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OBITUARY: Isaac Shapiro.

WHEN the conversation drifted to the great figures in English literature,as inevitably it would, tones which dismissed any notion of guesswork or speculation broke from the prominent lips of the magisterial academic,from whose pointed chin there strayed grizzled whiskers.

It was a face,often seen in its younger days by pupils at Cowley School,St Helens,and students at Liverpool University.

Isaac Avi Shapiro,known to his students and friends as ``Shap'', taught at Cowley for the Workers' Educational Association after leaving Birmingham University in 1925 with a MA in English and enough awards to tilt a shelf.

After two years in St Helens,he became the William Noble Research Fellow at Liverpool University, winning more awards during his two years there,before moving to Manchester University.

It was on Merseyside that Shapiro met his wife Pauline Harris. They married in 1932.

From 1935 until 1970 he was a lecturer and then senior lecturer in English at Birmingham University, where Pauline was appointed the senior lecturer in social administration. They had two sons.

Shapiro was born to Russian emigres,Solomon and Sarah,and in 1946 he was offered the chair of English literature at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, which he declined.

Elizabethan and Jacobean literature was his specialty and it was said that nobody knew more about John Donne, the poet,adventurer,erotic balladeer, womaniser, divine and father of at least 12, than the bespectacled scholar from Birmingham.

Little of his knowledge was committed to paper, but the information stored in his head was prodigious.

Although he had little time for fashionable theories,Shapiro did not expect his students to follow him like sheep. On one occasion,he was describing Jane Austen's young days as the daughter of a village blacksmith. His words were noted faithfully, before Shapiro advised them that they had been wasting their time. Austen was the daughter of a clergyman.

The pursuit of truth was the bedrock of his life.

Isaac Shapiro,lecturer and scholar Born November 7, 1904; died March 14, 2004.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 25, 2004
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