[The following entries have been transcribed from the minute books kept in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.]
The 292nd meeting of the Confraternitas Historica was held in Fr. Smail’s rooms on the twelfth day before the Kalends of March [17.2.1952]. This was the first occasion of the enactment of the new rites; Fratres were silent and respectful, but it is still the opinion of many that the wisdom of the Founders should be acknowledged and the panoply of the original ceremonies restored.
It was first agreed to hold the Annual Banquet in the Blundell Room, despite the Senate. Then Fr. Smith carried out his public spirited undertaking to resign his Tribuneship, after a term of office notable for persistent defamation of the dignity of the Senate. Fr. Woodrow was elected in his place, and Fr. Brant was re-elected.
Fr. Smail’s paper was entitled “The Origins of the Crusading Movement.” He dealt first with the five possible aims of the First Crusade. It was clear that Urban II, its author, intended it to be “a house of correction” for troublesome Western nobles; it was certain that he mentioned Jerusalem as its goal, though doubtful whether he expected it to be captured. On the other hand, there was no evidence that the Pope was moved by the plight of pilgrims to the Holy Places; rather he used the popularity of the journey to speed up recruiting. What was definite, however, was Alexius Commenus’ appeal to the West for help against the Seljuks. By answering it Urban hoped to obtain, as a quid pro quo, the reunion of the Roman and Greek Churches. It was assistance to Byzantium which was the Pope’s preoccupation.
The Socius Honorabilis went on to discuss the antecedent of the movement. The Church had only recently accepted the righteousness of warfare. But Gregory VII had already had a plan to help the Greeks and take Jerusalem, though it failed to attract Europe’s princes. Urban had staged a small-scale holy war after the recapture of Tarragona in 1087: using the appeal of a pilgrimage, he declared that help in rebuilding the city and regaining its province for the Church would rank equal to a journey to Jerusalem. With this experiment behind him, it was a relatively simple step for the Pope to apply it to the battle in Asia: Urban’s methods made possible the execution of Gregory’s project.
…at Mr. Balder’s vitality was equalled by amazement at his range, and Fratres departed toward midnight much wiser men.
Derek E.D. Beales (Princeps, Magister Rotulorum).
It was the eleventh day before the calends of November and with rites renewed by the Confraternity met for the 295th time [21.10.1952]. From Fr. Smail’s rooms the Princeps, Derek Beales, guided us the same twenty old miles to Bishop’s Stortford, his home town, with sketch-map and umbrella as visual aids.
After being startled by a B.C. fee-fee, we fled to the village of Domesday time: an important manor largely held by the Precentor of St. Pauls, its numerous inns and craft-named streets indicated how trade flourished. The loosely populated village of 1086 increased its inhabitants fivefold by the thirteenth century and was prosperous enough to build the new perpendicular church in the fifteenth. Bishop’s Stortford’s, then, is the history of a market town focusing a farming Hertfordshire and Essex, situate on important thoroughfares making for custom and accessibility, with a malting industry sufficient to make the buyer swallow anything. Indeed the whole evening was slightly befuddled by the brewing interest. Here was the “George” of famous memory! Here the “Reindeer” where Pepys put up, here the “Crown” honoured by George IV, and after 1680 Old Rowley hacked it this way to that old mile course across the heath, beloved of a king, beloved of many a follower of the sport of Kings. The ways he trotted along were improved by the usual 18thc. cashing in of “pro bono publico” XXX, for the tolls of the district’s highway XXX were farmed for £2,500 and of the council promotors it was sneered, “The flats you shall humble – and pocket the cash.” As the vestry records become fuller we glimpse XXX XXX of the township XXX officials, of the constant chalking up XXX for putting some lout in the stocks, of the revived Grammar School educating famous men, Cecil Rhodes and the Princeps to boot.
With our gratitude expressed and speculating on the edification of Dr. Johnson’s negro servant, at about ten of the clock the Confraternity bade its farewell to Bishop’s Stortford, this Dunopillo of the Metropolis.
Derek E.D. Beales (Princeps)
P.W. Wolfe (Magister).
The second day before the nones of November and the 296th meeting of the Confraternity [11.3.1952] saw two tribunes elected and two precedents established: (i) a sealed edict was XXX allowing the Caeromonarius to imitate during the unfortunate sickness of the Pontifex; (ii) some sherry and Fr. Beaton Woodrow between them concocted a trifle for the “soccing” of Fr. Schumann who devoured it with some fortitude and Pickwickian patience, the fillet slipping round his neck the while.
The ‘Socius Honorabilis’ proceeded to an enthusiastic enconmium of John Arbuthnot Fisher (1841-1920), first Baron of Kilverstone. “The fighting efficiency of the fleet and its instant readiness for war,” this was his motto. A more immortal mot was his vaunt, “I’m sure I’m not born to be shot.” Yet shooting proved his main claim to fame, shooting torpedoes in the ‘70ies, shooting up the Alexandrian fortifications in 1882 and from the armoured train against Aruti Pasha, the gunnery improvements developed during his Mediterranean command, and the big guns of his Dreadnoughts. With just as devastating an effect he trained the big guns of his own below-deck vocabulary in a veritable barrage of criticism on naval inefficiency, infused with religious earnestness and the “tremendous dash” of the autocratic militarist. The war offices were still “the outdoor relief departments of the British aristocracy,” the fleet the Admiral’s plaything, bogged down in set movements and ceremonial. Then up loomed “Jacky,” as his friends called Fisher, this stormy XXX of the senior service, ruthless, relentless, a meteor even in the galaxy of luminaries that made up his own long generation; surely, said J.L. Garvin, the most remarkable genius of them all. His policy may be summarised briefly. From the age of twelve officers were to be trained in the college newly opened in the grounds of Osborne. Fisher worked out the deployment in the North Sea of a more modern, speedy fleet with enhanced manpower and reserve strength, to contain Germany rather than France. Emerging from an age of jingoism, however, his accelerated battleship building programme encouraged foreign emulation and prompted the Kaiser, with customary bad manners, to overtip our ‘wooden wall’. Under the clever Churchill in 1914, Fisher despatched the cruisers which destroyed von Spee at the Falkland Is. His plan of a D-day attack on Pomerania was directed to the 1915 Dardanelles project over which he resigned.
The confraternity resigned itself to a last glass of ale while the Princeps thanked Fr. Schumann for honouring us with this story of the achievements of one of Britain’s great defenders.
Derek E.D. Beales (Princeps Senatus)
On the fourth day after the Ides of November [17.11.1952] Fr. Brian Fletcher recreated for our 297th meeting Sir Francis Dashwood, his political and private life. An august amoralist of the Augustan Age his character epitomised the Age of Reason at its most irrational.
On his Grand Tour he petrified the Petrine penitents, scourging them with a horsewhip. Expelled the States of the Church, he returned a connoisseur to dabble with the dubious dilettantes and hedonistic heathen of the Divan Club in more oriental arts. His one track mind ingeniously laid out the grounds of West Wycombe to represent the female form. 18, Hanover Sq. provided his wenching headquarters after his marriage, a sacrifice to Plautus not to Venus. His wife, it was said, was the only woman he knew with whom he had no affair. As the prince of the playboys Francis led the fun and game of his jesters of the devil at Medenham Abbey.
Qua politician, he rowed in with the revisionary Leicester House interest. In office he laughed that people remarked him in the street: “There goes the worst Chancellor of the Exchequer that ever was.”
Princeps voiced our gratitude to Fr. Fletcher for a vivid miniature of this most macabre among macaroni.
Derek E.D. Beales (Princeps)
On the calends of December [1.12.1952] Fr. J.W.A. Thornely spoke to our 298th meeting on the Inns of Court.
These are four equal bodies: the Inner Temple, the Middle Temple, Gray’s Inn, and Lincoln’s. They have been since the 14th c., growing up amidst the many hospices congregating round Holborn and incidentally becoming notorious as a sanctuary for the underworld inhabiting neighbouring Whitefriars. Corporate institutions in their origin, as they are still, the Inns became by the end of the 18th c. the home of legal business and could be regarded as “our judicial university.” For long time however they remained a school of social accomplishment for a minority not necessarily destined for the bar. The Inns were held on lease; they lacked resources, which fact suggests why H.VIII did not dissolve their immunity. So the law was an expensive discipline. Entering at 16 to 18 years of age, students might be called to the bar at 25 to 30, and after a further 15 yeas qualify for reading to became a teacher. The teaching was many dialectic, related to the disputation of the moots.
The speaker proceeded to outline their constitutions and passed round several books containing photographs of their famous halls and garden walls. The hammerbeams of the Temple witnessed many a celebration and state function, many an Elizabethan play and Jacobean masque. Their eminent sons and honourary numbers are famed in literature as in affairs of state, including Cecil, Walsingham, Henry Sidney; the younger Pitt, Canning and Asquith; Bulle, Oliver Goldsmith and Dr. Johnson – and the list could be infinitely extended.
Fr. Thornely did not hesitate to comment on the difficulties inherent in an exclusive right to control entrance to the profession; the danger of ossification; the occasional lack of the personal touch in study, so important for students from the Commonwealth.
Princeps thanked Fr. Thornely for bringing out so knowledgeably the interest and importance of the Inns of Court, whose very ‘genius XXX’ imitates the continuity of our common law with creative mediaeval centuries.
D.E.D. Beales (Princeps)
For its 299th meeting on the sixth day before the calends of February [26.1.1953] the Confraternity was honoured by Fr. R.P. Casey with a paper on folklore in the Soviet Union, embellishing some published lectures delivered at Boston and kept interesting by illustrations from his verse translations and the passing round of some half dozen volumes, finely printed by the State Publishing House of Moscow to show how much importance is attached to the scholarly XXX of this spontaneous literature of the provinces that make up greater Russia once reawakened from C-unist centralisation by federal autonomy of cultural institutions and the rise in literacy.
Harking from the North the first Russian folklore sprang from XXX saga, its mediaeval inspiration Slav; its 16th c. Cossac exploits. The XXX songs of gollards have turned to the thoughts of the peasant: a very present inspiration. Here we catch still, Fr. Casey suggests, the old music of the minstrel, singing for his supper even yet to suck the drifting time, snatching still at romance in common things. In this new secular piety his are now the paeons sincerely addressed to mechanisation, to the actor or to the Gods of War, singing with the sickle, sighing until the scythe, that very folk-lore motif that attracted Gorky. Contemporary leadership too fires eulogy, dirges and lamentations immortalising XXX as once Ivan the Terrible.
In thanking the speaker the Princeps recommended such a rewarding subject as sufficiently off the beaten track for XXX addicts, who could not hope XXX to rival Fr. Casey’s impressive knowledge of his theme and the fairness of his appraisal.
A scene of confraternal convivality made merry the eve of February calends [31.1.1953]. To the tinkle of sherry glasses we congregated within Blundell Room with many fratres of former years, who had journeyed from far and wide to this our 300th meeting. Trooping into hall we sat down by candle-light to three tables and five courses. Detailed gastronomy may be left to menu and memory; suffice to say: a good time was had by all.
And now the feasting is over, and the coffee hardly yet stone cold, the hangover comes early with the speeches’ beginning. The loyal toasts ring out, the Princeps first to his feet; then the Pontifex, Ian Clarke, visited by the shades of XXX as well as our Lady Clio; hearty laughter, much banging of the table and circulation of decanters welcome. Fr. Scott-Giles aspiring to a second Elizabethan Age, and Fr. Passant recalling the achievement and high position attained by many of the older fratres around him. And what good talkers we found our predecessors to be!
So, to the chatting of contemporaries with hospitality of Fr. Smail’s rooms and on to Fr. Schumann’s to drink in the new day. We may well take this opportunity of recording our gratitude to the [????] and office stuff and to all who made the evening a success enjoyed by one and all.
The confraternity did recover from its tricentennial and so on the fourth evening before the nones of February [1.2.1953] High Easterling took surviving fratres back to the age of the Vicar of Bray on “Bishop Ken and the Non-Juring Schism.”
It was from Isaac Walton that Ken hooked on to the traditions of the Caroline Church. He successfully angled for the Tutorship of New College, the more sadly to fish the muddied eddies of Charles II’s Court. The King dubbed him “the little fellow who tells me of my faults.” But the eminent “little fellow” baited Charles too much; he boggled at the King receiving Nell Gwyn in the Bishop’s Palace at Winchester …. the reverend divine was next sighted off Tangier, as bishop to the fleet.
Then at that Glorious Revolution of 1688 Ken continued his vetoing career by refusing to take the Oath of Supremacy. The speaker considered this schism of the advocates of non-resistance a protest for the supremacy of the spiritual. The non-swearers lost their XXX and cures; they objected to lay deprivation and deplored the so-called “immoral-prayers” for the latitudinarian William. Believers in divine right, they stood out against the ‘de facto’ King, then posing the ever-recurring problem of the nature of sovereignty.
The movement split about 1710, many non-jacobite, non-jurors creeping back into the fold of the national church. A few diehards clung to their lost cause with Oxonian tenacity for a century to come. But there was no King across the water; no longer cause for this Church of the Loyal.
Frater Easterling was thanked for the work and though he had spent on this significantly reactionary movement of the High Church and on one of their number whom, with all his misunderstanding of political development, the speaker ranked among the Saints of the Church of England.
D.E.D. Beales (Princeps)
P.W. Wolfe (Mag. Rot.).
For our handful of guests 4 XXX calends Mar. [25.2.1952] the shades of historians of our century rose again in a paper of by Fr. C.H. Williams, an old Sidney man who studied in London under Pollard at the founding of the I.H.R., the institution of historical research as it was known familiarly.
Suffice it to say the Prof. was far from hysterical in his orthodox appreciation of the researcher “taking his meals in the kitchen.” XXX would probably have blushed to be numbered among the successors to the tradition of Acton and Maitland; Lytton Strachey would certainly have smiled knowingly at the ignorance displayed of his might and beauty, especially when even Guedalla found mention.
Dr. Smail closed the evening by recalling the second “battle of Hastings” and the work of the glamour contingent, Kate XXX Eileen XXX, and Helen XXX. Miss Helen Waldell was evidently too inspired to be appreciated. Did this talk inspire anyone to give themselves up to the monotheistic service of our lady Clio?
D.E.D. Beales (Princeps)