Page 7, 25th October 1936

25th October 1936
Page 7
Page 7, 25th October 1936 — Once Upon A Time

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Locations: Worcester


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Once Upon A Time


"And are to be sold at his Printinghouse on the Ditch side in Black-Fryers; where all Gentlemen may be furnish'd with them at the Prices following."

How profitable it would be to wander by that Ditch side to-day, might we by so doing Come upon the shop of " Henry Hills, Printer to the King's Most Excellent Majesty, for his Houshold and Chappel." For the literary wares turned out by Mr. Hills have a tempting sound.

A Servant of All

With all his respect for the King's Most Excellent Majesty, Henry Hills, it must be owned, was not wedded, in commercial interest, stalely to the Crown. He was printer, successively, to Cromwell, Charles II, and James II; and as, according to the D.N.B., he did not die until 1713, he saw England's Political turmoils right through from the time of the Commonwealth to the threshold of the Hanoverian period.

if we are to think of the Blackfriars printing-house in connection with "A Defence of the Doctrin, and Holy Rites of the Roman Catholic Church," we must father upon that establishment also " A Clear proof of the Certainty and Usefulness of the Protestant Rule of Faith . . ." These two titles sufficiently indicate opposing forces; we are less sure, without further research, as to the place of "Dr. Sherlock sifted from his Bran and Chaff "; but most of the Hills publications, judging from the list of them, were on the Catholic side, which is not remarkable having regard tio their time.

It is for one pamphlet in particular that we are for the moment indebted to the Ditch side in Black-Fryers. This booklet, now lying before us with the dust of twoand-a-half centuries engrained in its exterior; was published, permissu Superforum, ;n 1688. An eventful year, that, since it brought the extinction of Stuart power in England with William's landing by Torbay.

The title is lengthy; but it is worth quoting in full, as it describes the pamphlet's threefold contents: "A Short and Plain Way to the Faith and Church. Composed many years since by that Eminent Divine Mr. Richard Hudleston of the English Congregation of the Order of Si. Benedict. And now Published for the Common Good by his Nephew Mr. Jo. Hudleston of the same Congregation.

"To which is Annexed his late Majesty King Charles the Second his Papers found in his Closet after his Decease.

"As also a Brief Account of what occurred on his Death-bed in Regard to Religion."

The booklet is dedicated, in an obsequious letter, to the Queen Dowager, and is prefaced by an interesting account of the author and of King Charles's introduction to and use of the Short and Plain Way. This little pamphlet is a treasurable contribution to history. Part of it—that relating to the King's death-bed—has been more than once reprinted; but there is an added fascination in reading it in the actual impression first given to the public, three years only after the royal demise. Was it by another death, one wonders, or by indifference, or by both, that this particular copy of a rare and ancient brochure found its way into the twopenny box?

Royal Reading Fr. Richard Hudleston's Short and Plain Way was the influence, under God, by which Charles the Second, no shining light of virtue, became reconciled to the Catholic Church. It happened in this wise: Fr. John Hudleston, the nephew, had played a part in helping the King to escape his foes after the defeat at Worcester. Following the episode of the Boscobel oak, the royal fugitive, disguised, was got away to Mr. Whitg,rave's house at Moseley, in Staffordshire. "During this Retreat," Fr. John tells us, " His Majesty was pleased to entertain himself for the most part with me in my Chamber, by perusing several of my Books, amongst others he took up this present Treatise then a Manuscript, lying on the Table of a Closet adjacent to my Chamber. He read it; He seriously considered it, and after mature deliberation Pronounced this sentence upon it, (viz.), I have not seen anything more Plain and Clear upon this Subject."

That piece of reading may perhaps have inspired in Charles the keenness to indulge in literary polemic on his own account; it may have impelled the two brief exercises annexed in the pamphlet. These were found, after his death, by his brother James, who certifies to both of them. Of the first he writes: " This is a true Copy of a Paper I found in the late King my Brother's Strong-Box, written in his own Hand. J.R."

Charles, Fidei Defensor For whom were these papers intended? Obviously it was some Protestant defender who was to have been told that " the Discourse we had the other Day, I hope, satisfied you in the main, that Christ can have but one Church here upon Earth;. and I believe that it is as visible, as that the Scripture is in Print, That none can be that Church, but that, which is called the Roman Catholic Church." So the royal hand goes on, upholding the faith against theories which, as the writer puts it in the second paper, offer " no other Church, nor Interpreter of Scripture, but that which lies in every Mans giddy Brain."

In the last place, save for the catalogue of books appended by the publisher, we have Fr. John Hudleston's relation, in edifying detail, of what transpired on February 5, 1685, when, he records, " Between Seven and Eight a Clock in the Evening, I was sent for in hast to the Queens Back-stairs at Whitehal, and des:red to bring with me all things necessary for a dying Person."

Fr. Hudleston had not had time to take

with him the Blessed Sacrament, and he was in anxiety on that account. At this juncture something occurred in which the faithful will see, as the waiting priest at Whitehall did, the hand of God.

Put into an ante-room, or some such place, and bidden not to stir from it until further notice, Fr, Hudleston was in distress. Suddenly, as if heaven-sent. "Fr. Bento de Lentos a Portugez came thither, and understanding the circumstance I was in, readily profer'd himself to go to St. James's and bring the Most Holy Sacrament along with him."

So it was that King Charles the Second, on his deathbed, was able not only to make his confession and to be anointed, but also to have the spiritually strengthening Viaticum. " Your Majesty," the zealous Benedictine told him, " hath now received the Comfort and Benefit of all the Sacraments that a good Christian (ready to depart out of this World) can have or desire." The dying monarch was left in pious dispositions, genuinely contrite and awaiting peacefully the end.

Both Fr. Richard Hudleston and his nephew were students at the English College in Rome. We are promised more about them with the publication, when it comes, of that institution's Liber Ruber.

P. E. A.

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