Page 6, 5th May 1939

5th May 1939
Page 6
Page 6, 5th May 1939 — CARDINAL GASQUET Dr Coulton Explains

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Organisations: Norwich School
Locations: Hereford, Rome, Norwich


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CARDINAL GASQUET Dr Coulton Explains

Sr,—I must again intervene in virtue of our concordat; for again you have, however unwittingly, printed a falsehood against me personally. Miss Cholmeley writes, " Cr% not Dr. Csee that it is his abusive letters and pamphlets which caused the Cardinal and other Catholic writers to prefer not have dealings with him?" How can she find it in her religious conscience to write these things as a pure effort of imagination?

The facts are, that on March 14, 1901, I sent my first letter to Abbot Gasquet, in terms of ordinary courtesy, requesting ordinary documentary vouchers for one of the most important statements in the most important of his books. Bishop Creighton, In The English Historical Review, had already noted it as strange that the Abbot should make a statement of such importance without documentary evidence.

Receiving no reply, I repeated that enquiry on May 23 and November 13, each time in the terms of ordinary courtesy.

Miss Cholmeley evidently knows no more of these letters than is known by Fr. Thurston, who (confessing in the same breath that he had never seen them), has permitted himself to describe them just as falsely as she does, and to build a great part of his article on that mis-statement. Your readers may see this for themselves when I publish those letters verbatim, for the first time, in the pamphlet which I must soon finish off now, having waited all these months to see how many persons there are, in all your wide public, who realise that even a Cardinal must stand or fall by the ordinary laws of evidence in a British community.

My first pamphlet was printed in June, 1905 (more than four years after); and, if this and its successors have been very different in tone from those letters sent through the post, that is to a great extent because the three letters produced only two replies, each of half-a-dozen lines, the keynote of the first being, " I must ask you to excuse my answering your questions," and, of the second, " it would take me more time than I could spare." I then realised that I was dealing with a hopelessly evasive person.

I have long ceased to hope that even the fairest Roman Catholic papers would refrain from printing, without verification, such statements as Miss Cholmeley's, or Fr. Thurston's, from whom she has evidently taken her ideas. Nor do I expect that either will now apologise frankly even now, for their ill-regulated imaginations. But these letters, with other similar documents, will be printed in full in my forthcoming Premium Upon Falsehood, at 6d. to the general public, or free to any of your readers who sends me a halfpenny addressed wrapper.



Sia,—Miss Cholmeley is, I think, mistaken in asserting that Fr. Thurston's article in the December Month has been practically ignored. What has been ignored is my own reply to it, which was published in the Glasgow Observer and Scottish Catholic Herald of February 10. In that reply I set forth five arguments in support of rny contention that the article was unsound. If these arguments can be answered, Fr. Thurston's failure to answer them is difficult to understand. Will he now undertake either to answer them or to explain why he refuses to do so?

Mr Boyd's letter seems to me to have nothing to do with the point under discussion. Cardinal Gasquet's contention was not merely that " there existed English translations approved by the Church which were not Wycliffe's translation," but that the supposed Wyclif Bible was itself a Catholic Bible. It was In support of this contention that he made and obstinately maintained, after Its untruth had been made plain, his statement that the thirteen errors in the Prologue of Hun's Bible were not to be found in Forshall and Madden. Does Mr Boyd deny that the Cardinal made and obstinately maintained the statement in question? If he can show that the Cardinal never did so, he will be doing us all a great service. If he cannot, he is, in my opinion, only prolonging this correspondence unnecessarily by his intervention.

JOHN V. SIMCOX (Rev.). Ware.

Early English Painters

SIR,—" When two men cannot agree over the price of an onion, who shall say what happened in the time of Yu?" Nevertheless, in the matter of historical accuracy, you have suggested that " scholars " should carry the engagement into the enemies' camp. I make no claim to scholarship, but as a student of Dr. Coulton's works, I make this my excuse for intervening where it is a queation of the methods employed by Dr. Coulton in driving home his points, or, as he puts it, in " nailing false coin to the counter."

Dr. Coulton, it appears, claims that it is the bounden duty of every apologist or historian to withdraw his words publicly as soon as a contrary opinion has seemed to be substantiated. This being so, I would suggest that a formal revision of his work. Art and the Reformation, is long overdue. And in the revised edition of this bulky work I trust that he will give due and proper recognition to the school of English painters that flourished between the times of Henry III and Henry VIII.

As a colourist, a practising painter, and a student at first hand of English medieval art, I have never been able to understand how so great an authority as Dr. Coulton, writing for Englishmen in a work of this magnitude, came to ignore the significance of this English school, existing, as it did, through more than three centuries. How comes it that the all-important question of colour and the painters' work in general on our roodscreens and church and domestic walls is so neglected by Dr. Coulton in this otherwise considerable work? I am very far from suggesting that Dr. Coulton would be guilty of a wilful "suppressio veri," but I must confess to a feeling of bewilderment at the time when I was engrossed in his book and at the same time engaged in a perticular study of the existing pictorial survivals in our ancient parish churches.

Not only this, but, in Appendix 30 of the same book, I was astounded to discover that Dr. Coulton especially recommends to the attention of his students a work called Puritanism and Art, by a Mr Joseph Crouch (Cassell, 1910), of which work one of the chapters opens with the following extraordinary statement: "The art of painting did not become indigenous to England until after the Puritan period. Up to the eighteenth century (my italics) Englishmen who desired the service of painters employed foreigners . . . . Their influence on English art, however, was not sufficient to found a school " (p. 299). Is it possible that so eminent a medievalist as Dr. Coulton could pass on this statement to his followers without comment or correction? On the contrary. "No student can neglect this book," writes Dr. Coulton.

In a recent work of Dr. Laurie, D.Sc., etc., Professor of Chemistry to the R.A., Dr. Coulton will find this out-worn Protestant argument concerning the paucity of art in Catholic England refuted up to the hilt (New Light on Old Masters, Sheldon Press, pp. 73-76). This Is to mention only one instance among many. Will Dr. Coulton make the " arnende honorable" and re-write Art and the Reformation with a full and due acknowledgment of the existence and work of the English colourists that lived before Hogarth, Wilson, the "Norwich School " and the rest of those " distinguished " painters who painfully made their way to the fore after the suppression a religious art in England?



Medieval Sources

Ste—The valuable contribution to this discussion by Mr B. R. Leftwich, in your Issue of April 21, merits the careful consideration of all serious students of history.

Striking support to his warning against taking at face value the extant records of any old medieval mischiefmakers will be found in the last (posthumously published) historical work of that painstaking writer and critic, the late Fr. Luke Rivington, who wrote in the introduction to his Rome and England: 'But there is one witness whom I have learnt profoundly to distrust, who has been a prolific source of niis-statemeat in our English historical literature, and that is Matthew Paris. Long ago Dr. Lingard pointed out, and in certain cases proved, the untrustworthiness of this monk of St. Alban'a Unfortunately, Mr Green, in his admirable History of the English People, leant on Matthew Paris to an extent which has marred his estimate of some personages and passages in medieval history. I have given a startling instance of his untrustworthiness in pp. 124-8. He is immensely valuable for his letters which he has preserved when he gives them in full; but his summaries, where they can be compared with originals, are quite untrustworthy; and hi own comments are almost worthless, except for those who prefer the ebullitions of spleen to a statement of fact The very epithet which Mr Green uses of him is

suspicious, viz., ' patriotic.' His patriotism generally consisted in misrepresenting the Holy See. We can love our mother country as well as our mother Church, the mother and mistress of all Churches; but Matthew Paris began with a twist against his spiritual mother."



Dr. Coulton's Method

SIR,—An excellent example of Dr. Coulton's own historical methods can be seen in his latest book, Medieval Panorama. This book is " designed for everybody and gives a comprehensive picture of the people of all classes in England " in medieval times, and one chapter rather naturally " tries to picture the priest in his parish " (Chapter XIV: The Shepherd). One might therefore reasonably expect a description of' the life of the average priest, how he spent his time, his religious duties, his place in parish society, and so forth. However, this is Dr. Coulton's picture.

The first three of the chapter's eight pages are devoted to a " preamble " on the inability of the Church to enforce completely the law of clerical celibacy, judging everything (as Dr. Coulton always does) by twentieth century legal and social facilities. The next two and a half examine the records of an official visitation to the Hereford diocese in 1397. Again, one might at least expect this to be a typical diocese. But that is not Dr. Coulton's method. In his own words, " Hereford diocese was, of course, considerably influenced by Wild Wales; and this report is the worst I know "—except one in Switzerland. Nor is he yet satisfied, but chooses " by far the two worst parishes " out of the 281 for especial limelight.

By this time we are left with just over two pages out of the eight Unfortunately most of this space is taken up with some carefully selected quota

tions from a Norwich city visitation which Dr. Coulton kindly points out are " the worst cases " and some equally selective quotations which Dr. Coulton admits apply to " comparatively few Devonshire churches."

After all this, we are presented in the last paragraph with what we must suppose to be Dr. Coulton's general view of the life of a parish priest in medieval times. It takes the form of a quotation from Wyclif representing the clergy without exception as immoral drunkards and idlers. We are asked, Who can reject the picture in view of the foregoing records?

I can only conclude that if Dr. Coulton were to write a chapter on the life of the average contemporary Englishman he would confine himself exclusively to the worst cases in the pages of the Police News and that he would conclude by asking who could reject the truth of Dr. Goebbels' ideas about Englishmen "in view of the record-5 quoted." The answer, we must certainly agree with Dr. Coulton, would be " No one" in both cases.

It is worth noting that Dr. Coulton, by specifically speaking of " worst cases " and by warning his readers to discount the records as being only concerned with fault finding. covers his tracks perfectly. In another chapter, he even rather patronisingly says that " amid the multitude of clergy there were doubtless many in every time and country who were the salt of the earth."

What would Dr. Coulton have said of a Catholic historian who wrote a chapter on the same subject confining himself to the " best cases " throughout?



Queen's Gate, Kensington, S.W.7.

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