Just after bonfire night in 1989, Stephen Medcalf, who was tickled by the idea of being photographed at home, wrote to me , ‘I do not promise not to tidy it a bit … a clergyman in Norfolk told me what my room looked like from the way I sat in my chair at breakfast, he said he could see all my books would be ranged round where I could reach out for them without getting up. ‘

Stephen Medcalf at home, December 1989

Previous occupants at 61, New Road in Lewes, a terraced cottage on the hill just under the castle, had painted a jungle-scape after Le Douanier Rousseau above the front room chimney piece, and Stephen had hung his family portraits against it. After lunch at the Lewes Arms he posed serenely, cross-legged in front of the fireplace and Magus-like on the doorstep. The photographs lay in a drawer until he died in 2007.

Stephen Medcalf (1936-2007), English scholar, academic , bibliophile and mystic, taught at the University of Sussex from 1963 until 2002.

Books were his merchandise and eclectic dog-eared volumes from second-hand bookstalls were his chosen tokens of favour. Here he was in his element, like a troglodyte in his cave camouflaged against tannin-soaked carpets and brown leather bindings.

He said that he would like to have the slogan, ‘THERE ARE NO BORING THINGS ONLY BORED PEOPLE,’  tattoed on his back and chest in red and green and gold and black.

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