1945

[The following entries have been transcribed from the minute books kept in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.]


The 242nd meeting of the Confraternity was held in Fr. Coupe’s rooms at 8.15 p.m. on Monday 29th January 1945, this unprecedented changed of milieu being due [A note reads: not to any slight upon the suitability of disrespect for the venerability of the apartments of Fr. Passant but entirely to…] the lamentable condition of the coal resources of the college. After coffee the opening rites were read, [A note reads: and Fratres Swilyel [sp?] and Mitchell were then solemnly initiated into the mysteries of the Confraternity.]. The Pontifex, in the deplorable absence of the Princeps (upon business entirely unconnected with the worship of Clio) then called upon the magister for the minutes of the last meeting, which were duly read & signed. The magister then proceeded to read notes of absence from Fr. Edwards and from Fraticelli H. Hoskins, who, it appeared, was languishing struggling in the toils of a member of the episcopate. It was observed that on this occasion at least there was definitely no note of absence had been received from the Princeps, XXX. Fraticelli Wilkinson, prostrating himself once more after an extended absence from Clio’s shrine, here intervened to request permission to speak, and this being granted, declared his intention of delivering an “impassioned oration”. Anticipating an abject self-humiliating by Fraticelli Wilkinson for his prolonged neglect of Our Lady, Fratres became attentive. Their surprise when the tenor of Fraticelli Wilkinson’s remarks was observed to be on the contrary to be of an apocalyptic character was indeed that the Fraticelli deplored the lack of due solemnity in the rites of the Confraternity, in contrast with the Halcyon days of the Principate of Antoninus P. Gallius & the manner also in which the Office of Magister had been degraded in recent times. Fratres received these unanticipated admonitions in stunned silence, and it was some moments before the Pontifex was sufficiently recovered to call upon the Socius Honorabilis Fr. David Thomson for his paper on “Bubb Dodington and Others”. Fr. Thomson began with a bried indication of the workings of the so-called eighteenth century “party system”, explaining the political importance of the family groups, of the crystallisation of opposition to the party in power around the court of the heir apparent, and of the system of patronage which gave to the governments of the time such great control over the composition of the House of Commons. The Socius then proceeded to elaborate on the functions of such men as Bubb Dodington and Richard Rigly in what it is now a cliché to describe as the “Structure of Politics” in the C18th. Being a XXX and a coxcomb, Bubb was able by the cultivation of a bad political memory to retain offices under successive governments until, soon after the grant of a peerage by XXX on the aaccession of George III, the cup of happiness was dashed from his eager lips by a no less formidable personage than Death Himself. Bubb, the subject butt of numerous cartoons (Hogarth and others) on account of his girth, held several boroughs in his hands thro’ powers of patronage, and was accordingly much sought after by rival groups, particularly at election times, when he might have been observed hawking his ware from one noble household to another, in search of the highest bidder. Richard Rigby, the other figure whom Fr. Thomson sketched in some detail, was physically more attractive and conducted [sp?] among other perhaps les laudable practices, that of marrying rich widows as a means to the furtherance of his political ambitions. Frater Thomson concluded his amusing yet illuminating paper by suggesting the part played by such men as the ludicrous Bubb and the amorous Rigby in the development of a XXX system in the latter half of the eighteenth century. Fratres questions turned largely on more general aspects of the eighteenth century political scene, and the Socius briefly indicated the reasons for the apparent immorality and pointlessness of politics in this period, ascribing largely to the lack of great issues about which a true party system could emerge, a not provided until late in the century with the growth of Parliamentary XXX movements, the qu of the American colonies etc. The Pontifex having cordially thanked Frater Thomson for giving up some of his already overcrowded time for the educations of the Confraternity, the closing rites were read shortly before eleven o’clock.

Signed:
M. Ball (Mag. Rot.)
I.H. M. Jones (Princeps Senatus)

26.ii, 1945.


The 243rd meeting of the Confraternity was held on Monday, the 26th February 1945, and as it was the annual visitors a crowd of enormous dimensions was congregated in Fr. Coupe’s rooms for coffee. The Senators soon retired [sp?] to robe [sp?], and a procession was formed, & led by the Princeps, into Fr. Coupe’s inner apartment, where the opening rites were secretly rad by a quorum of fratres. Fratres and their guests then proceeded by the most direct route to the Senior Combination room, where the arrival of the Rev. Preb. Dr. J. W. Welch was eagerly awaited. When all was peace, the Princeps, that the Magister’s minutes might the more easily be understood, proceeded to sketch the aims and composition of this out confraternity;- its ranks and their function in the organic structure of the brotherhood. He then called upon the magister for the minutes of the previous meeting which were duly read and signed. One important item of correspondence, namely a letter from the ex-Princeps and “present frater” Antonius P. French, sent from the wilds of darkest North America to fratres at the shrine of Clio and Truth, was then read. The Princeps instructed the Magister to compose a fitting reply to the fraternal greetings of his illustrious predecessor, and at last introduced the Speaker to the assembled concord [sp?] with the graciously stating that it was a source of great comfort to present fratres that one who had been both a member of the confraternity and of the college boat club should have succeeded in maintaining such an extraordinary integrity of character. Fr. Rev. J. W. Welch began by outlining his purpose in addressing the Confraternity: namely to discuss the general position of the British Broadcasting Corporation in relation to the social and political background, and to conclude with a few remarks on his own especial concern as Director of Religious Broadcasting, as a preliminary as he said to “throwing the issue into the middle of the ring” for discussion and criticism. The importance of the present moment for a discussion of the BBC’s position as a monopolist in the sphere of broadcasting in Great Britain, was emphasised, as the Charter of the Corporation expires in 1946, and powerful vested interests were setting themselves against its renewal, on an either specious or sincere motive of opposition to the monopoly of such a powerful instrument for influencing public opinion. This question brought Fr. Welch on to the question of the power of the BBC over the nation’s thoughts and feelings, and he proved himself a true follower of the Sidney Cromwellian realist tradition emanating from the great E H. C. In the course of these remarks it emerged that on any given occasion, the prime Minister could reach some 75% of the adult population, H. M. the King 60%, and a certain Mr. Thomas Handley (thought to be a minor music hall comedian beloved of the plebeian classes) 37% , and Rev. Preb. J. W. Welch 33%. Fr. Welch concluded his remarks by enunciating his views on religious broadcasting, which he considered should be restricted to the free discussion of Christian dogma and philosophy, as the broadcasting of a religious service itself was fundamentally unsatisfactory. Fr. Passant opened the discussion by showing considerably concern for the question he phrased in scholarly Latin “Quis custodiet custodes?” – that is the problem of controlling the Governors of the Corporation, who as the ultimate body for dictation of broadcasting policy, had such enormous power over opinion. This problem seemed to trouble Fr. Welch too, for no satisfactory course between the Scylla of political control and the Charybdis of commercial domination seemed to suggest itself. After more discussion of detailed topics, the Princeps thanked Fr. Welch for such a penetrating and impressive exposition of the problems involved, and declared the meeting informal at about 11 o’clock.

Signed:
M. Ball (Mag. Rot.)
I.H. M Jones (Princeps Senatus)

12.III.’45.


The 244th meeting of the Confraternity was held in Fr. Coupe’s rooms at 8.15 p.m. on Monday, 12th March [1945]. After coffee, the opening rites were read, and the lights once more ablaze, the Princeps called upon the Magister for the minutes of the last meeting which were duly read and signed. A note of absence from Fraticelli Hubert Hoskins was then read, the cause of the learned Fraticelli’s failure to appear being yet another of those Quiet Days for which the seminary of Wescott House in Jesus Lane is so justly infamous in this confraternity. There being no further business, the Princeps moved from the throne to the Speaker’s chair, was briefly re-introduced by the Magister and called upon for his paper on “Some Recent Trends of American Political Thought”.

The Princeps modestly indicated the immensity of the field and the more or less arbitrary selection of thinkers he had chosen to represent the political speculation of the United States during the past decade or so.

The Princeps outlined briefly the earlier characteristics of American political theory, springing from the Declaration of Independence and its development to the easy self-confidence, its belief in freedom of individual enterprise, of the equality of opportunity which rendered it at least possible for a man to leave a log cabin in the West to enter at last the White House itself. But the American faith in an ever increasing expansion of American life across the boundless expanses of the far-West, has during the nineteenth century, as the Princeps pointed out, been rudely shattered by economic development. The U.S.A. met its first great political & social problem since the Civil War in the slump of the 1920s and 1930s. Speculation on these events had taken quite definitive directions: the whole emphasis was laid by such writers as Rheinold Niebuhr on the contrast between an individual whose actions were guided by moral considerations, and a society which seemed to make utter unscrupulousness the test of survival. Mr. Walter Lippman, from a more orthodox conservative standpoint, has discussed the relations [sp?] of the “American Ideal” and the conditions of the present, with a particular emphasis on its international implications. The main lesson of his “American Foreign Policy” was that America had never before had a foreign policy in any connected sense, because she had not needed one, but the peremptory “hands off the Western hemisphere!” of the Monroe Doctrine would no longer suffice. The Princeps closed his lucid paper with a reference to the changed attitude towards the Supreme Court as the guardian of the Constitution. Fratres showed a lively interest in the problems raised by the Princeps’ paper, Fr. Goodfellow revealing a considerable acquaintance with the details of controversies XXX in the Supreme Court. A guest with personal experience of China was somewhat apprehensive lest the U.S.A. should come to regard the open-door in China as a further prolongation of “Western Expansion” at home in the hope that sexploitation of Chinese markets might solve domestic problems. The Magister thanked the Princeps for his interesting paper, written as he knew, in face of considerably pressure of other work, and the closing rites were read shortly after 10.30 p.m.

Signed:
M. Ball (Mag. Rot.)
I.H.M. Jones (Princeps Senatus.)
14.V.45


The 246th meeting of the Confraternity was held in Socius Compe’s rooms at 8.00 p.m. on Monday, 29 October [1945]. The pronouncement of the opening rites was postponed until the initiation had been effected of four new fratres. The hallowed ceremony was carried out with its accustomed solemnity, to the obvious bewilderment of the novices. The fratres thus admitted into the mysteries of the Confraternity – namely, fratres Townson, Lowe, Brand and Winter – then signed the sacred scroll of membership, after the Magister’s fountain-pen had been hastily refilled with an ink whose colour more befitted the occasion. The opening rites were then read in an audible undertone by the Pontifex, Fr. Mitchell, whose diction appeared to betray an unfamiliarity with the ancient script. The minutes of the 245th meeting unfortunately not being extant, the Princeps, Fr. Taylor, rose to deliver his principial address. He expressed joy at the return to the shrine of Clio of so many of its former luminaries, and welcomed the newly-joined fratres into the fold of the Confraternity. For the benefit of these newcomers, and the refreshment of the minds of returning fratres, he gave a résumé of the laws and customs, organisation and costume of the Confraternity. After reminding plebeian fratres of their privilege to elect from among themselves two tribunes, he concluded by piously hoping for a successful year of service to Our Lady, an earnestly beseeching the co-operation of all fratres, especially in the preparation and delivery of papers – this last with a meaning glance in the direction of Socius Smail. The Magister gave a short but touching reply, and was followed by the Comes Sacri Thesauri, Fr. Waller, with an even more touching request. Owing to the grasping nature of the College Butler, the Comes felt himself constrained to ask for general consent to a capital levy; this was agreed to after certain suspicious fratres had extracted guarantees against the misdirection of public funds.

When this somewhat lengthy business had been successfully concluded, the Princeps introduced the speaker, Soc. Compe, who was to read a paper on “Samuel Ward, Third Master of Sidney.” After uttering a most appropriate beginning to his discourse, Soc. Compe paused for the customary but disciplined rush upon the refreshments, and then continued with his paper, its even flow hereafter undisturbed, save for a “kindly” interruption by Socius Smail, ever a strict upholder of historical accuracy. The speaker dealt first with the early academic life of Samuel Ward, and interspersed the narrative with quaint excerpts from the Ward diary. The part which Ward played in the translation of the Bible proposed by James I was soon followed by his election to the Mastership of Sidney, a position which he held for 33 years. Frater Compe here gave a short but graphic description of the College during these years, and then turned again to the life of the Master, from his presence at the Synod of Dort to his death after a stubborn refusal to sanction a loan for the armies of Cromwell. This extremely competent and enlightening paper was concluded by an appraisement of Samuel Ward’s character and the benefits he undoubtedly bestowed upon the College.

Although Socius Compe had feared that his paper was not of a character to elicit a great deal of discussion, several fratres requested further information on the Synod of Dort and life in Sidney during this period. The doubts of the Pontifex – principally condemned as “obsessed with paternity” – were set to rest in the matter of the antecedents of Beth Ward, the protégé and friend of Samuel, and the Princeps closed the meeting by thanking the speaker and once more exhorting fratres and socii to look to their consciences. The closing rites were read by the halting tongue of the Pontifex in the region of ten-thirty.

Signed:
PAM Taylor (Princeps Senatus).
GF Edwards (Magister Rotulorum).


The 247th meeting of the Confraternity was held in Socius Compe’s rooms at 8.15 p.m. on Tuesday, 20 November [1945]. The evening’s proceedings were opened by the initiation of four new members into the Confraternity – Fratres Ellis, Wilkes, Probert and Wilson – the solemnity of the occasion being marred only by the suspicious trepidation of the last-named, whose distrust caused both embarrassment and amusement. After these four fratres had signed the scroll of membership, the Pontifex read the opening rites with considerably more confidence than he had displayed on his début. The Princeps then called on the plebeian ranks of the Confraternity to bring forth their duly elected tribunes. From the blank looks exchanged among the fratres thus addressed, it appeared that the injunction contained in the principal address had not been acted upon. The Princeps reproached the plebs for their remissions, and summarily ordered them to produce two tribunes forthwith. From the conclave which ensued, fratres Lowe and Winter were protestingly pushed forward, after a nomination which scarcely embodied those democratic principles, upon which the plebeian orders of the Confraternity are reputedly insistent. The tribunician oath was read with some difficulty, the illegibility of its script and the absence of any preparation preventing the new tribunes from jibbing at vows which they might otherwise have questioned.

The rights and privileges of the plebs having thus been satisfied, the minutes of the last meeting were read and signed without query. The Pontifex now took the chair and called upon the Princeps to read his paper on “The U.S.A. and our Approach to History.” The constitutional check upon self-indulgence having been overcome by this arrival at the more serious business of the evening, the newly-elected tribunes conspicuously took it upon themselves to lead the charge upon the refreshments. When the Confraternity had settled itself into an attitude suitable for the imbibement of beer and wisdom, the Princeps began his paper by giving an outline of his intentions in dealing with the subject he had chosen. He spoke first of the advance to the West in the United States, together with the statistics and consequences of the enormous waves of immigration from the countries of the Old World. The varying motives of the immigrants, and their absorption into American society and nationality, were competently dealt with, and a lucid picture given of their interaction with the Westward movement and with the industrial expansion consequent upon the disappearance of the “open frontier” phenomenon in the later part of the nineteenth century. Fr. Taylor now turned to consider the special problems which both produced and were engendered by the American Civil War, but was here interrupted for the second time by sounds of female feet and voices (later established to be the successive migratory waves of the Newnham Tiddleywinks Team). After stoically waiting for the “noises off” to subside, the Princeps resumed his paper with an examination of the economic position of the South in the period before the Civil War, and a résumé of the political events which developed the rift between the North and the South. He concluded this section by stating some of the consequences of the Civil War in the Southern States, and then went on to suggest a few general reflections, on the basis that the history of the U.S.A. is a history of the World in miniature. Beneath the surface of political events, the movement of peoples has been the essential historical reality; but the closing of world frontiers – as the closing of the Western American frontier – has brought new problems. Democracy has now to rely on other elements for its survival, and mankind needs to think out anew its theory of social philosophy.

This challenging conclusion to a most erudite discourse was not immediately seized upon in the discussion which followed, when the adventures of Socius Harrison among the Pathans of the Southern Punjab were equalled only by the Syrian reminiscences of Socius Smail. However, Fr. Wilson arose from his somnolent position behind the principal chair to bring the discussion round to the frontier aspect of world history. Since it appeared that neither Socius Smail nor Socius Thomson had read the works of the celebrated Dr. Tromm, the Confraternity again lapsed into Waziristan and Syria, and the Comes saw fit to depart after spending the evening in silent bibbing. The question of soil erosion was brought up, and settled to his own satisfaction by Fr. Lowe. The Princeps bewildered everyone by producing a map for every question, but the Pontifex, thinking the supply might run short, brought the meeting to an end, and read the closing rites shortly after 10.30.

Signed:
PAM Taylor (Princeps Senatus).
GF Edwards (Magister Rotulorum).


The 248th meeting of the Confraternity was held in Fr. Compe’s rooms at 8.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 4 December, 1945. After the reading of the opening rites by the Pontifex, the minutes of the previous meeting were read and signed without comment – beyond a gracious suggestion by Fr. Smail that he was willing to merge his identity with the remainder of the Confraternity, rather than be addressed as “Socius” in any future magisterial reference. The Magister made due note of this preference.

There having no other business to conduct, the Princeps called upon Fr. Smail to read his paper on “The Colonisation of Latin Syria in the Twelfth Century.” The thirstier members of the Confraternity having solaced themselves in anticipation, the speaker began his paper by a topographical introduction to the formation, expansion and decline of the Latin states of Syria, in relation to the geography of the Levant. Fr. Smail next mentioned a few of the original sources for his subject, and dealt at some length with the conventional interpretation given by modern French historians. In demonstrating the limitations and weaknesses of this view, Fr. Smail analysed the Frankish colonisation with regard, first, to the relations of the Franks in syria with Armenian Christians inside and outside the Latin states; secondly, to their relations with other Syrian Christian sects; and, thirdly, to their relations with the Moslem population of their colonies, bearing in mind the importance of trading connections with merchants of the Italian commercial cities. In summarising his points, Fr. Smail amply justified his contention that abundant evidence existed to disprove, or at least to query, the interpretations of prejudiced French historians of the nineteenth century. The Princeps warmly thanked the speaker for a paper whose erudition was only equalled by its duration. The discussion which followed gave rise to some pungent quotations from the chronicles of Ibn Jubayr, and a lengthy explanation of the mystery of the “Old Man of the Mountain,” who still appeared to mystify the inquisitive Fr. Brand.

The claims of family life having called the Pontifex long since, the closing rites were read by the Magister with halting doggedness, and the meeting came to an end shortly after 11 o’clock.

Signed:
PAM Taylor (Princeps Senatus).
GF Edwards (Magister Rotulorum).

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