William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury: His Life and Letters

William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury: His Life and Letters

William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury: His Life and Letters

William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury: His Life and Letters

Excerpt

When the friends and disciples of William Temple knew that his wife had asked me to write some account of his career, their feelings were mixed; but the lack of one emotion was noticeably common to them all. As I first looked through their letters--it seems now a very long three years ago--I found not one which suggested that the writer was moved to envy; but they almost all expressed the gracious conviction that whoever undertook so formidable a task, if he were a man to be pitied, was also one to be helped. To the Archbishop's friends, therefore, I owe much of what may be of any value in these pages, and I offer more particular thanks to a few in the 'Acknowledgements' at the end of the book.

The larger part of my debt is due to Temple himself. Every man, he once wrote, 'is in a sense the author of his own biography'; and in the first annual lecture of the Book Council (delivered in the year before his death) he suggested the principle that should govern the biographer's choice of his material: 'The selection of events is that which helps us to see the life of the hero as a whole . . . and so to understand the various parts of his life in relation to one another, with enough historical context to see how he fits into it or grows out of it.' I have done my best to act on this advice, but some stress must be laid on the perplexities with which the writer is faced who attempts to apply the method to a life so crammed with interests and incidents as Temple's. This book, it must be emphasized, is not for the specialist: it will satisfy neither the theologian, nor the sociologist, nor the historian-- though I have tried to remember that, in dealing with the career of an Archbishop of Canterbury, the biographer cannot avoid making some contribution to Church history. I must risk raising doubts in the historian's mind whether 'enough historical context' is supplied, more especially in that section of the book which covers the years at Bishopthorpe and Lambeth; and a word is demanded, if not of apology, at least of explanation.

The difficulty of grouping actions and events, writings and speeches, principles and purposes, in that period is hardly to be . . .

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