Dreaded ‘d-’ words

Vocabulary of aging
In 1974 the University of Chicago Press informed me that it had received a manuscript on the rise of the Celtic church. I was editing Church History at the time and had a log of the church historians, so the press asked me to recommend referees who might do a critical reading of the manuscript and advise whether or not to accept it. I called back and told them that Professor So-and-So was good, but quite specialized. Dr. Also-and-Also was also expert, but had a narrower scope than the manuscript covered.

Finally, I said that there was only one North American of whom I was aware who combined special and general knowledge, who was a specialist with scope. “But he’s way too old to be asked to appraise the manuscript,” I added. Who was he? John T. McNeill. The press person replied, “We have an interesting problem here; you see, Dr. McNeill wrote the manuscript.” He was 89 when the book came out.


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