DavidLodge

David Lodge on Edmund Randolph – forgotten Catholic novelist

Before he made the big time as a fully fledged comic novelist David Lodge was principally a literary critic who wrote the occasional novel. When I was taught by him at Birmingham University his reputation rested not on his four novels—Ginger You’re Barmy, The Picturegoers,  The British Museum is Falling Down, and Out of the Shelter, but on his doorstep-sized anthology of literary theory and his books and articles on mainstream twentieth century Catholic novelists.

Lodge’s article on the hardly known late Victorian novelist Edmund Randolph, which I discovered in a copy of the Aylesford Review for Spring 1960, belongs to the period when he regarded himself as primarily a writer on the history of Catholic novel, a subject he had chosen for his M.A. dissertation at London University. This research involved reading a number of ‘forgotten Catholic novelists‘of the nineteenth century. Clearly, he had not been impressed by their quality:
 
‘…Between the waves of the Oxford movement and the Decadence there lies a trough in which English Catholic novelists produced little besides sentimental pietistic romances and propagandist historical novels…’
 
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The ‘Belfast of Canada’

Anyone with even slight Catholic sympathies would probably not have got on well in Toronto during the late nineteenth century, when it had become a hotbed of Protestant ascendancy. By the turn of the century, the power of the Orange Order, who returned twenty of the twenty three mayors in fifty years, got it nicknamed 'the Belfast of Canada'.
Even by the 1940s this legacy had not waned sufficiently for the artist and writer Wyndham Lewis who, forced by circumstances to spend several years there during the War, was constantly frustrated and angered by the philistinism and religious bigotry of its leading lights.

The prevalence of militant Protestantism in mid nineteenth century Toronto is well illustrated by this scarce flier of c 1869 from Maclear and Co, the dominant publisher in Canada for many years. In advertising the forthcoming reprint of The Siege of Derry, originally published in 1823 by  the Rev John Graham, a clergyman from Ulster , it combined blatant propaganda on behalf of ‘ the heroes of the Irish struggle in 1688 – 90 with a nifty aside aimed at backsliding Anglo-Catholics:

'When men bearing the once-revered name of Protestant , aye Protestant clergy, have set up the Confessional, the Rags and mummeries of Rome…'

A rather appropriate piece of propaganda, given the crisis now attending the power-sharing agreement at Stormont.

R.M.Healey

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Coventry Patmore rejects his uninspiring ‘vegetables’

The poet who composed the long love poem, The Angel of the House, which appeared in four volumes from 1854, became, like many of his generation, a convert to Catholicism, and so his remarks, voiced in a letter to the editor of the Spectator  regarding a bust of Cardinal Newman by the pre-Raphaelite sculptor Thomas Woolner, come as no real surprise.

The original letter, written from Hastings, was discovered in a pile of similar autographed material.

‘It may interest some of the readers of a Paper which has shewn so special an interest in and affection of Cardinal Newman, that by very much the finest likeness of him in existence is the bust which was made of him some ten or fifteen years ago by Thomas Woolner…I was once in a room containing first-rate busts of all the most famous men of the past generation. That of Newman made all the others look like vegetables, so wonderfully was it loaded with the great Cardinal’s weight of thought and character.’

We don’t know who the sitters for other busts were, or the identity of the sculptors, but we do know that as a friend of Woolner, as indeed he was of Dante Rossetti, W. Holman Hunt, and other Pre-Raphaelites, Patmore was bound to defend the merits of the Newman bust over perhaps some more conventional works of art. As a child, Patmore himself wanted to be an artist and at the age of fifteen won the Silver Palette of the Society of Arts. The poverty of his father made such an ambition impossible and Patmore ended up in the British Museum library. In later life, spurred on by his association with the Pre-Raphaelites, he wrote on Art, but he is best known today as the author of The Angel of the House, although it is generally recognised that his best poems, which have strong spiritual qualities, were written towards the end of his life. [R R]
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A letter from Baron Corvo

An undated  Baron Corvo letter (1889-1890) about the artworks in the church of St Cuthbert with Matthias in Earl's Court, London. Rather short but with classic Corvine nuances.

Written to the vicar Father Westall shortly after the first 2 or 3 pictures of the Stations of the Cross were hung in the London church, from the Collegio Suizzera, Rome (Scots College). There is much online about this splendid church (and Fr. Westall) but no mention of the Guido Reni (sold/ stolen?) The letter was published in the Autumn 1966 Philbeach Quarterly, a magazine somewhat in advance of the usual parish newsletter - it had a poem by Betjeman ('Anglo Catholic Congresses') a good piece on the Arts and Crafts figure William Bainbridge Reynolds + John Heath-Stubbs and Michael De-La-Noy were on the editorial board.The enigmatic self-styled Baron Corvo, Frederick Rolfe (rhymes with loaf*) writes:

Dear Sir,
May I be allowed to ask the name of the painter of the Stations of the Cross in your church, and history of the very fine copy of Guido Reni's San Sebastian, which also hangs there?
Though I do not suppose any weight attaches to my opinion, I feel bound to say that your Stations are far more beautiful than any I have seen, even here, and the Guido, too, is the best representation of the original I know, though perhaps a little "skied."
Your obedient servant,
Frederick William Rolfe,
Clerk.

*The late Donald Weeks' pronunciation, presumably researched and authenticated by him.


by Sir James Gunn, oil on canvas, 1932

Chesterton, Belloc, Baring

Found in the vast Jimmy Kanga collection a work on three of his favourite writers. Nearly 10% of his 20,000 books are by or are related to this British Catholic triumvirate, many in multiples... The book is Chesterton, Belloc, Baring by Raymond Las Vergnas (Sheed & Ward, London 1938.) The jacket shows  Sir (Herbert) James Gunn's oil painting Conversation Piece (G.K. Chesterton; Maurice Baring; Hilaire Belloc). The picture resides at the National Portrait Gallery with this note in the catalogue:'The idea for the portrait came to Gunn at a dinner to celebrate Belloc's 60th birthday ; the completed work was shown at the Royal Academy in 1932.'

From the foreword to the book :

Inside d/w blurb

It is quite true that the three authors whose portraits we have here tried to sketch were, first and foremost, highly individual. Each had his characteristic temperament, and a vigourous, undisguised originality. In Chesterton, exuberance predominates: lucidity in Belloc: limpidity in Maurice Baring. A taste for paradox seems, at first sight, to be common to all three: yet paradox itself is found to be, in them, susceptible of very varied hues. Chesterton's shouts of laughter hardly suggest the guarded irony of Belloc or the Attic salt of Baring. Moreover, their dominant inclinations took them in different directions. A critic, even-to-day, seems justified fastening on Chesterton primarily as essayist; Belloc, as historian; Baring, as novelist.

Yet they meet and fuse in a deep and powerful unity. They were born at much the same time; their active careers were at least parallel, and to this they owed, first, acquaintance; then, a mutual esteem; then, a close friendship. The same problems fascinated them: the same ideal directed them: they met in the Communion of a self-same Faith. The Catholic Faith did indeed provide one and the self-same inspiration not only to their work, but to their very being. Against the general background of after-war English letters, one sees them standing out ever more clearly as a trinity. Yes; they are 'the Three Catholics,' indeed, the 'Three Great Papists,' as not a few have already liked to nick-name them.

Further still;, we find united together in their love for France,a love that they have always sought to express with so much culture and alertness, and so effectively. All three sought with an equal ardour to present France under her true aspects to English eyes. One of these three 'Friends of France,' Chesterton, has died. On the morrow of so grave a loss to Anglo-French literature, it seems to us not only right, but a duty, to associate with his great memory the greatness of those other two who toil at the self-same task.

We can pray for no worthier justification of this book.

Rayond Las Vergnas December, 1936