By George Mauzy
Ohio University Distinguished Professor emeritus of English literature Roma King passed away in August, but not before he left his mark on the literary world.
He is best known for his editorial work on the poems of English poet and playwright Robert Browning.
In the late 1960s, King teamed up with other nationally renowned Browning scholars to launch the first volume of "The Complete Works of Robert Browning" published by Ohio University Press in 1969. The final volume, number XVII, will be published in 2010. He also gained notoriety for his 1957 book "The Bow and the Lyre: The Art of Robert Browning."
"The Bow and the Lyre was a milestone in criticism of Robert Browning and Victorian poetry in general," said Susan Crowl, King's friend and former English department colleague. "The book revealed Browning to be a precursor of T.S. Eliot and modernism and was widely influential and controversial. Roma was a key figure in a key period in the history of literary criticism."
King passed away on Aug. 17 in Dallas at the age of 94. He is survived by his wife of 67 years, Lucille; daughter Wendy King Jarvis of Cincinnati, and sons Anthony King of Louisiana and Christopher King of Texas. He had four grandchildren and one great granddaughter.
Outside of his scholarship, King was ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church in 1969 and served as Canon of the Cathedral in Dallas for almost 30 years.
"Roma King did not think writing criticism and scholarly editing was all about him but about the literature that he was devoted to," said Ashby Bland Crowder, a Hendrix (Ark.) College English professor. "He held an abiding interest in poetry, drama, and art -- and especially in the poetry of Robert Browning. He added significantly to the world's understanding of that poet.
"I owe a great deal to Roma King because he invited me to join his band of Browning editors in 1972, and that gesture gave me a chance to grow to know him and the many other fine people that he had gathered together to produce the Ohio University Browning edition. He also was an excellent teacher who especially enjoyed discussing the connections between painting and poetry."
Park Honan, a prominent biographer and retired professor from England said King will be missed and his literary contributions will live on.
"His work will remain fresh both for those who knew him and for new readers," Honan said. "His gifts were unusual in quality and in combination of first-rate intelligence, literary sensitivity and enthusiasm, and personal generosity and capacity for friendship."