The Professor & the Parson: A Story of Desire, Deceit and Defrocking
(Profile books, 240 PP, £12.99)
Tablet bookshop price £11.69 • Tel 020 7799 4064
There is little more enjoyable than a tale of the fallibility and foolishness of respectable people – like the academics and clerics whose misadventures are the subject of this deliciously amusing and quietly subversive book. The Professor in question was the highly distinguished, late Hugh Trevor-Roper, Christ Church don and Regius Professor of History at Oxford. The Parson was one deeply obscure Robert Parkin Peters, a serial seducer, bigamist, forger, conman extraordinaire and epic liar. Adam Sisman, biographer of, among others, Trevor-Roper, tells the story with deadpan simplicity. He resists theorising, mostly letting the astonishing facts speak for themselves.
By the time Peters, a small, round, bespectacled man in early middle age, called on Trevor-Roper in 1958, claiming that he was being persecuted by the Bishop of Oxford and the president of Magdalen College, and that his promising career as a preacher and medieval historian was in jeopardy, he already had quite a past.