Editorial Page The Daily MIrror 22 October 1914 courtesy The British Newspaper Archive
The Reverend William Tovani was rather taken with today’s editorial and cartoon in The Daily Mirror and wondered if he could get away with turning them into a sermon with only the most minimal editing. After all, if there could be a sermon in stones, why indeed should there not be a sermon in one’s daily newspaper?
It was rather fascinating, in a grim sort of way, the degree to which the war seemed to be having an infantilising effect on his congregation. Normally both robust and level-headed, many of them seemed to be rushing to him with every little metaphorical scratch and asking him, in effect, to ‘kiss it better’, as he promised his children. Their moods were all over the place, one minute elated and the next in the depth of despair as they reacted and over-reacted to the news from the battle front.
He was in little doubt in his own mind that the war would last for many months, if not years, and the only sensible choice, to use another metaphor – this time from the tennis court – was to stay on the base line and concentrate on returning every ball, steadily but firmly.
Yes that should do quite well – now all he had to do was to find a biblical text in justification…
Lustige_Naturgeschichte_oder_Zoologia_comica62 via Wikimedia Commons
The Revd William Tovani had been pleasurably pondering the subject of his sermon this Sunday. Wednesday was the perfect day for this: the deadline was not imminent and he could mull over various possibilities at leisure. He usually attempted to base the sermon on the bible readings allotted for the day, but just occasionally some event in the village, or even at national level, demanded a response from the pulpit.
Dr Pryce Jenkins was really a prize ass, wasn’t he – as the son of a vicar, he should have known better, but perhaps it was all that rugby that had addled his brain. Of course, everyone needs an avenue of escapism, particularly those actually at the front. And he himself was partial to a glass of whisky at the end of a long day.
But to say that perfectly healthy, safe, young females needed to spend their time with their noses buried in twopenny novelettes to avoid Reeling, Writhing and Fainting in Coils was arrant and indulgent nonsense.
The traditional Christian response – and even Dr Freud (who seemed to have made a special study of hysterical women) would agree with him on this, he felt – was to channel all this nervous energy into something useful. Let them run soup kitchens in the East End! Or, if they were looking for a physical outlet for their energies, it was not too late to offer their services to the farmers to help with the crops.
Righteous anger was a great spur to oratory – even if the next day he would have to tone it down before launching it on his genteel congregation…