Nicholas Linfield, a longtime summer resident of Chilmark, died peacefully at home in Miami, Florida on December 23, 2013 with his wife, artist Susanna Caldwell, at his side. He was 73.
Born in Sanderstead, in the U.K., on February 14, 1940, his earliest memories included air raids and being evacuated from London as a toddler.
A graduate of Oxford University, Nicholas received his Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Texas, Austin, in 1969. He went on to teach at Wellesley, Tufts, and Brandeis.
In 1976, Nicholas and Jim Butterfield founded Boston Lunchtime Theater, affectionately known as BLT. Nicholas combined a career in theater with teaching literature. In his Boston years his performances were noted among the top ten of the theater season. He was a principal actor in Bernard Uzan’s French Theater in America throughout the 1970’s, as well as Reader for Joel Cohen’s Boston Camerata, an early music group. (A Medieval Christmas with its beautiful readings by Nicholas continues to be one of their best-selling CDs).
From 1983-1999, for 16 glorious, adventurous years, he taught, acted, and directed throughout the Middle East while based at universities in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Jordan. During his transition back to teaching in the States in 1999, Nicholas taught at Boston University and Babson College. A strong advocate for better teaching of critical thinking and close reading skills at the secondary level, in 2000 he became Head of the English Department at Miami Country Day School.
Nicholas was an outstanding teacher. In the words of one of his colleagues, he was “notable for his lively erudition, wonderful articulateness, naturalness and ease. The students would benefit simply by listening to him, but he knows how to draw out their best as well.” After courses with Nicholas, “almost every student was overflowing with enthusiasm for both their teacher and the subject.” Voicing a feeling shared by all who ever had the pleasure of discussing poetry with him, one student wrote, “He really enlightened me to how much a poem can yield.”
In addition to translations from French and German poetry, Nicholas published articles on the practice and principles of verse translation, and on major writers including Homer, Shakespeare, Dickens, and Baudelaire. Coupled with his gift for language was his extraordinary talent as a graphic artist in command of a beautiful fluid line. He created several exceptional collections of drawings that include “Altogether Fool” and “Schwa Zoo.”
His visual and verbal wit are clearly in evidence in the numerous drawings done spontaneously during conversations with friends and handed to them on the spot. He conceived his drawings with a compositional brilliance that he delivered flawlessly to the page with unhesitating assurance. It was dazzling and almost magical to watch his drawings unfurl from his pen.
Nicholas had a deep and loving connection with Martha’s Vineyard where he spent time annually from the time he was first introduced to the Island by Susanna in 1974 during their courtship.
Surviving Nicholas are his wife, Susanna, their two sons, David and Daniel, Nicholas’s first wife, Eva Linfield, their children, Tom and Katja, Nicholas’s two sisters, Carole Peters and Sandra Surrey, as well as five grandchildren.
The Linfield/Caldwell family extends their heartfelt thanks to all our many Island friends who make this beautiful Island such a cherished home. A gathering to celebrate Nicholas will take place in Chilmark in July 2014. Contact the family for details.