Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Henry St.John Hart

The Dean of my college, the Reverend Henry St.John Hart, deserved to be remembered for a great many things, but my principal recollection is of the occasion when he intoned the following little homily to a group of undergraduates, in his much-imitated voice where every word was clearly enunciated:
"When you are old men, you will tell your grandchildren, "When I was at Cambridge, I knew a clergyman". And they will say, "Cor!" And you will say, "And he smoked a pipe". And they will say, "Lumme!" And you will say, "And he read to us from a book". And they will say, "Phew!" And then they will think for a little while and they will say, "Gosh, granddad, you must be very old!"
We haven't quite got there yet, though some progress has been made.

As well as being a biblical scholar, Henry Hart was one of the great Cambridge characters. He had on his desk a framed card proclaiming, in his beautiful calligraphy, "Leisure time is best spent in reading for a degree". He knew and admired Tolkien, both as a philological scholar and as an author. We suspected he was part-Ent. (Professor Sir Herbert Butterfield, by contrast, was quite obviously a Hobbit)

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