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The real Arthur Dent

I'm having one of those moments where half of me feels suddenly enlightened, but the other half is more struck by how utterly ignorant I've been for years.

A set of guest lectures are coming up this week in Belfast at the School of History. They're called the Wiles Lectures, and this year they are being given by a man named Christopher Haigh, from one of my several almae matres: Christ Church, Oxford.

Dr. Haigh will be discussing a text from 1601 entitled The Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven, over a series of four lectures. Its author? One Arthur Dent, a preacher from Essex.

Now I'm not saying that knowing about this text suddenly reveals vast depths of meaning in The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy of which I was previously unaware. It takes the form of a fictional debate between four stereotyped characters about how to live a properly 'Christian' life (outline details here), and doesn't therefore seem to stand up very closely to any search for parallels with the plot of Hitch-Hiker's.

But, on a simpler level, if Arthur Dent in H2G2 isn't a Plain Man who's taken up to see the Heavens, I'd like to know what he is. And since Douglas Adams studied English at Cambridge, I'm guessing he came across this author and his work at some point, and considered his name suitable for his lost and bemused traveller in space. Either that, or it's a very pleasing coincidence.

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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
neilh
May. 8th, 2005 10:03 pm (UTC)
Either that, or it's a very pleasing coincidence.
I very much doubt it would be a coincidence.
davesangel
May. 8th, 2005 11:20 pm (UTC)
From stories I've heard (from numerous sources), Adams did use the 'real' Arthur Dent as a basis for his fictional version, in name at least if nothing else. Given that I've never read anything by Mr Dent I can't say if the comparison goes beyond the name...
syrcleoftrees
May. 9th, 2005 12:54 am (UTC)
Love of a good mystery,,,
don't cha just love a good mystery? Or even a chance to allow those fantasies to run wild.I have heard of the plaim man's path to heaven.

I have never read it.Now might be a good time? 1600's seem to have been a very unsettled time in human history.Enlightenment is held down,confused with witchcraft.Any religion other than the main three,was to say the least,squelched.

"These be times,oh yes these be times."
sir_didymus
May. 9th, 2005 04:56 pm (UTC)
I'm having one of those moments where half of me feels suddenly enlightened, but the other half is more struck by how utterly ignorant I've been for years.

- I get those too.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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