George Harcourt is the name of the Dean of Trinity Cathedral (Episcopal) in the 1937 novel Green Light by Lloyd Douglas. When we come into the action of the book, Dean Harcourt has been Dean of Trinity for 20 years. A victim of polio, Dean Harcourt cannot walk. His entire ministry consists of pastoral appointments on weekdays and preaching on Sunday mornings and on special occasions.
His pastoral and religious wisdom is, to be sure, the wisdom of his creator, Lloyd Douglas, who served in the parish ministry for decades before exchanging it for a full-time career as a writer. Douglas was not a great prose stylist. But he understood a lot. Here is some of the Dean’s wisdom:
“I am not a mind-reader, but I have had much experience in listening.”
“Oh, yes — I’m a Protestant, but that does not blind me to the facts.”
“I always preach to myself. I’ve found that if I talk about the problems that interest me personally, and the hopes that are of urgent concern to me, I am likely to make other people feel that I am well acquainted with their dilemmas — and their wistfulness, too.”
“What we most need to drill ourselves (sic) is that we are essentially alike, and that — in the main — the problems of each are the problems of all. If you want better information on the matter, I suggest a painstaking study of the Sermon on the Mount — and the poems of Walt Whitman.”
Here is a final quote, this time from the narrator of Green Light, on the effect of Dean Harcourt’s Easter sermon upon one listener:
“Never in his lifetime had Parker invested so much mental energy in following a public address. Dean Harcourt’s words were not mere words as words are commonly conceived. They walked up and down on Parker! They lifted him out of his lethargy, shook him wide awake, tramped ruthlessly on his sophistications, and companionably held out a hand to his despairs. He had always presumed that sermons were tedious. This one was now finished, leaving him taut as an E string.”