22 APRIL 1960, Page 24

• Ecclesiology

years of Queen Victoria. The popularity of the, The word came into the language in the earlY pursuit scarcely survived her reign. Now it Is the concern of rather few [esthetes and specialists of whom Mr. Peter Anson, now in his seventieth" year, is well qualified to be a leader. His life has `been spent first as a student of architecture, nest' as an Anglican monk, next as Benedictine Oblate, then as a Catholic layman of studious, solitary and roving habit, regularly employed in visiting , ecclesiastical buildings and recording them in.:1 stark, informative line-drawings. Mr. Anson's large book is a product of his life's work. It is generously illustrated both with photo- graphs and with his own drawings. It must seem : inordinate to ask for more, but it needs a genius such as Ruskin's to give life to the verbal.; 'descriptions of unfamiliar sights. This is a Work which calls for 'grangerizing.' It has a dual func- tion. It is a collector's catalogue and it expounds a theme. The theme is a fascinating one: the, catalogue demands completeness and a degree of accuracy which are beyond the powers of a single Man. I noticed a slip or two—I suspect that an expert will find others. But it is a dreary critic who treats a book as a school exercise to be cor- rected, instead of as an object to be possessed and enjoyed. Mr. Anson's work is packed with uncommon information illuminated by flashes of humour and deserves a place in any library of Victoriana. The subject is precisely as stated—a century of church furnishings—but this leads to the discus- sion of architecture, theology, the liturgy and social history. There are some valuable references to the USA but Mr. Anson's primary concern is with Great Britain and, since it was by far the largest and richest body, with the Anglican Church. The High Church movement began, as is well known, in the Universities, Cambridge being the more concerned with the externals of worship, Oxford with doctrine, but it was a long time in making itself evident in college chapels. Fashion. able seaside resorts and the working-class parishes of the new cities, alike free from the tyranny of patrons, were the scenes of the movement's earliest successes. There was a frank division in Anglican thought. Both parties sought to undo the conse- quences of the Reformation. One wished to re- turn to the regime of Protector Somerset's first revolution; the other regarded themselves as part of the living Church of the West, which happened through a historical misfortune to be out of com- munion with Rome but was entitled to all the de- votional developments which followed the Coun- cil of Trent. These divergent views were repre- sented in costume and furniture, the one party eventually led by the Rev. Percy Dearmer evolving what they took to be a specifically English use, while the other culminated in the rococo extravagances of the Society of SS Peter and Paul.

Mr. Anson's period begins with Pugin who, as an antiquary, had greater influence in the Church of England than in his own. Doctrine was often a minor concern. The inexplicable prosperity of the Irvingite sect in the 1850s is plain evidence that there was a widespreid and unsatisfied appetite for mystery and splendour of worship quite independent of the pretensions to historical continuity which exercised the Uni- versities.

Almost every nineteenth-century church of de- corative importance in the kingdom is mentioned by Mr. Anson and he has been at pains to re- create them as they appeared in the succeeding decades of their transitions. He attempts throughout to connect these transformations with the changes of style in lay costume and domestic decoration. Sometimes he is more ingenious than convincing. A few cranks had long before the accession of Queen Victoria attempted to make their drawing-rooms look like churches. 1 do not think that many people wanted their churches to look like their drawing-rooms. But I would like to offer one suggestion. There is a fad now, emanating from France and Germany. for the priest to say Mass facing his congregation. May this not be due to television, which has accus- tomed the people to regard their representatives, not as leaders to be followed, but as faces to be stared at?

The theme which Mr. Anson illustrates with such patient detail is an ironical one. While Anglicans have more and more succeeded in cultivating a resemblance to the Catholicism of the Mediterranean and of Latin America. there has been a fashion among Catholics, particularly in France and the USA, to ape the external austerities of Calvinism — vernacular prayers, evening Communions, relaxed fasting, the emphasis on congregational corporate participa- tion in the mysteries, bare altar-tables and abstract decoration can be found in many places. All that the Society of SS Peter and Paul abominated and sought to eliminate from the Church of England has been creeping into Popish churches. Mr. Anson lives hard by Pugin's tomb at Ramsgate. Does he hear the great man turning?

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