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)


  1. He was my very first Hebrew teacher, in the Long Vac of 1960. I am a Girton girl, from the years when it was all girls at Girton.

    I was once invited by a (male) friend to one of his famous 'Nymphs and Shepherds' evenings.

  2. I remember his rooms in Queens which were full of plants and the smell of Balkan Sobranie tobacco: he was my Hebrew tutor