“his enthusiasm for religion was aesthetic rather than theological”

Image: “Our Tower Tour…Climb more than 300 steps to reach the top of the Central Tower of Lincoln Cathedral and take in the fantastic 360 degree views of the city, county and beyond.” (Lincoln Cathedral)

From: Foreign Country – The Life of L.P. Hartley (2001), by Adrian Wright:

“Holidays at home were more enjoyably spent by visits to Lincoln cathedral (where Leslie counted 388 steps up to the ‘Central Tower’)…

…It was not Leslie’s allegedly dismal health prospects that stood him apart from his fellows at Harrow. If he in any way felt an outsider, it was the fault of politics and religion. He was the only Liberal in his house, and there were not more than twenty in the entire school. His background of Wesleyan Methodism also struck a jarring note, in as much as it did not conform to the religious tenor of the place. By the end of 1911 he was going to his form-master, the Revd Owen, for confirmation classes, and was subsequently received into the Church of England. Harry and Bessie accepted the change (though strong Methodists, they were never bigoted or overbearing), but this breakaway from family tradition was a significant step in Leslie’s development; it distanced him from what they might have expected – it was, indeed, one of the few decisive steps he ever took. Religious zeal had little to do with it, and in later life his enthusiasm for religion was aesthetic rather than theological; the conversion of itself – as Richard Mardick admits in The Brickfield– may have been as much an act of snobbery as any other, a repudiation of the homespun respectability of provincial Methodism. His personal involvement with the organised Church was as much a social as a fundamental commitment, a view shared by Timothy Casson in The Boat. When Timothy communes with his god it is in his boat-house, not his church; it is his social horizons that are broadened by the vicar and his wife, Mrs Purbright. Eustace, like Leslie, is moved by the trappings of religion, by a nave, a transept, a stained-glass window; he epitomises the man transported by the sung Evensong without being touched by its religious intention. Interestingly, the one novel in which Leslie uses religion as a central theme, My Fellow Devils, is one of his dullest and least heartfelt. Even here, it is the spire of St Saviour’s church that Margaret Pennefather runs to at the close, not the arms of the comforter. In Facial Justice the only hint of centuries of religious fervour left behind by the holocaust is a remnant of Ely cathedral;

…once again, architecture inspires Jael’s affirmation of belief, not the teachings of the body that created it. As an adult, Leslie said that he enjoyed attending church because he enjoyed being admonished from the pulpit. He would sometimes fall asleep during the sermon, on one occasion waking just in time to hear the vicar say, ‘Take marmalade, for instance.’…”

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