Emile Victor Rieu


October 28, 2021

Emile Victor Rieu, also known as E. V. Rieu, CBE (February 10, 1887 - May 11, 1972) was a classicist, editor, poet and translator from the United Kingdom. He was the one who started the Penguin Classics series, in 1946, and edited it for twenty years.


Rieu was born in London. He was the youngest son of the Swiss orientalist Charles Pierre Henri Rieu (1820-1902) and his wife, Agnes, daughter of Julius Heinrich Hisgen, of Hamburg. He was an academic at St Paul's School and Balliol College, Oxford, where he obtained an Honor Moderations in Classical Studies in 1908. In 1914 he married Nelly Lewis, the daughter of a Pembrokeshire businessman. They had two sons (one of them is Dominic Christopher Henry Rieu) [1] and two daughters. Rieu passed away in his hometown in 1972. The University of Leeds awarded him an honorary doctorate of letters in 1949, and he was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1953. In 1951 he was elected President of the Virgil Society and seven years later Vice President of the Royal Society of Literature. [2]

As translator and editor

Having worked for the Bombay branch of Oxford University Press, Rieu began working for the Methuen Publishing House in London in 1923. From 1933 to 1936 he was editor, and later academic and literary adviser. [3] Rieu became known for his translations of Homer and for a modern translation of the four Gospels, with which he went from editor to translator of a failed Penguin Bible translation project. Despite being an agnostic for most of his life, his translation experience caused him to change his position and he joined the Church of England. [4] His translation of the 1946 Odyssey was the first publication of Penguin Classics, a series that began with Allen Lane, and that he edited from 1944 to 1964. [3] [5] According to his son: «His vision was to make accessible to the common reader, in correct modern English, the great classics of each language ”. [6] The inspiration for the initially weak Penguin Classics series came from World War II, during the bombings. Every evening after dinner, Rieu sat with his wife and daughters and translated passages from the Odyssey for them. The publishers of Penguin, at first, doubted about the commercial future of the book (1946), but finally, it was recognized as a classic, for its soft and original prose, and it was successful. [2]


Rieu also wrote a book of poetry for children, titled Cuckoo Calling: a book of verse for youthful people (1933), which he later expanded and titled The Flattered Flying Fish and Other Poems (1962). [3] A selection of his work Poetics appeared in A Puffin Quartet of Poets (1958). For Rieu, his poems were a secondary activity, and they were directed mainly at children. [2]


External links

"Hall and Knight", poem by E. V. Rieu Translating the Gospels, a discussion between E. V. Rieu and J.B. Phillips.

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