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John Mason Neale

John Mason Neale (1818 – 66), was a High Church Anglican best known today as the author of several Christmas carols, such as ‘Good King Wenceslaus’ and hymns like ‘All Glory, Laud and Honour’. A talented classicist at Cambridge, he was nevertheless prevented from taking an honours degree because of his poor performance in mathematics. This must have been dire indeed considering how very few undergraduates of promise were failed because of their ineptness in this particular discipline. Indeed, there could be more sinister reasons for this treatment. It is easy to imagine that someone with his quasi-Romanist leanings, which he probably did not hide, displeasing die hard Anglican dons at the University.

Be that as it may, Neale was appointed Chaplin of Downing College in 1840 and two years later became Vicar of Crawley. However, disagreements with his diocesan bishop, which dogged him for fourteen years, led to his resignation in 1846. Luckily, soon afterwards he was appointed Warden of Sackville College, a large almshouse of seventeenth century origin in East Grinstead. Here he remained until his early death aged 48 in 1866.

The attached document, found among some autograph material, is dated 1850 and is headed by an engraving of the courtyard at Sackville College. Under it Neale has penned a letter, or the draft of it, in Latin, seemingly to a fellow scholar, possibly in Europe, the first few lines of which some Classicists among the growing audience of Jot 101 might wish to translate. Here are the opening few words:

Viro doctissimus ----Brossch, Academiae Petropolensis Socio, Joannes M. Neale S.P.D.

Quantas gratias , Vir Clacissonie, et ago tibi et agere delco, qui literas tuas humanissimas…

At this point we at Jot 101 gave up. Some of the rest can be viewed above. Unafraid of religious controversy, Neale went on to found the Society of St Margaret, an order of Anglican women dedicated to tending the sick. At a time of strong anti-Papal feeling, such High Church activities were regarded with hostility by both the higher clergy and the laity, and Neale was banned from any preferment in the country of his birth. When recognition for his scholarly work eventually came, it was in the form of a doctorate from a college in Connecticut. [RMH]
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Henry Philpotts—that devil of a bishop

If the baby-eating Bishop of Bath and Wells out of Blackadder was a grotesque fiction—the reign , centuries later, of Henry Philpotts, one of whose letters is reproduced here,  is something we might associate more with  tyrannous Tudor bishops than with their supposedly anodyne Victorian successors.

Philpotts (1778 - 1869 ) was Bishop of Exeter between 1830 and 1869—the longest episcopacy since the 14th century. One of 23 children of an innkeeper, he is said to have been elected a scholar of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, at just 13, and  graduated five years later. In 1802 he was ordained and by 1809 had held four livings, cementing in that time  a lucrative connection with the diocese of Durham, where he became a Canon. Some idea of his aggrandising nature may be gained by the fact that after his election to the bishopric of Exeter in 1830 he asked that he be allowed to retain his former living of Stanhope, Co Durham which, due to the value of church land in such coal-rich territory, was then worth the enormous sum of £4,000 p.a.—amazingly £1,000 more than his new bishopric. This happy arrangement was refused, but Philpotts was permitted to keep a residentiary canonry at Durham, which brought with it a similar sum to that which he had lost, and which he retained until his death. The distance between Durham and Exeter is around 350 miles, which raises the question as to how often he, as Bishop of Exeter, was able to satisfactorily fulfil his obligations as a residentiary canon at Durham.

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