Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Arthur Marshall and Monty Python

There is nothing new under the sun, not least in comedy. I once had a letter published in the London Review of Books pointing out that Christopher Isherwood had exploited the comic potential of the name "Darling" long before the writers of Blackadder.

I thought I had discovered a similar example the other day. In his Whimpering in the Rhododendrons - a lighthearted social history of the English prep school - Arthur Marshall recalled that:
Another headmaster had a rich voice with a trace of a Yorkshire accent and was unable to pronounce the letter "r", the boys naturally looking keenly forward to the Passiontide lesson in Chapel, "... and Bawabbas was a wobber".
I wondered if the Monty Python people had read Marshall's book before writing The Life of Brian. Probably not, given that the film came out in 1979 and the book was published in 1982. So it is just a coincidence.

Another headmaster Marshall mentions was in the habit of beginning prayers with: "Dear Lord, doubtless Thou knowest that in the Daily Telegraph this morning..."

2 comments:

Tom Barney said...

This last example has an antecedent too. Geoffrey Ashe in "The art of writing made simple" (1972) writes, of authors' attitudes to their audience:

"Respect for the Daily Mirror with all it implies is at least as important as respect for The Times. The Times may be unrivalled for its content, but the Mirror, on the whole, is more skilfully written." Then a footnote: "A clergyman is said to have started a prayer: 'O Lord, as thou didst doubtless see in the morning's Times...' The assumption that God reads only that paper is, I believe, unwarranted."

Ed said...

I recently tried to find a recording of Arthur Marshall's comedy but found none. Has the BBC missed a trick here or is something lurking out there that I missed?