'Few people,' said the Mothers' Union Journal, speaking of Harry Williams, 'can make being human more thrilling, more worthwhile, and more fun.' It is something to live down. It might be thought that a former lecturer in theology, now a member of a religious order, would have a better chance than most of doing so. The matter hangs in the balance, however, when one opens this autobiography at random to find that one is in that delicate territory in which saints have fun. The vicar of St Barnabas, Pimlico, here characterised as one of that exalted order, had it - loved it, in fact. When one learns that this vicar, on his birthday, 'used to give us all a lavish dinner at Kettner's', one may, without being a great connoisseur of the clergy, think that one begins to have some clue as to the sort of priest he was. It was in this parish that Williams elected to serve his first curacy. Open the book again, however, and one finds: 'I believe that the Religious (monastic) Life can be lived fruitfully only if those who enter it are constantly aware that they have done so, not because they are more spiritual than others, but because they are less so.' Perhaps the Mothers' Union Journal has not got the whole story. At any rate, one would have to read the book to find out.
LRB 2 December 1982 | PDF Download