Cheers For Charles And Chatterley

Some years ago I went across the ocean, having been invited, surprisingly, to lecture at an ancient university. My topic compelled some consideration of an English king who lost his head, the tercentenary of which “melancholy scene” had elicited some abrasive comments from modern Puritan scholars. Before I embarked on my first lecture, a venerable clergyman approached me and intoned sepulchrally: “Speak a good word for King Charles the Martyr.” I did. And said one for O. Cromwell, too, which holy wobbling did a power of no good to my listeners and reputation.

I had forgotten the incident till the other day when I read in a learned journal an article by John Robinson, the retiring Bishop of Woolwich. Reviewing his ten years in that post, he contrived to do so without once mentioning God, much less essaying any speak-a-good-wordiness. I of course exclude the unwitting reference into which he was betrayed in referring to the title Honest to God.

Incidentally this best-seller, his participation in the New English Bible translation, and his testimony in court to the wholesome influence of Lady Chatterley’s Lover he refers to as “three success stories of the past decade.” With this moving gesture of defiance he went off to be dean of Trinity College, with which the heir-apparent to the British throne is connected. It is comforting to know that the latter, though another Charles, is a sensible young man whose head is unlikely to be moved by latter-day opponents of divine right.

You will find no coyness about naming the name of God in Dorothy L. Sayers’s essay “The Shattering Dogmas of the Christian Tradition” (in Christian Letters to a Post-Christian ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.