[The following entries have been transcribed from the minute books kept in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.]
The 285th meeting of the Confraternity was held in Fr. Smail’s rooms on the 11th day proceeding the Kalends of February [21.1.1951]. The Princeps outlined the plans for the Annual Banquet which was to take place the following Saturday, and the opium of the plebs was sought as to whether port or beer should be consumed after the feast: the Senate were gratified to learn that in this matter their own good taste was shared by the masses. A note of discord was struck however when an ex-Senator criticised innovation in the principial choice of chair. The Princeps out of deference to the ex-Senator graciously condemned to compromise between tradition and comfort, promising occasional occupation of his accustomed seat.
A large attendance of Fratres, together with those transatlantic guests Messrs. Frose, Ogelei, Schumann, then listened to a paper by Frater Saunders called “Mozart’s Last Grand Tour.” The background to the tour was Salzburg, Mozart’s father and the new Archbishop Coloredo – all vividly portrayed. Seven years already spent on travel, his father’s ambitions for him, the provinciality of Salzburg, Mozart’s tactlessness and Coloredo’s temperament – all pointed to another tour – one in which he should make his fortune and his name. Neither did he achieve in the twelve months that he was away, but since so much of Mozart’s character as shaped and became apparent on this tour, and since it was in fact his last, Frater Saunders was fully justified in concentrating on the events of that period of Mozart’s short life.
In Munich, Mozart failed to secure employment at court. At Augsburg he flirted with his cousin. At Mannheim, a great cultural centre, he composed obscene works, later transferring his energies to the tuition of Aleucia, of the “good Catholic family” Weber: his affection for her caused him to abandon a projected visit to Paris, which in town occasioned a long letter of rebuke from his father who complained that Mozart, “caught by a petticoat, bedded in straw, with an attic full of starving children,” would eventually die “a forgotten musician.” Mozart moved on to Paris.
In Paris the musical world was dominated by the Opera and the Opera was divided by the factions of the Italian and National Schools: while Gluck, not without the assistance of musical propaganda, succeeded in showering the applause of both parties, Mozart “played his piano to tables and chairs and walls” at the house of Von XXX, his suffered patron. Mozart made little progress with opera and there was small score for instrumental pieces. He professed himself “happiest with some good honest German.” His mother died. He fell out with the Von XXX. Coloredo and his father both wanted him back. Everything, this time, pointed to his return, and in Sept. 1778 he left Paris.
The tour was over. A financial failure, it was important for Mozart’s spiritual and musical development. He was now a man and he was ready to break with Salzburg, with Coloredo, even with his father, – when it suited him. The occasion came in 1781 when he went to Vienna with the Archbishop for the Empress’s funeral. Humiliating treatment by Coloredo led to complaint from Mozart, this to virulent abuse from the Archbishop to which Mozart replied, “then is your Grace dissatisfied with me?” and resigned. Coloredo was unpopular in Vienna so that Mozart could expect sympathy from the nobility. He married Constanza Weber, Aleucia’s sister, and achieved a measure of success, until in 1788 Vienna grew tired of him. This year witnessed his last bid to win contemporary fame. The first composer to live without a patron, he died, a pauper, in 1791, at the age of 35.
Frater Saunder’s scholarly and stimulating paper evoked an enthusiastic, and even knowledgeable, response from Fratres, thus proving that the Ladies Clio and Euterpe are involved sisters.
The Pontifex Maximus inadvertently announced the closing rites with the opening ones, but finished the ceremony, more fittingly, and as is usual, with the words appointed for the occasion.
R.W. Parker (Princeps)
C.K. XXX (Magister Rotulorum).
The 286th Meeting of the Confraternitas was held on the Nones of February [5.2.1951] in Frater Smail’s Rooms. The Princeps, seated stoically in the Socius’ Louis Quattenze chair, made some remarks about the Annual Guest Night, and then called upon Socius Honorabilis Frater Thomson to read his paper, which was a “Verdict on the Third Republic”.
Frater Thomson singled out three characteristics of the Republic for our attention. Two of them paradoxical. The first was its Durability and Instability: for constitutional XXX had been brought at the price of political change. This was clearly an advance, though it meant 100 ministeries in 20 years. Fr. Thomson drew analogies from the art of tight-rope walking and the pastime of musical chairs to describe the shifting scene. The second paradoxical feature was the combination of conservative institutions with revolutionary ideas. France – and at the word a look of relief and understanding passed over the focus of the more mediaevally-minded Fratres as it at last dawned on them what this Third Republic was – France lost the role of torch-bearer of revolution in Europe: out. Her politics showed a marked “sinistruism”, although in question this was limited, “to the left, to the left … but no further!” Thirdly Fr. Thomson commented on the actual system of govt., govt. by assembly, with its weak and loosely defined frontiers. The left and the Right changed places completely at least twice during the life of the Republic (and it appears have changed places again since its demise). Compromise and the Cult of the Second Best distinguished (or failed to distinguish) the régions. The weak gentry system evoked the highest common factor of agreement: but it was uninspiring. It worked for C19th laissez-faire, but was limited to the future state of the C20th. Its respectability attracted diplomatic alliance: but it was slow to effect reform. It allowed France a period of convalescence, but failed to provide adequate leadership. It was non-totalitarian. It was tolerant. Freedom of speech was if anything excessive. The Arts and Sciences flourished.
The Confraternity, sitting as judge upon the Third Republic, was fascinated to hear the verdict of so learned and witty a juryman as Fr. Thomson. Nor did they refrain from questioning him closely upon several points. Fr. Rees delved back into his memory and stood open to correction. The Magister got a cheap laugh at the expense of the Welsh liberals and was commanded by the Princeps to record the fact in the minutes. It transpired that the French peasants even if they do not go to extremes, at any rate vote for them. De Gaul it appeared was little a XXX or a Gold Socialist or both, whereas Communism might be XXX or Ultra-Montagne. Consoled by those historical niceties, the Confraternity were relived, too, to hear that Fr. Thomson attached no significance to the fact that M. Bidault had been a history don.
The verdict complete, the Pontifex Maximus in lieu of sentence pronounced the closing rites.
C.K. XXX (Magister Rotulorum).
The opening rites of the 287th Meeting and Annual Guest Night of the Confraternity [1.3.1951] were performed unobtrusively at the top of Y Staircase, where an attenuated Senate proceeded to Fr. Thomson’s rooms to join fratres and guests for coffee, and then to the Blundells Room to hear the guest speaker, Frater Scott-Giles’ talk on “Heraldry”.
The learned Frater, whose long succession of papers have in the past ranged from Dante in Hell to Alice in Wonderland, had soon further XXX his reputation. So absenting indeed was Fr. Scott-Giles’ paper that the Magister forgot to take his usual verbatim notes, and the minutes must rely chiefly upon his memory, and when that fails, must be supplemented by the heraldic impressions, still surely so fresh in the minds of fratres.
Heralding arose from the need for identification of wisened knights. At first solely distinctive, it soon became symbolic. Before long the heraldic form appeared. Through the C14th the Coat of Arms had been involved, giving further scope for symbolism and elaboration, united by C15th, its original use forgotten, it became, by halves and quarterings, a study in ancestry and, by augmentation, a family history. By the close of the C19th absurdity of crest, supporters and augmentation had reached its zenith: thereafter some restraint had been observed. Scope for ingenuity, however, remains in the composition of arms of corporations, a task which Frater Scott-Giles himself performs with obvious relish and no small success. Though floored once by the impossibility of including a XXX in the arms of a borough whose principle industry it is to produce these vehicles, the worthy alderman unwittingly solved the problem for him by evolving the motto “for all”. Most pleasing of all, perhaps, were the arms of the Royal Sanitary Institute which besides having a stork as a supporter, incorporates an apple a day – for obvious reasons. Dazzled by the succession of biplanes, locomotives, crossed oars and coqwheels, the Confraternity wished itself back in the good old days of unmechanised chivalry where every villein knew exactly what was meant by pretty “XXX” on a field XXX. That the incongruity of modern heraldry had provided much mirth for fratres and guests and will, it is hoped, long continue to exercise the fertile mind and artistic level of Frater Scott-Giles.
Fortified by the knowledge that, though the right of the College to bear arms has no documentary proof, at least one Frater possessed a coat of arms, a quorum of senators and fratres returned to the summit of Y staircase and performed the closing rites.
R.W. Parker (Princeps)
C.R. XXX (Magister Rotulorum).
The 288th Meeting of the Confraternity, which was also the last meeting of the year and therefore “Cromwell Night,” took place in Frater Smail’s rooms on the third day before the Nones of March [4.3.1951]. There being little business, the Pontifex changed places with the Princeps, as is the custom, and invited him to read his Cromwell Night dissertation. The subject was “Thomas May Cavalier Poet and Puritan Historian.”
Born in the same year as the foundation of the College and matriculating in 1609, the Princeps claimed May as “the first rogue that Sidney produced.” His contention was amply born out by the evening paper.
After trying law and abandoning it owing to a defect in his speech May unfortunately took to poetic dreams. He produced three tragedies which were all failures and two comedies one of which was coarse and successful. May’s efforts as a translator from the classics were happier, however, and culminated in his translation of Lucian’s “Supplement.”
Patronised by Charles I, he wrote a history of Henry VII in 7 vols. and a history of Edward III, both at the King’s Command. 1637 was the king-year in his case, for in that year Ben Jonson died and the Poet Laureateship became vacant. More distinguished poets being absent from Court, the choice lay between May and Davenant, the latter, if possible an even worse poet than May, being chosen. Fortunately Davenant died after writing only three books of a tedious epic. But it was too late for May, who had left Court and joined the Parliamentary party, and it appears as much from religious as political motives, as for financial reason. He was employed as a sort of clerk, and later was commissioned to write a history of Parliament. This was not as biased as it might have been, and correctly forecast the anti-parliamentary reaction. May was not quite a Vicar of Bray: his contemporaries did not XXX him as a XXX.
In 1650, at the age of 55, he died of suffocation after a drinking bout. Thomas May, according to Clarendon, “deserved to be forgotten.” This in fact has been his fate for the last 300 years, and, despite Frater Parker’s brave attempt (with the meagre sources available) to resuscitate his memory, he is likely to return to oblivion for a similar, if not longer, period.
After a brief discussion, in which those two stalwarts Cromwell and Manchester figured largely, the last meeting of the term was brought to an end with the closing rites.
C.K. XXX (Princeps, Magister Rotulorum).
The 289th meeting of the Confraternitas Historica was held at 8.15 p.m. on the Nones of November [5.11.1951] in Fr. Smail’s rooms. After the reading of the minutes, the Princeps, deploring the absence of all save one of the new members announced his intention of postponing his customary inaugural address to the next meeting. With becoming gravity he outlined the privileges of the Plebs and the powers of their Tribunes. The august Senate had, after deliberations as earnest and prolonged as such a departure from tradition demanded [A note reads: SHAME] and under direct guidance from Lady Clio who had acquainted the sublime Pontifex with her desires in a vision, decided to allow the sacred rites temporarily to lapse. In view of the irreverence shown by Fratres in recent years, it was no longer pleasing to the Muse to be invoked amid smirks and titters. The Princeps emphasised that, should the present or any future Senate in its wisdom wish to resume the rites, they were not abolished but merely in abeyance. The ceremony of initiation would be simplified by revising the custom, regrettably neglected of late, of signing the roll of Fratres, and by omitting, as Lady Clio wished, the more elaborate rites.
Fr. H.R. Tinker then commenced his paper on “The British Mission to the Burmese Court in 1855.” It was based mainly on the private diaries of Sir Arthur Fayre, who, in the course of a lifetime spent in the inhospitable provinces of Arakan and Tenasserim, where the Westerners were a prey to rum, malaria, opium and native women, not only gained the respect of the Burmese and laid the foundations of a long period of peace between them and the British in India, but also by assembling for the first time the evidence of linguistics, archaeology and written records literally started off the study of Burma and its history. The Burmese War of 1852, the result of the tactlessness of “Combustible Commodore,” had enabled Dalhousie to capture the province of Pegu. As usual, the official Glass Chronicle of the Court of Amarapoora referred to the generosity and leniency of the King of Burma in ceding Pegu. However, fearing for his place in history, he was most anxious to regain it, despite the weakness of his armies in face of the British. After a Burmese mission had been shown their strength in a conducted tour of Bengal, Fayre was sent to Amarapoora to try to negotiate a treaty, which alone would persuade the Company directors to sanction the annexation of Pegu. He failed in his main aim, but the friendship he established proved permanent.
In a flurry of umbrellas, the symbol of royalty, and to the annoyance of the heir-apparent, Fayre had several private audiences with the King and delivered the Governor-General’s letter a fall session of the glittering Court. The Burmese method of conducting negotiations was to chat for some hours on cosmography, geography, literature and history, and await Fayre’s exhausted request to open business. The King and his advisors regarded written treaties as the expedients of defeated countries only, and when eventually brought to the point their invariable reply was: “It is not our custom.” But undoubted goodwill prevailed, the King was as anxious as Fayre to suppress the banditry on the frontier, and the patience and successful diplomacy so rare in relations between Asia and the British had a rare reward in the ensuing peace.
Fr. Tinker’s paper included a most interesting description, punctuated by exterior festivities, of the Burmese Court. The King’s principal wife, smoking a cigar, fanned His Majesty. A white elephant was the token of the country’s well-being. The roofs of houses were regulated in number, 9 for a royal palace, 7 for temples, 5 or less for subjects. The King’s jewelled robe weighed 100 pounds. The heralds announced that by his Majesty’s beneficence Dalhousie was well. And the requisite for a famous King was to found a new city on a hill. Sure enough, three years after Fayre’s mission, Amarapoora was deserted and Mandalay the capital.
The Princeps thanked Tinker for his entertaining and instructive paper and took occasion to suggest that students of Europe and England had a very limited horizon. However the discussion proved at least as lively and erudite as usual. The Princeps declared the meeting informal near 10.30.
C.K. XXX (Princeps)
Derek E.D. Beales (Magister Rotulorum).
The 290th meeting of Confraternity was held on the 13th day before the Kalends of December [18.11.1951] in Fr. Smail’s rooms. The first business was the election of the Tribunes of the Plebs. Although unconstitutional behaviour on the part of the Socius Honorabilis, followed by a tie between three of the candidates, delayed the proceedings, Fratres Smith and Brant were duly elected. In view of the need for the Tribunes to consult with each other before acting in the matter of the sacred rites, the Princeps graciously allowed them until the next meeting to come to a decision. He welcomed the new members and spoke of the aims and customs of the Confraternity.
Fr. J.G.W. Peck’s paper on “Yarmouth in the Reign of Elizabeth” probed very deeply into its subject. The background was the town’s struggle against the sea and the river, which led finally to the completion in 1560 of the ‘seventh heaven’ in the new channel which the river had adopted. But the effort to keep it clear continued to tax the energies of the inhabitants. This, doubtless, and the comradeship of the fishing industry, in which the majority of the town was engaged, accounted for the strong corporate sense of the borough. Its constitution was unusually liberal and the members of the two Councils of the 24 and the 48 felt a proper responsibility for its wellbeing. Although sometimes forced to borrow from the Queen or from other towns, it normally answered to good effect any call from the Privy Council for roads or transport facilities, and assisted the invasion of the Netherlands. Moreover, its preparations for the Armada were intensive. It traded to most of Northern Europe, even as far as Nawa, and to Spain as well.
Fr. Peck conjured up a picture of barrels of fish speeding as presents to the notables of the Kingdom, and the office of High Steward was well used, but burgesses were regularly chosen as M.P.s without, it seems, much influence from outside. The town was very tenacious of its rights and customs, and was continually involved in disputes with neighbours. The price of sand in particular was much coveted by the Pastors for the wreckage cast up on it, but the sea solved that problem.
Puritanism was on the increase. The burgesses, to the bishop’s annoyance, developed a taste for lengthy sermons by Cambridge divines. The Reformation brought the property of 18 gilds and 4 religious houses to the borough, and it welcomed the land. But it never actually gained the right of presentment to the living.
Fishing was the chief concern – it flourished during Elizabeth’s reign, and was much valued by the Council. At fair-time 700 ships might be in the town together. Earlier, Yarmouth had produced the “premier fishermen of all time.” The period was relatively the height of the town’s importance in the country, and its prosperity continued well through the last years of the Queen’s reign.
The Princeps thanked Fr. Peck for his paper, evidently the result of prolonged and thoughtful devotion to Lady Clio. A discussion on ozone and fish followed, and the more formal part of the meeting concluded at 10.15.
C.K. XXX (Princeps)
Derek E.D. Beales (Magister Rotulorum).
The 291st meeting of the Confraternitas Historica was held in Fr. Smail’s rooms on the 5th day before the Nones of December [30.11.1951]. The Princeps, fresh from addressing a wider public, outlined the programme for next term. Then ensued a historic scare. Fr. Smith, expressing his unwillingness to provoke constitutional strife, but finding himself compelled to act by a sense of responsibility to past and present members of the Confraternity, vetoed the Senatorial ordinance discontinuing the sacred rites. A hush fell on all fratres, save two. The Pontifex’s objection to the colour of Fr. Smith’s socks was overruled by the Princeps after due scrutiny, but there was more substance in the complaint that two fratres hardly represented the general will of the Confraternity The Tribune invoked Rousseau, and then suggested a compromise. He felt that some sacred and solemn rite should open each meeting, or else nothing would distinguish us from an ordinary college historical society. He suggested that the Senate and the Tribunes might agree on a suitable ceremony, including, perhaps with the assistance of Bacchus, some invocation to Lady Clio. A favourable reception greeted his proposal. The Pontifex seemed confident of an appropriate vision, and the Princeps promised that the Senate would deliberate the matter.
Fr. Brant, having read the first word of his paper on “The Siege of Calais, 1346-7,” paused while the rum-punch was brought in with dignity and solemnity. The Princeps toasted Lady Clio, the Pontifex began to exercise his skill in ladling out the punch, and with the liquid steaming before him and inside him, Fr. Brant resumed.
Victorious at Crecy, Edward III, with an army of 4,000 infantry, 8,000 cavalry and a large body of Welshmen, moved to besiege Calais, a nearly impregnable fortress. He had the support of an immensely superior fleet, and the alliance of Flanders. Provided the army could beat off the attacks of Philip VI, only the occasional ship at great risk could enter the harbour to provision the garrison in time it would be starved out. The English had to face several efforts to relieve Calais, but the news of the Battle of Neville’s loss and the defeat of the Scots, Philip’s allies, was decisive. All that remained to do was to keep the town surrounded and wait. At its biggest the army numbered 32,000, a flexible, well-balanced force, costing £700 a day in wages alone. But the “letters red,” the mediating Cardinals, could not change Edward’s purpose. And the time came when one by one the standards raised on the towns of Calais were thrown down into the moat, and the King of England’s hoisted above the citadel. At first he demanded unconditional surrender. He eventually cleared the town of French inhabitants, and, save for 22 left as guides, filled it with English merchants. The Queen and Sir Walter Manny pleaded for the lives of the chief citizens, and they were spared. But several hundred died as a result of the siege: they had been literally starved out. The English lost perhaps 10%.
Although the meeting ended at the usual hour, the ‘informalities’ were brief, for a rum-punch is soporific.
C.K. XXX (Princeps)
Derek E.D. Beales (Magister Rotulorum).