The Chaucer Review 38.2 (2003) 203-204
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Beryl Rowland died in Victoria, British Columbia, on April 24, 2003.
When Beryl Rowland received her Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia in 1962, she embraced the world of scholarship with the same enthusiasm and determination that had marked her first forty years. A survivor of the London Blitz, émigré to the snowy plains of Athabasca, Canada, novelist, art and drama critic, and one-time business manager of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, she was well prepared for the tribulations and triumphs of academe. Mostly, she experienced the latter, authoring more than 150 scholarly articles and several books, predominantly on medieval subjects: for example, the guides to animal symbolism, Blind Beasts (1971) Animals with Human Faces (1973), and Birds with Human Souls (1978), as well as A Medieval Women's Guide to Health: The First English Gynecological Handbook (1981). She was also editor of the award-winning Cressida in Alberta (1955), the oft-reprinted Companion to Chaucer Studies, Chaucer and Middle English Studies in Honour of Rossell Hope Robbins (1974), and Essays on Chaucerian Irony (1985). During her long association with York University in Toronto, this wry feminist was respected as a hard-working, focused teacher and mentor, and, concomitant with her earning a second doctorate from the University of London, she was named Distinguished Research Professor in 1983.
Beyond York's campus Beryl was likewise recognized. She delivered numerous scholarly papers in Europe, Asia, and North America, had membership in several professional organizations and on prestigious editorial boards (including The Chaucer Review), and was president of the New Chaucer Society from 1984 to 1986. Retirement to Victoria with her husband Dr. E. Murray Rowland in 1987 did not end her intellectual pursuits. She continued to write and to think—as was her wont—outside the box. Typical of her practice was the lengthy, highly analytical, and carefully documented publication of 2001 entitled "Ad restringuedam coitum: How to Cool Lust," which argues that the conveyance in Latin of certain anti-libidinal prescriptions indicates that these remedies were primarily intended to curb the illicit appetites of clergymen, [End Page 203]
Although the foregoing reviews what Beryl Rowland called her "work," it does not do justice to her loyal support of associates and friends, nor to her capacity for intrigue and just plain fun. Generous with her time, talent, and treasure, she aided younger scholars in practical, financial, and other, more subtle, ways. She joyfully extended hospitality to colleagues and shared her literary and critical expertise with any and all who sought it. Frequently at war with the ravages of rheumatoid arthritis, she continued to delight in the intricacies of academic argument, yet was never above lending a sympathetic ear and helping hand to assistants and housekeepers. A woman's advocate by nature (her mother was a Plymouth Brethren preacher), Beryl Rowland possessed an adventurous spirit and natural gifts that helped her to maintain a broad spectrum of interests and associations throughout her life.
Brooklyn, New York