18 APRIL 1931, Page 23

History de — Luxe Clate-College_1326-1926. Edited by Mansfield D. Forbes. (Two vols.,

printed for the 'College at tfie "ettiNieraiti Pie -ss akia obtainable from The Bursar, Clare College. £6 6s. ).

APPEARANCES, proverbially deceptive, surely were never more so than in the title of this astonishing work. For who would expect, beneath the unassuming reticence of Clare College, 1326-1926, to discover a literary, historical and bio- graphical treasure-trove richer than any reported by even the most sanguine speculator in that " Virginia : Richly Valued" with which much of this book is so intimately associated ? Yet the description is not wholly hyperbolic. Between ,thee sober; buckram covers is to be found- more genuine entertainment; more wit,' more wisdom, more imagi- nation than would Suffice to make a dozen History books of the most exciting rariety. . But of, „course the Book of, pare (as it will surely be known) is not History in the ordinary sense. It is history built up on biography, spiced with a hundred anecdotes, enriched with a wealth of subtle surmise. It is, moreover, history illuminatea throughout by one of the most remarkable series of illustrations that can ever have accom- panied a book of this price.

But we digress. Volume I opens, appropriately, with a description . of the De Clares, a family which for many years was the most illustrious in England, and of which the College Foundress, Elizabeth De Clare, was by no means the least notable. The De Clares held property all over England, were closely related to the Crown, and played_ a big part in the management of the country's affairs. The story of their House alone provides a fascinating page of fourteenth-century history. Follows a short chapter on the College Advowsons and Estates, of which two at least—Great Gransden and Little Gidding- were to provide the baCkground' fcir the activities of pre- eminent sons of Clare. In addition, the little Thames-side parish of Rotherhithe forces itself prominently upon the page of Clare history by reason of its romantic association with the unfortunate Prince Lee Boo, who died from smallpox a year after his importation from the Pelew Islands, and whose memorial tablet is still to be seen within the church.

Returning to Clare itself, we are given, in Chapter HI, a detailed account and survey of the. architeatirre-of Old Court, specially- written by Mi. J. Murray. Easton, the distinguished architect of the Horticultural Hall : a chapter that admirably epitomizes the secure beauty of Oley and Grumbold's master- piece, and which balances nicely with a later chapter, by other experts, on the College Glass, Plate and Woodwork.

In Chapters IV and V personalities again, rather than estates or buildings, provide the principal subject-matter, and we are shmin, in graphic kaleidoScopic succession,. por- traits of Clare's most distinguished alumni throughout the centuries. It is here, in the vivid presentation of widely different characters, in the trenchant descriptions of life and times, and in the manner in which the men are set boldly against the times, that the peculiar genius of Mr. Forbes finds its most joyous and effective liberation. How, indeed, describe the contents of these chapters ? Here are Latimer the martyr, Tillotson the preacher, and • the egregious Bishop Gunning, author of the prayer " for all sorts and conditions of men." Here, in the following century, are Pelhains and Townshends by the dozen, Premier Newcastle and Governor-General Corn- wallis. Here too, in a less rarefied atmosphere, are. Ruggle, author of the famous Town-Gown farce Club Law, and Greene, . that curious Elizabethan novelist-poet-dramatist, "part fool, part knave, part genuine artist ", who spent his life in a most original rake's progress and died, diseased and destitute, after despatching to his deserted wife " one of the two finest valedictory utterances in the English language." Here is the eccentric Dr. Butler, Physician to. James I, who " Was much addicted to his humours", would keep people waiting hours outside his door for no apparent reason, and who performed many miraculous cures by methods (such as " hanging " and stuffing the patient into the belly of a freshly killed cow) which modern medicine would certainly pronounce unortho- dox. Here, finally, is the odious Dr. Dodd, whose life "presents a truly dreadful picture " and whose execution for forgery, in 1777, took place despite the intervention on his behalf of many notables, including Di; Johnson hiniselfr • - But space' is-limited and-Volume -II is still unopened.' Fob. lowing the chapter, already referred to, in which the College " treasures " are described (including the Serpentine Cup and Poison Tankard given by Dr. Butler), the Library merits, and receives, a chapter to itself. With Chapters VIII and IX we are off once_ .more on the biogmphico-historical tack, this time in ' pursuit - of . no lesser personages than Barnabas Oley, Master of . the. Fabric when Old Court was built, and last, but very far from least, the redoubtable Mr. Nicholas Ferrer. Oley is shown against the background of his 'V beloved Gransden, the living in which he conducted, during fifty years, those admirable experiments in school and parish administration which have made his name . a byword for far-sighted idealism. Chapter IX is the most ambitious in the book. In it Mr. Forbes takes his courage in both hands and attempts what is, in effect, a full-length modernist biography of Ferrer. That phenomenal personality, statesman, scholar and religious fanatic, is shown as a genius whOse natural asceticism, fostered by the excessive devoutness of his age and by a species of Mother-complex, ultimately prevented him from fulfilling, in any permanently constructive sense, the wellnigh unlimited promise of his youth. The story of Ferrafs. momentous struggle on behalf of the Virginia Com- pany, backed by Sir Edwyn Sandys and the Earl of Southamp- ton (possibly Shakespeare's Mr. W. H.) against the obstructive maehinatiOns of James I and the Spanish faction, is made the subject of an account which is by itself almost a full-length book, and in which the issues—political, social, educational and religious—loom larger page by page. Had Fermi succeeded, has the Colony, been allowed to flourish as it deserved, history . would certainly have been altered and America, if not a: Virginian Utopia itself, might still have formed part of the British Empire. But the Court party won, despite Fermr's, incredible industry and unparalleled gifts, and he retired en famille to 'Little Gidding, to live the rest of a unique life in the pious but unproductive atmosphere of religious devotion, With his death the College lost one who was in many ways the most remarkable of her sons, and one is grateful, at the conclusion of this immense chapter (over 200 pages) for the copious manner in which the editor has seen fit to treat it. It is, after all, not merely for members of Clare, past or present, that this book was written. By reason of its comprehensive. ness, its breadth of vision, and its use of general principles as pegs on which to hang the personalities which crowd its pages: it possesses a universality of appeal which no one, Clare men least of all, should regret. This, we believe, is the true manner in which the life-story of a great College should be told, At any rate Mr. Forbes, to whose industry and ability so much: of the book is due, and Mr. Walter Lewis, whose name needs no introduction to those who care for fine printing, have pre- sented the College with a work which is not likely to be equalled, for content or appearance, within the confines of a.