3 February 2023

Sayers (2): Abortion?

DLS was, from the beginning, not averse to writing ... erotically? ... not, I think, the right word; 'explicitly', perhaps. Her first draft of her novel Whose Body had laid some emphasis on the status, in terms of Circumcision, of a naked male corpse. Busman's Honeymoon is full of John-Donnery; Donne was an author himself awake to the possibilities of bringing together the corporeal and the geographical. DLS was not above writing a novel the key to which is Interbellum Lesbianism. But I do not think that anything she wrote earlier was quite as explicit as the episode early in Thrones and Dominations, situated at the back of a Parisian taxi, where Wimsey takes his wife's hand and starts burbling on about "cherishing worms". 

And the relationship between Laurence and Rosamund Harwell is given a basis in the sexual exploitation of sexual frustration. He wants a baby; she is determined not to allow this to happen. The role of her ridiculous dog in chapter 6 is, in my view, masterly.

My hypothesis, advanced as nothing more than a hypothesis, is that Rosamund, having become pregnant, seeks a solution to this problem in Abortion. Harwell loses his temper when he finds out.

I wonder if Sayers slips into her draft an allusive reference to the sexual act which had resulted in that conception.

On the night when Lord Dawson killed George V, Rosamund has gone to bed, while Laurence listens to the bulletins. After the announcement of the Royal Death, he goes to bed. "His sudden arrival startled her. She said, 'Not already?' and he answered. 'Yes; he's gone,'  and she could only cry, 'Oh Laurence!' and cling to him. A rich melancholy enfolded them. They felt the grief of a nation lap them in luxurious sheets of sympathetic bereavement. A whole epoch was collapsing about them, while at the core of darkness they lit their small blaze of life and were comforted."

How exactly does one 'light a small blaze of life'?

Sayers, with ironic detachment, characterises this as "a night of stars and love".


Well, Thank You to those offered me help with my queries about the propers for the Fourth Sunday and Week after Epiphany. This morning was the last occasion many will have used Green in the Usus Intactus of the Roman Rite, until after Trinity Sunday.

I think this proper was overtly devised for the place it very often has: immediately before the Gesimas.

As it appears in our current Missal, it shares the psalmody of the III, V, and VI Sundays after Epiphany, just as (when it is used to supply a Mass for Sundays just before Advent) it shares the psalmody for that adjacent period. So Collect and Gospel are left to make its point (on Epiphany II, the chap who arranged the Epistles got us into Romans 12 sqq.)

The Collect, clearly, was designed for the penitential period which we enter around this time of the year; ideology and phraseology closely follow the euchology of Gesimatide and Lent. Indeed, in some sources it is offered for use on the Lenten Ember Saturday.

The Collect teaches that Sufferings of body and soul are condign punishments for our sins ... but, O Lord .... Hence the Gospel reading about the Ship (to ploion) which would have sunk ... but the Lord intervened.

Here is Cranmer's translation from 1549:

God, whiche knoweste us to bee set in the middest of so many and great daungers, that for mannes fraylnes we cannot alwayes stande uprightly; Graunt to us the health of body and soule that al those thinges which we suffer for sinne, by thy helpe we may wel passe and ouercome.

I have marked in red phrases additions (very characteristically) made by Cranmer ... my suspicion is that he feared lest the naked concision of Latin originals might often hurry past the ears of congregations before they had properly woken up!

In 1662, somebody (one naturally suspects Bishop Cosin) revised the text.

O God, who knowest us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright: Grant to us such strength and protection, as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations

I have marked in blue the alterations made in 1662. 

Unfortunately, these changes rather tend to obscure the 'Last Week before the Gesimas' spirit of the original

2 February 2023


 This is a historical day for me, since I am about to enter the dear old Anglican controversy about How Many Candles On The Altar.

Back in the good old days when such things were deemed to matter, dear old C of E was divided between (1) Evangelicals who regarded any candles in the same way as their modern successors view sodomy: as pretty well the ultimate sin. (2) Moderate Men or 'the High Church', for whom it was an article of Faith that Two Candles should stand on every Holy Table. The main evidence for this conviction seems to have been the 1547 Tudor Injunctions, the real point of which seems to have been graciously to allow parishes to retain two candles after the government had looted the rest. (3) Six candles ... beloved by 'Romanisers' ... how one's heart lifted as one entered a strange church if its High Altar were thus adorned ...

Dix p420 exploded these sacristy orthodoxies by listing the generous variety of customs which, in reality, existed in and before the England of 1548 (the year when, by a pedantically precise reading of the 1549 Prayer Book, the ornaments of the churches and their ministers were fixed and frozen in perpetuity).

But just notice Dix's words: "There appear in fact to be instances from medieval England of every number of altar candles from one to twenty, except seventeen and nineteen."


Did you spot that? ONE! How asymmetrical!

In what follows, I am being horrifically anecdotal. But it is up to you to bring me to my senses.

I am suspicious of rubrical sources which give numbers. I suspect them of giving us information about what was done in great churches. I am far less convinced thatat side atars and in chantries, this convention existed.

For some time, I have been noticing, without ever making records, pictures of Low Masses in medieval English manuscripts, in which the altar appear simply to have one candle; at the South ('Epistle') end of the Altar. Another example arrived in my post yesterday: D H Frost's magnificent Sacrament an Alter. An expensive book (£80/$109) but vital reading for anybody interested in Recusancy, the 'Marian Reaction', Tudor History, the Cornish Language, Bonner ...

On the front cover is an illustration 'from a Book of Hours, Sarum Use, c1440-c.1450' (BL, Harley 2915, folio 84).The priest is elevating the Host; there appears to be one candle on the Altar; the Clerk , whose left hand lifts the foot of the chasuble while his right hand cold aloft two

1 February 2023

Mathematics and mathematicians

Some wykehamist has argued that all young people should be forced to study Mathematics until they are 18 years old. 

What nonsense.

I've nothing against Mathematics or mathematicians. On the contrary: the subject seemed to attract the same analytical minds as Latin and Greek. So very often, sensible young people chose Greek-and-Latin-and-Maths for their troika of subjects. They revisited the College years later, their faces distended by the exertions of London's clubs, with their tales of dangerous life in the distant and arid wastelands of the Treasury or the Foreign Office.

But if 'too few' of the young opt for Mathematics, the guilty women and men are ... not the poor young people themselves, but teachers who fail to make their subjects compelling or even tolerable.

In our current debate, bouncy people keep getting interviewed on TV (for a fee?) and rabbit on about how totally fascinating Mathematics is. Perhaps it is is for them; but why, then, are their former students queuing up in such vast droves to opt out of the subject?

Last time we had this same national discussion, we were told that those prepared to teach Mathematics should be paid more. (Why, if it's such fun?)

I can think of nothing more subversive of good Common Room relationships (both personal and professional) than this. How are the rest of us expected to feel, seeing crass and ineffective fools whose students attain lamentable grades in public examinations, being paid more than us just for "being Mathematicians"?

In principle, teachers who consistently show poorly in the public examinations of their students should be invited to move on and to take the fascinations of their subject elsewhere.

31 January 2023

Blessed Queen Maria Christina

Here, purged of a couple of misprints, is the Collect authorised for this Stuart Beata, who is placed in the Roman Martyrology for January 31, in Naples.

Deus, qui in figura huius mundi beatam Mariam Christinam prudenti ardentique caritate decorasti et artificem in augmento regni tui effecisti: praesta nobis eius exemplo et intercessione; ut de vero amoris tui thesauro benefacientes accipere valeamus. Per.

I feel that the lack of an explicit accusative object with accipere valeamus sounds a little odd.

Here is an English rendering:
God, who in the passing fashion of this present world hast adorned blessed Maria Christina with a prudent and ardent love and hast made her a worker in the advancement of thy kingdom: grant by her example and intercession; that we, active in good works, may receive from the true treasury of thy love. Through.

I was unsure how to render in figura huius mundi. In the end, I have over-translated it in the light of its Pauline original. I Corinthians 7:31 finds S Paul arguing that those who use the World (kosmos) should do so as if they are not using it; because the skhema of this World is passing (or will pass) away. The Vulgate and the neo-Vulgate render skhema as figura; and English translations in descent from the AV have 'fashion'.

I presume the phrase in the context of this Collect relates to how the Beata left behind the adequacy and pomp of the Royal Court of the Two Sicilies in order to perform works of charity among the lowliest.

May she pray for us and for our Ordinariate.

Publishers of the abortive Book of Common Prayer of 1928 used to print in the front this sentence: "The publication of this Book does not directly or indirectly imply that it can be regarded as authorized for use in churches". In the same generous spirit, I point out that there is no authority whatsoever for celebrating Blessed Maria Christina with the Mass Cognovi in the Extraordinary Form and using this Collect. Indeed, she is not entitled to any liturgical commemoration whatsoever outside the limited areas named in the Decree of Beatification, let alone throughout the entire territories of the European Community as constituted at this precise moment.

30 January 2023

Datum sed non concessum (2)

 So here are the words of King Charles after he was 'condemned':

"And, admitting, but not granting, that the people of England's Commission could grant you [this pretended power to judge and condemn a monarch] I see nothing to show that; for certainly you have never asked the question of the tenth man of this Kingdom ..."

Shipwrecked on the rocks of Bergoglianity?

 Normally, when commenting on a day's liturgy, the Prudent Blogger will have got his line sussed well beforehand. But it was only as I actually read yesterday's propers, for Epiphany IV, that I started wondering. Let me share with you my work-in-progress.

In the Gospel, we had the Disciples, poor poppets, panicking about the storm as they baled out the boat. Earlier, we had those words in the Collect " ... nos in in tantis periculis constitutos ...".

You see, those dangers facing the Boat ... they reminded me of Boats in Danger in Classical Greek literature ... Homer ... OK ... but, more in particular, Alcaeus, a symposiast/political poet on the island of Lesbos. For him, the endangered ship may symbolise the imperilled political community (see Page on Z 2). Commentators here sometimes reach for the cliche 'Ship of State'. (There is an imitatio of this motif in Horace; Odes I xiv and see NH.) 

Are we supposed to make a connection between Epiphany IV's "so great dangers" and this literary tradition? And what about those paintings of ships in the catacombs?

Two points.

(1) It is rarely obvious that the mind which selected a Gospel was the same mind that provided the same day's Collect. But it is one of the characteritics of the Gesima Sundays ... what we now rather poshly seem to have been renamed the Pre-Lent Season ... that the two are related ... just as they are here on Epiphany IV. (2) And the theme of this Collect is strikingly similar to that of Gesima propers: that all these calamities are punishment for our sin; and we throw ourselves upon Divine Mercy. Compare, particularly, Epiphany IV Collect with that for Septuagesima.

I have found Sr Dr Haessly's pages suggestive here, especially 38-40 and 130sqq.

So, as far as Collect and Gospel are concerned, Epiphany IV has for me the curious appearance of a Gesima-outlier. As the 1970s blunderers and blusterers got to work, naturally it had to disappear so as to make the liturgy 'enriched' enough for Arthur Roche.

Anybody got a line on any of this, preferably rooted in the liturgical tradition? 

Anyway, a most appropriate proper for the Church in temporibus his Bergoglianissimis.

29 January 2023


Recently, I explained ... not for the first time ... the phrase Argumentum ad hominem. I was concerned to refute the idea that it means using personal abuse to attack an idea that someone has put forward.

It doesn't ... or, it it does, it does so only by being a mistake which has now confusingly deceived so many poor souls that we are expected to accept it on the ground that usage is prescriptive. (If enough people are firmly convinced that the word water means "coloured orange", we shall eventually, regretfully, have to accept the judgement of Usage.)

I think it might also be useful to deal with the phrase datum sed non concessum

Literally, this means "Given but not conceded".

As commonly used in discourse among the educated classes, it was employed very usefully to mean something like this:

"Proposition X has been advanced to support idea Y which you trying to persuade me to accept. I don't think that proposition X is true; but, in order to enable our argument to continue, I am prepared to treat X as if it were true. This is, frankly, because even if X were true, Y would still be complete nonsense."


 Lawks a-mussy! In May, so it is being ordered by the current Head of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha-Battenberg, his Coronation will be 'celebrated' by People going round Doing Good, not least to the elderly.

I am elderly. I dislike People. I can't stand Good.

What on earth is one to do? Buy a dog? But I don't like dogs either. Go on retreat to somewhere with a decent cellar? Put up a notice reading DO-GOODERS WILL BE SHOT ON SIGHT? 


I turn to readers in my hour of need for some ingenious advice.

28 January 2023

Those Blessed Kings

Today, January 28, in many places the Emperor Charles the Great is commemorated liturgically. His canonisation was performed by an antipope (Paschal III, a creature of Barbarossa), and he is not in the Roman Martyrology, so he is nowadays tactfully celebrated as a Beatus. (I hope those with a devotion to him will forgive my cynicism when I remark that the article on him in Gueranger is rather amusing to read, as it attempts with angry indignation to rebut accusations that Charlemagne's matrimonial life was less than, er, canonical.)

And, in two days time, there will be those who commemorate blessed (note my cunningly lower-case b) Charles Stuart, who has had the word blessed attached to him liturgically by Anglicans since 1662 (the authorised texts, to the best of my knowledge, have never called him Saint).

That was during an age when Kings had mistresses as a natural adjunct of Royal Majesty. (I believe there was even one German king, a laudably uxorious chappy, who maintained a number of titular 'Mistresses', although he never laid a finger, or anything else, on any of them.)

But blessed (note my cunningly lower-case b) Charles was notorious for marital chastity. The Court Masques of his reign exalted the theme of chaste marital love. There are worse themes than this to incorporate into royal ...or any ... ideologies.

I think this blessed (note my cunningly lower-case b) is quite a good candidate for imitation in this age of ritual and government-encouraged promiscuity.

May blessed Charles the Royal Martyr pray for us all.

And, of course, may the unmartyred and matrimonially debated Blessed Charlemagne do the same.

27 January 2023

The Liturgical Revolution that wasn't (2)

 Time was, when, out of reverence, it was forbidden to print, in books of devotion intended for lay Catholics, a translation into profane, vernacular, languages, of the Canon of the Mass. Those days had manifestly passed when on 10 September 1948, the Vicar General of Westminster, E Morrogh Bernard, issued an Imprimatur to Messrs Burns Oates and Washbourne Ltd, Publishers to the Holy See, for The Missal in Latin and English Being the text of the Missale Romanum with English rubrics and a new translation. (Further editions were to follow in 1957; 1958; 1960; and 1962.)

This was a lavish edition, for lay hands, of the Roman Missal. I write 'lavish'; for example it printed in full the orders for Low and for High Mass; it contained all the proper masses for the dioceses of England, Wales, and Scotland. And the Appendix pro aliquibus locis. But more: "The translation of the ... scriptural passages throughout the volume is by the Right Reverend Mgr R. A. Knox."

Of course, those vernacular passages were not intended for public use in public worship. This massive show-case for 'the Knox Bible' was to foster private devotion among those literate in their mother tongue, but not up to the Latin of the Missal. It was to assist in enabling an educated public to appropriate and appreciate the riches of the (traditional) Roman Rite. A very 'forties' and very laudable project! But, in an age when 'the Liturgical Movement' had put the 'Vernacular question' onto the agenda, this was surely also a strong pointer in a certain direction.

Incidentally, the prayers were translated by the Reverend J. O'Connell, M.A., and H. P. R. Finberg, M.A., F.R.Hist.S. (1900-1974). The involvement of Fr O'Connell, Editor (of edition after edition) of The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described, suggested the semi-establishment appearance of the venture. But neither man was to be a fundamentalist traditionalist; Finberg, a lay Catholic greatsman with wide academic interests, was to work for ICEL. His influence there was conservative: he felt that "if the liturgy uses expressions that run or seem to run counter to the spirit of the age, we should let it teach us to modify our sometimes callow notions, rather than remodel it, under the pretext of translation, to suit the fashion of the day ... the truth is that, consciously or unconsciously, the translators have bowed to the influence of critics who find much of the Roman Canon repugnant to the contemporary mind."

Anglia non est totus orbis. In 1952, a volume entitled The Little Breviary was published in Dutch. It consisted of an abbreviated form of the Breviary Office, in the vernacular. It came with fruity Vatican encouragement: "I hasten to inform you that the Sovereign Pontiff considers the book entitled 'The Little Breviary' which you have brought out in dutch deserving of the highest praise. A long-cherished hope has now been realised in a most excellent fashion ... outstanding ... His Holiness is delighted and congratulates you on having contributed by a work of this kind to the wider spread of devotion to the liturgy ... His Holiness is heartily in favour of the use of 'The Little Breviary' both by religious communities whose established way of life allows of it and by the laity ..."

This encomium is signed Jo Bapt. Montini Subst.  Who he? you all cry.

In 1957, this work appeared in English (Burns and Oates) with a Birmingham Imprimatur. Cardinal Griffin contributed a Foreward which frankly reveals the cultural back-ground: "The growing interest in the Sacred Liturgy ... warm approval of the Holy See .... high praise from the Holy Father, Pope Pius XII.  This Breviary meets a great need  ... knowledge of Latin will be scanty or lacking altogether ... "

A preface by a Redemptorist superior adds that the Office as abbreviated is "Yet no longer than the Little Office of our Lady." I gloss this as meaning that those lay communities which are not canonically bound to the full Breviary Office, and have hitherto used the Officium Parvum BMV, would do very well to adopt The Little Breviary instead.

The Foreword to the English Edition makes clear that this office-book follows the The Roman Missal in using Mgr Knox's translation of the Bible; and the translations of prayer-texts by O'Connell and Finberg.

Thus: the English Catholic Church was well equipped for a liturgical evolution in which Tradition would have been respected and treated gently; and home-grown scholarship from the pen and in the style of Mgr Knox would have been dominant.

I regard this as an opportunity most sadly missed. The policies which were, instead, folowed have left us in our current disastrous situation. The 1940s were a better decade than the 1960s! Was the eventual Vatican preference for doing business with world-wide language-groups really in accord with the principle of Subsidiarity?

26 January 2023

The Liturgical Revolution which wasn't (1)

In 1948, the Old Testament, in a translation created by Mgr R A Knox, Master of Arts and (later) Protonotary Apostolic, received a Westminster Imprimatur "for private use"; in 1945 the New Testament, from the same hand, had been published. These events might have proved the starting-gun for a considerable liturgical, and cultural, revolution.

Congregations at that time ... Anglican, (most) Protestant, and Catholic ... were in the grip of assumptions concerning the necessity for Tudor English within Church or Chapel walls. The King James Bible was still the Bible in the minds of Anglicans and Protestants; for Catholics, the Douay Rheims translation, purged of its most diverting incomprehensibilities by Bishop Challoner, served the devout. Any 'revision' even if only to bring King James (or Douay-Rheims) into line with the textcrit certainties of Westcott'nHort (textus brevior potior) needed powerful justification before it could break through the prejudices of three, cultural, centuries. King James ... aided by Thomas Cranmer ... still ruled. Even if not quite OK.

The problem for Catholics was less acute, because the kindly Latin (or happy inaudibility) of Tradition protected the laity from the irritating mutabilities and aggressions of clericalism (and The Garden of the Soul reinforced lay preference for archaic language). S John Henry Newman mocked  Protestant sneers about the linguistic attaments of the Recusant community: when Charles Reding is being dissuaded by his future brother-in-law from seceding to Rome, he has to face the argument that Catholic Clergy are "men of rude minds and vulgar manners"; "look at their books of devotion ... they can't write English." Reding smiled at Carlton, and slowly shook his head to and fro, while he said, "they write English, I suppose, as classically as St John writes Greek." Here, so the canonised author informs us, the conversation halted, and nothing was heard for a while but the simmering of the kettle. 

Do you think we are given here a snatch of the repartee of the Oriel Common Room? Would Whately have expectorated into the fire in explosive response to such a Jesuitical attack on Johannine parataxis?

I am unsurprised that not all the English Catholic bishops were equally enthusiastic about Knox's Bible. Given the radically revolutionary quality of its English style, it is surprising that it received from them such acceptance, or tolerance, as it did. It is not hard to understand how the bishops felt. How, indeed, should one respond to this clever convert?

To be continued.