I am not a very nice person. Sometimes I get wind of a book which fills me with a sort of black, terrible joy, and I can’t wait to read it, but not, I am afraid, for any noble reasons. Pursuing something round Google à propos of my new Byzantium course, I found this:
‘Theodore is the fictional memoirs of England’s most unlikely archbishop. Saint Theodore was a homosexual Byzantine monk with heretical tendencies, and a taste for Platonic philosophy. He was born during Europe’s darkest age, when the Byzantine Empire was overrun by pagan invaders, weakened by civil war, and divided by religious controversy. He sought certainty, and love, among monks, soldiers, philosophers, and barbarian horsemen. He wandered ceaselessly, fleeing war and persecution, pursuing wisdom, searching for security in a collapsing world. In the East, he saw brutality and destruction. In Constantinople, he was drawn into court intrigue. In Italy, he found love, then lonely exile. Then, almost by accident, he was given the task that changed his life. Though greatly learned and widely experienced, Theodore disliked authority, and was undermined by conflicting desires and religious doubts. Despite these obvious disqualifications, he was chosen by the Pope as Archbishop of Canterbury, and sent to England to civilise the semi-pagan Anglo-Saxons. He proved an unexpected success, and, with help from his partner Hadrian, established the Church in England in a form that has lasted, in many respects, until today. Even so, he is less well known than his ineffectual predecessor Saint Augustine, or his bitter rival, the sack-cloth politician Saint Wilfrid. ‘
I spent the best part of three years writing a book about Archbishop Theodore, and edited some of his writings. He struck me as a very remarkable person indeed, possessed of a clear and vigorous mind, with the sort of ghastly pragmatism which is a leading Byzantine characteristic, and I came away with the greatest respect for him. I can’t begin to think what he would have said about this schlock, but I’m sure it’ll provide more than no moments of inadvertent comedy. One of the fatal flaws in most books about the early modern and earlier is evident even from the blurb; modern writers can’t quite believe that people actually thought religion mattered. I look forward with anticipation to seeing what Mr Harris does with the monothelite controversy, which I’d bet you anything you like occupied a great deal more of Theodore’s time and attention than his sex-life.