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In defence of Howley and the new biography

27 November 2015


From Dr Colin Podmore

Sir, — Your reviewer, the Revd John Witheridge, is entitled to criticise the shortcomings he perceives in Canon James Garrard’s study of William Howley’s archiepiscopate, but his review does justice neither to the book nor to its subject (Books, 13 November).

He rehearses the well-known caricature of Howley which history’s negative judgements have produced, but leaves your readers ignorant of Howley’s merits, of Garrard’s more balanced assessment, and of the evidence that he adduces to support it. Notwithstanding your reviewer’s criticisms, the book makes an important contribution.

A thesis and a book are indeed different things, but I would be surprised if anyone who has turned a thesis into a book (as I have) would agree that “the only way . . . is to lock it in a drawer and start again.”

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