by wjw on December 21, 2016

This is the time of year for caroling.  But what do we actually know about carols?

For one thing, carol services are very recent.  They were invented in 1880 by Edward White Benson, the Bishop of Truro.  And what do we know about him?

He later became Archbishop of Canterbury and his whole family had something of a mania for writing. His wife had 39 lesbian lovers. How do we know that? Because she kept a diary, and numbered them. One of his sons was the eminent gay novelist EF Benson. Another was the eminent gay poet Arthur Benson. 

Arthur wrote the words to Land of Hope and Glory. He also wrote a diary of four million words, which is often reckoned to be the longest ever. His daughter Margaret was an eminent lesbian Egyptologist. His daughter Nellie actually stole one of her own mother’s girlfriends and died of TB.

Astoundingly, there were no grandchildren. 

Before Truro got its first bishop, carols were folk songs and sung in pubs.  And also, they tended to be inadvertent collaborations, such as the one between Mendelsson and Charles Wesley, founder of Methodism, who of course never ever met each other but wrote a classic carol anyway:

Hark how all the welkin rings
Glory to the King of Kings
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled.

You’ve heard that one, right?  Or maybe something like it?

For more on this topic, along with the true tale of King Wenceslas and his loyal page, and what this had to do with a Finnish folksong, check out this enlightening article.

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