Philip Sherrard

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Philip Sherrard (September 23, 1922 — May 30, 1995) was a British author, translator, and philosopher. His work includes important translations of Modern Greek poets, and books on Modern Greek literature and culture, metaphysics, theology, art and aesthetics. A pioneer of Modern Greek studies in England, he was influential in making major Greek poets of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries known in the English-speaking world. He was also a prolific writer on theological and philosophical themes, addressing the origins of the social and spiritual crisis he believed was occurring in the developed world, and specifically exploring modern attitudes towards the environment from a Christian perspective.


Philip Owen Arnould Sherrard was born on September 23, 1922 in Oxford. His family had many connections with the literary world of the period: his mother, Brynhild Olivier, had been a member of Rupert Brooke's circle before the First World War, and his half-sister was married to Quentin Bell, the nephew of Virginia Woolf. He was educated at Dauntsey's School and at Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he obtained a degree in History.

Sherrard first came to Greece as a soldier after the liberation of Athens in 1946 [1]. The culture and traditional way of life of the country made a profound impression on him. At this time he first corresponded with the poet George Seferis, whose work he was subsequently to translate into English. He also met and married his first wife, Anna Mirodia. After living for a period in London, Sherrard returned to Greece to serve as Assistant Director of the British School of Archaeology at Athens in 1951-52, and again in 1957-62. His doctoral thesis on the Greek poets Solomos, Palamas, Cavafy, Angelos Sikelianos, and Seferis (King's College, London) was published in 1956 as The Marble Threshing Floor. In the same year Sherrard was baptized into the Orthodox Church.[2]
In 1959 Sherrard bought part of disused magnesite mine near the small shipping town of Limni in the island of Evia. He planted trees and plants where the former mine installations had been, and helped to restore the homes of the former directors who had lived there before the mine was abandoned at the outbreak of the Second World War. In 1970 he accepted a lectureship in the History of the Orthodox Church, a post attached jointly to King's College, London and the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES). After his resignation in 1977, he moved back to Greece, where Limni now became his permanent home. In 1979 he married his second wife, the publisher Denise Harvey. They endeavoured as far as possible to live a simple life according to the principles of the Orthodox Church, without many of the conveniences of modern living, such as electricity and the telephone.
In 1980, together with Keith Critchlow, Brian Keeble, and the poet Kathleen Raine, he was one of the founding members of the journal Temenos, a review devoted to the 'arts of the imagination'. This eventually led to the foundation of the teaching organization, the Temenos Academy, based in London. He died in London on May 30th, 1995 at the age of 72, and was buried near the Orthodox chapel he had had built on his property.[3].


Sherrard's first book was The Marble Threshing Floor (1956), an “introduction to modern Greek poetry for English-speaking readers, which, together with his translations, brought the poetry of Cavafy and Seferis, together with its cultural background, to the attention of the literary world.”[4]. As a translator of Modern Greek poetry, he had a long and productive collaboration with Edmund Keeley, together publishing many books, among them Four Greek Poets (1966), the Collected Poems of George Seferis (1967) and of C.P. Cavafy (1975) and Selected Poems by Angelos Sikelianos (1979) and Odysseus Elytis (1981). The importance of these translations is indicated by the fact that both Seferis and Elytis went on to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, after their work had become known in the non-Greek-speaking world.
A frequent theme in Sherrard’s writing was his impassioned attempt to avert an oncoming environmental catastrophe. He saw the world’s ecological crisis as evidence of a larger spiritual crisis and sought always to “emphasize the living relevance of the Orthodox spiritual tradition in a fragmented secular world.”[5]. He produced a number of works developing this theme, including The Sacred in Life and Art, Human Image: World Image: The Death and Resurrection of Sacred Cosmology, and The Rape of Man and Nature.
Among the works for which he is best known (together with his collaborators Kallistos Ware and Gerald Palmer) is the complete translation of the ‘’Philokalia’’, a compendium of mystical writings by the spiritual fathers of the Orthodox church. 1998 saw the posthumous publication of Christianity: Lineaments of a Sacred Tradition, a collection of articles dealing with subjects such as Tradition, death and dying, the problem of evil, and the revival of contemplative hesychast spirituality.



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