A Very Embodiment of Simple Goodness


For the next several weeks, we will republish our favorite “Teaching Lessons” columns from this year.

During my long years of conventional education, kindergarten to university, no single academic teacher left a mark upon my identity, or inspired me to emulation. However, the very presence of one holy man enthralled me when I was young, and has affected me since as no teacher ever did. The eminent theologian Claude Jenkins (born 1877, died 1959) was a venerable Canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, when I sang as a child chorister there, and so for several years I was often a recipient of his evening benediction. The style of it, as he slowly recited the words in the gathering dusk before the distant high altar, fascinated me then as it moves me now. So very old he looked up there, so frail but clear was his blessing, so mystical seemed his vestmented figure in the half-light of that medieval sanctuary and so lovely did his benediction sound in the words of the King James English Bible, that he seemed to me even then a very embodiment of simple goodness. If he taught me no theology—I am a lifelong agnostic—he has given me in memory, as in example, a text that has never left me: Be Kind!

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Jan Morris has written some 40 books of history, travel, biography, memoir, and fiction.


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