There is a gracious and inspiring tradition to the effect that every North American can remember exactly where s/he was, when J F 'gynaikomanes' Kennedy was assassinated.
I suspect that the generation immediately before my own could often tell you when and where they first became aware of Dom Gregory Dix's The Shape of the Liturgy. Prebendary Michael Moreton first saw the chunky dark-green volume in the SPCK bookshop in ... I think he said ... Calcutta.
You see, life was never to be quite the same again. There had been distinguished liturgists before ... there had been anguished 'liturgical' debates in the C of E during the years culminating in 1927/8 ... But Shape was a revolution. And it still gets reprinted! Despite Professor Paul Bradshaw!
This is why the copy of Shape, and the enclosed letter, which has become known to Mr Christopher Zealley of St Philip's Books, is important. Here we see Dix in the very act of reacting and responding to the first responses to his magnum opus. And responding with such characteristic glee!
Liturgy, after Dix and his Shape, was no longer to be a matter of examining minute differences between the uses of Sarum and York (Dean Inge, not entirely unfairly, likened this sort of liturgical study to Stamp Collecting!). No longer were we to be interested in the Deposited Books of 1927-1928; Dix made clear that they were rubbish; like most of his fellow Anglo-Papalists, he had never wanted that sort of 'revision' and he had no intention of giving up his beloved, daily, Tridentine Rite in order to use such flawed and dubious rites.
Shape seemed to offer a new way ahead. But, culturally, I think it did something even more important. It made Liturgy fun!
Dix had the market in Fun wide open before him. The Anglo-Catholic clergy, whose culture was clubbish and structured to a large extent around shared humour, had (since Knox poped) been rather in need of somebody to provide more of that commodity. Came the hour, came the man! The Anglican episcopate, like many managerial classes, never terribly resented dissent or complaints. Lofty disdain was their oven-ready (Borisicaliter loquor) way of dealing with whinging among the Inferior Clergy. What those bishops, poor sweet things, simply could not handle was ... being laughed at!
Dix led the laughter.
Every time PF delivers yet another angry tirade against Rigid People like me, I recall Dix's observation that even the best and most energetic of bishops [read 'popes'] will one day have rest from his labours and that the lance of his successor often delivers the diocese [read 'Church'] from the menace of some quite different windmill.
Dix is the Patrimony!! Viva! Viva!