On July 27, Richard Rutt, one of the last of the great missionary scholars, passed away in England. Brother Anthony describes Rutt as:
Richard Rutt was the last of the line of scholar-missionaries that began with James Scarth Gale, Homer B. Hulbert, George Heber Jones and the Anglican bishop Mark Napier Trollope, the pioneers who laid the foundation of what is now known as Korean studies.
On arriving in Korea, he began to explore in great depth its language, culture and history, as well as Classical Chinese. He was an active member of the Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch, serving on the council, overseeing its publications and serving as its president in 1974. He published several scholarly papers in the RASKB’s journal, Transactions, which reveal his deep knowledge of the Classical Chinese used in pre-modern Korea.
His deep affection for the traditional culture of Korea, which had almost ceased to exist by the time he arrived, was particularly expressed in his popular 1978 volume, “Korean Works and Days: Notes from the Diary of a Country Priest.” His most outstanding work of scholarship, apart from his translations, must be his annotated edition of the “History of the Korean People” by James Scarth Gale, which was first published in 1927. It includes a thoroughly researched biography and bibliography of the author.
Rutt was fascinated by traditional, formal “sijo” and older forms of Korean poetry in general. This led to the publication in 1971 of “The Bamboo Grove: An Introduction to Sijo,” containing pioneering translations of many of the most celebrated Korean sijo. Like Gale, Rutt was deeply interested in Classical Chinese, and after his retirement he published a new translation of the challenging ancient Chinese classic, “The Book of Changes” in 1996.
I have always enjoyed his research and regret never having had the opportunity of meeting him. May he rest in peace.