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This article is taken from PN Review 13, Volume 6 Number 5, May - June 1980.

Ancient and Modern Mary Warnock
 
THOSE who defend the Cranmer prayer book and the Authorised Version of the Bible often do so on the grounds that these are two of the great sources of linguistic riches, without which our whole culture would be impoverished, and would be impoverished as much for those who are irreligious as for those who are religious. I endorse this view, and I believe that it is part of a great argument in favour of the retention of both, and of the constant repetition of both, whether in church or at school. But it is only part of the argument.

I would by no means want to defend either the Cranmer prayer book or the Authorised Version in stylistic grounds alone, nor on grounds which might be called 'thesauric'. . . as the source of well-loved words and phrases. Far more important than the style, narrowly considered, or the vocabulary, rich though it is, is the meaning which is contained in just these words, and no others, used on just these occasions (as part of liturgy) and no others.

Those who want to retain the Cranmer prayer book and the Authorised Version might be inclined to agree with me, but to regard the point as too obvious to mention. For style, they would say, cannot be completely divorced from matter. Those, on the other hand, who want to retain them, if at all, only as historical relics, not for common use, would argue that if it ...


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