Parsons in the Bedroom

Down in Lambeth at this very moment, a convocation of bishops is getting very tense and anguished about the things that some clergymen so in the privacy of their bedrooms. Eighty years ago it was far easier to maintain a pretence that parsons did nothing in the bedroom but sleep.

Back in 1925, a playscript was sent to the Lord Chamberlain’s office; it was an adaptation of the novel Simon Called Peter, by Robert Keable. The book had been a best-seller, though very controversial; it told the story of a straitlaced clergyman who went to France as an army chaplain, discovered the joy of sex (with a very lively nurse called Julie) and developed a new religion based on what he had learnt. It’s an intriguing mixture of religious earnestness, (very) soft porn and interesting descriptions of Army life behind the front line.

The Lord Chamberlain decided that so controversial a piece should be sent to the Bishop of London for comment. I enjoyed the Bishop’s reply:

I picture myself taking my house party as I do when I have a free evening to the Theatre, and any nice girl or woman would I think be sick at seeing any man or woman emerging from the bedroom where they had spent the night in their night-dresses, but when one was a parson they would be positively shocked.

The Lord Chamberlain dutifully refused the play a license.

Simon called Peter

This is the novel’s dust jacket, courtesy of www.greatwardustjackets.co.uk

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