Essays - Summer 2014

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An agnostic sermon

By Jan Morris


Not long ago, my sisters and brethren, I heard somebody eminent and elderly discussing the giving of lectures. For him, he said, the worst part of the experience was getting up to the platform in the first place, and I knew exactly what he meant. Oh, the challenge of those brief steep steps into the limelight, the murmurous hands stretched out to help, the stumbling instant of relief when I reach the podium at last, panting a bit, desperately clutching my script, and preparing a feeble quip about senility! It really is at those particular moments, those brief moments of display, that I have first felt myself to be getting old.

Mind you, I am not in the least ashamed of my advancing age. I am rather proud of it, and I have thought about it with interest for years. I am a convinced agnostic, untrammelled by religious conviction, and the prospect of death, the destination of age, has always fascinated rather than perturbed me.

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Jan Morris has written some 40 books of history, travel, biography, memoir, and fiction and will publish her last, a caprice called “Ciao, Carpaccio!,” later this year.


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