3 OCTOBER 1947, Page 10



AS one who paced the banks of the River Swale with Bishop Westcott, rode on horseback over mountain passes in Ireland with Bishop Moule and tramped the Roman Wall with Bishop Hensley Henson, I dare to write. On the Roman Wall a Swedish professor asked, " What amusement could the Romans have found in winter in so bleak a spot? " "They would have," replied the Bishop, " a toothless lion and some tough old Christian ; these they would send round from ,amp to camp upon condition that both were returned uninjured." As he flung himself down beside us for luncheon upon a grassy bank the Bishop murmured, "This is my idea of bliss—with a bottle of wine and no women."

His final Diocesan Conference was being held. There in the Durham Chapter House, for the last time (how deeply we felt it), our Bishop took his seat ready to

" Welcome business, welcome strife,

Welcome the cares and thorns of life, The tedious forms, the solemn prate, The pert dispute, the dull debate."

Bishop Henson laid no claim to the os retundum—nor to that " gravity

would make you split." His gifts were eagerness in attack, resilience

in defeat, the relish for the shrewd blow, offered or received, an apprehension keen, vigilant and wholly without fear. Fiat justitia, ruat coelum. " Let the Heavens fall—so justice be done."

An idol-smashing Gideon, a modern Erasmus, Bishop Henson belonged to the select company of literary swordsmen. He was at home in the cut and thrust of debate, finding joy in contention. Along with the graceful style, the polished phrase, went a clear view of the point to be made. He leaped up to cross weapons with a worthy opponent, and never missed an opportunity to test the edge of his blade. How he would have shone at Law! The Church Assembly could not but listen with rapt attention ; it would then, not infrequently, vote solidly against him. Upon which side lay the right, time will show. Endowed with a mind intellectual rather than academic, with a tongue mordant rather than sarcastic, seemingly never for a moment in perplexity nor in doubt, the Bishop would let fall felicitous definitions and intermittent flashes of humour, lighting up the murky gloom of the Cosin Library meetings like a sunshine ray.

When acting as chairman, the Bishop would bow patiently for a decent period beneath the prolixity of the worthy, adding the while deft touches to a group of grotesque profiles which seldom failed to adorn the bare spaces of his agenda paper ; then, lest the attention of the meeting should be exhausted by ponderous platitudes, er a bad point gained by reiteration, or a nice distinction suffer from being laboured, there would come the swift lift of the head and he would stay the culprit ; " not with contempt indeed, for of that his nature was incapable, but he would put him aside with a gentle indulgence as you do a child when it is lisping its prattle out of season," as Mr. Fifoot said of Lord Mansfield. However long the agenda, under his chairmanship the whole was gone through with ease. In diocesan administration Bishop Henson neither disdained nor succumbed to the minutiae of procedure. He dealt with it as

one wholly free from the pedantry which dogs the too intensive cultivation of professional pursuits. With advancing years the clog of mortality seemed to rest lightly upon his shoulders. To the last his premeditated speech-

" As an eagle, winged its airy flight

Up to the realms of everlasting light."

In mundane affairs that light was not always so ample as his Lord-

ship could have wished, yet truth, in his mouth, shone resplendent. His words never failed to dispel the fog which darkens counsel ; and there was this attraction about the Bishop's utterance, that one could never be sure what was coming next, save that it would be pungent and apt. So we attended his visitations and diocesan con- ferences with a pleasurable anticipation rarely disappointed. As a chief pastor the Bishop held that the need of the hour was the reinstatement of authority. Some limit must be put to every- man's doing that which was right in his own eyes. If he was," the bad man's terror and the good man's-trust," those of his clergy who were conscious of too liberal an endowment of original sin ever proclaimed him scrupulously fair. At his own charge his Lordship would afford legal aid to a harassed incumbent whose case for defence seemed capable of greater clarification. The episcopal fiat, firmly laid down, was a law at pains to be justified to the litigant.

An omnivorous reader, with an interest wide as the world and age- deep, the Bishop was ever the champion of the oppressed, whether in Germany or in Putumayo or in Abyssinia. He was the layman's bishop ; his words carried weight in America and throughout the British Empire. In combating the worship of shams he could handle the flail. He could cope rapidly with a staggering amount of work, sparing neither himself nor his staff. In his published volumes -may be found, writ large, leading principles emerging from a con- viction that religious zeal must represent, however reluctantly, the voice of reason. Orthodoxy is clear thinking. A natural thirst for knowledge will not find itself quenched by dipping into his writings. Did he truly think he was "an Unimportant Person"? His two autobiographical volumes fail to prove it. His chance he might have had to become an Archbishop arrived too late in life, whereat he sighed aloud.

Like his illustrious predecessor, Bishop Lightfoot, having no child of his own, he found, with his warmly affectionate nature, outlet in thought for lads and young men. In his busy life he managed to maintain personal touch with a surprising number in all parts of the world—though some of his clergy.. might perhaps hold him to have been less pre-eminent as pastor than as bishop. The true role of womenkind in the general scheme of things I could imagine the Bishop questioning searchingly. Some modern claims he could hardly accept con amore. At a diocesan conference a parochial termagant prolonged agitato an unmelodious -strain in reckless despite of the Bishop's bell. At such an impasse I could fancy his Lordship recalling with piquant relish his -favourite quota- tion from the Son of Sirach, " As the climbing up a sandy way is to the feet of the aged, so is a wife full of words to a quiet man."

Ranke paints a picture of Pope Adrian VI, " very serious, his laugh never going beyond a smile, in short a true clergyman." The Bishop's laugh was hearty and infectious. These three Bishops of Durham could enjoy a long walk, but they played no outdoor game. Bishop Westcott was no mean skater, and it is reported that he once fought with a butcher, pondering the while, no doubt, the right preposition, " round " or " under." Abstemious in personal habit, Dr. Henson maintained through his episcopate the record, deplorable or glorious, that no Bishop of Durham had ever burnt tobacco, though Van Mildert used snuff. A glass of wine, how- ever, had its fitting occasion and might be hailed as God's glad gift. Bishop Westcott sought hopefully for a ravishing cake of his boyhood until compelled to the conclusion that it was his palate which had failed. Bishop Henson had found his cake early in life, and he never lost touch with it—a gingerbread cake. The ginger seemed symbolic.

With a benignity of countenance to which his bristling eyebrows gave a slight Mephistophelian touch, there was about Bishop Henson nothing of the wild and woolly in which some clergy delight to enshrine their piety. He was always well-groomed, the epitome of neatness, from a beauty of penmanship rarely equalled to a neatness of pointed expression. He was given to hospitality, and if at his Quadrennial Visitations there were clergy who lacked the wit to appreciate the good fare of his Lordship's charge spiritual (in public he bewailed our " intellectual penury "), they could not fail to be impressed, when the luncheon-hour arrived, by the -bounty of his charge corporal.

His kennel of noble dogs does not fit into the portrait, ari yet it was there. Strangely elusive is personality. Truthfully we sec no man. These three successive Bishops of Durham, how far apart, yet all outstanding, living in what different worlds of thought and action! "It takes many Moules (moles)," said the Senior Verger, " to make a Westcott (waistcoat)." Were I to presume to measure each for his heraldic coat, I would equip Bishop Westcott with a Microscope Souci, Bishop Moule with a Book Enibowed Proper, Bishop Hensley Henson with a Rapier Rampant. Whatever defects the Bishop perceived in our hoary Establishment—how traditional and yet how alive—this must stand to its credit, that in a troubled hour it sent into the field no buckram knight, but so redoubtable a protagonist of the Church Militant.