Old English Newsletter


Back  |  Print


In Memoriam: Bernard F. Huppé (1911-89)


A Remembrance by Sylvia Huntley Horowitz and Allen Eller

Bernard F. Huppé died the evening of Thursday, March 2, 1989, after meeting his undergraduate honors class, "The Sacred and Profane Love Machine." At seventy-seven, knowing his heart would not last much longer, he could not stay away from teaching or from the topic he still felt compelled to explore: love.

A special volume of Mediaevalia in his honor (Volume 6, 1980) details the important events of his life – his education at Amherst and New York University, his many publications, his service to the profession and to Binghamton – and contains an essay by Aldo Bernardo describing his Augustinian approach to medieval literature. Thus, we will remember more recent years.

Barney "retired" and moved to Maine in 1981. There he put the finishing touches on a long-contemplated critical translation of Beowulf (The Hero in the Earthly City, Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 33 [1984]) He was working on a revision aimed at undergraduates when his beloved wife, Mary Lois, died.

Not long after, Barney decided to return to his friends in Binghamton to teach, to read, and to write. Here he brought the student edition of Beowulf to completion. At the same time, he wrote yet another book (almost ready for press at his death) of translations with commentary on Old English poems, served as a reader for Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, and graced the English Department's classrooms.

During his distinguished career, Barney fought many an academic and departmental battle, but we think his recounting of a battle outside academe most captures his spirit:

In World War II I was serving – with Chaucerian inappropriateness – with the Corps of Engineers in Normandy, during the breakthrough.... The Luftwaffe had begun low-level night bombings aimed at personnel. I got to a new hedgerow field encampment too late to dig my usual foxhole, and simply curled up in my bedroll. Later I heard a plane, low and heading on a direct line for our field. I jumped for a hedgerow as the first bomb fell on the adjoining field (they came usually, as I recall, in sticks of four), a second, then a third. I crawled my way into the hedgerow and waited for the immediately overhead fourth. It didn't fall, or I had miscounted, and the plane droned off. I let out my breath, and then, with no thought, immediately from my subconscious, I found myself saying, not a prayer, but "Tehee, quod she, and clapte the window to." What this means I am not sure, but I think it should be reported, "Or elles falsen som of my mateere." (A Reading of the Canterbury Tales [1964], pp. 84-85)

Those of us who were privileged to know Barney – as our mentor, our colleague, and our friend – feel his loss keenly. He left a legacy of scholarship. Even more, he bequeathed us the gift of his laughter, the laughter of a caring and sensitive man, immensely learned, who appreciated life and enjoyed its ironies, and who shared his joy with us.

OEN 22.2 (1989): 12.