James Platt—-Felixstowe’s genius linguist

 

Platt OED picDiscovered in an album of cuttings is this obituary of James Platt ( 1859 – 1910), one of the most distinguished philologists of his day.

‘English philology has suffered a heavy loss by the death of Mr James Platt, jun. at the age of 49 at his residence at Felixstowe.

Probably no living philologist could vie with Mr Platt for variety of knowledge. He had a thorough knowledge of all European languages, and a fair acquaintance with every known language, ancient or modern and a special taste for those which were out of the way, such as, for instance, those spoken on the American Continent, from Patagonian to Eskimo, and on the latter language he wrote a brilliant for the ‘Athenaeum’ a few years ago. He possessed a phenomenal memory and an astonishing range of reading. During recent years he had translated many beautiful Eastern poems which had not previously been rendered in English verse…’

The obituarist also refers to Platt’s valuable contributions to Notes and Queries and most notably his participation in James Murray’s Oxford English Dictionary project, where he identified ‘ strange alien words ‘.Unfortunately, Platt never lived to see Murray’s great dictionary published, and after an illness of two years he died at the age of 49, leaving a widow and a little girl named Irene. On her own death in 1990 it was discovered that Irene had bequeathed £250,000 to the University of East Anglia to establish the Platt Centre for ‘the study and teaching of modern foreign languages.’

[R.M.Healey]

 

 

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