The Reverend Vivian Green, the former sub-Rector of Lincoln College, Oxford, who died on January 18 aged 89, was best known as an ecclesiastical historian but also wrote authoritatively on subjects as diverse as the Hanoverians, the Swiss Alps and the history of Oxford colleges; in 1995 he was unmasked as the man on whom John le Carré based his fictional spymaster George Smiley.
Very much the archetypal bachelor don, except for his habit in younger days of striding round Oxford in leather trousers, Green treated theological themes with warmth and humanity, and greatly relished what he called "faction and dispute". Critics, though, sometimes regretted that his tendency to concentrate on the external aspects of faith led him occasionally to neglect the spiritual appeal of Christianity.
In The Madness of Kings (1993), Green aimed to portray the effects of the regal insanity on the fate of nations, though the book was more notable as a series of entertaining portraits of such lamentable personalities as Charles IV of France (who thought he was made of glass), Christian VII of Denmark (who rubbed gunpowder on his stomach and picked his nose in public) and the Emperor Wenceslas (who had his cook roasted on a spit) as well as better-known "madmen" such as Nero, Hitler and George III.
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Another Wonderful Clerical Obituary
From the Telegraph, the obituary of Rev. Vivian Green: