8 January 2010

Bishop Leonard: the obituaries

At last: a good perceptive obituary in the Times by someone who knows what he's (she's?*) talking about. The Grauniad was worst; it contrived to sneer at everything Bishop Graham stood for, and assured the gullible bigots who read that most dogmatically intolerant of newspapers that people like Bishop Leonard 'distrust' historical and theological research.

Read the Times obituary. You'll get the spirit of the man and of his greatness.


*I would have preferred to write 'they're'. I feel this is a helpful usage when what one wants to emphasise is 'he - but ... ah, well, good chance it might have been a female'. But last time I did this, readers rebuked me. I'm a pedant myself, but are there to be no useful developments grammatically?


Sir Watkin said...

Guardian obituary is extraordinarily snide (to the point of mendacity), e.g.:

In Truro (1973-81), full of firm Methodists and Atlantic storms, he might appear at an ordination attired in mitre, ceremonial gloves and gremial (a silk apron-like covering for the lap of bishops).

Every word is true, but the impression is highly misleading. The causal reader would conclude that Leonard's Anglo-Catholicism was a personal eccentricity, highly inappropriate and alienated the Cornish methodists. But, as the Telegraph points out, Leonard:

[…] was at home in that diocese's strong Anglo-Catholic tradition, getting on admirably with the local Methodists, who had their own reasons for opposing the proposed reunion.

Cf. The Times:

Cornwall was famous for its Methodist majority so there were some critics of Leonard’s appointment as Bishop of Truro in 1973. They need not have worried. He quickly built warm relations with Cornwall’s Methodists, who responded to his vigorous scriptural and spiritual teaching, and enjoyed the respect he gave them. Few diocesan bishops can have met local Methodist leaders so often.

Amusingly the Telegraph also throws some light en passant on what lies behind the Guardian obituary (written by the late Alan Webster):

The preliminary consultations [before Leonard's election in 1981] indicated that some 70 per cent of the clergy and parishes in London diocese wanted him as their bishop, but this desire was not shared by the suffragan bishops and the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's.

As many readers will recall, the Dean of S. Paul's from 1978 to 1987 was none other than … the Very Reverend Alan Webster.

Little Black Sambo said...

The Church Times used to be quite nasty about Bp Leonard when somebody called Whale was the editor.

As for the use of "they" meaning one person, no doubt some useful and good new usages have arisen, but this is emphatically not one of them. It has been promoted by people with a social-political motive who illiterately pretend that "he", "him" and "man" should not be used inclusively. If we adopt their usage we are accepting their manipulation of our mother tongue.
(cf "chair", "police officer", "firefighter", etc.. Another good example of this is the requirement to write "single" instead of "bachelor" or "spinster" in the marriage registers. We are being sucked into their ideological activities.)

Sue Sims said...

Agreed totally on the desperately obvious bias of the Webster article: he undercuts his own credibility, of course, by allowing his hostility to overcome the normal neutrality/positivity of obituaries. (Still, he knows better know, poor chap.)

On 'they' as generic singular: it's actually a very old usage, but pedants dislike it. Consult the OED:


Fr Hunwicke should certainly be allowed to imitate a large number of excellent authors, including the blessed martyr S. John Fisher.

Sue Sims said...

BTW, just because the language feminazi prefer 'they'* to generic 'he' is no reason why we should reject an excellent usage. I still like rainbows, despite the attempted takeover by the homosexualist lobby.

*Actually, the really hardline types dislike 'they' almost as much as their opponents: they prefer 's/he' or simply 'she'.

Chris Jones said...

The "singular they" usage is unnecessary. "He" and "him" can refer to a male or to a person of unknown or irrelevant gender. There is no reason to kowtow to the crochets of the feminists.

Feminism is a passing intellectual fad, which will fade away because it is based on a manifest falsehood (viz. that the moral equality of men and women implies (and is based on) an ontological identity). Future generations will laugh at our preoccupation with this bogus notion of "equality" and the willful blindness we take on to maintain it.

Let's not encourage it.

Sir Watkin said...

Curiously the Times obituary suggests (optimistically?) that in practice Leonard and Webster got on all right:

Though he was poles apart in theology from Alan Webster, the Dean of St Paul’s, they developed a personal relationship that led the bishop to boast he was the first Bishop of London to be given the key of the cathedral back door.

It would be valuable if someone with knowledge of the situation could assess the accuracy of this judgement.


From a linguistic point of view singular "they", tho' displeasing to pedants, is (as the O.E.D.'s early examples shew) a very natural development.

"Every" and such like are formally singular, but semantically equivalent to "all". ("Every boy must bring his copy of Kennedy's Latin Primer" is - nuance aside - practically the same as saying "All boys must bring their copy of ....") Thus it's not surprising to find them followed by "incorrect" plural pronouns, and this usage then easily gets generalised to other contexts.

Bishop of Ebbsfleet said...

Dinner Person?

+/- Andrew

Sir Watkin said...

Dinner Person

If the female is a "dinner lady", the male would surely have to be a "dinner gentleman", and the plural "dinner gentlefolk", but I'm a loss to know what a generic singular might be.

Incidentally, I have seen the Christmass Carol "Come, all ye worthy gentlemen" abominably transmogrified into "Come, all you worthy people here".

Thankfully the better known "God rest you merry, gentlemen" seems immune to such democratic "correction".