Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Blundering Dove; the First Archbishop of Canterbury Ever to Have Published an Autobiography Has Been Astonishingly, Naively Indiscreet

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Blundering Dove; the First Archbishop of Canterbury Ever to Have Published an Autobiography Has Been Astonishingly, Naively Indiscreet

Article excerpt

Byline: A.N. WILSON

Know The Truth: A Memoir by George Carey

(HarperCollins, [pounds sterling]25)

MANY people, however unfairly, look back on George Carey's tenure of the Archbishopric as a dud patch in Anglican history. The story told by this book, up to the moment he becomes Archbishop, is engaging, and even moving.

A working-class boy from Dagenham, he got his first job as an office boy, and found that his apparently stern employer had spotted his bookishness: he was lent the novels of Dickens to read. National Service is well described.

And he gives a sympathetic account of the various evangelical churches and colleges where he served.

He was a notable vicar of St Nicholas Durham, transforming a quiet Cof E parish into the sort that is known as lively. The row he had with the 30 or so die-hards in the congregation who wanted to keep their prayer book and their traditions is an early indication, however, that though George is a good man, learned, devout and well-meaning, he lacks judgment. And when he unintentionally sets the cat among the pigeons, everyone is to blame but himself. That seems the unintentional message of this strange Apologia.

No Archbishop of Canterbury, from the time of the sixth century until our own day, has ever published an autobiography. One did not need to read this book to wonder whether perhaps they were wiser in their generation than George Carey has been to accept the HarperCollins shilling?

It is childish of me but since finishing the book I have been imagining scenes of English history translated into Carey-ese. "There was much about Henry II which I liked and admired, though his 'Jekyll and Hyde' side tended to make him say things which he later regretted. It was a lovely morning when I entered the Cathedral for worship. Unfortunately, as I stood on the altar steps, four 'knights' stepped forward and began screaming abuse. I thought it would last for hours. While I respected their point of view, I thought it was a pity."

One of the features of Carey's narrative style is that he takes away as soon as he gives. …

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