Scope and Contents
The papers listed here comprise a small miscellany of items concerning the life and work of Jean Young, including some personal and biographical material, a small quantity of correspondence, and some of her published work and research notes.
Biographical / Historical
Jean Isobel Young was born in Lowestoft on 30 April 1903, the eldest of four children of James Thomas Young, an inspector of taxes, and Marian Glen Scott. She attended several schools, as the family moved frequently. At the last, Sydenham Girls’ High School, she won a scholarship to read English at Girton, coming up in 1921. There she began her lifelong dedication to the early languages and cultures of northwest Europe, especially Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse, which was largely inspired at Girton by Bertha Phillpotts.
Jean Young became an Amelia Gurney Research Scholar in 1924 and lived in Dublin for a time while preparing a doctoral thesis on the representation of Ireland in the Icelandic sagas, gaining her PhD in 1929. She shared Girton’s Gamble Prize in 1934 for an essay entitled ‘Norse Influence on Early Irish Prose’.
She taught English at Tonbridge High School from 1929-32 and then spent a year as a translator at the British Legation in Copenhagen. She moved to the English Department of Reading University in 1933, where she remained until her retirement in 1968, eventually becoming Reader in 1955. She was also a Tutor for the Workers’ Educational Association in Reading, 1942-45, and a Tutor in Norwegian for the College of the Sea, 1942-44.
Jean Young travelled widely, including work on a farm in Iceland during the summer of 1936. She is mentioned in W H Auden’s ‘Letters from Iceland’.
She published many journal articles and translations from Old Norse and was still undertaking translation work at the age of 87. In addition to her academic work, Jean was a keen gardener and an accomplished musician (cello player and singer). She also wrote and translated poetry: a collection of her poems was published in America for her eightieth birthday.
Jean Young died on 25 November 1990. [These notes are derived from the Girton College Register Volume 1 and from an obituary in the University of Reading Bulletin January 1991, as reprinted in the Girton Review 1992.]