Only once, I think, have I met a Catholic from Chaldea (may God have mercy on them and convert their murderers). It was about thirteen or fourteen years ago. He came from a town or village where they spoke Aramaic as their mother tongue. His English was stumbling. I do not now remember what turn of fortune or misfortune had brought him into Wessex, where I then lived. Some friends of mine and I entertained him; and as we sat down to dine, this stranger from that obscure Eastern province, heir to the tongue of the prophets and the apostles, looked at my companion opposite him; pointed; and said, ‘Mr Bean!’ And indeed, the resemblance was striking.

I hardly ever see the television or read a modern novel; I would struggle to name any painting or piece of classical music or sculpture in stone or bronze produced in these islands in the last five decades, so my opinion is probably worthless. But I sometimes think that Mr Bean will be the one work of art created among us in modern times that will last. Wordless, or nearly so, it can transcend not only the nations, as the visitor from Chaldea showed, but also the times. I can imagine men of a thousand years ago laughing at the sketch below. And should the world last, I think they would do the same a thousand years hence.

Scripture tells us that we must honour the physician, for we have need of him. But we have need also of the Clown. Indeed, is not the clown a kind of physician, purging men of an excess of melancholic humour, harmful both to body and  to soul? In any case, let him have his honour too.

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