Eulogies

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Jon Snow blogged today about attending Anthony Howard’s funeral/memorial service and the eulogy delivered by the writer Robert Harris.

I can hear his voice now, as he stands at my shoulder, looking down at what I’ve written: “Call this a eulogy? You must be off your toot. You clearly haven’t done a hand’s turn. Even Trelford would have done a better job than this…”

I’ve been to quite a few funerals and memorials of late – three male Quinlans of the generation ahead of mine have gone in quick succession. All the eulogies have all referred to the comments that the eulogisee would have to say about the eulogiser. It’s a recognition not just that the speakers want to do right by their friends/family and extol virtues, but that they recognise that each would have had particular ideas about how it should be done.

Due respect for those ideas are paid, but the eulogisers make sure they then go on to speak more good of the dead than their subjects would have been willing to hear firsthand. It’s very wonderful to hear and to recognise how important it is to say these things. And very British that we wait until after they’re gone before we say how great they were.

[A cousin, at her father’s funeral at which my father had given the eulogy, commented that she wished my uncle had known that his brother thought so much of him.]

And from today’s eulogy on Anthony Howard, I particularly liked this:

Tony was a wonderful combination of paradoxes. In a characteristic inversion of the modern commonplace stance, he didn’t believe in God but he did believe in an organised religion.

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