips in the cranky mini bus to various theatres.

    It was because of him that I left school wanting to be an English teacher. It took a few years but I am a primary teacher still with a bias towards and love of English. I googled Peter’s name ‘just to see’ and I am saddened to discover news of his death. Without doubt I will be talking about him tomorrow and sharing a couple of well chosen anecdotes with my colleagues!

    It was certainly a joy and a privilege to have experienced his expert, insightful and engaging teaching.

  4. Robert McColl says:

    I’ve only just seen that the big man is gone. Peter was one of the last plainspeaking scholars, not only in Byron studies, but academia generally, waging a sometimes lone battle for sense over sophistry. He had a compendious memory, reciting and performing from a wide range of literature. He made an unexpected appearance on the stage, at Epidaurus, I think it was, 2011, and gave us a Richard III and Macbeth to remember. I, like many others, owe him much and shall miss him hugely.

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