22 January 2015

Dr John Radcliffe

As Alma Mater Oxonia celebrates the three hundredth anniversary of the death of her greatest benefactor, there is a little exhibition in Bodley including such papers, and architectural plans, as survive; and the wooden model of the Camera which demonstrates Hawksmore's early (abortive) design. They are also trying to sell a little book by somebody whose name, happily, I cannot recall.

I flicked quickly through its pages to see what it had to say about the tumultuous occasion of the Dedication of the Radcliffe Library in 1749. It did admit that there was Jacobite involvement and that the event was 'thunderous', but its thin little narrative gives but a vapid account of that mighty occasion. In particular, it claims that the Oratio by Dr William King ended with him saying that things were so bad that we must take to prayer. Sounds like a dejected, down-beat, low-key conclusion, doesn't it?

But the reality is that, while King's description (done memoriter) of the State of the Nation did lead up to some such phrase (vide infra), it did so only as the prelude to a crashing and crushing climax of five paragraphs, five shattering onslaughts upon the Whig Ascendancy, implicit calls for the RETURN of the Prince Regent, each beginning REDEAT, each repetition of that word met by deafening roars of loyal applause. I will append the first three below. (I am able to do so because of the humanitas, decades ago, of the late John Sparrow, a great Oxonian, sometime Warden of All Souls, bon viveur and bibliophile. He kindly photocopied, and gave to me the photocopy of, his own first edition, luxuriously produced, of King's Oratio. I expect the text is all on the Internet now. It is sometimes wickedly asserted that Sparrow spent all his time at All Souls resisting change. This may not be accurate; it was possibly during his time as a Fellow that the College abolished its entire undergraduate body, in the persons of its four Bible Clerks. It was a swapping, swapping mallard. The port is with you, my lord. Floreat Oxonia! No Herrenhausen! Vivat Rex!)

 .... ad ea [scilicet vota] confugiamus.

REDEAT (neque me fugit hoc verbum meum, quippe meum, ab inficetis et malevolis viris improbari; iterandum est tamen) REDEAT nobis Astraea nostra, aut quocunque nomine malit vocari ipsa Justitia; non quidem fabulosa illa, sed Christianissima virgo, si non genetrix, certe equidem custos virtutum omnium!

REDEAT simul magnus ille Genius Britanniae, (sive is sit nuncius, sive sit ipse spiritus dei) firmissimum libertatis et relligionis praesidium; amandetque procul (o procul!) a civibus nostris grassationes, caedes, rapinas, pestilentes annos, superbas dominationes, infames delatores, et mala omnia!

REDEAT, efficiatque, ut revirescat respublica, revocetur fides, firmetur pax, sanciantur leges justae, honestae salutares, utiles, quae deterreant improbos, coerceant milites, faveant doctis, ignoscant imprudentibus, sublevent egenos, delectent omnes, omnes nunc demum a periculis litium ita liberando, ut nequis omnino unquam civis ingenuus, innocens, indemnatus vexetur, multetur, spolietur!

I fear I cannot translate these inflammatory words, because King specifically asked that "nequis, me invito, hanc orationem in sermonem patrium vertat". But in the years that followed, REDEAT was one of the commonest words to be engraved on Jacobite drinking glasses; and they often bore a portrait of the future King Charles III with the words REDEAT Magnus Ille Genius Britanniae.

(I wonder, incidentally, in how many minds the penny has dropped that the current Bishop of Rome must be an enthusiastic crypto-Jacobite.)

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