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John Gross: A Tribute

We were all very sorry to hear that OUP author and former TLS editor John Gross has died at the age of 75. Judith Luna, Senior Editor, who worked with him for over 25 years on a range of titles, pays tribute to him below.

It was with great sadness that I learnt this morning of the death of John Gross, a wonderful writer and the editor of an astonishing number of classic anthologies, that we were privileged to publish. He had an astonishing knowledge of English literature, from its highest to its lowest reaches, and a wonderful ability to identify the telling passages, the most entertaining extracts, and thus reveal the heart of an author. He also had the rare gift of knowing how to construct an anthology, with imaginative juxtapositions, balancing the brief skit with a longer, more serious piece, and the whole interwoven with his own expert, discreet commentary, that was often as entertaining as the piece itself. A past editor of the Times Literary Supplement, and theatre critic for the Sunday Telegraph, his own editorial and critical skills were second to none.

Over the course of more than 25 years he edited the Oxford Books of Aphorisms, Essays, and Comic Verse; the magnificent New Oxford Book of English Prose, virtually a history of English literature in its own right; After Shakespeare, a superb anthology of writings about and inspired by Shakespeare; and The New Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes. John was himself a marvellous raconteur, whose anecdotes about literary life were full of mischief and fun. It is somehow fitting that his most recent anthology, The Oxford Book of Parodies, published in 2010, should pay tribute in its own way to the great variety of literary styles from the earliest times to the present, and display a knowledge and affection for literature that epitomized its editor. The critical acclaim that the book has received, and its popular success, are a fitting tribute to a great man of letters. He will be much missed.

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