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Gloomy Dean’s lapse of taste

12 October 2018

October 11th, 1918.

THE gloom that appears to have settled on the deanery of St Paul’s, affecting its dignified occupant, is at any rate occasionally relieved by a moment of gaiety. But one would scarcely have expected such a moment to be the occasion of his reviewing in the Guardian the late Dr Holland’s “Creeds and Critics”. Yet he finds cause for merriment in some extracts he made from the biographical introduction to that book, though the scorn in his laughter makes this temporary lapse to the joyous mood almost more saddening than the habitual gloominess with which he is credited. In Dr Holland’s later career, that is especially the period when, as Canon of St Paul’s, he laboured so unwearyingly for the improvement of our social conditions, he observes nothing more than “a strong instance of the mental deterioration which punishes the theologian who goes into politics” — politics, we suppose, other than the Dean’s. “For many years before his death,” he continues, “he poured forth torrents of emotional rhetoric over our social problems, which are in truth mainly intellectual problems of extraordinary complexity,’’ but which “are systematically shirked by sentimentalists like Dr Holland”. Just half the space allotted to the Dean is used by him for belittling with his sardonic laughter the later work of a distinguished canon of the cathedral over which he presides. It is but justice, however, to add that, when he comes to the real business in hand, the reviewing of the book, he treats it fairly and sympathetically, out of consideration for that earlier Dr Holland whom he knew in the Lux Mundi days. Perhaps by this time he has repented of having written as he did. At all events, in the judgment of many, this departure from good taste will appear regrettable.

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