Sheridan Baker

Sheridan Baker, educator and author, passed away at St. Joseph’s Mercy Hospital June 30 after a short illness.

In World War II, he served more than six years with the U.S. Navy on destroyers in both the Atlantic and Pacific theatres, attaining the rank of Lt. Commander.

He received his B.A. and advanced degrees at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was a member of Phi Gamma Delta.

Sheridan began his distinguished career in English literature at the University of Michigan in 1950 and retired as an emeritus professor in 1984.

He received a Fulbright lectureship at the University of Nagoya, Japan, in 1961 and a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship in Bellagio, Italy, in 1978. He received the U-M Distinguished Service Award in 1960.

He used his editorial talents on many publications, including the Michigan Quarterly Review in 1964–71.

He was a published poet as well as an 18th-century scholar with an abiding interest in the writings of Henry Fielding. He published articles about Fielding’s work and scholarly editions of Tom Jones and Shamela. He also was very interested in the teaching of writing, and wrote books of rhetoric, which included many editions of The Practical Stylist, The Essayist, The Complete Stylist and The Practical Imagination.

He also published Ernest Hemingway: An Introduction and Interpretation and The Harper Handbook to Literature.

“Baker was probably the faculty member in our department best known nationally, partly through his best-selling composition text, The Practical Stylist, and partly because of his work on Fielding,” said Richard W. Bailey, professor of English. “He had a sharp eye for detail and was proud of the fact that his edition of Tom Jones (for Norton) was superior textually to the ‘definitive’ collected-works volume published by Wesleyan.

“In his young days as a faculty member, he published poetry in The New Yorker, entered into controversy about usage as represented in the 1961 Merriam-Webster dictionary and wrote an influential book on Hemingway.

“He was a good citizen of the University in many ways,” Bailey added, “not least in sustaining (by editing it) the Michigan Quarterly Review during a low point in support for creative work here. Each issue began with a genial essay, ‘On the Diagonal.’ He was a wonderful teacher and, as his hearing began to decline in the early ’60s, felt obliged to take early retirement because he could not easily teach the large, popular and (alas) noisy classes that had made him famous.

“He was a good man.”

Baker’s hobbies were traveling, tennis, reading and gardening.

He was born in Santa Rosa, Calif., July 10, 1918, the son of Juliet Shaw and Sheridan Warner Baker.

Baker is survived by his wife, Sally; his son, William; his daughters, Elizabeth (Robert) Abbe and Libby (James) Walton; grandsons, Thomas Abbe and Brian Lagler; and sister, Mary Elizabeth (Richard) Bylin of Corona, Calif.

Memorial contributions may be made to the charity of one’s choice.

Submitted by the family and the Department of English


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