Preposterously Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord…

And in the Big News today from a Faith Perspective, it’s the anniversary of some works of literature. Great literature is deeply involved with words. Judeo-Christian tradition (but not any other major Abrahamic religion) makes extensive use of words, making it great religion. Some people just talk and write rubbish.

There is nothing else in the news today.


3 thoughts on “Preposterously Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord…

  1. Several years ago I read some of the ‘ripping yarns’ of Dornford Yates, a popular novelist of the 1920s and ‘30s. His characters were mainly upper class, and the adventures were often set on the Riviera, where the heroes drove about in Rolls Royce motor cars. The books are (thankfully) largely forgotten today, but were an interesting genre for study. My favourite was “She fell among thieves,” which was actually dramatised for BBC TV in the ‘70s.

    What struck me about Yates’ writing was his frequent use of quotations from the Book of Common Prayer, and its Psalter. His contemporary readers would have recognised these, without a doubt, but I think I was unusual – having been a cathedral chorister – in knowing them, and their source, as a modern reader.

    The C of E has, of course, long since abandoned its Book of Common Prayer (or ‘the Prayer Book’) in favour of numerous modern revisions, and its services are now filled with a confusing range of contemporary doggerel. The whole purpose of the BCP is lost, as the single text of 1662 was intended to unify the Church in the provision of a single service book. The recent fragmentation, and pick-and-mix approach must surely have contributed to the decline in church attendance; though of course is not solely responsible. Worshippers have lost a solid footing in the form of the Prayer Book, which most people would have known almost by heart – and certainly well enough to recognise references in Dornford Yates, and indeed many other writers. So, the C of E has tinkered with its literary heritage at great cost to itself; not least because much of Cranmer’s writing, and Coverdale’s translation of the Psalms, are things of great beauty, of which modern congregations are now deprived.

    As Alan Bennett said, “going into a church today knowing the Prayer Book is like going into a disco knowing how to dance the Valeta.”


  2. Liverpudlian, I think you’re the first person I’ve ever come across who’s also read any Dornford Yates! It must be nearly 60 years since I last did so, but I still remember him as pretty funny in places, as well as snobbish, vulgar and racist to an extent that must make the books unreadable today.

    But I also recall the references to the BCP, and the unspoken assumption (probably justified, when Yates was writing) that most readers would get the allusions. The 1662 BCP is perfectly understandable today, if people only put their minds to it, and the CofE has done itself great damage by abandoning it for what Private Eye called “the Alternative Rocky Horror Service Book”.

    The same is true of the King James Bible. I have just been reading “Books Do Furnish a Life”, a collection of Richard Dawkins’s book reviews, interviews, etc, which includes the transcript of the final interview that Christopher Hitchens gave before he died. There is a lovely section where these two fervent atheists join together in dissing modern translations of the Bible, eg replacing “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity” with “Futile, futile, said the priest. It’s all futile”. (The book also includes the passage from “Unweaving the Rainbow”, which begins “We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones”, which Dawkins has said he wants to be read at his funeral). The CofE has a rare talent for shooting itself in the foot.


    1. Haha! Fancy that. I can’t imagine that D. Yates is much read any more, though; as you suggest, the books would be virtually unreadable. There is, as you point out, a degree of humour in them, which I’d forgotten. Despite their creakiness I really enjoyed them; he could spin a good tale.

      I feel the ‘revisions’ of the prayer book fall into the same category as attempts to ‘update’ Shakespeare. The ‘Rocky Horror Service Book’ was pure genius; I looked forward to every rapier-sharp new parody.


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