Comment on this sentence spoken by Foreman in W. Somerset Maugham's "The Verger":"The last vicar knew that, sir," he replied. "He said it didn't make no difference. He always said there was a...

Comment on this sentence spoken by Foreman in W. Somerset Maugham's "The Verger":

"The last vicar knew that, sir," he replied. "He said it didn't make no difference. He always said there was a great deal too much education in the world for 'is taste."

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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W. Somerset Maugham's story "The Verger" is set in a small church in which there has recently been a change in vicars.  (Vicars were the local priests of a parish who performed most tasks of the church but did not receive the tithes and were therefore not the "official" representatives of the church.  They were the equivalent of a local pastor who represents a larger denomination.)  The old vicar had been there for years, and Albert Edward Foreman had gotten along splendidly with him without any complaints about his abilities.  Foreman was the verger for this vicarage; he performed all the physical and menial duties of the church.  He wore an official robe and had been performing his duty faithfully and with pride for the past sixteen years. He loved his job.

The new vicar came to Foreman one day in a state of amazement, shocked to learn, he said, that the verger of his parish could neither read nor write. He was embarrassed by this fact and had felt compelled to share that with the churchwardens (it was his duty, he said).  The line you mention is Foreman's response:

"The last vicar knew that, sir," he replied. "He said it didn't make no difference. He always said there was a great deal too much education in the world for 'is taste."

This calm and complacent answer did not suit the new vicar, and he informed the verger he was fired.  The verger didn't know what to do with himself, so he saw a need and filled it.  There was no tobacconist in his neighborhood, so he opened one.  The business did well, and Foreman's banker was astonished at how successful the verger had been--and all without being able to read or write.  At heart, of course, all Foreman wanted was to once again be verger of the church.

The point of the story, of course, is that being able to read and write may be a good thing, but it's certainly not the only thing by which to measure either worth or success. This sentence is Foreman's way of saying he was perfectly capable of fulfilling his duties despite his inability to read and write. "Education" does not guarantee success, nor does the lack of an education preclude it.

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