The inward parts

by
15 July 2016

David Martin considers public and private lives

Drawn Three Ways: Memoir of a ministry, a profession and a marriage
A. E. Harvey
Eerdmans £16.99
(978-0-8028-7332-3)
Church Times Bookshop £15.30

 

INITIALLY, the three nodes of concern, priesthood, scholarship, and family, may seem no more than a standard account of the con­siderable costs of being a scholar priest with a family.

The costs are certainly canvassed at length, but there is an unmistak­able undertow of possible serious waste and maybe emotional dis­connection, and of being not quite inside any of these avocations, even perhaps a per­former of the rituals of faith rather than a believer, more a stoic than a Christian.

Doubt hovers over Canon Anthony Harvey’s performance of each of his roles, mingled at the same time with an understandable pride in intellectual achievement and an inability to suffer fools gladly. This enters a moving and tragic phase with the mental prob­lems of his wife and her eventual dementia, and the death of their third daughter. This much loved daughter said that her illness was almost worth it for the intimacy it brought her with her father.

Harvey encountered his wife, Julian, with little previous experi­ence of love, and wondering whether he might just be in love with love. Eventually, this deepened into a profound engagement with a woman of remarkable gifts and beauty, and the emotional drive of this memoir is to celebrate those gifts, to remember her as she was, and to release some of the pain of that love as her life entered many years of difficulty.

Of course, there is also the ex­­ternal autobiography of consider­able achievement, distracted by too many gifts. Harvey is a gifted linguist, a classicist, a distinguished New Testament scholar, a talented musician. This is life lived as a scholar in the older universities, a talks producer at the BBC, a priest in Chelsea, someone who translated at great conferences and made substantial contributions to public debates and good causes, such as Faith in the City, in charge of St Augustine’s, Canterbury, (where he encountered a new breed of uppity students), and Sub-Dean at West­minster.

In this last appointment, he met the upper echelons of the political world, and he offers some cameos of life in the warren behind the Abbey: Diana’s funeral, the question of the new statues to adorn the front, the unhappy confrontation with Martin Neary, work with asylum-seekers. It sounds like a fulfilled life of assured faith. Of that he is very far from sure.

 

The Revd Dr David Martin is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics.

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