*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

China department

by
23 November 2012

But extending beyond it, Alexander Lucie-Smith, discovers

The Potter's Hand
A. N. Wilson
Atlantic Books £17.99
(978-1-84887-951-5)
Church Times Bookshop £16.20 (Use code CT517 )

THE new novel by A. N. Wilson - his first for five years - is about Josiah Wedgwood and his family circle. Because the master potter knew everyone worth knowing, and was a typical man of the Enlighten­ment, this means that a book about Wedgwood is about more than the man himself. It is, in the end, about human nature, the 18th century, and our own times, too.

The story starts with Wedgwood's undergoing some extreme 18th-century medicine - a leg ampu­tation. It ends on a similar note. Despite the canals and the crockery and the other advances, the En­lightenment lagged behind when it came to curing human pain. The narrative is haunted by opium and laudanum, and, in the closing chap­ters, we meet Coleridge, the world's most famous opium-user. He was patronised by the Wedg­woods, as were the artists Stubbs, and Joseph Wright, of Derby - all of whom make appearances. And so do George Washington, George III, the Prince of Wales, and many others. This is a vast panorama of a book.

The novel is episodic. Josiah sends his nephew, Tom Byerley, to buy clay from the Cherokee, which gets him mixed up in the Am­erican War of Independence. Byerley falls in love with a beautiful Cherokee potter, who later follows him to England, where she marries Josiah's childhood friend Caleb, and ends up working for the Wedgwood pottery.

Meanwhile, Stubbs and Wright paint the family, while Sukey, the daughter, is destined to be the mother of Charles Darwin. Then the Portland Vase arrives in Eng­land, and this is copied not by Wedgwood, but by the beautiful Cherokee.

The novel interweaves the real with the fictional, and, in the back­ground, we have the creeping realisation that the Enlightenment is not all that it claims to be. The American colonists are cruel and backward - at least regarding the Cherokee; the Empress of Russia, a recipient of a Wedgwood dinner service, is less than civilised in her private life; and the French embark on the Terror in the name of liberty. The whole is haunted by the pres­ence of slaves, treated abominably.

Wedgwood himself, Owd Wooden Leg as he is known, comes over as eccentric, but humane, with the famous words he puts into the mouth of a slave: "Am I not a man and a brother?" He seems to have no religious beliefs to speak of, but he does have a kind heart.

Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith is the author of Narrative Theology and Moral Theology (Ashgate, 2007).

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

24 May 2022
Disability and Church: Intersectionality
A joint webinar from HeartEdge and Church Times.

2 July 2022
Bringing Down the Mighty: Church, Theology and Structural Injustice
With Anthony Reddie, Azariah France-Williams, Mariama Ifode-Blease, Luke Larner, Will Moore, Stewart Rapley and Victoria Turner.

More events

Job of the Week

Clerical

Priest in Charge (Rector Designate)

London and Home Counties

Our suburban parish on the border between the London Borough of Croydon and the lovely Surrey countryside and with a spacious modern Rectory, is seeking a Priest-in-Charge (Rector Designate) to lead our church as we seek to fulfil our mission to proclaim Jesus, change lives and serve our community.   We are looking for a leader who, with energy and dynamism, who will develop the vision for the church to enable the children and families work to be a priority in order to grow the church both in numbers and spiritual maturity. In addition, the new person will care and tend for the existing ageing congregation many of whom have ¬faithfully served the church for many years.   The person we are looking for should have: strong communication skills, the ability to engage and encourage people across the age ranges and to convey the church’s mission, vision and priorities; a commitment to preach the Word of God in thoughtful and stimulating ways; an energy and dynamism probably more extrovert than introvert; a pastoral heart, showing empathy and good listening skills, the ability, willingness and experience to help us to develop and enjoy a variety of worship styles, including a wider range of musical worship and a deeper corporate prayer life -whilst recognising and valuing our heritage;   For further information and to apply, please click the 'apply for this job' button below.   For an informal conversation with the Archdeacon of Croydon, please contact the Archdeacon’s PA Kathleen.bailey@southwark.anglican.org to arrange a time for a phone conversation.   Closing Date: Sunday 12 June 2022 Parish Visit for shortlisted candidates: Monday 11 July 2022 Interviews: Monday 11 July 2022   Please note we have a policy in Southwark Diocese that to be appointed to an incumbent status post, a priest must have served a title in an Anglican church in the British Isles.   This post is subject to DBS enhanced disclosure

Appointments

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)