Page 9, 23rd April 1999

23rd April 1999
Page 9
Page 9, 23rd April 1999 — Nostalgia that is not what it seems

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Nostalgia that is not what it seems

This purported First English Prayer Book is

indulgent confectionery, says Brian Brindley The First English Prayer Book by Arthur James, £9.99 E FIRST Prayer Book of Edward VI was published in March 1959, two years after the death of that errant Catholic Henry VIII. It did not last long, for in 1552 a second Prayer Book, made (in Cranmer's words) more fully perfect, was published; that did not last long either, for in 1553 Edward was succeeded by Mary I, who in 1554 restored the old Roman rite. Short though its life was, the 1549 Prayer Book remained curiously influential: it was admired by Archbishop Laud in the reign of Charles I and by Bishop Cosin in that of Charles II, though never officially restored; it was adopted, more or less, by the Non-Jurors, who refused to break their oath to James II by taking one to William III; it exercised a romantic fascination for the Tractarians (19th-century Anglo-Catholics) and it was even adopted and used a century ago by Lord Halifax and his friends.

It was re-published as The First PrayerBook of King Edward VI in the 19th century, by Griffith, Farran, Browne & Co, as part of a series of past liturgies; it was reprinted many times, and copies can easily be found in good, old-fashioned second-hand bookshops (I see my copy cost me two shillings); I would recommend anyone interested in liturgical history to look for a copy.

I now have in front of me an attractive little book, printed in black and red in a type designed by Eric Gill; the cheerful red dust-jacket is adorned by a picture of Arehbishop Cranmer, and it is called The First English Prayer Book; the first worship edition since the original publication in 1549. It struck me on first seeing it that it was rather small for what it claimed to be; on examination I found that, like the 1549 book, it contained no Psalter, and that — again, like some old editions — the Epistles and Gospels are not printed in full, but merely given as chapter and verse references. On the reverse of the title-page, one Robert Van de Weyer "asserts the moral right to be identified as the compiler of this book..." Robert Van de Weyer is a clergyman of the Church of England who was for some time involved in a revived community at Little Gidding. At present, I am given to understand, his ministry is to certain congregations in Norfolk who cannot get on with the Bishop of Norwich or with their lawful incumbents. I fear that Mr Van de Weyer's grasp of liturgical history and editorial scrupulousness is as hazy as his grasp of Canon Law.

For this book is not in any sense a reprint of 1549. I suppose it has been put together for the use of his schismatic congregations. I do not question Mr Van de Weyer's honourable intentions in compiling his little book — if he had called it Nice Moderate Services in Extremely Archaic Language, one would have had no cause for complaint — but to offer it for sale as The First English Prayer Book is a fraud on the public.

At the risk of boring my readers, I must set out some of the differences. From Matins, two canticles (Venite and Benedicte) are completely omitted. At Matins and Evensong, instead of Cramer's generous provision of psalmody (four or five every day for 30 days, requiring the whole Psalter to be said monthly) there is the permissive rubric: "Then may be said or sung a psalm or hymn" — Cramer knew nothing of hymns. At the end of Matins and Evensong, "a sermon or homily may follow, then the minister or a person that is appointed may say prayers"; but Cranmer called his Eucharist "The Supper of the Lord and the Holy Communion, commonly called the Mass"; here it is just "Holy Communion". Of Cranmer's immensely long eucharistic prayer, fully one third is omitted, and, "if the reserved sacrament is to be used", the prayer is omitted entirely — a usage Cranmer would not have countenanced. Cramer requires the consecration to done "without any elevation,or showing the Sacrament to the people"; Van de Weyer has him "showing the sacrament to the people". The Eucharist is celebrated "according to the instruction... of Christ", where Cranmer has "institution"; I do not understand the reason for this change. In the Litany, Cramer prays for deliverance "from the tyranny of the bishop of Rome and all his detestable enormities"; this petition is, without comment, omitted.

In a self-serving introduction, Mr Van de Weyer tells us that "Cranmer made a clear distinction between a 'priest', who should be ordained, and a 'minister', who may be ordained or lay." Quite true; but Mr Van de Weyer's allocation of the words is totally different from Cranmer's allowing all services (except Confirmation) to be "conducted by a lay person".

There are three groups of people who will be misled by this fallacious publication: firstly, Mr Van de Weyer's deluded followers, who will kid themselves that they are using an authentic old rite; secondly, good Church of England people, who would like to know something of the history of their own Church's liturgy; and thirdly, outside inquirers, who need to know exactly what happened at the Reformation.

I am not, as a general rule, in favour of the burning of books, but if ever there was a case for the intervention of the Publick Hangman, this is it. DAVID BAILEY'S memorable portrait of Malcolm Muggeridge, taken in November 1968, is just one of dozens of breathtaking photographs included in the ultimate glossy coffee-table book, David Bailey/ Archive One 1957-1969, published by Thames & Hudson, priced £42.

Sixties supermodel Jean Shrimpton features heavily, but it is Bailey's studies of London's rundown East End, alongside his compelling portraits, including several of the Kray twins and art and acting icons like David Hockney anti Catherine Deneuve, that capture both the glamour and the gloom of the era.

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