27 March 2021

Cheerful Catholic Girls in the 1930s

Lady Julia Flyte of Brideshead Castle found her Catholicism to be a barrier against what she wanted from life. The Church's laws on Marriage stood in her way. Perhaps most of us have shed a tear for her ... although, goodness me, she did get some fun out of Sin before the avalanche thundered down the mountainside.

The honble Daphne Lufton, however, had a less complicated life (Barchester Pilgrimage capitulum v). Her Catholic parents "had settled down very comfortably at Framley, where they brought up a large family in a harum-scarum sort of fashion; boys and girls who rode on horseback almost as soon as they could walk, mimicked the solemn voice of their parish priest, and played the gramophone interminably. 

"Of hese children, Daphne Lufton was the eldest ... she ... took rank, from the moment of her coming out, as one of the reigning beauties ... She had been bred, of course, at a convent; what she learned there I cannot determine, but certainly it was not unworldliness, or prudery, or reticence. She accepted the position of a reigning beauty quite unabashed. ...

"Daphne Lufton and 'Goof' Dumbello (for by that unflattering name his friends called him)  ... met in London, at the house of a common acquaintance, where some fifty or sixty persons were standing round (for there were hardly any chairs), apparently paying no attention to a deafening noise in one corner of te room, expressive of the emotions felt by West Indian natives. They were also drinking cocktails, for this was before Sir Rowe Sigmer had warned us about the effect of cocktails upon the coats of the stomach, to the great advantage of all those concerned in the importing of indifferent brown sherry.

"Lord Dumbello, at this time in the evening, was decidedly tipsy; and when he ran into Daphne Lufton, who was a complete stranger to him, he upset a glassful of heavily sweetened gin over her frock. The young lady accepted this Grecian present in a more accommodating spirit than her grandmother would have, possibly because the frock was so much shorter; and she appeared to regard it as sufficient explanation when Lord Dumbello said he had not caught her name properly. After that they danced together ... shouting freely to one another. She said she adored the Sitwells, and he said so did he; he said he liked Mary Pickford, and she said she did too; he wondered whether there was any future for the talking film, and she said she had often wondered the same thing; she said she supposed Labour would get in next time, and he said he supposed it was time the poor devils got a chance." 

Engagement followed; but Dumbello's Protestant mother, together with a Catholic priest who loathed mixed marriages, and a vomiting dog, prevented its consummation. Without any of the anguish which afflicted the Flytes, Dumbello "returned to the consolations of the variety stage ... while Miss Lufton has grown older and made a very suitable marriage ..."

Mgr Knox's propaganda piece explaining the rationale of the Church's teaching on mixed marriages seems to me to have quite a few pieces of finesse.

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