[The following entries have been transcribed from the minute books kept in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.]
The 309th meeting of the Confraternitas was held on the fourteenth day before the Kalends of February [18.1.1954], fratres assembling in the rooms of Fr. Smail to hear a rare feast of erudition presented by the Caeromonarius on “Christianity in England before the Coming of St. Augustine.”
Insert: Certain fratres of remarkable obtusity insisted that the words “Frater Salway” should be inserted after the first reference to the Caeromonarius.
After the rites a new frater was solemnly inducted – Frater Fenn Smith. His elevation to the ranks of this ancient and noble society means that there is now 100% ‘Union Shop’ as it were among the first year historians – no doubt Clio will display her great pleasure at this seemly state of affairs in some four months time.
Before commencing to recount in halting words the talk so well told by Fr. Salway, the Magister feels forced to point out that of the ten fratres present of less than nine terms standing, only four were properly garbed for the worship of our muse.
But, to return to more pleasant things, to wit, the talk: Christianity was apparently a force in Britain by the 3rd Century according to the witness of Tertullian having presumably been introduced in the previous century. There are only three known martyrs however . At the Council of Arles in 312, three British Bishops were present – Elemius of York, Restitutius of Canterbury and Adelphius of Colchester – the last being probably the Primate. Three bishops were again present at the Council of Rimini in 360 when all three claimed for their expenses.
Gildas tells us that there was a great restoration and building of churches in his time, but only very few sites have been discovered such as those in Silchester and Caerwent.
Apparently Christianity was never strong among the troops but it had a great following among the poor of both town and country. The only heretic produced was Pelagius who advocated the theory that evil was done by us and was not born in us – in short free will. In 429 St. Germanus of Auxerre was sent to help fight this heresy and during his stay was entertained at Verulanium. His Hallelujah victory and the death of Niall of Ireland brought peace to Britain and Christianity flourished despite the break down of civil life. Monasteries were introduced from Gaul by such as Nimian. Auxerre proved a training school for British clergy like St. Patrick, Illtyd and Paulinius.s
Bishops did not perish with their towns – Bangor was still in diocesan seat on the death of Dubicius but their work had become purely sacramental and their sees based on tribal organisation. A Celtic system prevailed as in Ireland – Maelgwyn became an abbot as easily as a King. Monasteries grew ever more influential.
The Caeromonarius ended with a brief résumé linking the times of Gildas and Augustine.
The meeting was closed in the accustomed manner at the early hour of 9.45.
John M.M. Bell (Magister Rotulorum).
The Annual Banquet of the Confraternitas took place on the evening of the third day before the Kalends of February [29.1.1954]. Unfortunately tradition had had to bow down before stern necessity and our feast was held on the Friday and not the Saturday after the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, and it is believed to difficulties in booking the Blundell Room. Happily five Fellows were still able to come even though it was their Dining Night.
At 7.45 promptly sherry was circulated and drunk in the Princeps’ rooms – indeed before 7.45 because the Magister arrived exactly on time to find large numbers already raising glass to lip and with every appearance of having done so for no little time.
At last, suitably appetised the twenty two Socii and fratres trooped into the Blundell Room to partake of the delicious repast prepared for them by the kitchens. Full description of this culinary triumph must be omitted – present fratres will remember it, and future will not care. The port began to move about the tables, the toasts were drunk; Socii Schumann and Thornely (the latter at extremely short notice) ably replied to the Princeps and the Pontifex. The evening was finished with the kind hospitality of Fr. Smail in Y3.
We may well take this opportunity of recording our thanks to especially the Pontifex and the Fabricius for all the hard work they put in, to make the 310th meeting such a success.
John M.M. Bell (Mag. Rot.)
The Guest Night of the Confraternitas was held on the Nones of February [5.2.1954], when Professor Maurice Ashley addressed a goodly gathering of both fratres and visitors in the Blundell Room. The suggestion made by Frater Smail on the day before the Kalends of November had indeed borne fruit and we waited with some expectancy to hear from our Speaker. It must be an exceedingly difficult thing to speak satisfactorily about such a controversial figure as Oliver Cromwell and certain of us could not feel perhaps the same uncritical admiration vouchsafed so clearly by the Professor, and more did not consider adequate the evidence presented in support of some of his assertions – for example that Cromwell was prepared to tolerate Papism. The speaker was further handicapped by an inability to answer questions satisfactorily. Also he was unfortunate in making an erroneous statement earlier in his lecture when dealing with the problem of college plate sent to Charles I in 1642. Fortunately the Master was at hand to controvert him and tell us what really did happen to “Mr Cromwell’s Pot.”
The Magister is in some doubt as to whether the meeting can legitimately be considered as the 311th in the series because to his knowledge neither the opening nor the closing rites were performed. Doubtless however the Muse has appeared to the Pontifex to give her decision as to this difficult situation.
John M.M. Bell (Mag. Rot.)
On the eighth day before the Kalends of March [21.2.1954], the feast of St. Peter in Cathedral, fratres gathered in Socius Smail’s rooms for the 312th meeting to hear Fr. Wilkes speak on “The Comparability of Primitive, Modern and Historical Groups.” It is to be feared that the initial general air of lassitude soon developed into a lamentable flippancy, which showed itself in such ways as to order an unnecessary alteration to the minutes. Votes of censure were bandied about with some abandon. However the Magister must forget his righteous wrath and return to the Speaker. Although humourous and interesting, the paper he delivered was not one which, as the Princeps remarked, was easy to appreciate at first hearing. Chiefly, it dealt with a theory of Homans (the Sociologist who wrote “English Villagers of the XIII Century”) on the basic forces of society. Fr. Wilkes illustrating and confirming his interpretation of this theory with reference to various primitive societies – for example the Nigerian Ibo and the Trobriand Islanders.
Although difficult, the paper nonetheless gave rise to a large number of questions which continued well after the closing rites which were performed at 10.15.
John M.M. Bell (Mag. Rot.)
It was a rather depleted number of fratres who gathered together in Y3 on the eighth day before the Ides of March [7.3.1954] for the 313th meeting of the Confraternitas, to hear Fr. Pemyer speak on “Grey and the Great War.” A pity because this talk was probably the most able of the term.
After the due rights and ceremonies had been performed, Frater Pemyer began. In the 19th Century, England enjoyed an illusory strength and although the tide had turned by 1870, few in England realised how dangerous our splendid isolation was until such happenings as the Kruger Telegram or the Fashoda Incident. Slowly the fear reserved to Russia became transferred to Germany. In 1904 the Entente Cordiale was cemented by mutual state visits. By the time Grey became Foreign Secretary in 1905 the European situation was indeed difficult to decipher, in particular the Kaiser’s irresponsible actions kept all Europe wondering. However Grey saw the danger of a full and public defensive alliance with a France still full of the spirit of Revanche. Also although Russia wanted a rapprochement, British public opinion was not favourable until about 1907 when the German threat became patent to even the dullest. By then the German navy laws had, by a chain reaction goaded all Europe into an armaments race. The crisis engendered at Agadir passed off without fighting but between 1911 and 1914 the Balkans were always a source of worry. In 1914 at the London Conference of Ambassadors, Great Britain and Germany worked for the last time in the cause of peace. Then came Sarajevo and an impossible ultimatum to Serbia. All the German attempts at mediation failed but she still considered the conflict could be localised. However inept Russian mobilisation ended this hope. Complicated diplomatic manoeuvres ensued marked by great distrust on all sides. Belgian neutrality became acknowledged as the casus foederis between France and the United Kingdom. Eventually Grey had to go to war to avoid isolation, discredit and an ignoble future. On August 4 an ultimatum was sent to Berlin.
Although Grey’s XXX were much criticised both at home and abroad at the time, he did at least succeed in bringing Britain into the war united.
Our thanks must go to Fr. Pemyer for a most interesting and stimulating paper.
John M.M. Bell (Princeps, Mag. Rot.)
Princeps J.M.M. Bell
Pontifex Maximus: S.L. Kohn
Caeromonarius: B.J. Roud
Magister Rotulorum: S.M. Andrews
Fabricius: J. Binns
Comes Sacromum Thesaurum: J.F. Hemmings
Record of the proceedings of the august Senate of the Confraternitas Historica at its meeting in Z6 on the eighth day before the Ides of October [7th October 1954].
Fratres present: Fr J. M. M. BELL, Princeps; Fr S. M. ANDREWS, Magister Rotulorum; Fr S. L. KOHN, Pontifex Maximus; Fr B. L. ROUD, Caeremonarius; Fr J. BINNS, Fabricius; and Fr J. F. HEMMINGS, Comes Sacri Thesauri.
1. The Princeps explained to the newly appointed Comes and Fabricius the implications of their exalted position and the duties deriving thereof.
2. The Confraternal Treasurer committed the expended account book of the Confraternitas into the custody of the Magister Rotulorum.
3. The Princeps informed the members of the Senate that he had booked the Blundell Room for the Annual Dinner on the fourth day before the Kalends of January
4. The Princeps reminded members of the Senate of the time-honoured and obligatory Confraternal attire: members of the Senate must wear a sash of red ribbon of suitable width; new fratres must be impressed with the need for red socks and sober suits.
5. The Magister Rotulorum revealed that he had been asked whether the Confraternitas would co-operate with the Sidney Law Society in staging a debate on a topic of a serious nature. After profound deliberation the Senate resolved that individual fratres would be at liberty to engage in or attend such a debate provided the following conditions were fulfilled
1. That the debate should not appear on the Confraternal Thesium Catalogus.
2. That the debate should not take place on a Confraternal night.
Fratres ANDREWS and HEMMINGS agreed to take part in such a debate under such conditions.
S. M. Andrews (Magister Rotulorum)
John. M. M. Bell (Princeps)
The 314th meeting of the Confraternitas Historica held in Y3 on the eight day before the Kalends of November [24th Oct 1954] provided an auspicious opening to the new academic year. The sacred riots were celebrated with customary ceremony, but, alas, without due pomp, for the Pontifex Maximus had omitted to secure his pontifical robe from the camphorised cupboard whence it had lain secure from mid-summer moth and long-vacational damp. Pomp quickly triumphed over circumstance, however, and when the first nervous novitiate was ushered from the glow of Y4 into the gloom of Clio’s shrine the dimly discernible Pontifex was properly attired.
The succession of initiates was long but the ceremony scarcely lost its customary dignity. The Pontifex maintained a becoming sobriety of demeanour marred only by the brief lapse occasioned by a fleeting glimpse of the Frater McCabe’s macabre countenance. When the seven newly initiated fratres [A note reads: J. FAUX; P.W. HARDLAND; P.M. MARLAND; J.J. McCABE; E.P. RUTT; P. WEBB; J.A. WOOD] and the newly welcomed socius honorabilis had assumed their places amid a concerto of glasses and beer bottles, the Magister Rotulorum read the minutes of the 313th meeting, (which he wrongly identified as the 317th on account of some questionable calligraphy.). The Princeps added an approving signature to the record he himself had penned, while bewildered fratres briefly tired to translate the French and Latin phrases which had been woven so expertly into the narrative. But those who had failed to translate “surge frater” [rise brother] could handle hope to interpret “casus foederis” [cause of the alliance], and they preferred accordingly to support the plea of the Pontifex that the minutes should in future be written in English.
The minutes made way for a reading of apologies for absence from an aspiring socius honorabilis and two would-be fratres. Mr. Lehmberg had promised his Monday evenings to the muse of music while Mr. Sergeant was on this occasion lending him choral support. Mr. Parkinson, having succumbed to the Stymies, was now busy fighting the Furies of historical study in an attempt to keep an appointment with one of the most august of the Lady Clio’s representatives.
That representative was soon to speak. Frater Smail prefaced his paper on the Battle of Hastings by explained that he proposed to present four short stories rather than a novel, a programme of one act plays rather than a single drama. Fratres soon found, however, that this did not mean any sacrifice of dramatic effect.
At the outset the speaker emphasised the difficulty of separating the facts of medieval warfare from the romantic dramatisation of the chronicles. Once a battle was joined a medieval commander had little hope of diverting its course: it was almost impossible for him to improvise to meet an emergency for his lack [of] control meant that his troops would not respond to a change of plan.
With this caution, the speaker turned to a discussion of contemporary sources, none of which stemmed from first hand experience, and considered their reliability. This led him on to a reconstruction of the battle itself and of the eventual Norman victory after a long serious of feigned retreats. The feigned retreat was a device known to the age and Harold, could he have controlled his army, would probably not have swallowed the bait. But the pursuit, like the feigned retreat itself, was due to the initiative of lesser men than Harold and William. The discrepancy between the Anglo-Saxon and Norman troops has in fact been over-stated: the eleventh century recognised no inherent superiority of “miles” even “pedes”, nor, as the early stages of the battle showed, was there any reason for presupposing a Norman victory.
The speaker now shifted his battle-ground from the eleventh to the nineteenth century and described the course of the Round-Freeman controversy – a polemical battle of the 1890s fought, as he put it, not only with spear and battle-axe, but with water-pistol and drawing pin. Hence the role of chroniclers after the event was played by Lytton Strachey, who found in Freeman “the spirit not only of the school, but of the Sunday School”. But, as fratres were reminded by hearing extracts from Strachey at his brilliant debunking best, Lytton the Lampoonist saw in his victim’s make-up just those vices which he had made up his mind to see.
Under Frater Smail’s skilful direction the battle cries of Freeman and Archer were re-iterated, the struggle of the palisade was re-fought, the libel on God’s own Englishmen was erased. Yet in the last resort, fratres were left with a feeling of fraternal sympathy for Freeman who had so misconstrued his Latin and so mistranslated his French: linguistic lapses were not unknown to them, as the celebration of the closing rites only too clearly showed
S M Andrews (Magister Rotulorum)
John M M Bell (Princeps)
The 315th meeting of the Confraternitas Historica held in Y3 on the 17th day before the Kalends of December [14th Nov 1954] found fratres diminished in numbers but not in fervour. Two new fratres [A note reads: New fratres: J.M. Sergeant and R.H. Parkinson] were initiated according to the sacred and time-honoured rites of the Confraternity, whilst on this occasion adhered to the letters of the liturgy.
The minutes of the 314th meeting were read by the Magister Rotulorum, approved by the Princeps and taken to heart by the Pontifex Maximum. Apologies for absence from Frater Bennett and Frater McCabe revealed that a new spirit was abroad, for they pretended to offer exigencies of academic work as an excuse. Confronted with such mis-placed – or perhaps merely mis-timed – industry, the Confraternity paused, protested, but eventually passed on. Frater Knives was rehearsing an enigmatic a dramatic role of enigmatical character while Frater Bickenton was cutting a military figure before the Pioneer Corps of Hanwick. Frater Harland was merely fulfilling a forgotten and undivulged engagement. Having accepted there apologies with some misgivings, fratres focussed their attention on a less happy absentee: Frater Marland had failed to offer a written note of excuse. Confraternal indignation at this contumacy issued in a sever note of censure, unanimously carried.
Fratres has scarcely recovered their composure before the Pontifex Maximus made mention of rum punch. His initiative was not unfaithful. Frater Smail generously offered to provide the Confraternity with a rum punch accompaniment to the Pontifex’s forthcoming paper on the Sidneys. The offer was accepted with alacrity amid murmured expressions of gratitude and grunts of anticipation.
At this point Princeps and Pontifex changed places and the first word of the Principial paper on “The Approach to War 1737-1739” was spoken. Dispensing with synopsis, overture and prologue, the speaker raised the curtain at once on the first scene: Walpole discovered weeping over Caroline, dead. The Queen’s death deprived Walpole of much of his influence over the king at a time when Anglo-Spanish relations were, to say the least, in bad repair. Differences were concentrated on the three main issues: the South Sea Company and its trade in slaves, the grievances of merchants maltreated on the high seas, and the Georgia frontier.
Scene two: XXX Jenkins exhibiting an ear. Extracts from the Parliamentary debates over Jenkins’ unhappy accident provided some light relief. Fratres were moved by Jenkins’ solemn description of his own fortitude: “I recommended my soul to God and my cause to my country.” They were soon reminded, however, that British captains treated Spaniards in much the same way.
After a glimpse at the Black Hole of Cadiz, the scene returned to the Cabinet. Walpole’s reluctance to go to war was strengthened by the not so distance spectre of the Pretender who might well convert an Anglo-Spanish war into a struggle for the English crown. But the opposition was skilfully led by Coutenet and Pulteney: jingoism was fostered by an appeal to the Elizabethan age and even Dr Johnson could be found reading the biographies of Black and Drake. The speaker described the attempts at compromise, illustrating the provisions of the convention with some interesting arithmetical evidence which proved, incidentally, that 3/9 is not mathematically synonymous with 1/3.
Scarcely paused for breath, the speaker hurried the action towards its dénouement and the closing scenes were rapidly enacted: Pitt’s peroration in the debate for ratification of the convention in the committee of the whole house; the ageing Walpole – so very obviously a setting sun – losing his following and failing to win the Cabinet round to peace; George II himself finding the idea of war less uncongenial to his unpredictable mind. When the possibility of French intervention of [on] the side of Spain was eclipsed by the certainty that French was profiting from the cold war, the last argument for peace disappeared. Thus war was declared; and the drama ended as suddenly as it had begun.
The meeting concluded with some close cross-questioning and with some recommended additions to the content of the Historical Tripos. Perhaps, when the excuses of absentees were remembered, it was not an inappropriate ending.
S M Andrews (Magister Rotulorum)
John M M Bell (Princeps)
At its 316th meeting the Confraternitas Historica continued to compete with those rival and powerful attractions that attend the close of every Michaelmas term. Indeed the third day before December Kalends [29th Nov 1954] was also the might of Carols in Hall, and the fact that as many as seventeen fratres assembled in Frater Smail’s rooms thus had some significance. Whether it was a sense of loyalty, an interest in the Sidneys, a regard for the speaker, or a taste for rum punch that brought fratres together is known only to the Lady Clio and to the fratres themselves. But it is clear that both paper and punched were enjoyed: appreciation of the Pontifex’s portrayal of the Sidneys was uproariously expressed and, although no formal vote of thanks was passed, fratres were deeply grateful to the Frater Smail for enabling them to end a satisfactory a term in so satisfactory a fashion.
The celebration of the opening rites found the Magister Rotulorum elsewhere on magisterial duties of another kind. In his absences the Caeremonarius read the minutes if the 315th meeting, and their survival with only one vertical adjustment suggests either that the Princeps had not been misrepresented as much as the Magister feared, or that the misrepresentation was so grotesque as to be irreparable.
Apologies for absence were received from the Magister, from Frater Sergeant who had gone carol singing, and from Frame Marland who had gone none knew where. Frater Marland contented himself with explaining his previous absence and his apologies thus remained on in arrears. It was resolved that a message be sent to Frater Marland requesting that in future a reason for absence be given and “pressing appointments” defined.
On election of tribunes followed at great if not indecorous speed. Fratres Firth and Faux were deemed to have been elected unanimously – though not, it seemed, solely for alliterative reasons. No doubt the Princeps had remembered the remark fathered on Mr Molotov: “The trouble with free elections is that you can never tell who is going to win.”
No narrative, however skilfully contrived could hope to recapture the spell of Frater Kohn’s paper on the Sidneys. Even less can he expected of minutes written ‘in absentia’, however much embellished with later corroborative detail. For it was not so much what the speaker said as the way he said it that delighted his hearers. Frater Kohn is clearly either a very great humorist or a very unconscious one. From the moment he opened with the Ode to Penshurst, throughout his racy sketches of Sir William, Lady Frances, Sir Henry and Sir Philip, to his final pious hope that he had served both the Sidney family and the Sidney confraternity, there was scarcely a mirth-free minute.
So much of the material was fascinating as well as funny that it is difficult to be selective. Yet among the salient points may be mentioned the inquest on Lady Frances’ husband: did she in fact poison him? In absence of evidence the speaker eschewed a scotch verdict and returned one of “not guilty”, adding a rider that the life of our foundress could not have been happy. Fratres heard an interesting interpretation of Elizabeth I’s reign and this is not the place to challenge it. Such an historical revision was not a pardonable digression for the fortunes of the family depended on its relations with the Crown. The relations were often intimate: Henry Sidney shared Edward VI’s bed and was at Edward’s bedside when he died, while Henry’s wife caught small-pox from Elizabeth.
Philip, the Renaissance all-rounder par excellence, whose versatility embraced the roles of courtier, statesmen, solider and poet, was given a good start by his tutors of at Oxford and a good press by a sympathetic speaker. Fratres listened to many of the Astrophel and Stella sonnets and wondered quietly, as the speaker pressed relentlessly on towards number 110, whether the poet in Sir Philip had not been over-played. The art of poetry seemed to have been cultivated as an accessory to the art of love-making.
Whether the Sidney shades turned in their graves is not revealed; but the Sidney fratres rocked perceptibly in their chains. That much at least of the speaker’s pious hope was realised.
S M Andrew (Magister Rotulorum)
John M M Bell (Princeps)
Record of the proceedings of the august Senate of the Confraternitas Historica at its meeting in Z6 on the Kalends of December [1st Dec 1954].
Fratres present: Fr J. M. M. Bell, Princeps; Fr S. M. Andrews, Magister Rotulorum; Fr S. L. Kohn, Pontifex Maximus; Fr B. J. Rou, Caeremonarius; Fr J. Binns, Fabricius; and Fr J. F. Hemmings, Comes Sacri Thesauri.
6. Law Society Debate (5)
The Magister had hears not a whisper from the College Law Society about the proposed debate in which members of the Confraternity had agreed to take part
7. Visit of Mr Frank Owen to the Eleusinians
The Eleusinians had invited Mr Frank Owen to address them, thus forestalling the Senate of the Confraternitas Historica who also had their eyes on Mr Own as a possible visitor in the near future. The Magister was instructed to persuade the Eleusinians to divulge the date of their meeting and to admit fratres to it.
LENT TERM PROGRAMME
8. The following dates and events were approved
17 January 1955 – Fr Beales on “Garibaldi in London”
14 February – Guest Meeting: J Gallagher, Esq., M. A. on “The Palm Oil Ruffians”
28 February – Fr Roud on a subject to be disclosed later
29 January – The Annual Banquet
9. Cromwell Night
Two constructive suggestions for Cromwell Night were offered and a decision was therefore postponed.
10. Drink Rates
After a long and acrimonious debate in which the drinkers of cider were pitted against the drinkers of beer, the following rate were approved
Cider – 6d per glass
Beer – 1/8 per pint bottle
11. Roll of Fratres
The end of the roll on which fratres are required to sign their names had been reached and a new length of parchment was therefore needed. The Comes undertook to see paternal assistance in this matter and, if father failed, to buy the parchment from a well-known Cambridge stationers. The question of how to defray the cost provoked keen discussions. The Princeps proposed that the parchment should be presented to the Confraternity as a gift from the Senate; the Magister regarded a scrap of parchment as an unsuitable vehicle instrument of Senatorial bounty, which he preferred to see bestowed in a more becoming manner. Some swift repartee followed. The Pontifex complained that the Princeps by his ex cathedra utterances was abrogating some of the rights of the Lady Clio. The Princeps retorted that Clio had few rights – like the Queen of England. This provoked the Pontifex to utter a fervent and audible plea to an unknown deity. A senatorial crisis was averted by the Caeremonarius who proposed that if the cost of the parchment were small the Senate should meet it, but that if it proved less reasonable help should be sought from Confraternal funds. This was resolved.
S M Andrews (Magister Rotulorum)
John M. M Bell (Princeps)