1947

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


The 256th meeting of the Confraternitas was held on 25th February ‘47. This was the annual visitors’ meeting with Miss Dorothy L. Sayers as visiting speaker. Fratres Thomson and Smail most generously and lavishly entertained Miss Sayers, the Master, Frater and Mrs. Scott-Giles, the Princeps and the Pontifex Maximus to a preliminary dinner – the excellence of which became apparent to a wider body of fratres when the Pontifex Maximus somewhat unsuccessfully attempted to cope with the opening and closing rites.

After Fratres and their guests had partaken of the less lavish refreshments of coffee and conversation in Frater Thomson’s rooms a general movement toward the Senior Combination Room was initiated.

With guests and Fratres duly marshalled before a fire whose vast dimensions would have roused the ire of Mr. Shinwell, the Princeps, with polished and well chosen words introduced Miss Sayers who then began her paper on ‘Dante’s Inferno.’ Miss Sayers spoke with great eloquence and tremendous variety in describing the various circles of the Inferno. She particularly stressed Dante’s occult perception of life which was manifested by the positions allotted to the various professions within his infernal scheme of things. The whole talk was admirably illustrated by drawings produced by Frater Scott-Giles.

That Miss Sayers had made a great impression on her audience was evidenced by the enthusiastic applause which greeted the end of her paper. In the discussion which followed Frater Smail gave still further evidence of the profundity of his learning by a continued questioning of Miss Sayers – while the Princeps showed an agile ability in lighting Miss Sayer’s frequent cigarettes – if not in providing them.

The meeting closed about 10.30 p.m. That it was eminently successful will soon be shown by the boost which will have been given to the sales of Miss Sayer’s translation of the inferno.

Signed:
Norman G. Hunt (Pontifex Maximus)
D.F. Stephenson, (Mag. Rot.)


A Senate Meeting of the Confraternity was held at 9.30 a.m. on Tuesday June 3rd 1947 in the rooms of Fr. Stephenson. The Comes, Fr. Winter, assured senators that the budget balanced exactly. The latter were so relieved that no further enquiries were made, and attention was directed instead to the election of officers for the ensuing year. The following were elected unanimously:-

 

Princeps   Fr. Stephenson
Pontifex    Fr. Brand
Magister   Fr. Goodfellow
Fabricius  Fr. Lowe
Caeremonarius  Fr. C. Wilson
Comes Fr. Ellis

It was agreed that each retiring officer should be responsible for handing over to his successor. After some tentative promises had been made concerning the production of papers for the Michaelmas Term the meeting was brought to a close at approximately 10 o’clock.

Signed:
D.F. Stephenson (Mag. Rotulorum)


A meeting of the Senate of the Confraternity was held in Fr. Stephenson’s rooms at 5-30 p.m. on Thursday, October 9th 1947.

The Senate promised to consider the programme for the Michaelmas Term. It was decided to hold three meetings and the following dates were fixed provisionally, Monday, October 20th; Monday, November 17th; and Monday, December 1st. The Princeps informed the Senate that it would be possible to find three fratres willing to read papers this term, but with masterly eloquence urged the Senators themselves to consider preparing papers for the two subsequent terms, lest the devotees of Clio be charged with lack of zeal. The Senators were suitably impressed and several made rash promises.

In view of the fact that there are now forty seven undergraduates reading History in the College it was decided by the Senate that membership of the Confraternity should no longer be automatic, but be limited to those prepared to worship at the shrine of Clio in all humility and zeal. It was further decided to hold a meeting of the fratres before initiating further members, to permit the resignation of those unwilling to renew their vows.

It was with deep regret that the Senate accepted the resignation of Fr. Stephenson from his high office of Princeps and their grief was only at last dispelled by the election of Fr. Brand in his place. Fr. Brand, overcome with emotion and stifled by his yellow cardigan, promised in simple and moving terms to serve in his office with true devotion. Happily Fr. Stephenson was persuaded to accept the office of Pontifex vacated by Fr. Brand.

The meeting of the Senate closed at approximately 6.15 p.m.

Signed:
AR Brand (Princeps)
KJ Goodfellow (Magister Rotulorum)


The 257th meeting of the Confraternity was held in Socius Smail’s rooms on Monday October 20th [1947]. After a short and rather inconsequential discussion arising from the minutes over the respectability and antiquity of the word ‘boost’, the Princeps called upon Socius Taylor to read his paper, ‘The South and the Negro.’

It would be nothing less than presumption to attempt a précis of so rich and stimulating a paper: it is only possible to set down the menu card of that generous feast of learning so ably and so digestibly spread before the fratres. Beginning with a survey of political events affecting the status of the Negro since the Civil War, Socius Taylor provided by the subtle introduction of statistics, – all fratres must now be aware that only one fifth of Negroes is quite black, – to discuss the economy of the South, and then gave a most interesting description of inter-race relations in the South, of the legal, social and political discriminations made against the Negro. Fratres then learned of the solutions to the problem advanced both in the past and in the present. Advocates of a return of the Negroes to Africa now appear to be few, and popular reform movements seem to be directed into one of two channels, the economic and the political. Those who hope to solve the problem by improving the economic conditions of the Negro have had one of an eminently American name, Booker T. Washington as their chief spokesman, whilst others, notably Dubois, advocate political enfranchisement. Socius Taylor ended his paper by expressing the view that the American Negro problem was both a legacy of the Civil War and also a particular manifestation of a general world problem.

The rapid discussion which followed was a tribute to the stimulating quality of the paper and a tribute, if not always to the erudition of fratres at least to their enthusiasm for the quick solution of complex problems. Frater Noble expressed hopes for the Negro remarkably akin to those of G.K. Chesterton in another connection:- ‘May the tribe decease, By peaceful methods of birth control, And die in peace.’ Frater Hunt impressed fratres with his biological knowledge, suggesting in vivid terms the unfortunate effects of mixed marriages, whilst another frater made himself suspect of a mysogyny which can only be distasteful to our Lady Clio, in expressing the view that women are predominantly responsible for all social and racial discrimination. The climax of this learned discussion was reached when Frater Lowe announced to the unbounded joy of all present that he had just read a book. After this little remained to be said, and the Princeps, having quietly rolled his last cigarette, warmly thanked Socius Taylor for his paper and called for the closing rites. The meeting became informed at 10.15.

Signed:
APR Brand (Princeps)
KJ Goodfellow (Magister Rotulorum)


The 258th meeting of the Confraternity was held in the rooms of Socius R.C. Smail on Monday November 17th [1947]. After the performance of the opening rites, the Pontifex Maximus provided to the initiation of new fratres, lifting them from outer darkness into fraternal light with a simple dignity and reverence which can have roughly been equalled and surely never surpassed. Indeed the whole ceremony, the solemnity of its wards, the silence broken only by the creakings of genufluxion, and the pomp-promising hand shakes all served to tug both at the hearts and at the minds of older fratres.

The minutes having been read and accepted, Socius Taylor informed fratres that the word ‘boost’ was of American origin and dated from the year 1848. So impressed were fratres by this display on erudition, that they received it in complete, but no doubt grateful, silence.

The Princeps then called upon Socius Hunt to read his paper on ‘Walpole and the Excise Crisis’. The Socius began by asking himself three questions and provided in the course of his paper to give himself many brilliant and suggestive answers. He explained the reasons prompting Walpole to introduce his Excise Bill, and illustrated the workings of 18th c. customs offices by citing the sad case of the Captain whose finances were despoiled of their neatly hidden roll of flannel and lace and who was forced to watch a successful search of the petticoats of those ladies accompanying him. Fratres were then well able to understand and to sympathize with the opposition to any increase in the number of customs and excise officials, who, fratres subsequently learned, had an equivocal reputation for moral decadence. Socius Hunt also explained what little redress at law was open to those persecuted by excise officials: all excise cases were tried before the excise XXX and no ready appeal to the law courts was possible. He suggested that Walpole’s final decision to withdraw his bill was made not in face of popular clamour, but under threat of defeat in the lands, where the Bishops for no apparently explicable reason had decided to appease excise. Finally he suggested that the ultimate failure to drive Walpole from office was due amongst other causes to Pulteney’s meanness and to Walpole’s capacity for writing greasy letters: the election of 1734 was in fact little more than a tipsy promenade. Doubtless certain fratres wished that as much could be said of modern elections.

The discussion which followed was lively, the Princeps showing a marked, nay more suspicious, interest in the intricacies of smuggling, whilst the Pontifex Maximus himself discussed finance, shipping logs, and the activities of an obscure man in Horwich, possibly a relation of his. Socius Hunt having proved himself more than equal to all questioning, the Princeps warmly thanked him and brought the meeting to a close at 10.20.

Signed:
APR Brand (Princeps)
KJ Goodfellow (Magister Rotulorum)


The 269th meeting of the Confraternity was held in the rooms of Socius R.C. Smail on the evening of Tuesday, November 25th [1947]. After the reading and acceptance of the minutes the Princeps called upon the Pontifex, Fr. D. Stephenson to read his paper, ‘Collingwood and some naval problems of the Mediterranean after Trafalgar.’

Beginning by a short comment upon the sources of information about Collingwood’s life, the Pontifex then embarked upon a search for the ‘real Collingwood,’ sailing boldly into a sea of documents and and commentaries. He gave a short exposition of the naval strategic situation after Trafalgar and suggested how ably suited Collingwood was for the undramatic and prolonged task of maintaining the Mediterranean naval blockade. Not only did Collingwood have to maintain his fleet at sea and patiently impress realities upon the somewhat unimaginative Admiralty at home, but he had also to play the role of British plenipotentiary to the Mediterranean powers and act upon instructions from the foreign office. Only a man of puritan character could thus have contended with the government departments simultaneously, but fortunately Collingwood possessed the solid virtues to such an extent that he was in addition also to conduct a rather bureaucratic anti waste campaign in the fleet. Fr. Stephenson did indeed suggest that the chief criticism to be advanced against Collingwood is that he was so desk-tied and over concerned with detail that he failed to make sufficient personal contact with his junior officers. Collingwood’s preoccupation with detail did however have its kindlier side: he always took a paternal interest in the midshipman and was sympathetically interested in the clinical details of the sick and dying about him.

Other colourful and typical scenes were described by the Pontifex: the condition of ships ‘built by the mile and cut off as required’ was described with a wealth of fascinating detail, the condition of an English cheese sent to Cadiz by Collingwood in rather less detail. Collingwood was pictured pacing the deck at night, viewing the sick in the morning, facing the acutest of laundry problems and throughout his ordeals plying all about him with letters full of the best advice. Fr. Stephenson left us however, with perhaps the sweetest picture of all – of sailors dancing every moonlight night on the upper deck watched by their paternal, puritan but approving Admiral.

The first question, however, shattered the idyllic picture: Fr. Argles wished know if ‘they’ had women on board. The majority of fratres seemed to think that ‘they’ did, several adding a plethora of naval expressions to support their contention. The discussion then turned to the subtleties of man-management and the psychology of mutiny. These imponderables were pondered at some length and with a certain warmth, but the discussion ultimately turned to quieter and more navigable channels and the meeting became informal at 10.45 p.m.

Signed:
APR Brand (Princeps).
KJ Goodfellow (Magister Rotulorum).

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