Born: May 31, 1929;

Died: January 11, 2021.

LIONEL Gossman, late Emeritus Professor at Princeton University in New Jersey, America, was described by his colleague Francois Rigolot as “one of the great humanists and scholar teachers of his generation.”

Born in Glasgow in 1929, Lionel grew up in Pollokshields and after schooling graduated MA in French and German from Glasgow University in 1951. He completed his diplome d’etudes superieures at the Sorbonne the following year and graduated Ph.D from Oxford in 1958.

A short period of teaching at Glasgow was followed by a move to John Hopkins University, Baltimore, where, in 1975, he was appointed Chair of the Department of Romance Languages. He left for Princeton in 1976, initially in a similar capacity, and retired as Emeritus Professor in 1999.

Lionel, who never wearied of pointing out to his colleagues, and to everyone else, that Princeton was founded by a fellow Scot, John Witherspoon, served on the publications board of several American university presses and on the editorial boards of learned journals.

Many honours came his way during a distinguished career, including the Ordre des Palmes Academiques and an honorary doctorate from his adoptive Princeton. He was being considered for a similar honorary doctorate from Glasgow University at the time of his death.

Lionel specialised mainly in the French literature and history of the 17th and 18th centuries, on which he taught and wrote widely, earning

an international reputation. In retirement the appetite for research and publication did not diminish; he published studies on the origins of German nationalism and Nazi ideology, and began to re-connect with his past.

He was an ardent lover of his native Glasgow, a love amounting almost to a passion, and he frequently revisited the city to see relatives or on holiday.

In 2015 he published Thomas Annan Of Glasgow; Pioneer Of Documentary Photography, which described the “grimy gritty working class city where I was born”. This book had a special resonance for him, as his graduation photograph was take in the then still-functioning Annan studio in 1951.

This was the year of Glasgow University’s 500th anniversary, which he remembered for another reason: “I’ll never forget the fireworks display. Nothing I have ever seen anywhere else comes close to what Glasgow University created on that occasion.”

The Annan book was followed by A Stained Glass Masterpiece In Victorian Glasgow; Stephen Adam’s Celebration Of Industrial Labour, which analysed the “original and beautiful stained glass panels of 1877 realistically representing the workers in the dynamic modern industries of Victorian Glasgow.” These publications he described as his “going home in spirit to the place where I spent my formative years.”

In 2017 he published Scottish Publishers And English Literature, showing how important those printing houses were, and also – as one of Mungo’s bairns – relishing pointing out how many of them were actually based in Glasgow, rather than Edinburgh. These later Glasgow investigations confirmed what another Princeton colleague, Suzanne Nash, said of him: “he chose subjects whose achievements had been forgotten or neglected, digging into archives to bring them out of obscurity.”

I got to know Lionel through our mutual passion for Glasgow’s history and culture, and he graciously commended my Glasgow writings as “remarkable, if I may say so, for an Aberdonian.” Over the last

six years we carried out an extensive correspondence; I was continually impressed by the alertness of his mind, the enormous capacity he had for intellectual work, and his enthusiasm for his chosen subjects.

The exchanges were also full of fascinating information from Lionel about his early life in Glasgow:

“I remember when youngsters could travel an entire tram route for a ha’penny and I did, I went all over the then vast network,” he recalled.

But nostalgia never clouded his vision of the past. As a lifelong socialist he spoke of canvassing for the ILP (Independent Labour Party) in the Gorbals as a student, “when I did see something of the horrific living conditions, seven or eight people in a single end.

He told me of his wartime experiences when evacuated to schooling in Largs, where he was clearly a model pupil and teachers’ pet, though not without his flaws, hiding from the rabbi who came down from Glasgow to give him Hebrew lessons. He wrote of his mother, Sarah Gold, a second-generation immigrant growing up in the Gorbals Jewish community in the early 20th century.

His father, Norman, was a Londoner who moved to Glasgow for work. The family had a middle-class tenement in Pollokshields with two bedrooms, bathroom and kitchen, and they took in a Czech Jewish refugee, Margit Freudenberg, in the 1930s.

Sadly, despite my nudgings, autobiography never attracted his pen. Lionel came home in spirit to his native city through his later publications; alas, illness prevented him making that final physical pilgrimage.

He is survived by his wife Eva (nee Reinitz), a Holocaust survivor, and director of the board of admissions and later associate dean at Princeton, and by his daughter Janice, an art teacher.

Ian R. Mitchell