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The polymath and the Creator

27 July, 2017 — By John Gulliver

Sir Jonathan Miller

JONATHAN Miller was in a fine combative mood when I overheard him talking to a couple at the end of the “celebration” for Elizabeth June Horder on Saturday.

“No, no,!” he exclaimed. “There isn’t such a thing as a Creator! Creator! Creator! It’s such nonsense!” he repeated.

His adversary was about to plunge into the argument when I buttonholed him.

“Do you really believe that?” I asked. His eyes seemed to brighten at the thought of an argument and said: “Of course… the idea of a Creator is nonsensical!”

“Then what are you?” I asked. “An atheist, an agnostic?”

In a surprised voice he repeated that the idea of a “Creator” was a piece of nonsense.

There was rich irony about the heated discussion, you could say, considering we were arguing about God in what was considered to be God’s house, St Mary’s Church.

Then I said “but aren’t you Jewish or at least Jewish by culture?” I reminded him he had said as much a few years ago at a Jewish Book Week event in Bloomsbury. “No, no,” he protested.

“But weren’t you influ­enced by anything Jewish in your childhood?” I was about to continue to press my point when he said something to the effect that he had been influenced but that was before he was 12 and that didn’t seem to count, but I dropped the subject.

In calmer waters the conversation turned to what kept this 83-year-old Camden Town polymath busy – he said he was still painting and sculpting – and that a collation of his articles and essays had been published by Oberon, entitled One Thing and Another.

But he hadn’t had anything to do with its publication. The book had been put together by the publisher without any input by him. For once, he had been silenced. But he seemed to like it, calling over to his wife Rachel for details about the publisher.


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