Peter Broome obituary

Other lives: Gifted teacher, communicator and literary critic who specialised in modern French poetry

Peter Broome, who has died aged 81, was a gifted teacher, communicator and literary critic who specialised in modern French poetry, writing important books on Charles Baudelaire, Henri Michaux and other literary figures. He was also a poet and collaborated with a number of French contemporaries, translating the work of André Frénaud and Louise Herlin.

Peter was born in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, to Walter Broome, a warehouseman, and his wife, Lily (nee Jepson). He attended the town’s King Edward VII grammar school and after a BA and a PhD in French at Nottingham University, in 1962 was appointed to a lectureship in French at Monash University in Australia.

He returned to the UK in 1966 to take up a post in the French department at Queen’s University Belfast, where I had the good fortune to be one of his undergraduates and where he remained until his retirement, as a professor of French, in 2002.

For generations of students at Queen’s, Peter was a passionate and devoted teacher. Standing in class with a volume of French poetry as his only prompt, he would deliver inspirational lectures on Baudelaire, Mallarmé and Rimbaud. His attentiveness as a reader extended to his marking of students’ work, and undergraduate translations and essays would invariably be returned with copious marginal comments and corrections, beautifully crafted and pointing to a close and generous engagement with his students.

He was also admired by colleagues for his professionalism and loyalty – and for what one of them, in a preface to a collection of studies and poems in Peter’s honour published in 2005, called “his magnificent example over the years”. He was a regular participant in the annual French departmental play and relished the team work that came with it.

Beyond university life, Peter and his wife, Di (nee Walker), a nurse, whom he had met at school and married in 1959, were keen ballroom dancers. He spoke of that pastime with the same zest and seriousness that he brought to his work as an academic and teacher.

On retirement he continued to publish extensively. He and Di moved to rural Burgundy for a number of years, living in what had been Frénaud’s home, before later returning to Britain.

He is survived by Di and by their two sons, Jeremy and Tim.

Edward Hughes

The GuardianTramp

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