Cast iron was first manufactured on a significant scale in England during the sixteenth century. King Henry VIII ordered cannons to be made from it. The process was cheap and efficient and gave the Royal Navy an advantage. Heavy pots and pans were then produced at blast furnaces alongside ordnance. But it was not until the turn of the eighteenth century that lighter-weight, finer work was made from cast iron with the invention of sand molding.
The railings around the churchyard of St Paul’s Cathedral in London are among the earliest examples of architectural cast-iron in the country, dating from 1714.
Trinity Church on Wall Street is the oldest Episcopal parish in New York. It was founded with a grant of land from King William III in 1696. The royal charter stipulated rent of “One Pepper Corne” per year to be paid to the Crown. This was a formality, of course, and was never asked for or paid.
In 1976, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II toured the United States as a gesture of good will during the bicentennial of American Independence. On July 9 she visited Trinity Church. The Reverend Ray Parks, who was rector at the time, presented her with 279 pepper corns representing 279 years of back rent.
Read more (and see video) at the Trinity Church website.
The London parish of St Faith’s existed long after the disappearance of its church. The building, which stood on the eastern side of Old St Paul’s Cathedral, was demolished in 1256, to make room for the eastward expansion of St Paul’s, known as “The New Work.” Afterward the congregation of stationers and booksellers who plied their trade in Paternoster Row continued to worship as a separate parish in the west crypt of the cathedral under the choir. The parish was thereafter known as “St Faith under St Paul’s.” In the reign of Edward VI the congregation moved to the Jesus Chapel beneath the New Work, and remained there until the destruction of Old St Paul’s in the Great Fire of London. It subsequently joined the parish of St Augustine, Watling Street, which itself was destroyed during World War II.
There are several artifacts of the former parish of St Faith’s in and around St Paul’s Cathedral. There are mosaics on the floor of the crypt marking the footprint of the old chapel. There are parish boundary markers on the wall of St Paul’s Choir School in New Change and on the cathedral itself. The most prominently placed artifact is the parish water pump, erected in 1819, and now behind a fence at the entrance to Paternoster Square. Until the mid-nineteenth century, when fresh piped water became commonplace, and well water was deemed unsafe, every parish had its own pumps. Although St Faith’s was entirely within the boundaries of St Paul’s it had its own pump.
One of the joint projects of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was a literary journal, intended to circulate the ideas and aesthetics of the group. The first issue of The Germ appeared on January 1, 1850. The title was an expression of the Brotherhood’s commitment to honor nature down to the smallest detail—the germ, the seed—but also of their creative aspiration: it was “the germ of an idea.”
The inaugural issue contained essays; reviews; poems by Thomas Woolner, Ford Madox Brown, Dante, William, and Christina Rossetti; and an etching by Holman Hunt to illustrate Woolner’s poem, “My Beautiful Lady.” It is not surprising that the Rossetti siblings dominated the contents of the journal. They belonged to a multigenerational literary family of mixed Italian and English stock. Their father, Gabriele Pasquale Rossetti, was an exiled Sicilian Dante scholar. Their maternal uncle was John Polidori, the physician and confidante of Lord Byron. Dr Polidori had created the modern vampire genre with his short story, “The Vampyre,” written on a challenge from Lord Byron to compose a ghost story. That same challenge, issued to Byron’s guests one evening at the Villa Diodati in Switzerland, inspired Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein.
The Rossetti household revolved around the study of Dante, Petrarch, and other early Italian writers and was often full of émigré scholars. Dante Gabriel was immersed in the life of his namesake and like his father would contribute to the corpus of literature on Medieval Italian poetry. A fourth sibling, Maria, later wrote her own volume on Dante.
The children enjoyed a happy childhood. They were baptized in the Church of England and educated at home by their parents, learning from the Bible, St Augustine, Pilgrim’s Progress, the English classics, pedagogical novels, and fairy tales. The bohemian family, though highly cultured, was never financially secure. When health problems forced Gabriele Rossetti to step down from his professorship at King’s College in 1843, much of the burden of supporting the household fell on the children. Christina was often left alone during this time and suffered bouts of depression and weak health, though she found catharsis in Christianity and in poetry. Like her mother and sister, Christina became involved in the Oxford Movement of the Church of England. Her faith permeated her writing. Biographer Lona Mosk Packer cites “the Bible, hagiographies, folk and fairy tales” as her first influences. Christina’s best known poem, “In Bleak Midwinter,” is sung as a Christmas carol in Anglican churches to this day.
The two poems that Christina Rossetti contributed to The Germ stand out in their maturity. At this point she was already an accomplished poet, having published work in the Athenaeum. “Dream Land” contains a nimble, subtle interweaving of her influences, at once evoking the enchanted slumber of a sleeping princess from fable, and the soul of the dead awaiting the resurrection of the body. In this, her verse achieves a melancholy beauty:
Rest, rest, a perfect rest,
Shed over brow and breast;
Her face is toward the west,
The purple land.
She cannot see the grain
Ripening on hill and plain;
She cannot feel the rain
Upon her hand.
The sadness that permeates her early poems no doubt reflects the emotional turmoil that Christina was then undergoing, though it was also perfectly characteristic of Victorian late-romantic verse. Her second contribution to the inaugural issue of The Germ, titled, “An End,” is no less mournful. Appropriately the last entry in the issue, it begins,
Love, strong as death, is dead.
Come, let us make his bed
Among the dying flowers:
A green turf at his head;
And a stone at his feet,
Whereon we may sit
In the quiet evening hours.
In reading through the four numbers of The Germ one is struck by the consistency of approach and subject matter in the poetry. The verse represents an extension of the Brotherhood’s artistic preference for Biblical and Medieval themes. James Collinson wrote a long poem, “The Child Jesus,” published in the second number. It was influenced by Millais’ picture, Christ in the House of His Parents.
Three cottages that overlooked the sea
Stood side by side eastward of Nazareth…
Within the humblest of these three abodes
Dwelt Joseph, his wife Mary, and their child.
A honeysuckle and a moss-rose grew,
With many blossoms, on their cottage front;
And o’er the gable warmed by the South
A sunny grape vine broadened shady leaves
Which gave its tendrils shelter, as they hung
Trembling upon the bloom of purple fruit.
In the same issue, the poem “Morning Sleep,” by William Bell Scott, an art teacher and friend of Rossetti, combines images of nature with Arthurian legend. When the contribution was submitted, William Michael Rossetti described it as “gloriously fine.” Scott writes,
Of Merlin old that ministered to fate,
The tales of visiting ghosts, or fairy elves,
Or witchcraft, are no fables. But his task
Is ended with the night;—the thin white moon
Evades the eye, the sun breaks through the trees,
And the charmed wizard comes forth a mere man
From out his circle.
Although Scott was not formally a member of the Brotherhood he was certainly a fellow traveller in the initiative to memorialize in pictures the glories of Medieval Britain. At Penkill Castle in Scotland he painted a series of murals on a staircase illustrating the fifteenth-century poem, The Kingis Quair, attributed to a Medieval Scottish king.
The Germ was not a success in its own time. Only 70 copies from an initial print run of 700 were sold. There were fewer readers of the second issue published on January 30, and still fewer for the third and fourth, published in March and April, respectively. The expenses of this venture were too onerous for the ambitious, though virtually penniless, artists to bear, and the support of their better-heeled friends was soon exhausted. After four issues the enterprise folded. Although The Germ was not a breakthrough for the Brotherhood it remains a vital record of its ideas in their earliest phase, and was reprinted several times beginning in the late nineteenth century, when the Pre-Raphaelites had achieved greater fame.
All four issues of The Germ can be read online here.
Packer, Lona Mosk. (1963) Christina Rossetti. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Elizabeth Prettejohn (ed). (2012) The Cambridge Companion to the Pre-Raphaelites. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Rossetti, William Michael (ed). (1901) The Germ: Thoughts towards Nature in Poetry, Literature and Art, Being a Facsimile Reprint of the Literary Organ of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Published in 1850. London: Eliot Stock.
Rossetti, William Michael; Fredeman, William (ed). (1975) The P.R.B. Journal: William Michael Rossetti’s Diary of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, 1849-1853, Together with Other Pre-RaphaeliteDocuments. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
During the Babylonian captivity, when the Kingdom of Judah was destroyed, and its nobility sent into exile throughout the empire, God vouchsafed to the prophet Ezekiel certain visions of Israel restored. Judah was the last of the old Kingdom of Israel. The northern tribes had rebelled against the royal line of King David and raised their own kings. These tribes had fallen to Assyria more than a century earlier and had been driven from the Holy Land. Now the Kingdom of Judah was lost as well. In this time of grief, God made a promise to Ezekiel. It was a promise to restore Israel, but it contained another, greater promise, that would be fulfilled through Jesus Christ: a promise to bring the dead back to life.
Ezekiel said, “The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry.”
God asked, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
Ezekiel answered, “O Lord God, You know.”
God then commanded, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.’”
As He did for those bones, God would do for the Kingdom of Judah, and as He did for those bones, God will do for you and me.
One of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith is the general Resurrection of the Dead. The Christian hope is not for a disembodied “afterlife” but for life restored. We do not believe, with the Ancient Greeks, that the soul lives on only as a shade in the Underworld. We do not believe, with the Eastern religions, in reincarnation: that the soul takes different bodies over many lifetimes. We believe that a day will come when the earth is made new again, and the tombs are broken open, and the dead are raised up to real, physical life by God. This belief is inextricably connected to our belief in the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Christ, God was born a man, died nailed to the cross as a man, and was raised again to eternal life in the flesh as a man. By his conquest of death Christ made it possible that mortal men and women will return from their own deaths to life.
The doctrine of the Resurrection of the Dead has been affirmed by the Church, in all of its denominations, from apostolic times to the present. In the Gospel of Matthew, Christ uses the phrase, ἀναστάσεως τῶν νεκρῶν to describe the afterlife: the “raising up”—literally the “standing up again”—of the dead. The general resurrection is among the wonders, terrors, and glories of the end times, foretold by Saint John in the Book of Revelation. “For the trumpet will sound,” Saint Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians, “and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” Paul emphasized the indispensability of this doctrine, writing to the Corinthians, “if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”
The Church Fathers were adamant on this subject. Justin Martyr wrote, “Indeed, God calls even the body to resurrection and promises it everlasting life. When he promises to save the man, he thereby makes his promise to the flesh.” Theophilus of Antioch taught that, “God will raise up your flesh immortal with your soul.” Irenaeus proclaimed, “the raising up again of all flesh of all humanity.”
Tertullian and Augustine elaborated on what resurrection would entail. Tertullian wrote, “Therefore, the flesh shall rise again: certainly of every man, certainly the same flesh, and certainly in its entirety. Wherever it is, it is in safekeeping with God through that most faithful agent between God and man, Jesus Christ, who shall reconcile both God to man and man to God, the spirit to the flesh and the flesh to the spirit.” No matter how long the body has laid in the ground, or what is left of it, Augustine affirmed that “the omnipotence of the Creator” is able, “for the raising of our bodies and for the restoring of them to life, to recall all parts, which were consumed by beasts or by fire, or which disintegrated into dust or ashes, or were melted away into a fluid, or were evaporated away in vapors.”
The Church Fathers spoke with absolute clarity and literalness on this doctrine because it was a point of distinction from other religions in Late Antiquity. The Ancient Greeks had a traditional belief in bodily resurrection, attributing physical immortality to their great heroes. By the Classical period, however, this belief had been undermined by the philosophers. Likewise, the Israelites had become ambivalent about the doctrine of resurrection by the time of the coming of Christ.
For this reason the Church Fathers reiterated, again and again, in the creeds and in their personal writings, the doctrine of resurrection. They emphasized that resurrection was a literal physical process; it was not a metaphor or a mystery. As the Anglican theologian N.T. Wright explains in his excellent commentary, Revelation for Everyone: “Resurrection, in the first-century world, emphatically meant the undoing of death, not its reinterpretation. It meant that the processes of bodily corruption and decay were reversed, producing a new ‘physical’ body with ‘immortal’ properties.” In other words, the resurrected person would be the same person who died, made of the same genetic material, transformed, perfected, but not less or other than he or she was.
Today there is widespread ignorance about this core doctrine of Christianity. In 2006 the Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University asked 1,007 American adults the following question: “Do you believe that, after you die, your physical body will be resurrected someday?” In a country that overwhelmingly professes the Christian faith, 54 percent answered “no.” Only 44 percent of Protestants and 38 percent of Roman Catholics answered “yes.” Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, attributed these findings to “the very low state of doctrinal preaching in our churches.” Commenting in the Scripps report, he wrote,
I continually am confronted by Christians, even active members of major churches, who have never heard this taught in their local congregations…We have a lowest-common-denominator Christianity being taught in so many denominations that has produced a people who simply do not know some of the most basic Christian truths…Most Americans, when asked survey questions about religion, tend to answer in very theistic ways. They tend to affirm what they believe Christianity teaches…Therefore, I have to conclude they simply do not know what orthodox Christianity teaches about the resurrection of the body.
Opinion surveys should be read with skepticism. One thousand random people simply do not speak for hundreds of millions. On the other hand these findings are entirely plausible. If one knew nothing about Christian eschatology, what would one learn about it from casual contact with modern American churches? One might come away with a general impression of the afterlife involving the survival of the soul in a disembodied state forever. Many well-meaning people seem to believe this. But it is not a Christian belief.
Clearly, as Mohler judged, there has been a failure of the churches to properly catechize. The general confusion about the nature of the life to come reflects a corresponding confusion about the nature of the human person. According to Christianity neither the soul nor the body alone is the person, only together. On this point, Christians have always agreed with Aristotle, who wrote, “If one regards a living substance as a composite of matter and form, then the soul is the form of a natural organic body.” The purpose and destiny of the soul is to impose upon matter the specific form of an individual human person.
When we speak of the survival of the soul we are speaking of the preservation of the soul from death. The soul is preserved by God not as an end unto itself. The unique “form” of a man is preserved so that it can reconstitute the whole: the living, physical man—body and soul. Incidentally, this is why reincarnation is impossible: the soul can regenerate the same form but it cannot generate different forms or different persons.
It reveals something about the state of Christianity in the modern world that such a key tenet could be marginalized. We live today in the shadow of the Enlightenment of the eighteenth-century, when philosophers proposed that, by reason alone, man could understand the universe and conquer nature. This belief was predicated upon the expectation that all things could be observed, examined, tested, measured, and manipulated; pushing to the margins anything that could not be. The intellectual prejudices of the Enlightenment created a sort of counter-religion or anti-religion that challenged Christianity and replaced our faith as the ruling paradigm of Western Civilization. After three centuries much of Christendom seems demoralized by the ongoing confrontation with this ideology. In many cases, Christian apologists have responded to the challenge in ways that inadvertently subvert orthodoxy. They have attempted to compromise, to rationalize Christianity, to subject it to the judgment of science or psychology, or else to put it outside the reach of critics by completely spiritualizing it. But none of this will do. Christianity requires us to believe things that are incompatible with the weltanschauung of the age. God intervenes in the world. The sacred and miraculous coexist with the mundane and the material. The dead will live again and dwell with Christ forever in a world made new.
I was drilled on the doctrine of bodily resurrection by the Anglican churchmen who taught me the faith and I consider myself blessed for having been. It is an article of faith that I cherish. I can think of no other doctrine that so urgently needs to be preached in our churches. Ignorance of it leaves a hole in the Christian’s faith. It is the key to a right understanding of so many other essential Christian concepts: the incarnation, the passion, and the resurrection of Christ; the nature of man; and God’s ultimate plan for His creation.
Wright, N.T. (2011) Revelation for Everyone. Louisville [KY]: Westminster John Knox Press.
Arthur Llewelyn Jones-Machen was born in Caerleon, Wales in March of 1863 to the Anglican clergyman John Edward Jones and his wife, Janet. The shortened form of Machen, which Arthur used for most of his life, was a surname from his mother’s side of the family. He grew up in Llanddewi Fach, a rural parish outside of Caerleon, where his father was vicar. The area had a rich history intertwined with Welsh myth and folklore. The earliest legends of King Arthur placed the seat of his kingdom not in Camelot but in Caerleon. The landscape would influence Machen’s future work in fantasy and weird fiction.
In the 1870s, archaeologists began to uncover remnants of Roman settlements in the region: stonework and pagan idols. Machen’s own grandfather, who had been the vicar of Caerleon, was a well-regarded local antiquary, who had discovered Roman stones in his own churchyard. The sense that strangeness and the supernatural permeated the very land would remain with Machen. That countryside with its Roman ruins and fairy glens would reoccur often in his fiction. Much later, he wrote:
I shall always esteem it as the greatest piece of fortune that has fallen to me, that I was born in that noble, fallen Caerleon-on-Usk, in the heart of Gwent. . . . For the older I grow the more firmly I am convinced that anything which I may have accomplished in literature is due to the fact that when my eyes were first opened in earliest childhood they had before them the vision of an enchanted land.
As a boy, Machen was intelligent, reserved, and solitary. Fred Hando, in his volume of local history, The Pleasant Land of Gwent, attributes Machen’s interest in the occult to an article about alchemy that he read in an old issue of Charles Dickens’s magazine, Household Words, when he was eight years old. Hando elaborates on Machen’s youthful reading habits: “He bought De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater at Pontypool Road Railway Station, The Arabian Nights at Hereford Railway Station, and borrowed Don Quixote from Mrs. Gwyn, of Llanfrechfa Rectory. In his father’s library he found also the Waverley Novels, a three-volume edition of the Glossary of Gothic Architecture, and an early volume of Tennyson.” By the time he was sent to study at Hereford Cathedral School at the age of eleven, he showed an interest in history and literature. His family might have sent him on to Oxford, where his father had studied, but they lacked the resources. Instead, he decided to pursue a career in journalism.
Machen moved to London in the early 1880s. He did not immediately attempt to establish himself in Fleet Street. Instead he lived on little and spent his time wandering and exploring the city. He observed the strange juxtaposition of old and new, as Victorian development encroached upon the often dilapidated remains of ancient London.
In 1881, shortly before moving to London, he published Eleusinia, a poetic treatment of the Greco-Roman mystery cult. He published his second book, The Anatomy of Tobacco, in 1884. This was a whimsical appreciation of pipe-smoking. Through his publisher, George Redway, Machen was hired as an editor at the magazine Walford’s Antiquarian. During this period he undertook several translations from French literature, including a multi-volume edition of Casanova’s Memoirs,and produced his first novel, The Chronicle of Clemendy.
In 1887, at the age of twenty-four, Machen married a young music teacher named Amy Hogg. His father died the same year, leaving an inheritance that allowed Machen to write full time. He had developed a mature style of prose by the end of the decade. His writing reflected a sense of nostalgia and an interest in supernatural and occult themes. His first major achievement was a short novel, The Great God Pan, for which he is still best known. The story, about a woman born of pagan ritual and occult science, caused a stir with its suggested horrors and perverse sexuality. The Great God Pan was published by John Lane in 1890 as part of the “Keynotes” series. It marked Machen’s arrival as a member of the literary Decadent movement. He became acquainted with other major figures of the genre, including Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley. He and Amy were living in a cottage in the Chilterns in southeast England. There he wrote another book, The Three Imposters, which was also published by Lane. It is a portmanteau novel which follows two bohemian friends as they try to learn the identity of a young man in spectacles who was seen throwing a Roman coin—”the gold Tiberius”—into the street as he ran terrified into the night. Along the way they hear many strange stories.
Machen’s rise in the literary world was cut short by a scandal that did not involve him. The Decadent Movement was widely repudiated in the mid-1890s when Oscar Wilde was put on trial for sodomy and gross indecency. Machen continued to write over the next decade but did not publish. Fortunately, he still had his inheritance to live upon. He wrote two novellas, The White People and A Fragment of Life, both of which evoked the mystical Welsh countryside of his childhood, as well as a novel, The Hill ofDreams, during this period. He also wrote a series of prose poems, which were later collected in Ornaments of Jade. In addition to writing, Machen took an editorial position at the magazine Literature in 1898. Though he did not remain there long, he had the opportunity to develop his own ideas on the subject of literary theory, which he outlined in the book, Hieroglyphics, in 1902.
The Hill of Dreams, which was written between 1895 and 1897, but not published until 1907, was his last word in the Decadent genre. It is widely regarded as his finest work, a judgment that he did not dispute. Machen told the writer E.H. Visiak, “I should think that on the whole The Hill of Dreams is my most successful experiment in literature.” An annotated bibliography prepared by The Friends of Arthur Machen describes the haunting and ambiguous story as follows:
Lucian Taylor, the hero, is damned, either through contact with an erotically pagan ‘other’ world or through something degenerate in his own nature, which he thinks of as a ‘faun’. He becomes a writer, and when he moves to London he becomes trapped by the increasing reality of the dark imaginings of this creature within him, which become increasingly real. Machen drew copiously on his own early years in Wales and London, and the book as a whole is an exploration through imagination of a potential fate which he personally avoided. One of the first explorations in fiction of the figure of the doomed artist, who is biographically so much a part of the decadent 1890s.
As the turn of the twentieth century approached, Machen suffered a terrible loss. After a long illness, his wife, Amy, died of cancer in 1899. Machen was overwhelmed with grief and suffered a nervous breakdown. Friends encouraged him to recover by cultivating his spiritual life. Through Arthur Edward Waite, he joined the occult society, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Though Machen shared the group’s interest in the Western Mystery Tradition his own spiritual awakening was leading him in a different direction.
Machen was a lifelong Anglican Christian. Following the death of his wife, he experienced a religious epiphany. He would later write that during the “autumn of 1899-1900 . . . the two worlds of sense and spirit were admirably and wonderfully mingled, so that it was difficult, or rather impossible, to distinguish the outward and sensible glow from the inward and spiritual grace.” He was a high churchman who favored the catholic inheritance of the Church of England over the reformed inheritance. But he identified the catholicity of Anglicanism with a Celtic Christianity that predated the arrival of missionaries from the Church of Rome.
He found other ways to work through the heartbreak of Amy’s death as well. In 1901, he made the perhaps unexpected—but to anyone who knows the healing potential of theater, not surprising—decision to become an actor. He joined Frederick Benson’s theater company. Touring and performing gave Machen a source of optimism and confidence, which spilled over into the rest of his life. Though previously extremely reserved, he now became more outgoing and gregarious.
Four years after Amy’s death, Machen married for the second time, to Dorothie Purefoy Hudleston. Purefoy, as she was called, was a fellow member of Benson’s company. The couple frequently toured with the troupe and enjoyed a rather bohemian lifestyle. Purefoy encouraged Machen in both his faith and his writing. In 1906, at last, he published a collection of old and new pieces, The House of Souls. The following year, he published his a masterwork of literary Decadence, The Hill of Dreams. However, the times had changed, as had Machen himself. He largely abandoned the themes of paganism and evil that had characterized his works of the fin de siècle.
A new purpose appeared in his writings from the early 1900s onward. His interest in Celtic Christianity and mysticism came to define his work. He began to write for The Academy, a conservative literary journal, run by Lord Alfred Douglas, in which Machen explored the legends of King Arthur and the Holy Grail, placing them in the context of Celtic Christianity. Machen’s writings on religion emphasized ritual and the imagination. During this time, he translated his interest in the Holy Grail to fiction in the novel, The Secret Glory, about a young orphan who achieves salvation and martyrdom on a modern quest for the Grail.
Toward the end of the decade, Machen ran into financial difficulties. To make ends meet, he returned to a career in journalism. He joined the staff of the Daily Mail in 1908 then transferred to The Evening News in 1910. As an experienced writer, he was asked to report on a variety of important subjects, including the funeral of renowned explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott. Most of his regular pieces, however, focused on religion or on the arts. Though The Evening News offered Machen a good, reliable income, he chaffed at the constraints of full-time employment.
Despite his dissatisfaction with the job, it gave him his first real taste of fame. In August of 1914, at the outset of the First World War, the British and German armies fought at Mons in Belgium. The battle ended in a strategic retreat by the British, a demoralizing opening gambit to the war. Machen responded with a newspaper story that combined fiction and fact, imagining that angelic archers had appeared over the battlefield and fought alongside the British. This piece, “The Bowmen,” soon caused mass confusion. Machen’s previous stories for the paper had not included fiction, and the piece resembled the first-person accounts of soldiers frequently published by The Evening News. On top of this, censorship from the battlefield made it difficult for those at home to know exactly what had really taken place at the front. Many people believed that the story was true. Machen always maintained that it was a fiction. Nevertheless, the story of the “the Angels of Mons” spread and became legendary, with soldiers confirming that they had seen the vision with their own eyes, and readers refusing to believe that Machen had made it all up.
The story was published in a collection of wartime fiction, which sold very well. Machen was encouraged to turn his attention back to creative writing, publishing a number of new stories. The relative financial security that he enjoyed at this point helped support a growing family. He and his wife had two children. But his career in journalism ended abruptly in a bizarre episode in 1921. That year he published an obituary of his former editor at The Academy, Lord Alfred Douglas. In the obituary he alluded to the homosexual affair between Lord Alfred and Oscar Wilde, which had been the cause of Wilde’s trial and disgrace. Awkwardly for Machen, Lord Alfred was not, in fact, dead. He sued The Evening News. Machen was fired. He responded to his exile from Fleet Street with a quotation from the Psalms in Latin: “Eduxit me de lacu miseriae, et de luto faecis” (“He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay,” in the King James Version). One has to wonder whether he sabotaged his own career intentionally, or at least subconsciously.
Machen saw a resurgence in the popularity of his early fiction in the 1920s. His horror stories had been discovered in the United States. This led to a reappraisal of his work in Britain. He was frequently republished on both sides of the Atlantic throughout the decade. During the 1920s the Machens lived in St John’s Wood where their house was the center of a literary salon and many parties. In the 1930s Arthur and Purefoy moved out of London, retiring to Amersham in Buckinghamshire, where they lived peacefully until Machen’s death in 1947.
The importance of Arthur Machen and the range of his influence cannot be overestimated. Every significant writer of weird fiction in the twentieth century was influenced by him. H.P. Lovecraft considered him one of the very few “modern masters” of the genre. As a Christian thinker he had a profound influence on the Anglican mystic Evelyn Underhill. His book, The Secret Glory, read as a teenager, inspired the Christian faith of Sir John Betjeman.
“Here then is the pattern in my carpet,” Machen once wrote, “the sense of the eternal mysteries, the eternal beauty hidden beneath the crust of common and commonplace things; hidden and yet burning and glowing continually if you care to look with purged eyes.”
The minor nineteenth-century poet and political figure Lord John Manners has long seemed to me worthy of reappraisal. That he was a minor poet was a matter of his own inclination. He published two significant volumes as a young man, England’s Trust and Other Poems, in 1841, and English Ballads and Other Poems, in 1850. But although he lived until 1906 he never returned to verse. That he was, in the end, a minor political figure is a loss for Britain.
Manners was a principle member of the conservative Young England group, which he co-founded with George Smythe (later Viscount Strangford) and Alexander Baillie-Cochrane (later Baron Lamington). At Cambridge together in the 1830s, these young men rebelled against Utilitarianism and the new priorities of the Industrial Revolution.
By the mid-nineteenth century industrialization had drastically changed the social order, economy, and landscape of Britain. The nation’s wealth had shifted from the countryside to the cities, taking with it vast populations. The sweet rural economy of manor, cottage, and craft was being undermined by policies that favored heavy industry. A decentralized society based on inherited rights and traditions, in harmony with nature, and built to the human scale was becoming increasingly centralized, mechanized, democratized, and dehumanized.
A generation earlier, Edmund Burke had written that civilization is a partnership between the dead, the living, and the yet unborn. Traditionalists of the nineteenth century viewed the modern project as an unraveling of that partnership. The delicate system of organic institutions and relationships that underpinned the old order could not be swept away without taking with it the civilization it had brought into being. By the time Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837 a number of political figures, artists, philosophers, and theologians were contemplating how traditional society might be recovered. Largely independent of one another they found inspiration in the legacy of the Middle Ages.
Young England fought to restore power to the monarchy, the peerage, and the Church of England. Manners and his friends advocated a romantic revival of feudalism and agrarianism. They promoted the interests of the countryside, its rustic economy, landed gentry, and working classes. They opposed the consolidation of power by a bourgeois oligarchy which had brought with it Blake’s “dark satanic mills,” slum-cities, and class warfare.
The contemporary historian Edward Barrington de Fonblanque painted a charming prose-picture of the type of society that the Young Englanders wished to create:
The nobles of England were once more to occupy their legitimate place around the throne and in the order of chivalry; the Church was to become the revered guardian and benevolent educator of the masses; commerce and industry, literature and art, were to be fostered by generous patronage; and a grateful and contented peasantry, clustering for shelter under the shadow of lordly mansions, were to vary the monotony of their toilful lives by merry dances on the village green, and perennial feasts of roast oxen and barrels of ale provided by their munificent lords and masters, the hereditary owners of the soil.
In 1841, Manners published England’s Trust and Other Poems, dedicated to Smythe. In his book Young England, to date the only book-length history of the movement, Richard Faber described the titular poem as “the most complete manifesto of Young England’s basic philosophy” at that point. Manners recalled to mind “a nobler age”:
When men of stalwart hearts and steadfast faith
Shrunk from dishonour, rather than from death,
When to great minds obedience did not seem
A slave’s condition, or a bigot’s dream…
When kings were taught to feel the dreadful weight
Of power derived from One than kings more great,
And learned with reverence to wield the rod
They dreamed entrusted to their hand by God.
Each knew his place—king, peasant, peer or priest,
The greatest owned connexion with the least;
From rank to rank the generous feeling ran,
And linked society as man to man.
Must we then hearken to the furious cry
Of those who clamour for ‘equality?’
Have not the people learnt how vain the trust
On props like that which crumble into dust?
Are the gradations that have marked our race,
Since God first stamped His likeness on its face,
Gradations hallowed by a thousand ties
Of faith and love, and holiest sympathies,
Seen in the Patriarch’s rule, the Judge’s sway
When God himself was Israel’s present stay,
Now in the world’s dotage to be cast
As week pretences to the howling blast?
No! by the names inscribed in History’s page,
Names that shall live for yet unnumbered years
Shrined in our hearts with Crécy and Poitiers,
Let wealth and commerce, laws and learning die
But leave us still our old Nobility!
When Manners wrote, “leave us still our old Nobility” he did not, of course, mean that his own class alone should endure: he meant the whole system of hierarchy and heredity and mutual loyalty that ensured a place for every man and protected the ancestral rights of the dynastic farmer or craftsman every bit as much as the rights of the dynastic lord. The politics of “equality” not only disenfranchised the nobility but destroyed the protections that the working classes had inherited over generations.
By 1843, Manners, Smythe, and Baillie-Cochrane were all seated in Parliament. They represented a High Tory bloc within the larger Conservative party of which they were members. In a speech to the House of Commons on May 18, 1843, Manners staked out his position, extolling those “principles which, while they would render the Church triumphant, and monarchy powerful, would also restore contentment to a struggling, overworked and deluded people.” A contemporary summary, in Hansard’s Parliamentary Debates, records the substance of the speech. He argued that,
As power was taken away from the mitre and the crown and transferred either to the people in that House or out of it, their physical and moral happiness had been lessened…He would extend the feeling of responsibility between the rich and the poor, and shorten the interval which in his opinion was growing too wide between those for whom wealth was made and those who made it.
Manners campaigned against the Mortmain Act of 1736 which put restrictions on the devising of property to charitable uses. He proposed lifting the law to encourage the establishment of religious houses. He argued that “it is inexpedient, in the present condition of the country, to continue the existing restrictions on the exercise of private charity and munificence.” Manners hoped that by overturning the Act the government could not only facilitate but encourage the founding of charitable religious institutions. “In an age confessedly devoted to money-making,” he said in a speech to Parliament, “I ask you to have the courage to believe in the nobler impulses of our nature; to appeal to the glorious spirit which built our cathedrals, our colleges, our convents.” Although he was unsuccessful in this initial campaign, the law was eventually superseded in 1888, in part through his advocacy.
Like Charles Dickens, in his pamphlet, Sunday Under Three Heads, Manners also argued that the working classes needed more leisure time. If civil society was to be nurtured it would require those conditions of leisure, festival, and camaraderie which were the natural expressions of a healthy community. In his 1843 pamphlet, A Plea for National Holy-Days, Manners asked: “Will the old parish church send out of its time-honoured portals and old men and women, the lads and lasses, to the merry green, where youth shall disport itself, and old age, well pleased, look on? Alas! no. Utilitarian selfishness has well nigh banished all such unproductive amusements from the land.”
In Parliament, Young England attracted the attention of the MP from Shrewsbury, Benjamin Disraeli, who saw its members as potential allies. Disraeli’s own philosophy of “one-nation conservatism,” which he represented in the novels Sybil and Coningsby, grew out of his intellectual relationship with them. It was Disraeli who marshaled the circle into a larger political faction. As the most experienced politician among them he became the de facto leader of the group.
They also attracted the attention of critics. The Morning Herald wrote of Manners and Smythe: “These two gentlemen are the prime movers of Young England; and that tomfoolery is the political offshoot of Tractarianism. Mental dandyism is its chiefest characteristic.” Tractarianism refers to the Oxford Movement in the Church of England. The Tractarians emphasized the broadly catholic inheritance of the Anglican tradition. At its best the movement inspired a revival of piety and ritual in the Church of England. Its apologists demonstrated that Anglicanism had an equal claim of descent from Ancient and Medieval Christianity as the ultramontane Roman Catholic Church, which had, for all intents and purposes, been created at the Council of Trent. (The Anglican Book of Common Prayer predates the Roman Missal by two decades). At its worst the movement displaced our authentic High Church Protestantism with the trappings of nineteenth-century Roman Catholicism; in this it may have done more harm than good.
The members of Young England were all High Anglicans of one school or another. Manners and Smythe in particular belonged to the Oxford Movement. Manners imagined the church engendering new quasi-monastic orders and institutions that would transform industrial cities, providing charitable services and cultural roots to increasingly atomized populations.
Clearly the Young Englanders were romantics. In later years, Baillie-Cochrane wrote that they had desired to lighten the servitude and add to the enjoyments of the people: “in fact, to restore ‘Merrie England.’” They did not accomplish anything so grand. The word “dream” appears often in assessments of the group. De Fonblanque described Young England as “a pretty and harmless dream.” They were not without realism or political skill, however.
During their Parliamentary careers the Young Englanders were engaged in the day-to-day business of government. They had successes and failures. The Factory Act of 1847 which limited the working hours of women and children was passed after years of advocacy by the group.
Young England was not opposed to industrial capitalism per se. Disraeli wanted to unite the “aristocracy of wealth” with the aristocracy of birth and instill in the former the sense of paternalism and noblesse oblige for the working classes that the latter possessed. Manners also wanted the great capitalists to take on a neo-feudal responsibility for their workers. He was impressed by the Grant brothers of Manchester, affluent merchants on whom Dickens had based the magnanimous Cheeryble brothers in Nicholas Nickleby. But Manners doubted that the marketplace could ever produce the stability necessary for the emergence of an actual “aristocracy of wealth.” He wrote to his brother Granby, after a tour of Manchester cotton mills in 1841, “the worst of this manufacturing feudalism is its uncertainty, and the moment a cotton lord is down, there’s an end to his dependents’ very subsistence: in legislating, this great difference between an agricultural and a trading aristocracy ought not to be lost sight of.” In the 1840s the working population was divided roughly evenly between the traditional economy of the countryside and the new economy of the factory town. The Young Englanders were adamant that this balance not tip too far toward the city. Without the equilibrium of the unchanging rural economy they believed that the protean upheavals of the factory system would lead to social unrest. To this end, Baillie-Cochrane said, “The only way to arrest the march of revolution in this country was to decide at once against all concession…if the agricultural party were only true to themselves, no influence…would be able to destroy them.” Even long after the heyday of Young England, Manners was confident that with proper leadership the “agricultural classes” could “fight for the existing order” against “democratic Revolution.”
In truth the Factory Act was a rearguard action by the agricultural party. By 1847 laws were in place that would cripple the rural economy and put the industrial party firmly in control of Britain’s destiny. The first of these was the Reform Act of 1832 which had stripped parliamentary representation from small rural boroughs and doubled the representation of many industrial cities. The second was the abolition of the Corn Laws in 1846; free traders finally achieved their long-held ambition to remove tariffs on foreign grain, tilting the market to the disadvantage of British farmers.
Young England was dormant by the end of the 1840s. Disraeli went on to political glory, becoming prime minister in 1868, and again in 1874, but by that time he had left Young England behind. Manners had a long, useful, and distinguished career in government under several Conservative administrations. He served as First Commissioner of Works under Lord Derby and Postmaster-General under Disraeli and Lord Salisbury. Disraeli offered him the viceroyalty of India but he declined. His last public office was Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster under Lord Salisbury. In 1891, Queen Victoria knighted him to the Order of the Garter. By that point he had inherited his father’s peerage, becoming the seventh Duke of Rutland. Despite prominent careers, however, neither Manners, Smythe, nor Baillie-Cochrane ever controlled policy to the extent that they could advance the agenda of Young England.
de Fonblanque, Edward Barrington. (1887) Lives of the Lords Strangford. London: Cassell, Petter, & Galpin.
Faber, Richard. (1987) Young England. London: Faber and Faber.
Manners, Lord John James Robert. (1841) England’s Trust and Other Poems. London: Francis & John Rivington.
Michell, John. (2005) Confessions of a Radical Traditionalist. Waterbury Center [VT]: Dominion Press.
Whibley, Charles. (1925) Lord John Manners and His Friends. Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons.
This past March I was privileged to attend a reading by David Suchet of the the Gospel According to Mark at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Suchet is one of my favorite actors. I have seen him several times on stage, on both sides of the Atlantic: as Salieri in Amadeus on Broadway and in Long Day’s Journey Into Night on the West End. For this occasion the audience had come to see him not only as a performer but as a witness to Christ, which he has been, humbly yet forcefully, for many years. A convert to the Church of England, Suchet speaks often about his faith, and uses his talent in the service of evangelism. He has recorded an eighty-hour audiobook of the NIV translation of the Bible, presented television documentaries on the Apostles Peter and Paul, and serves as a Vice-President of the Bible Society.
His reading of Mark’s Gospel was riveting. He drew out the urgency and immediacy of what may be the earliest of the four canonical gospels, written in the immediate aftermath of the events described. Afterward, I introduced myself to Suchet to thank him. As we spoke briefly he was hugged and congratulated by members of his own parish church who had come to support him, which I think gives a good impression of both the man and the wonderful mood of the evening.
All of this is a long way of coming to the point that St Paul’s has now put a recording of the event on YouTube. I highly recommend that you watch it.