A Field Guide to the English Clergy

by the Revd Fergus Butler-Gallie, Oneworld, 192pp, £12.99

If one were to run a competition to find the funniest book in the English language, my guess is that Sellar and Yeatman’s 1066 and All That would win by a mile. Because it is such a good book, and more importantly a publishing sensation, never out of print since 1930, it has spawned a great many imitations, few of which have approached its level of success.

This volume under review, subtitled A Compendium of Diverse Eccentrics, Pirates, Prelates and Adventurers; All Anglican, Some Even Practising, is clearly in the Sellar and Yeatman tradition of parody and arch humour. It consists of several dozen thumbnail sketches of Anglican clergy, all deceased. It may have the makings of a modern classic.

The author’s chosen subjects are all dead because dead men cannot sue for libel. So each section has the flavour of a Telegraph obituary about it.

One of the more recent clergy described is Canon Brian Brindley, who will be familiar to many of the readers of this magazine. Butler-Gallie works over the material in an amusing manner, placing Brindley first in his section of bon vivants. But who knew that the full name of the late canon was Brian Frederick Dominic Titus Leo, three of those names not being given at birth but added for later effect?

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