In Memoriam: Corinne Comstock Weston
Janelle Greenberg, September 2004
From the In Memoriam column of the September 2004 Perspectives
Corinne Comstock Weston, formerly professor of history at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, Lehman College, and the University of Houston, died on November 11, 2002, after a long illness. She is survived by Arthur Weston, her husband of over 50 years, brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews. Weston's professional career ranged far and wide, stretching from political thought and legal theory in Stuart England to the reform of parliament, especially the House of Lords, in the 19th and 20th centuries. Her scholarly talents were early in evidence. After graduating first in her class from the University of Maine in 1937, Weston went to Columbia University, where she studied with Robert Livingston Schuyler. Her dissertation, English Constitutional Theories and the House of Lords, 1556–1832, published by Columbia University Press in 1965, established her as an up-and-coming young scholar. One of the work's most valuable contributions was the discovery that Charles I's Answer to the 19 Propositions (1642), with its definition of and comments on the three estates of the realm, played a seminal role in the political and legal thought not only of the civil wars but of the entire early modern period.
Weston's interest in Stuart constitutional law and political thought resulted in numerous seminal articles published in the English Historical Review, the Historical Journal, the Cambridge History of Political Thought, Representative Institutions in Theory and Practice: Studies Presented to the International Commission for the History of Representative and Parliamentary Institutions, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, and the History of Political Thought. In 1981 Cambridge University Press published Subjects and Sovereigns: The Grand Controversy Over Legal Sovereignty in Stuart Britain, which she wrote with this author. This work drew heavily on Weston's continuing research into the impact of Charles I's Answer to the 19 Propositions and provided new insights into the "century of revolution."
In the last two decades of her working life Weston turned her eye toward 19th- and 20th-century parliamentary history, in particular the reform of the House of Lords. This interest resulted in multiple articles in the English Historical Review and the Historical Journal and chapters in edited volumes. In 1995 the American Philosophical Society published her monograph, The House of Lords and Ideological Politics: Lord Salisbury's Referendal Theory and the Conservative Party, 1846–1922, which won the John Frederick Lewis Award conferred on the American Philosophical Society's outstanding publication of the year.
Corinne Weston was as impressive a teacher of history as she was a scholar. She cared deeply about her students, both undergraduate and graduate. I can say this with certainty, having been both. She was a riveting lecturer, supremely knowledgeable, exuberant, and profoundly and genuinely interested in her topic. Her undergraduates flocked around her after class and filled her office both in and out of designated office hours. To graduate students she gave unstintingly and generously of her time and energy, turning that razor-sharp, analytical mind to our papers, theses, and dissertations. She typically greeted our outpourings of thanks with such remarks as "Oh, I so enjoyed reading your work. I learned a lot"—a graciousness that did not, however, prevent her from covering our papers, on both sides, with comments and criticisms. Indeed, I still write with her looking over my shoulder, urging me to be less prolix, to find more evidence for my assertions, to be less tentative, and always—always!—to check footnotes. Finally, for the women among us she was a superb model of how to be an assured, assertive professional in what was then a male-dominated culture. Hers is a noble legacy.
University of Pittsburgh