24 January 2019

Auberon Waugh ...

 ... was a son of Evelyn; and himself a very considerable satirist. C.A.P.D..

I gather from a book review that someone has published a selection of his output. The reviewer mentions 'Bron's' comment on the introduction of WCs (I think some dialects of English call them Restrooms or Washrooms) into rural Anglican churches ... observing tartly that such things had been unnecessary in earlier ages when the churches were full, but appeared to be required now that they were largely empty.

It is a neat point, but as so often the satirist sharpens his barbs by eliding contextualising nuance. A pedant might remind you that before the invention of what the Victorians called 'ecclesiology', churches mostly contained Georgian 'box' pews. The pews which were provided for Gentry families had higher walls than the plebeian pews, and contemporary critics sometimes alluded to what these walls could conceal. Ladies' maids, apparently, kept close at hand discreet ceramic receptacles which could conveniently be slipped under voluminous garments. Gentlemen, perhaps, just popped out and made use of the ... er ... environment. The Victorians not only restored decayed buildings but radically reformed the informalities which had accompanied preTractarian churchgoing habits. Canon Chamberlain, my own predecessor at S Thomas's in Oxford, pointedly alluded to the indelicacies perpetrated in box-pews as good reason for his own policy of eliminating them ("scenes were enacted that prevented females attending church"). I believe there is a Hogarth print making some of these points.

Even in my own experience, it has not been uncommon for binating or trinating country clerics arriving in a hurry from their previous church to seek the traditional hospitality of the spaces betwen the buttresses on the North Sides of churches. Might it be that the women clergy of today do not find the gracious customs of English rural life so much to their taste?

Travelling clergy do deserve some sympathy. I used to spend my College Summer Vacations serving a couple of Church of Ireland churches. Most years, on one of my summer Sundays, Ned Darling the Bishop of Limerick used to make the long journey from Limerick all the way (remember that he was Bishop of seven other dioceses too, including Ardfert and Aghadoe) to the Dromod Union in County Kerry. His wife and driver Patricia was accustomed to select apt roadside bushes outside townlands for his Lordship therein to find comfort.

Happy days, for which seminary had not entirely prepared me.

One Sunday morning I cadged a lift with the Darlings from Knightstown to Waterville ... as we drove through one village, we were passed by a large and unconstrained bovine animal, travelling, very hurriedly and not without an implication of menace, in the opposite direction. "I think", said Patricia, "that was a bull".

Her eyes had not deceived her.

Ireland was such fun before it decided to move into the twentieth century.

10 comments:

IanW said...

WCs and other modern conveniences can complicate ecclesiatical life in unexpected ways. For example, clergy must always remember to turn off the wireless microphone if caught short during a service.

O tempora!

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

When it comes to tumult in a church it seems more a matter of plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose as St. John Chrysostom notes:

Great is the tumult, great the confusion here in church. Our assemblies differ in nothing from a tavern, so loud is the laughter, so great the disturbance, just as in the baths,in the markets, with everyone shouting and causing an uproar. The Church is not a barbershop, a perfumer's, nor any other shop in the forum...[in church] we behave more impudently than dogs, and pay as much respect to God as a whore..The Church is not a place of conversation but of teaching. But now there is no different from the forum. ..nor probably even from the stage, from the way the women who assemble here adorn themselves more wantonly than the unchaste ones there. Hence we see many profligates are enticed here by them, and if anyone is trying or intending to corrupt a woman, I suppose no place seems better than the church.

Quoted by Fr Robert Taft in Trough their own eyes liturgy as the Byzantines saw it

It makes our rambunctious Lil' Licit Liturgy seem like a Quaker meeting by comparison.

James said...

I would be interested in learning the title of this book.

Daniel Hayes said...

Auberon had the Waugh family's writing genius(although not as great as his father, Evelyn). Unfortunately, he was also deficient in his father's faith.

Daniel Hayes said...

I only recently learned that Father Taft was a member of the very prominent Taft Family, which was (and may still be) very important in American politics.

Banshee said...

The Tafts are important in Ohio, and particularly in Cincinnati, but it is not like being a Kennedy even though they have cash and nice houses. Tafts work for a living.

Sadie Vacantist said...

Anyone know how long a medieval Mass took? I suspect low Mass was pretty quick.

Sadie Vacantist said...

Auberon lost his faith as soon as both his parents died. He complained bitterly about the "Mickey Mouse" Church of Hume and Worlock. The latter he saw as a positive menace. Only now am I beginning to understand events and suspect AW was too severe on the late Archbishop of Liverpool.

Alan said...

Interesting bit of useless knowledge: the late Revd Fr Louis Bourdaloue, SJ, is believed to have given his name to a discreet ceramic item which ladies could slip beneath their skirt, if overtaken by need during one of his sermons, which did NOT match the modern rubric "Fit brevis homilia". One of these is, perhaps appropriately, displayed at Pau.

John Vasc said...

It would certainly add an extra dimension to Wodehouse's 'Great Sermon Handicap'...