Thursday, 25 January 2018

Augustine and Monica proposed, God disposed

Reading Peter Brown’s Augustine of Hippo(2000) I was forcibly struck by the incident of Augustine’s putting away of his common-law wife and the retention of his son Adeodatus. It is an indication of how essentially decent people can be turned from goodness by culture and personal ambition. To add piquancy to that stew and a claim to exquisite moral sensitivity there is added essence of pear theft as a boy out of sheer badness. Brown, whose footnotes seem a Mylesian caricature of scholarship, offers as counterpoint the mere pagan administrator who kept as his sole wife a woman in a similar ‘second-rate marriage’. He was of course a rich man without any need for an advantageous alliance. God disposed of Augustine’s and Monica’s ambition by bringing ‘my son the professor’ back home to interminable wrangling with heretics.

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