23 JULY 1948, Page 18


Man and Archbishop

Tins life of William Temple; long expected, is worthy, as far as any book could be, of its great subject ; its gigantic subject, one feels inclined to say as one closes the volume. Quite apart from his spiritual (and physical) stature, there was something of the giant about Temple. The amount he did was gigantic ; so was the pressure at which he habitually worked, and so was his array of talents. To find a parallel one has to seek among the acknowledged giants of the past. Temple spoke and preached, often two or three times a day, all over England on a scale that reminds one only of John Wesley. In his gifts of memory, lucidity and unpremeditated eloquence he stands within reach of Macaulay. It is well to recall this superlative quality of his nature, just because that was not the greatest thing about him. He was conspicuously without the defects ' that commonly accompany such gifts ; he had nothing of Wesley's unapproachable gravity, none of Macaulay's rhetorical venom. The Dean of Lichfield does full justice to his extraordinary endowments ; but the qualities that stand out in this finely-proportioned picture of Temple are predominantly three—his fellow-feeling, his humility and, increasingly, his holiness.

In a happy similitude the author compares Temple's career to a rocket that pursues its destined way up to the heights and then bursts into a crowd of brilliant stars. The rocket's upward course was comparatively easy to narrate. At Rugby, Temple was already the marvellous boy, but wholly saved from priggery by a humour at once impertinent and affectionate. At Balliol, few young men can have made better use of the opportunities Oxford can give, of friendship, of reading and, beyond all, of talking. In those days he seemed, to himself at least, by no means predestined to the Church. In a letter to Stocks he writes: " The doctrine of the Incarnation, permanently present in its true purity to Browning, is hopelessly mauled by nearly every clergyman that touches it." He later lays his doubts before the Bishop of Oxford and the Archbishop of Canterbury, who write to each other about him in an episcopal style which contrasts vividly with Temple's own manner then and thereafter. The Repton chapter is excellently done. Neither Temple nor his biographer pretends that he was the born head- master. As an old boy once said to the present writer, " Billy wasn't half nasty enough to be the perfect h.m." And as his devoted chauffeur later remarked, " There's one thing the Arch- bishop can't do. He can't tick you off." Nevertheless to the boys who really knew him he was the firmest friend and the deepest inspiration of their lives.

Then follow the tenure of St. James', Piccadilly, the Life and Liberty movement, to which he appeared to sacrifice all present comfort and future prospects, and his canonry at Westminster. Already the rocket is beginning to shed some stars which require separate scrutiny—his essays in Foundations, his work for W.E.A. (perhaps of all his " causes " the one nearest to his heart), and his editorship of The Challenge. And so to Manchester, a bishop at the age of forty. Here his unique powers as speaker and adminis- trator found full scope ; but all the time he was writing long and intimate letters of counsel and consolation to all sorts and condi- tions of men, and keeping up his own reading. His account of an " easy " day during the Blackpool Mission runs : " A delicious day ... I had an easy time as I was only speaking twice this morning (Central Pier and Tower) and had no fixtures after lunch. I've written 2,000 words more of the book, and have also set out on that article on France in the Encyclopaedia Britannica that David Somervell said was so good. I've got to the end of Louis XI." Here, too, we have a glimpse of Mrs. Temple's share in that ideal partnership. " I don't know how one should refer to an Archbishop's wife," a friend said later, " but I think of Mrs. Temple in her own right as Her Grace."

And then in 1929 to York. Here the stars from the rocket fall in clusters, and the author, after some record of a day-to-day pastorate which would break most men, sets aside eighty close-packed pages to discuss Temple's part, and it was inevitably a leading part, in the great church movements of his time, for reunion, missions and social reform, culminating in conferences at Lambeth, Lausanne, Malvern and elsewhere. Temple's leadership in any one of these movements would give material for a whole book.

By universal testimony he was the perfect chairman, lucid, humorous, patient even with cranks. But he knew precisely when to strike in, and had a genius for drafting a resolution that would harmonize discords. But he was the very antithesis of an oppor- tunist. All knew, or soon learned, that every suggestion he made was broad-based upon his own confident and long-meditated Christian principles. This was the secret of his power and his integrity. Every part of his life, every problem put to him, was seen at once as potentially part of a whole scheme, firmly held by a " whole " man—a man dedicated daily to God. Lastly, the brief reign at Canterbury ; but not too brief to allow him to rise to his full stature as a Christian prophet urbi et orbi, and not without the angry opposition which sets the seal upon the true and chosen prophet.

Dr. Iremonger has painted a wonderful portrait, and has not sought to evade the criticisms made of Temple, as of all great men. Perhaps he was too optimistic about mankind to be a shrewd judge of character. He thought men better than they were ; but under him they frequently proved to be. He was a philosopher who would find it natural to talk far above the head of the average man ; and yet he was pre-eminently the people's archbishop, trusted and venerated by them as none of his predecessors was. After 22 years of his great office he was killed by the burden of work he under- took for the glory of God and the love of man. Those who knew anything of Temple will not forget the day when they heard the news of his sudden death. The rocket had vanished from the heavens • but for those who read this book, where he " being dead yet speaketh," some light of his, reflected but authentic, will still