Englishing Sarum

Time and leisure being what they are, this post will be far more a set of pointers than a properly-researched orderly exposition. I’ll loop back and hit Late Sarum later—I think it more important for the purposes of the coming American Sarum conference to consider a key step in the Sarum story: its leap to the modern day.

I choose the somewhat unwieldy “Englishing” quite deliberately because I want to highlight two of its sense, both of which are fully at play. The first is that, for the Sarum materials to have an impact on the England the America of the modern day, they had to leave the language of Latin and enter the tongue of English. This is the simplest meaning of the term.

However, something else is going on here as well. As a recent commenter pointed out in regard to another topic, you can never go back again. Bringing something forward from a past time into a present gives it a whole new set of meanings based on the new context, how the present context views the past, and the purposes and ideologies involved in selecting and reviving this particular slice of the past (and not others). There was a very deliberate program of “Englishing” at work in the 19th century revival of Sarum.

One of the key movements in 19th century, particularly Victorian, England was Gothic Revival. This was a confluence on romanticism, medievalism, and nationalism that found expression in a variety of ways. The term is most commonly associated with architecture, but it stands at the heart of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB) and became a major cultural force.

Pause for a moment to consider King Arthur. Unless you’re a trained medievalist, your chief exposure to King Arthur and the Round Table is fundamentally rooted in Gothic Revival forms of romanticized medievalism lavishly illustrated by some of the great painters produced by the philosophy of the PRB. Tennyson’s Idylls of the King is a classic example of how these movements filtered into the broader English consciousness.

Catholic expressions of Anglicanism (i.e., Anglo-Catholics and other folks) typically trace themselves back to the Oxford Movement—and this is correct in a general theological way. The Oxford Movement was not Anglo-Catholic, though, and readers of the Tracts are often surprised at the amount of weight given to topics like bishops and the relationship between Church and State rather than ritual or ceremonial. The movement that had more impact on the daily practice and perception of the Church of England was the Cambridge Movement which birthed the Cambridge Camden Society which would become the Ecclesiological Society and exerted a disproportionate influence on how churches were built, decorated, and appointed. The Cambridge Camden Society, founded by Blessed John Mason Neale and comrades, was explicitly and fundamentally medievalist in orientation. The majority of Neale’s hymns are translations of medieval texts and even his original compositions—like Good King Wenceslaus—are medieval in character.

It’s within this context that a renewed interest in Sarum sources began. If you check back to the previous post on editions, you’ll note that the Victorian period—the second half of the 19th century—is when the publishing really took off. Because of the ideologies surrounding the revival, “Victorian Sarum” is both more and less than “historical Sarum.” Translations and syntheses of “Sarum” practice became an odd amalgamation of 1) historical sources, 2) contemporary Roman Catholic practice, and 3) the authors’ fancy. The balance of these three components varies by author and by work, some being more grounded, some being more fanciful.

Sarum becomes a cypher for a host of things. Sarum becomes directly equated with English. Thus other regional uses like Hereford, Lincoln, Exeter, and York were both plundered for raw material when there were Sarum gaps, and were downplayed in order to keep Sarum front and center. (Christopher, Pfaff’s chapter 14 is entitled “Regional Uses and local variety” and covers the English non-Sarum material quite well.)  When Sarum is equated to English then it was given a natural antithesis: Roman. Now, a more objective view will recognize that in the heyday of the Sarum Use there was no strictly “Roman Use.” The sense I get from what little I do know of late medieval Continental uses is that many of them had their own local customs and traditions. There was no monolithic “Roman” practice from which Sarum diverged, and it was probably as unique as its neighbors. My sense is that when Rome did move to standardize, it relied on the liturgical uses of the mendicant orders—particularly the Franciscans because the orders were already trans-regional (due to the whole “wandering” bit implied in “mendicant”).

Thus, if you wanted to espouse catholic practices but still keep a certain distance from Roman Catholicism and all that stood for in pre-Victorian and Victorian England, an appeal to “Sarum” was your key. It was both medieval and catholic but conceptually not Roman Catholic. It was native and English, and not a foreign imposition. Too, there’s the “Ornaments Rubric” which deserves a massive post of its own for the role it played—or was given to play—in grandfathering in Sarum appointments and ceremonial.

There’s quite a lot more to say here. Actually, there are probably several book-length studies that could written here. I don’t know if any have and would love to hear if you know of any…

In any case, given the current concerns, I want to point to just three resources. These are what I consider to be the three central works on Sarum/English ceremonial from the end of the 19th century and that have done the most to create what is referred to variable as the Sarum or English Use:

  • Vernon Staley’s Ceremonies of the English Church
  • W. H. Frere’s Principals of Religious Ceremonial
  • Percy Dearmer’s Parson’s Handbook

Each of these is available for download from Google Books and each deserves a post in their own right.

3 Replies to “Englishing Sarum”

  1. I have nothing of great use to contribute here, but I wanted to say firstly that one of my favourite things ever read on Usenet was a footnote to the word ‘Englished’ saying, more or less, “Isn’t it marvellous that there’s an Anglicized word for ‘Anglicize’?”

    Secondly, and more seriously, I think you’re quite right that there was no fixed and uniform Continental ‘Roman’ usage by this time, and probably never had been, but I think it may be worth remembering that there had been attempts to create one, and that the Carolingians at least appear to have thought there was a Roman usage and tried to propagate it all over their parts of Europe. I can’t immediately dig up a reference for this (though there must be pointers in McKitterick (ed.), Carolingian Culture: emulation and innovation) but I wonder how widely and how long that sense that proper Catholic practice was Roman practice might have endured and what effects it would have had on Protestant thinking.

  2. Oh yes, Jonathan—one of the most fascinating narratives of the Western liturgy is looking at how authorities tried to consolidate and unify liturgies at various times and places and how they were constantly foiled by space, technology, and the will of independent? aberrant? bishops. The Carolingian attempt was one of the first great attempts to make it stick. In Charlemagne’s case, it was doomed at the outset. He requested materials from Rome but what they sent was clearly defective. While there was an official attempt to correct these that involved Alcuin and Benedict of Aniane, they were only partially successful and the hoped-for uniformity was never achieved. And that’s just the first of several such tries.

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