By Philip Deacon
I first met David at Cambridge University some four decades ago, and, having often shared the same research preferences in eighteenth-century studies, I have never ceased to admire him for his outstanding qualities and multiple talents. He has always been approachable, and which of us, after a gap since last seeing him in person, can fail to recognize that more than a hint of a smile which makes clear that he is prepared for conversation and to share thoughts (and gossip) on the state of Hispanism, eighteenth-century studies and more especially the activities of friends in common. And that spirit of camaraderie and fellowship bears tribute to the humanity of David, our mutual friend. One cannot imagine him being nasty – ever. He thinks the best of people and that is how he treats them. The same humanity permeates his devotion to 18th-century studies, which made a virtue out of concern for fellow humans and the flourishing of human kind. His belief in people is plainly evident, and his devotion to friends has often drawn him to act in almost impossible ways in offering his support. Those who have benefited from it will know what I mean.
If David asks you to write something you feel flattered and want to participate. From previous experience you know he can tap the talents of the best in the field, so a request from him is an invitation to do your best; and you enjoy working for him, reminding yourself that he thought you capable. “Dieciocheros”, as one of our mutual friends refers to eighteenth-century scholars, could not have a finer champion. The fact that he edits Dieciocho, always striving to publish the best, means he has enriched one of the veteran titles in our field. And, of course, we know that David also finds time for the 19th-century and more recent Spanish culture.
David’s joie de vivre infects everything he does, and he brings that exuberance to academic matters. Hearing him lecture you know will be both fun and serious, as well as significant and provocative. David enriches any academic Unigathering he attends, and those who know him well expect to see him surrounded by new acquaintances because his reputation precedes him.
So, we are in awe of his energy; we admire his commitment to things he (and we) believe in; we cannot believe someone of his academic stature can be so “nice”; we are incapable of figuring out how he finds time to sleep, given what he has achieved; we are amazed at his eclecticism – he appears to have few negative tastes. So…… thinking that he is officially retiring does not convince us that he will change. And those grandchildren will ensure his eternal youth endures and endures. What a guy!