A Book of the Year for The Times, Mail on Sunday and BBC History Magazine
Judge not, lest ye be judged. This timeless wisdom has guided the Anglican Church for hundreds of years, fostering a certain tolerance of eccentricity among its members.
Good thing, too.
The ‘Mermaid of Morwenstow’ excommunicated a cat for mousing on a Sunday. When he was late for a service, Bishop Lancelot Fleming commandeered a Navy helicopter. ‘Mad Jack’ swapped his surplice for a leopard skin and insisted on being carried around in a coffin. And then there was the man who, like Noah’s evil twin, tried to eat one of each of God’s creatures…
In spite of all this they saw the church as their true calling. After all, who cares if you're wearing red high heels when there are souls to be saved?
'There are still those alive today who recall the image of the Anglican clergyman, running after the camels across the missile testing ground, a pair of fake breasts bouncing against his face and a tiara on his head...'
‘A group biography of ecclesiastical nuttiness… All gloriously mad.’
– The Times, Books of the Year 2018
‘Eye-popping tales of lunacy, debauchery and depravity…Butler-Gallie knows whereof he writes, being a curate himself, and he has done a splendid job presenting a smorgasbord of most peculiar parsons.’
– Sebastian Shakespeare, Daily Mail
‘We have…always kept a special haven for oddballs in the Church of England, as Fergus Butler-Gallie demonstrates in this entertaining compendium…Their foibles cover all bases from absentmindedness to epic drunkenness…I’m glad I read this one. It’s a lot of fun.’
– The Times
‘Entertainingly erudite…But it is also a surprisingly profound work…For all its mischief, Butler-Gallie’s work of lightly worn erudition is a paean to a great English institution, finely tuned to the temper of its representatives, good, bad and indifferent. We should treasure it more.’
– Literary Review
‘A humorous compendium of some of the oddball clergy who have served the Church over the centuries...These thumbnail portraits reveal a very broad church indeed.’
– New Statesman
‘The Church of England has produced some real oddballs in its time, and this is an entertaining gallop through several centuries’ worth of them…Butler-Gallie has done his homework, digging out some rare gems…This is the story not just of eccentrics, but also of a leisured age that is no more.’
– Harry Mount, Spectator
‘Wonderfully entertaining…A hilarious yet thoughtful reminder that the Christian faith wasn’t always thought incompatible with a sense of humour or a healthy bolshiness.’
– Sunday Times
‘It may have the makings of a modern classic…Butler-Gallie chronicles not just Anglican follies, but also human weaknesses which we all share and with which we can perhaps sympathise.’
– The Catholic Herald
‘This is a ridiculously enjoyable book: funny, compassionate, and wonderfully well-written.’
– Tom Holland
‘A delightful, sympathetic, humorous and earthed cocktail of quirky English clergy.’