Richard Cobb was a history don at Balliol, eccentric in a college where oddness is almost routine. He was small and thin, not very prepossessing. Jeremy Lewis, his editor at Chatto & Windus, described him as ‘like a freshly skinned rabbit, red and blue all over and faintly clammy to the touch’. He was certainly memorable to those he taught; Tim Hilton remembered an ‘utter disregard for decorum and discipline. I still hear the French martial music and the crashing of glasses. He was both an example of the scholarly life and a lord of misrule.’ Out of college he was memorable too: Lewis wrote of walking with him after a lunch where as always he’d had plenty to drink. ‘Suddenly, ramrod stiff and with no bending of the knees, Cobb toppled over backwards. His head was only inches from the pavement when I caught him, like Nureyev catching Fonteyn . . .’ Alcohol and anarchy were always magnets. There was no gathering so distinguished he’d avoid being thrown out of it.