MacCALLUM, Sir Mungo William (1854-1942)

MacCALLUM, Sir Mungo William (1854-1942)
son of Mungo MacCallum, was born at Glasgow on 26 February 1854. He was educated at Glasgow high school and university (M.A. 1876, Hon. LL.D. 1906), and at Leipzig and Berlin universities. At Glasgow he was awarded the Luke Fellowship for literature, philosophy, and classics. He was appointed professor of English literature and history at the University College of Wales in 1879, and in 1884 published his first book, Studies in Low German and High German Literature. About the end of 1886 he was appointed professor of modern languages at the university of Sydney. He held this chair for 34 years, and saw the number of students at the university grow from about 250 to 3300. In 1894 he published his Tennyson's Idylls of the King and Arthurian Story from the XVIth Century, in which he discussed the sources of the legends and the Arthurian literature in English from Malory to Matthew Arnold and Tennyson. His most interesting and important volume, however, was his Shakespeare's Roman Plays and their Background, published in 1910 and reprinted in 1925, which gave him an assured place in Shakespearian scholarship. In 1913 he published In Memory of Albert Bythesea Weigall, an excellent example of a short biography, in which eulogy is tempered by humour and sense of proportion. He was taking much interest in the administrative side of the university, was a member of the senate from 1898, dean of the faculty of arts from the same year to 1920, and outside the university, had other appointments, including that of trustee of the public library of New South Wales. He was chairman of trustees from 1906 to 1912.
When MacCallum gave up his chair in 1920 he was appointed professor emeritus and continued his interest in his school and the university. He was acting-warden and warden in 1923-4, vice-chancellor 1924-7, deputy-chancellor 1928-34, and chancellor 1934-6. When he resigned the chancellorship at the end of 1936, a special meeting of the senate was held so that testimony could be given, not only concerning the remarkable work of MacCallum during his 50 years connexion with the university, but also his influence as a teacher and a man. During these years of administrative work his interest in literature never flagged. He gave addresses to the English Association at Sydney, and in 1925 at the invitation of the British Academy he gave the Warton lecture, taking as his subject, "The Dramatic Monologue in the Victorian Period". He was also given the honorary degree of D.Litt. by Oxford University in this year. In 1930 he brought out Queen Jezebel; Fragments of an Imaginary Biography in Dramatised Dialogue, his least successful piece of work. It has its better moments, but there is often a curious disregard of the nuances of blank verse. His prose addresses of this period, however, show no falling off in his mental powers. The last of these to be published was his address on "Scott's Equipment in Attainments and Character for his Literary Work", which was delivered in his seventy-eighth year. He died at Sydney on 3 September 1942. He married in 1882 Dorette Margaretha Peters who survived him with a daughter and a son, Colonel W. P. MacCallum. Another son, who was Rhodes scholar in 1906, died in 1934. MacCallum, was created K.C.M.G. in 1926. He was a great influence in the rapidly-growing university of his time, and his eloquence, scholarship and wisdom left a lasting impression on it. His portrait by Longstaff (q.v.) is in the Great Hall of the university of Sydney.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 September 1942; E. Morris Miller, Australian Literature, which lists his published addresses; Calendars of the University of Sydney, 1937 and earlier Years; Debrett's Peerage, etc., 1940; Burke's Peerage, etc., 1937.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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