William E. Fredeman 1928-1999

William Evan (Dick) Fredeman, Ph.D., FRSC, FRSL, Emeritus Professor of English at the University of British Columbia (UBC, 1956-1991) died of pancreatic cancer at his home in Abbotsford, British Columbia on July 15, 1999, just four days shy of his 71st birthday. Dr. Fredeman became one of Canada’s pre-eminent Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite scholars, earning him the sobriquet: the Father of North American Pre-Raphaelite Studies.

Born Richard Singleton Merrill on July 19, 1928 in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, his early toddler days were filled with tragedy. His mother’s death in an automotive accident was followed by an impoverished life in an orphanage. At the age of six he was adopted by a Little Rock, Arkansas couple. His new father, a high ranking military officer, and his mother a multi-talented woman stockbroker-turned-lawyer—who, incidentally, became the fifth American woman to receive her pilot’s license—instilled in him a sense of determination and self discipline that guided his native intelligence. Although Dick’s adoptive name was William, throughout his lifetime he remained “Dick” to friends and close colleagues. He attended schools in Arkansas and in Tennessee (Castle Heights, and then the Benedictine monastery at Subiaco), graduated by age sixteen, and served in the U.S. Navy in World War II, followed by collegiate schooling in Arkansas (Hendrix College, B.A., 1948), and Oklahoma (University of Oklahoma, M.A., 1950; Ph.D., 1956). While teaching high school in Oklahoma City and completing his graduate degrees, Dick also served as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve as a criminal investigator.

Recruited by the University of British Columbia, Dick came to Vancouver in the fall of 1956 and became enchanted with the UBC’s wartime huts which dotted the campus, romanticizing their appearance into a vision of log cabins in the Rockies. It was there that he would pitch his academic tent and ascend to become, what some may say, the most internationally distinguished scholar in UBC’s English department, widely published and just as widely revered. In 1959 he became the first American to win a Canada Council fellowship (the first of many succeeding Canada Council awards, and SSHRC, Killam Senior Research, and Guggenheim Fellowships), and spent the following year in London doing research for the landmark Pre-Raphaelitism: A Bibliocritical Study, his first major book and new genre of bibliography, published by Harvard University Press in 1965. Full professorship was awarded in 1967. Two years later Dick proudly became a Canadian citizen, and in 1974 he was elected to the Royal Society of Canada.

Although he was keenly interested in, and published widely on, the Victorian era, he continued to work on the Pre-Raphaelite poets and painters throughout his life. Some of his additional publications and activities included: editorship of William Michael Rossetti’s PRB Journal (Clarendon, 1975); A Rossetti Cabinet (Ian Hodgkins, 1991); three John Rylands Library monographs (A Pre-Raphaelite Gazette, letters of Arthur Hughes to Alice Boyd [1967]; Prelude to the Last Decade, on Rossetti in the summer of 1872 [1971]; and Letters of Pictor Ignotus, William Bell Scott’s letters to Alice Boyd [1976]); three special numbers of Victorian Poetry on William Morris, Rossetti, and Queen Victoria; four volumes of the Dictionary of Literary Bibliography with Ira B. Nadel on Victorian poets and novelists; and over fifty articles and reviews on Rossetti and the Pre-Raphaelites, Tennyson and related bibliography. He also wrote the lengthy and comprehensive Introduction to Philip R. Bishop’s Thomas Bird MosherPirate Prince of Publishers (Oak Knoll Press & The British Library, 1998), and the Introduction to A Bookman’s Catalogue: The Norman Colbeck Collection of Nineteenth Century and Edwardian Poetry and Belles Lettres (UBC Press, 1987), along with other introductions and chapters in books. Fredeman also served as president of the Victorian Section of the MLA, was founding member and first vice-president of the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals, and a member of the editorial boards for Victorian Poetry, Victorian Studies, and the Journal of Publishing History. Acknowledged in Who’s Who in Canada, Fredeman also co-edited (with Ira Nadel) the Journal of Pre-Raphaelite & Aesthetic Studies (1987-91); co-chaired the Canadian University Committee of the Editorial Board, Encyclopaedia Britannica (1986-1999); and lectured extensively at learned societies and universities in Canada, America, Australia, and in Great Britain including the London and Oxford Bibliographical Societies and at the British Museum. He was invited to give the keynote plenary address at the William Morris International Millennium Conference in Toronto, but death prevented him from fulfilling this honor.

Although he did not live to see it pass through the press, Fredeman’s crowning editorial achievement is The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Vol. I & II (D. S. Brewer, August 2002, with the remaining seven volumes due out over the next eight years under the direction of Leonard Roberts, Betty Fredeman, et.al.), the largest collection of Rossetti’s letters ever to have been published, marking thirty years of research, authoritative transcription, and annotation by Dr. Fredeman—a monumental testament to his outstanding scholarship.

For over forty years Dick Fredeman was an avid collector of books, art, and antiques including a massive collection surrounding the age and person of Queen Victoria—printed and artifactual. He was truly in his element when surrounded by his thousands of books: first and later editions, presentation and association copies, bibliographies, secondary biographical and critical literature, commissioned bindings from Cortland Benson of Vancouver Island, manuscript material (a couple hundred autograph letters), and numerous choice items including five original art works by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, two Millais portraits, a half dozen art works by William Bell Scott, a drawing by Lizzy Siddal, an Edward Burne-Jones (sadly sold to cover medical and other expenses), and an exquisite photo scrapbook of Dante Gabriel Rossetti compiled by William Michael Rossetti. The Fredeman collection attracted scholars worldwide and even earned Dick a visit from the popular composer, Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, who shared the collector’s love of Victorian art and literature. His collecting interests even spilled over into academia. While at the University of British Columbia, he was instrumental in negotiating the acquisition of the English bookseller Norman Colbeck’s enormous collection of nineteenth century and Edwardian literature to the Special Collections Division of the UBC Library, a deal which creatively included hiring Colbeck as a bibliographical consultant to catalogue his own collection. Fredeman also was instrumental in acquiring a large Rossetti manuscript archive and other significant collections of Victorian books and manuscripts for the library.

Scholars have been aware of Fredeman’s professional accomplishments, but few know of these personal snippets. Dick loved to entertain as a gourmet cook, and he was able to instantly recite scores of lines from poems dinner guests only mentioned in passing. He also greatly enjoyed creating current-event limericks, and toasting friends with witty doggerell to commemorate some special event. He was quite fond of his two dachshunds, and loved to go antiques spelunking—”artifactual binges” he called them—with his wife in their classic white “Brougham Elegance” Cadillac. Dick was well known to many booksellers throughout the English speaking world, and he loved haunting bookshops and booksellers’ booths at antiquarian book fairs. To some he was a difficult and demanding professional with very high expectations, absolutely abhorring sloppy, self-promoting scholarship, and thereby instilling fear or resentment in their perpetrators. To others he was a devoted friend and supportive colleague who prodigiously gave of himself, inspiring first rate scholarship.

Dick Fredeman was able to spend the last days of his life surrounded by his collections and friends who enjoyed sharing them with him. He is survived by his fourth wife Betty Fredeman (formerly Betty A. Coley, the Robert & E. B. Browning scholar and librarian at Baylor University’s Armstrong Browning Library, married to Dick in January 1995), his son Robert Luke (from Dick’s third marriage to Jane Cowan) and daughter-in-law Alison, his grandchildren Harry and Eliza, and two sisters, Margaret-Ann and Mary Lucille in the United States. He is also survived by many a former Ph.D. advisee or colleague who now proudly hangs a letter from Dick Fredeman in his office, or who recounts Dick’s charm and support in bringing about his or her own academic accomplishments. Dick’s strongest drive was to excel, seeking to pass on the legacy of hard fought scholarship in Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite studies. His accomplishments speak for themselves; his bequest remains monumental.

Philip R. Bishop, independent scholar, author, bookseller, and compiler of the Thomas Bird Mosher—Pirate Prince of Publishers bibliography (Oak Knoll Press & The British Library, 1998)