Henry Wilcox’s rude awakening

Undated handout photo of the Rev David Clarke, elected Wednesday February 8th 2006 as the new Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. Rev Clarke, who has been minister of Terrace Row Church in Coleraine, Co Londonderry for over 20 years, is the son of a butcher, and his brother played professional football for Sunderland. See PA story ULSTER Church. PRESS ASSOCIATION photo. Photo credit should read: PA
Undated handout photo of the Rev David Clarke, elected Wednesday February 8th 2006 as the new Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. Rev Clarke, who has been minister of Terrace Row Church in Coleraine, Co Londonderry for over 20 years, is the son of a butcher, and his brother played professional football for Sunderland. See PA story ULSTER Church. PRESS ASSOCIATION photo. Photo credit should read: PA

The BBC Sunday night dramatisation of E.M. Forster’s novel, ‘Howard’s End’, has come to a conclusion.

The four-part series has ended, but I am still struggling through the book itself.

My intention is to persevere Magnus Magnusson style, “I’ve started, so I’ll finish’ if only to see where the screen version deviates from the original.

The story involves three families. One is the Wilcox family, ruled by a thrusting man of the world, concerned about the accumulation of money. The second is the Schlegel family, comprising two ladies and a young brother, comfortably off and concerned more about the life of the mind. The third family is at the bottom of the social pile, Mr. and Mrs Leonard Bast. People in that level of society receive no compassion from the likes of Mr. Henry Wilcox.

A freak chance brings Leonard Bast to the attention of the Miss Schlegel and through them a throwaway line from Mr. Wilcox, eventually leads to unemployment and poverty for Mr. Bast. Seeking some assistance, Leonard Bast and his wife encounter Mr. Wilcox and a moment of dreaded recognition ensues, an event which radically transforms the story. In that encounter Mr. Henry Wilcox is recognised by Mrs. Bast as someone who had been her lover in Cyrus years before, when to all appearances, he was a happily married man with a wife and family in England.

The encounter not only brought the story to life, but also underscored , whether Forster intended it or not, a deep biblical truth. ‘Behold your sins will find you out’ (Numbers 32;23). Henry Wilcox discovered that ‘things that he thought were dead things were alive with a terrible might’.

Tolstoy’s novel, ‘Resurrection’, hinges on a similar moment of recognition. A Russian nobleman is acting as a magistrate, presiding over a trial, where a prostitute is facing with others a charge of murder. Something about her face disturbs him, and then it dawns on him--she had been a servant on his father’s farm. In those far off days , he had seduced her, and thus started her on her life of shame.

The experience is not confined to a works of fiction; it is a current political reality. Leaving aside the question of Damien Green and what he did or did not do, and what police officers said or should not have said, others have found their political career ended when past misbehaviour was brought to light.

Bishop Phillips Brooks of Boston gave solemn advice to which we should all take heed: ‘To keep clear of concealment, to keep clear of the need of concealment, to do nothing one would be afraid to do out on the middle of Boston Common at noonday, I cannot say how more and more that seems to me to be the glory of a young man’s life’. Well said, Bishop!