ST. CLEMENT'S CHURCH 423 West 46th Street, New York 36.
The Reverend Sidney Lanier, Vicar
The Reverend Sterling Minturn, Assistant
January 13, 1963
Mr. Lenny Bruce
The Village Vanguard
New York, New York
Dear Mr. Bruce:
I came to see you the other night because I had read about
you and was curious to see if you were really as penetrating a
critic of our common hypocrisies as I had heard. I found that
you are an honest man, sometimes a shockingly honest man, and
I wrote you a note to say so. It is never popular to be so
scathingly honest, whether it is from a nightclub stage or
from a pulpit, and I was not surprised to hear you were having
some "trouble." This letter is written to express my personal
concern and to say what I saw and heard on Thursday Night.
First, I emphatically do NOT believe your act is obscene
in intent. The method you use has a lot in common with most
serious critics (the prophet or the artist, not the professor)
of society. Pages of Jonathan Swift and Martin Luther are
quite unprintable even now because they were forced to shatter
the easy, lying language of the day into the basic, earthy,
vulgar idiom of ordinary people in order to show up the
emptiness and insanity of their time. (It has been said,
humourously but with some truth, that a great deal of the Bible
is not fit to be read in Church for the same reason).
Clearly your intent is not to excite sexual feelings or
to demean but to shock us awake to the realities of racial
hatred and invested absurdities about sex and birth and death...
to move toward sanity and compassion. It is clear that you are
intensely angry at our hypocrisies (yours as well as mine) and
at the highly subsidized mealy-mouthism that passes as wisdom.
You may show this letter to anyone you wish if it can be
of help. Please call me when you come back from Chicago.
May God Bless you.
The Rev. Sidney Lanier