Literary Converts and Connections

I’m sorry not to have been blogging much from the damp lands, but with a combination of spotty internet connections, time spent visiting with family and friends, and time just relaxing, I have not been able to blog as much as I would like.

One of the maddening things about England is the traffic, the delays and the congestion of living on a small island with too many people on it–all of whom wish to go somewhere.

One of the nice things though, that goes with everything and everyone being so close together is that you bump into bits and pieces and people connected with England and English literature. We’re just off to visit Bateman’s–the home of Rudyard Kipling–but here are some other connections made in my short visit: staying at the HQ of St Barnabas Society–a Catholic charity that once owned Top Meadow–the home of Chesterton. Still in the society headquarters are many books from Top Meadow, paintings of Chesterton and a splendid bust of the great man. Snooping through the books on the bookshelves I cam across a letter from Laura Waugh–the wife of Evelyn–written in thanks to the correspondent who had written sharing his condolences on Waugh’s death. Before the wedding we went into Wantage to get a sandwich and was reminded that John Betjeman had lived there for many years. Touring around Oxford was full of literary connections: Merton College where T.S.Eliot studied, Magdalen where C.S.Lewis was tutor, the university Church where Lewis preached his famous sermon Weight of Glory and where Bl. John Henry Newman was Vicar, Oriel College where Newman was a fellow, the Bird and Baby where the Inklings inkled.

Then on Sunday I went back to Oxford to celebrate Mass at the church of SS Gregory and Augustine where the noted theologian and fellow former Anglican Fr John Saward is parish priest. After Mass I chatted with Priscilla Tolkien–the daughter of J.R.R.Tolkien–who lives in North Oxford and is a parishioner at SS Gregory and Augustine. All this reminds me why I wanted to live in England to start with, and why I wouldn’t mind putting up with the weather to live here again if it is God’s will.

On the other hand. I’m not doing too badly living in Greenville, South Carolina–which is Flannery O’Connor country, and knowing the Trufants from camp who are from Louisiana and who’s grandma used to go to Mass with Walker Percy…



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  • Ian Williams

    The thing about the weather here, Father, is that it’s mild. That can mean mild wet or mild dry, but we seldom get the kind of thing that makes life in North America so dangerous (at least, in those parts that don’t live under the constant threat of earthquake).

  • Skittle

    We’ve had several days of hot sun in Oxfordshire over the last week, as well as the days of endless drizzle. Today, for example, is hot and sunny, with the sun scintillating off the remaining moisture. I suppose it depends on your reference point, but I’d say you’ve been visiting during a time when England was sparkly and lush.

  • Qualis Rex

    Sounds like things have gotten worse traffic-wise. I remember the only real traffic was getting in, out or around London. Once on the M4 I always got a sense of tranquility. Either way, it sounds like dispite the trafic you are having a great time. Safe travels!!

  • Matthew the Wayfarer

    Never thought I’d say it but- I am jealous! Priscilla Tolkien. Father you have been Blessed.
    I have 2 of Fr. Saward’s books and would love to have “Firmly I Believe and Truly: The Spiritual Tradition of Catholic England” but for the price.
    Does the church of SS Gregory and Augustine worship in a ‘traditional’(OF) manner or a ‘Traditional’(EF) manner or both?

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    I celebrated Mass there ad orientem with traditional hymns, an altar rail and a good number of responses in Latin. The EF is also celebrated in the parish regularly.

  • Peter

    My daughter did a year’s foreign study in England back in 03 – 04 (Manchester). In a visit to her I made much the same Oxford visit as you, Father (Priscilla Tolkien excepted). I found that there are worse ways to spend an hour or so than in the Eagle and Child with a Guiness and ham sandwich.