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Bithell, Jethro (1878-1962)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0367 JBI
Held at: Institute of Modern Languages
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Full title: Bithell, Jethro (1878-1962)
Date(s): 1919-1962
Level of description: Collection (Fonds)
Extent: 4 files
Name of creator(s): Bithell | Jethro | 1878-1962 | Reader in German
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Jethro Bithelll was born at Hindley near Wigan in 1878. He was educated at Wigan Technical School and Owens College, in the Victoria University of Manchester, where he graduated with a first class degree in modern languages in 1900. He then studied German and Scandinavian literature at the Universities of Munich and Copenhagen.

From 1902-1904 he lectured in modern languages at Salford Technical College, and from 1904-1910 he was a lecturer in German at Manchester University. In 1910 he married his first wife, Ethel Rose Fisher (d 1946) and was appointed head of the Department of German at Birkbeck College London. In 1921 he was elected Reader in the University of London, but never became a full professor. He remained at Birkbeck until his retirement in 1938.

During World War One he served as a Private in the Royal Sussex Regiment, Oct 1916-Jan 1919. In 1947 Bithell married again to Dr Alice Emily Eastlake, a long standing friend of himself and his first wife.

Bithell belonged to the group of British born Germanisten who sought to turn German Studies in a new direction, breaking away from the positevistic and philological approach perpetrated by their German-born teachers. He believed, in common with other Germanisten such as William Rose, that literature was a social phenomenon and this attitude is best exemplified by his book Germany, 1932, a collection of essays on all aspects of the artstic and intellectual life of Germany set against its climate and geography. He was aware of a wider need for text book support in language studies and compiled dictionaries, readers and grammars in German and French.

His studies embraced medieval and modern language and literature from not only Germany, but also France, Belgium (including Flemish) and Norway. In retirement he continued to act as an examiner for schools and universities in German. Marking for the Higher School Certificate prompted him to compile his Anthology of German Poetry, 1880-1940, (1941) and two other anthologies followed. He had an abiding love of poetry in several languages. His superlative translation of the Minnesingers in 1909 earned him an entry in Who's Who and his translations from the work of Henrik Wergeland were considered by many to be a "tour de force".

He worked with Professor Andrew Gillies, who was editor of the Germanic Section of the Modern Language Review. During World War Two, the numbers of Germanisten available for review work were greatly reduced, and Gillies asked Bithell to oblige, which he did. At this time he popularised the work of Carossa, and demonstrated that not all Germans were Nazis or Nazi sympathisers. Bithell was also a keen supporter and contributor to German Life and Letters, which honoured his 80th birthday (1958) with a Festschrift volume.

Publications: The Minnesingers: vol I translations, (London, Longmans Green & Co., 1909); Contemporary German Poetry: translations (London: Scott, 1909); Contemporary Belgian Poetry: translations (London: Scott, 1911); Contemporary French Poetry: translations (London: Scott, 1912); Pitman's commercial German grammar (London: Pitman, 1912); Life and Writings of Maurice Maeterlinck (London: Scott, 1913); Gustav Vollmoeller, Turandot Princess of China: translation (Produced at the St James's Theatre by Sir George Alexander) (London: Fisher Unwin, 1913); Verhaeren/Stefan Zweig: translation (London: Constable,1914); Contemporary Belgian literature (London: Fisher Unwin, 1915); 'Emile Verhaeren: Helen of Sparta' translation in The Plays of Emile Verhaeren (London, Constable, 1916); Contemporary Flemish Poetry: translations (London: Scott, 1917); Byron i Vadmel - Byron in Homespun / H.M. Drachmann: translation (London: Harrap, 1920); (with A. Watson Bain) A German poetry book (London: Methuen, 1924); (with A.C. Dunstan) A German course for Science students (London: Methuen, 1925); A French reader for Science students (London: Methuen, 1926); (with J.H. Helweg) English-Danish commercial correspondence (London: Marlboroughs, 1927); (with A.C. Dunstan) A modern German course for students of History (London: Methuen, 1928); Norwegian-English commercial correspondence (London: Marlboroughs, 1928); (with G.M Gathorne-Hardy and I. Grøndal) Henrik Wergeland: poems: translation (London and Oslo, 1929); Advanced German composition (London: Methuen, 1929); (with W. Theilkuhl) Key to advanced German composition , (London: Methuen, 1929); Dutch-English commercial correspondence (London: Marlboroughs, 1929); Germany: a commpanion to German studies (London: Methuen, 1932); (with A.E Eastlake) A commercial German reader (London: Methuen, 1933); Modern German literature (London: Methuen, 1939); An anthology of German poetry, 1880-1940 (London: Methuen, 1941); Hans Carossa: eine Kindheit (Oxford: Blackwell, 1942); (with A Watson Bain) A French poetry book (London: Methuen, 1946); An anthology of German poetry, 1830-1880 (London: Methuen, 1947); Hans Carossa: Verwandlungen einer Jugend (Oxford: Blackwell, 1949); German pronunciation and phonology (London: Methuen, 1952); An anthology of German poetry, 1730-1830 (London: Methuen, 1957); German-English and English-German dictionary (London: Pitman, 1958). Numerous reviews ad articles for English, French, Belgian and other journals including German Life and Letters, Les Marges and the Modern Language Review.


Scope and content/abstract:

Correspondence and papers of Jethro and Alice Bithell, 1919-1962, comprising:
Correspondence and papers of Jethro Bithell:
Three note books [in Dutch];
Correspondence, 1935-1962: correspondents include August and Hannah Closs, Rudolf Majut, William Rose, L W Forster, Walter Cohen, Alexander Gillies, L A Willoughby and R Pick;
Papers on the poems of Max Hermann-Neisse (1886-1941), 1919-1942;
Papers on the works of Ernst Bertram, 1928-1952;

Correspondence and papers of Alice Emily Bithell (née Eastlake):
Personal papers including school and university certificates, 1908-1937 and correspondence with Rudolf and Käthe Majut, 1949-1962.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English and German

System of arrangement:

As described in scope and content.

Conditions governing access:

Researchers should apply to consult material at least forty-eight hours in advance by letter, facsimile, e-mail or telephone. The Library staff need a name and contact number, a concise and clear idea of the nature of the enquiry and a date and time for consultation.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopies may be made, although this is at the discretion of the Librarian and is dependent on the nature of the material.

Finding aids:

Box lists

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Bequeathed to IGS by Dr Alice Bithell, 1974.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Some 600 items of (mainly) correspondence and other material, dealing mostly with modern European Literature were bequeathed by Bithell to the Brotherton Library, University of Leeds. In 1962 the Library published an Inventory of the Correspondence and other Material bequesthed to the University of Leeds by Jethro Bithel (1878-1962), 29pp.

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Alan Kucia as part of the RSLP AIM25 Project.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000 and National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
May 2002

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