The following is a message of mine posted today in response to a daughter of my former English teacher, Robert W. Tighe.
In your Facebook post of March 23, you said, regarding your father: “[his] chosen occupation aligned with his passions, in his case for learning, and sharing his love of learning with others, as well as for language and the role language plays in shaping our understanding of the human experience throughout history and the role it plays in the present as a tool for influencing the thoughts and actions of others.”
Very true, I believe.
From my experience of your father as a teacher, I would say that some things that drove him were:
a love of books, reading, and language;
hatred (if one can use such a strong term) of pomposity and obfuscation in writing and in written and oral expression in general; an abhorrence of cant.
It seemed that this would cause him at times to be impatient and to be a harsh critic.
He was no phony or fake and he didn’t like it when others “put on airs,” so to speak, when writing, declaiming, or participating in a conversation or class discussion; when someone would try to conceal their lack of knowledge, or grasp and penetration of issues, behind a “smokescreen” of bad writing.
He had no use for mawkish, flowery, or overblown language when used to impress the reader or show off.
He was constantly inveighing against excess verbiage and wasted words. His summum bonum was clarity.
I had a close friend from another town in New England. His father was chairman of the English department in the local high school. Once, when I was visiting, my friend took me upstairs and showed me some of his father’s students’ papers. There was an A paper by a star student, a girl. My friend’s father had written comments praising it highly. I read some of the paper and, being a student of Mr. Tighe, immediately realized that it was a God awful paper. It was insipid, mushy writing of the kind your father would have detested.
A few additional comments.
Your father loved Samuel Johnson. I was told by someone that he had read Bowell’s Life of Johnson something like nine times. One can see why this affinity existed. Samuel Johnson hated cant and hypocrisy, and would skewer with verbal repartee — with his (Johnson’s) legendary wit and sarcasm — anyone who engaged in it.
Your father taught me to read poetry. Sort of. Which is to say that I never really had an ear for poetry or much of an ability to understated it. But, your father would have us reading John Donne, William Blake, or T. S. Eliot and understanding it, getting to the heart of the poem, and, once I could manage to do this, loving the poetry for its ingenuity and beauty.
— Roger W. Smith
March 25, 2016