- Overheard by God: Fiction and Prayer in Herbert, Milton, Dante and St John by A.D. Nuttall
Methuen, 147 pp, £8.95, September 1980, ISBN 0 416 73980 6
‘Imagine – if you can – God reading this poem.’ So begins this brief, stylish book, citing Herbert’s ‘Dialogue’ (‘Sweetest Saviour, of my soul …’) and asking afterwards: ‘Is God pleased with what he reads?’ Professor Nuttall’s point is that such a question would have seemed perfectly natural in the 17th century. Many of Herbert’s poems are prayers or dialogues with God. Prayers are literal addresses, presupposing a divine listener; dialogues written up after the event may be reports of transactions believed ‘really’ to have taken place. In any such transaction, God has always been deemed a direct participant.