arts, books, other reviews

 

DREAMS AND NIGHTMARES

Tate Britain

Until 1 May (񌮽0, concessions 6)

The exhibition at Tate Britain is an exploration of the taste for the weird and supernatural which was part of the artistic and literary world towards the end of the eighteenth century, and is still an important part of it today. The most determined, successful and self-promoting artist of this genre was Henry Fuseli, many of whose paintings and drawings are in this exhibition. Contemporary artists are shown alongside him, most notably William Blake, the visionary artist and poet, and James Gillray, whose brilliant cartoons show wonderful draughtsmanship and a splendidly savage response to the politics of the day.

慓othic art and literature dealt with the themes of terror and fear, violence, and the supernatural, as expressed in paintings, engravings and sketches, novels and book illustrations. The work was in total contrast to what had hitherto been accepted as English painting, and was seen by many as bewildering and shocking. It was, and still is, hugely influential.

The portrait of Henry Fuseli which starts the exhibition shows him as a dynamic and romantic figure, gazing into the distance, an artist of the new age, and this was how he was seen, both by himself and his contemporaries. He was of Swiss origin, a great admirer of Rousseau. He studied in Rome, and was much influenced by the work of Michelangelo.

His most famous painting, The Nightmare, was exhibited in the newly expanded Royal Academy in 1782, and caused a sensation. It is a picture that has been imitated, reproduced, and lampooned ever since it was painted, and the original still has the power to shock, just as Fuseli meant it to. Pictures by Gillray, Rowlandson and Blake give an idea of how immediate and strong was the effect it had on the contemporary art scene.

The huge popularity of Gothic literature and the rise of circulating libraries also fed the taste for paintings of the weird and supernatural. Mary Shelley抯 Frankenstein and Horace Walpole抯 The Castle of Otranto were among the many popular works. They were regarded with scorn by those who took their literature seriously (Jane Austen in Northanger Abbey mocks the romantic novel). There is a delightful Gillray cartoon of four ladies frightening themselves into fits reading aloud such a book, the horror also extending itself to the ornaments on the mantelpiece and the picture on the wall! Facsimile reproductions of some pages of contemporary novels are available so one can experience the real thing. There is also an excellent selection in the exhibition shop.

Subject matter included Shakespeare, Dante, classical and Nordic legends, the Bible and popular literature. The focus was often on pain, hopelessness, torment and anguish, and supernatural powers. The human body was seen as a powerful means of experiencing these emotions, and the superhero appeared in romantic and heroic themes. Samson Breaking his Bonds by Rigaud is a striking example of this genre. The idea of the superhero is still with us, as in Superman and the Incredibles, to name but two.

Witches, temptresses, fairies, vampires and other fantastic beings were a source of fascination. Fuseli抯 two very large paintings of A Midsummer Night抯 Dream are shown in the same room a tour de force of his grand Gothic style. They contain a combination of childlike innocence and sexual ambivalence in a way that is both intriguing and bizarre. They were much admired.

Nightmares continue to fascinate and frighten us today. The exhibition includes some clips from old and recent films. The influence of The Nightmare can be clearly seen in the shadowy goblins and vampires and the prostrate female corpses. There is also a Phantasmagoria, a form of entertainment once very popular. These lantern slide entertainments varied from quite small audiences to several hundred, sometimes preceding theatrical performances. In a darkened room, skeletons, corpses, tombs and such like, some with rolling eyes and moving limbs, send agreeable shivers down the spine when projected onto a screen with appropriate musical accompaniment.

Anne Gardom

dance

O: STRAVINSKY PROJECT Part 1

Michael Clark Company

UK tour until 11 March

The enfant terrible of contemporary dance, Michael Clark, is back with the first part of a projected trilogy set to the music of Igor Stravinsky. The first part of the Project is set to the lushly classical Apollo and is a marvellously evocative piece. Apollo, beautifully danced by Adam Linder, is found in a mirrored cube and awakes aware both of his beauty and its power to attract. In a series of sinuous turns and twists, the imprisoned god breaks free from the cube, almost as if emerging from a chrysalis.

He dances, as does the talented young company, with grace and fluidity, and Michael Clark has choreographed a piece which combines characteristic poses and steps but with inventiveness and interest. Crisp, clear articulation combines with graceful, even elegant poise. There is an angularity about the dancers bodies but always that seamless liquid movement of classical forms, and the dance moves from one to another so beautifully integrated as to be entirely satisfying.

O was first performed in 1995 and has been re-worked for this series of performances. It has been combined with and prefaced by OO set to pulsating music by Iggy Pop and Wire which includes Straight Line and Strange from Pink Flag, and Mercy from Chairs Missing. In striking, geometric black, brown and white body suits designed by Leigh Bowery, the dancers, expressionless and androgynous, have to begin with fiendishly difficult poses, held on point (or as near to it as male dancers can achieve) and turn. This sustained angularity of body movement (they walk with highly arched back and head pushed forward like some stalking bird) suddenly erupts and explodes into fluid classical steps executed with pin-point accuracy and razor-sharp ensemble. Michael Clark himself contributes a generous cameo, still mesmeric in performance, enchanting with deft manipulation of a glass cane.

The two dances combined lasted only sixty minutes and left the audience elated at the technical skill and artistic conception (judged by the sustained and warm applause), but also just a tad unsatisfied because, complete achievements though they may have been, we wanted it to go on. It leaves anyone interested in contemporary dance eagerly anticipating Parts 2 and 3, to be set to The Rite of Spring and Les Noces over the next two years. You can only catch up with this tour at Nottingham Playhouse, The Point, Eastleigh and The Tramway, Glasgow at the beginning of March. Otherwise you have to go as far afield as Korea, or wait with some impatience for the next instalment.

John Grainger

books

WALLED ABOUT WITH GOD

Dom Jean Prou osb and the Benedictine Nuns of the Solesmes Congregation

Gracewing, 294pp, pbk

0 85244 645 4, 1299

The definitive English edition of this remarkable book, published in the bicentenary year of the birth of Dom Prosper Gu閞anger, founder of the Solesmes Benedictine Congregation of contemplative monks and nuns, is ably edited, and where necessary translated, by Br David Hayes osb. With several writers there is understandably some repetition of themes, but this only serves to throw further light on ideas and insights not always familiar to those outside monastic circles. Similarly there are obviously differences in style, and a need for English people to try to come to terms with an occasional more florid and sentimentalised French spirituality than we are normally comfortable with. But in itself that is a good exercise in broadminded ecumenism and openness to the Spirit, and it does not at all detract from the value and interest of the work as a whole.

The startling fact is that strictly enclosed RC nuns have wanted, and been given permission to write openly about their specialized vocation, in the face of a sometimes hostile and strangely curious world.

Part one runs through certain Old Testament images, interpreted by the Fathers and monastic tradition as symbolic of the life of contemplation, and of withdrawal for the sake of drawing nearer to God in love: Eden before the Fall; Moses on the mountain and in the tent of meeting; the desert experience of the Israelites; the closed gate in Ezekiel; the garden enclosed; the temple and the holy of holies, etc. Then, in the New Testament: the example of Jesus himself, culminating in the isolation of Calvary; the degrees of intimacy with him experienced by some of his followers; the bridal imagery of the Baptist, St Paul and Revelation; an eschatological emphasis and above all the figure of Our Lady as supreme exemplar for nuns.

Part Two is a masterly exposition of the historical background to enclosure, beginning with the consecrated widows and virgins of earliest times through to the present day. Interestingly, the popularly held conception of male, clerical domination of women religious is shown to be only partially true. In the first centuries, radical separation from the world was embraced by men and women alike and some sort of enclosure was axiomatic and deliberately embraced. The first papal decree enforcing enclosure for nuns was only promulgated in 1298, and is described as substituting 慳 legal obligation for an already existing practice. Moreover, some communities of men also freely embraced a like enclosure, high walls and parlour grilles included.

Trent reinforced things, although other forms of apostolic religious life for women were beginning to be accepted in the Church. The twentieth century saw a continuing stress on the importance of enclosure, but Vatican II encouraged the suppression of obsolete practices and a greater openness to the world.

Part Three, the largest section of the book, is a detailed exposition of monastic spirituality and in particular of the Benedictine tradition, as it relates to enclosure. It is well-documented with ample and interesting quotations from across the ages. Genuine questionings are dealt with: enclosure is unnatural, and unviable these days; it is selfish, against the spirit of love for family and the neighbour and forgetful of evangelisation; it is demeaning for women. This ultimate supposition is claimed to be far from the truth: 憉ltimately enclosure is an inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It was not an ecclesiastical law a law of men that invented enclosure, but rather a spontaneous, interior thrust...the impulse of a contemplative soul who discovers in Scripture a personal invitation from the Lord. Cloistered women have deliberately chosen their way of life and so, as the text assures us, 憁ost nuns do not feel that their special legislation deprives them of their rights. They are not beleaguered feminists striving to break loose.

Sometimes the enclosed life depicted here might seem idyllic, but happily there are occasional glimpses of realism when we are invited to read between the lines. Though greatly loved, the life also involves costly sacrifices 憇ometimes keenly felt. Included here is what is described as 憈he increased intensity of the small trials of daily life due to the elimination of all distractions in other words, the acute difficulties of living together in community year in year out. Personal experience can vouch for that.

For an Anglican Benedictine, however, striving to live in the spirit of separation from the world in the face of all the impediments modern western society throws in the way, this book has been of considerable comfort. Anglicans cannot have the protection of papal enclosure, but neither have we been hide-bound by its inevitable curtailment of certain freedoms. Nevertheless the vocation is the same: a radical response of love to Love in the heart of the Church, a calling to share in the Passion and redemptive work of Christ. What greater task is there to aspire to or encourage in the face of our current dividedness?

This densely-packed book needs to be read and meditated upon, not only by fellow monastics or those seeking to deepen their spiritual life, but by all who care for the holiness and well-being of the Church, and not least by those who need to be discerning and fostering vocations to this vital form of Christian living.

Sister Mary Michael chc

Holy Cross Convent, Rempstone

THE RESURRECTION OF Jesus

J.D. Crossan and N.T. Wright in dialogue

Edited by Robert B. Stewart

SPCK, 220pp, pbk

0281058113, 1099

According to the Cost of Conscience survey in 2002, only 66% of the sampled Church of England clergy confidently believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ. As Easter approaches, let us be thankful that in our constituency the chances of hearing a sermon on the resurrection from someone who actually believes it are somewhat better than this! The Bishop of Durham, N.T. Wright (as he styles himself when writing in academic mode), is quite clear on this subject: on the first Easter morning, Jesus rose from the dead, leaving an empty tomb behind him, and subsequently appeared to his disciples. Only the empty tomb and the appearances together can provide a plausible explanation for the emergence of Christian belief, which differed so significantly from the prevailing Jewish beliefs.

The Resurrection of Jesus is the fruit of a symposium at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, the high point of which was a debate between N.T. Wright and a leading sceptic (and former monk), John Dominic Crossan. Crossan holds that Jesus teaching about the kingdom during his lifetime explains the later Christian events: there was no empty tomb since Jesus body was just left in a ditch, and the appearances were merely spiritual experiences which gave the disciples assurance that Jesus was with God.

The first part of the book contains a record of this debate, beginning with a brief statement from the two scholars outlining their position. Wright抯 statement is a helpful summary of his argument, in an accessible style. The rest of the debate is, for the most part, pretty easy to follow and even entertaining in places, though the written word does not do full justice to what would have been a lively debate. Crossan is not persuaded of Wright抯 views, and the debate ends with their drawing out points of agreement (in a very Anglican way!) but the Bishop is the more convincing of the two.

The rest of the book is made up of essays from a number of less well-known American academics. Some are of interest, exploring avenues such as the epistemology of resurrection belief, and the non-canonical Gospel of Peter. According to Crossan, the canonical evangelists based their accounts on the Gospel of Peter a fictitious account, in his view, inspired by Old Testament prophecy. This claim is challenged on every level in one rather technical essay by Charles Quarles. In another essay, William Lane Craig provides a closer look at Wright抯 argument and suggests how it might be strengthened. The essays are, however, a mixed bag, and a bit of an anti-climax after the first part of the book.

This book is a good way of experiencing two points of view in the resurrection debate. Readers who have not already read Wright on the resurrection will find it a good introduction to his argument but will end up, I suspect, wanting more Wright and less from the other contributors. There is no substitute for his magisterial work The Resurrection of the Son of God (SPCK) but those who cannot quite face its 850 pages might be better off with one of the other books in which he discusses the subject, such as The Challenge of Jesus or even his new (so new I have not been able to look at it) Lent book The Scriptures, the Cross and the Power of God (both SPCK).

Matthew Bemand

AQUINAS ON SCRIPTURE

Edited by Thomas G. Weinandy et al.

T&T Clark, 256pp, pbk

0 567 08484 1, 25

In the January edition of New Directions, Fr Hunwicke invited us to pop into a bookshop and taste what St Thomas says about Scripture according to Joseph Wawrykow in the new SCM guide. Readers who want more than a taster might try tucking into the same author抯 essay in Aquinas on Scripture, the follow-up volume to Aquinas on Doctrine, itself a stimulating collection of essays.

The last fifteen years have seen a boom in works written on what Aquinas says about Scripture and his different commentaries. The reasons are partly tied in with the preparation of critical editions and translations, and the Church of Rome抯 decision to dethrone Neo-scholastic Thomism from its pre-eminence which, rather like a vigorous pruning, cut back Thomist studies for a while only to see them re-emerge fitter and stronger and with a better understanding of what was at the heart of Thomas thought.

Throughout his teaching career Thomas lectured on the Bible. We have some of his commentaries and the semi-authoritative notes his pupils made of his lectures, in all covering Job, Isaiah, Lamentations, the Psalms and the Song of Songs, the Gospels of St Matthew and St John, the Pauline Letters and the Letter to the Hebrews. Despite the extent of this largely mature work, few scholars had even investigated the extent to which the Bible was the basis for the Summa Theologiae (it used to be argued that the extensive biblical quotations in this work were not fundamental to what Thomas wrote but that he left blanks for his helpers to fill in later with the relevant verses).

This collection of essays sets out the main themes of all his commentaries and in doing so makes it clear that Thomas teaching is massively grounded in Scripture. This makes the essays a resource for the apologist and the preacher, John Saward抯 article on Thomas treatment of the Pastoral Epistles especially, and that may be the best reason to buy this book. The actual commentaries themselves (for those without the time or the Latin, they are easier to get hold of in French than in English. La Procure, opposite St Sulpice, is a good place to go for them) are quite as dry as the best modern equivalents, which raises the question, why bother with Bible commentaries, let alone medieval ones?

For St Thomas the reason was obvious, as made clear in his inaugural lectures at the University of Paris. The Bible is the word of God and it must be proclaimed for the building up of the people, the winning over of heretics and the spread of the Gospel. Everything which God has given man should be used to help the preacher proclaim the Gospel. Thomas took what the Fathers wrote and, like St Jerome, anything else which was relevant, and applied it to the Bible (his Catena Aurea, 慣he Golden Chain, is a detailed collage of the Fathers writings on the gospels). This 慳nything else included Greek philosophy and rudimentary textual criticism. That being so, he should not be quoted today as an example of an unsullied pre-critical Golden Age. Since he was capable of correcting the Fathers, in principle he must have recognized that his own work was open to criticism (an understanding he shares with Dr Wright).

This is the key issue for deciding whether today Thomas commentaries are for an audience other than the specialists. He is a skilled and careful reader of texts and the spiritual doctrine he draws from the Bible is that rich treasury of old and new which Our Lord commends to us. The authors of this collection expound this well, but the elephant in the room, which they largely ignore, is this: what if the historical basis of the Bible is narrower than Thomas thought? Famously, the saint said that all Scripture must be true, but he had a nuanced understanding of truth the historical truths of the Gospel are not same order of truths as those of Genesis or the Psalms. Nevertheless, the impact on Thomas thought of generally accepted critical insights, such as the worked-up quality of Jesus speech in St John抯 Gospel, is not tackled here. A truly Thomist answer to such questions may encourage us to read his commentaries. Until then these essays will be enough for most readers.

Owen Higgs

SEEING IN THE DARK: UNIVERSITY SERMONS

Nicholas Lash

DLT, 163pp, pbk

0 232 52619 2, 1295

Nicholas Lash, Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity at Cambridge until 1999, is, as theologians go, pretty well known. He no doubt deserves his publisher抯 accolade: 憃ne of the most original and influential Catholic theologians in Europe and North America over the past forty years. To a reader who was not already in the know, or had not got as far as the back cover, I am not sure his ecclesiastical allegiance would otherwise be apparent. Not for him the forceful presentation of the Catholic magisterium, but rather a questioning approach, 憈ravelling light to use a choice phrase of his.

For the most part the sermons in this book were preached at Matins or Evensong in college chapels in Cambridge, though some are university sermons in the proper sense, preached to the universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Edinburgh and Leeds. Two are not connected with universities at all one was preached at a requiem, the other to a group of industrial chaplains but they do fit into the overarching theme encapsulated by the title. The sermons are arranged thematically and placed in five distinct groups, but the need to pay attention to God, listening in the silence and seeing in the dark, is a leitmotif throughout the book. Although the latter metaphor was used for the title, Lash prefers the former and teases out the differences between seeing and hearing in the sermon 慐nquiry and Attentiveness.

These sermons are, as one would expect, full of theology and amply supported by quotes from Scripture (sadly not indexed), as well as, inter alia, Newman and R.S. Thomas. A number of them are solidly exegetical, and Lash spends time reflecting on the often-neglected Old Testament. A point he emphasizes frequently is that Christian hope must not be replaced with the extremes of utopianism or despair, which are ultimately all that contemporary society has to offer. Lash insists that Christian hope must not dwell on a future we know little about at the expense of engaging with the present: a useful thing to hear, though perhaps more could be said about what Scripture and tradition do tell us about the last things.

He takes the incarnation and its implications for humanity seriously, and this leads him to tackle a range of social issues, such as the arms trade and global poverty. Professor Lash preached the sermons over a twenty-seven-year period during his tenure of the chair, and there are a number of topical references. Rightly, no attempt has been made to update these references, but since the date and place of the sermon are only printed at the end of each one, a little distraction can be had in trying to guess the year as one reads them.

Lash comments that his choice of cover illustration, Fra Angelico抯 Agony in the Garden, reflects his belief that the garden of Gethsemane is central to Christian discipleship, a point he makes in several sermons. Perhaps the prominence in this painting of the contrast between the sleeping apostles and the attentive women also struck a chord with a Catholic theologian who is no great fan of centralized papal authority.

Matthew Bemand

THE WORLD OF CATHOLIC RENEWAL 15401770

R. Po-Chia Hsia

CUP, 282pp, pbk

0 521 60241 6, 1599

The problem with the way the Reformation is taught is that after Henry VIII抯 schism, continental Catholicism is pushed to the outer edges of English historical interest. Po-Chia Hsia抯 readable book is a good corrective and deserves to be widely read. The dates mark the founding and the suppression of the Society of Jesus, but the scope is far wider: it is an overview of the remarkable renewal which took place in the Roman Catholic Church, and which has become controversially known as the Counter-Reformation.

Hsia begins with the Council of Trent and shows how a council intended to conciliate the Protestants ended up, because of intransigence on both sides, creating early-modern Roman Catholicism. He charts the impact of the Tridentine decrees and of the revised Roman Missal, Breviary and Catechism; and shows how a confident and vibrant Catholic Church reconquered France, central Europe and Poland from the first generation of Protestants.

This book will be of interest to Anglican readers for three reasons. Firstly, it puts the history of the Church of England in its historical context, which is to say on the periphery of European Christian life and thought. Whilst Anglicans were arguing with Puritans over the Prayer Book, and descending into civil war, Hsia shows Catholics evangelizing the Americas, parts of Africa and India, China, Japan and the Philippines.

Secondly, there are a number of interesting parallels between Catholic life in Europe at this time and Anglican life in England, of which may be mentioned the recruitment of clergy from higher social backgrounds and of greater learning than in late-medieval Europe, widespread private patronage of parishes, widely varying parochial incomes, clerical and episcopal pluralism and absenteeism.

Thirdly, by understanding Tridentine Catholicism and patterns of liturgical, sacramental and devotional life, one is enabled to understand some of what inspired the second generation of ritualist Anglo-Catholics in the nineteenth century.

This book, by stating what went before, also helps the reader better to understand post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism and some of its strengths and weaknesses. I could wish for this book to be compulsory reading for all candidates for ordination.

Robert Beaken is priest-in-charge

of Great and Little Bardfield

SEVEN WORDS

FOR THREE HOURS

Edited by Edmund Newell

DLT, 88pp, pbk

0 232 52645 1, 1795

This book is a reworking of Seven Words for the 21st Century published in 2002. As in the case of the original book, there is an accompanying CD which provides music to aid and enrich reflection. The present volume was commissioned to help launch EGR (Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation). The book is in two sections; the first sets the context for the three hours devotion.

There are two essays, the first by Bishop Richard Harries giving an overview of the history and development of the three hours devotion it is a good example of Bishop Harries ability to trawl through a library for the appropriate quotation and illustration. The second by the Archbishop of Canterbury seeks to explain the significance of the cross in the twenty-first century. This essay has many of the best marks of Archbishop Williams writing: originality and a startling mixture of sources. It also fairly easy to understand!

The second section contains reflections and meditations for use either on Good Friday or on other occasions. Given the availability of portable personal media devices, it is surprising that the possibility of use in this way has not been part of the marketing strategy. It is clearly a useful format for small groups. The contributions are as varied as their authors: Lucy Winkett and Edmund Newell from St Paul抯, musician Sabrina Alkire and parish priests Giles Fraser and Tarjei Park.

They are written to be read aloud, and indeed some have a clear dramatic quality. The music by Adrian Snell has a cross-over feel to it. It is ambitious in its scope and meets its purpose as an aid rather than an object of reflection. Pricing a product like this will have difficulties the strength of the combination of CD and book is that it is not a 憆ead once use once purchase.

Andy Hawes

THE SENTENCES OF

PSEUDO-PHOCLYLIDES

Edited by Walter Wilson

Walter de Gruyter, 316pp, hbk

3 11 018241 6, 74

This scholarly series, Commentaries on Early Jewish Literature, throws up interesting examples from around the time of Jesus. This Greek poem of some 230 lines has little that is directly relevant to Christian students of the Bible, which is why you may never have heard of it, but what it does show is the cultural sophistication of Jewish intellectuals and theologians of that period. As a piece of literary forgery this is a masterpiece, and deserves due credit.

Phocylides of Miletus was a famous Greek poet of the sixth century bc. These Sentences were a successful attempt to pass off as his work a poem full of sound Jewish social and moral teaching, in order to convey to the Hellenized intelligentsia (Jew or Gentile) the implicit notion that Greek thought had, centuries before, been influenced by Mosaic teaching, and that therefore there was an essential agreement between Greece and Judah, Athens and Jerusalem.

As such, it is not an especially exciting text, but it is a marvel of subtle apologetic, and deserves study. A question to ask might be, does it succeed so well that it compromises the clear moral demands of the God of Israel? Wilson抯 notes and commentary are clear and comprehensive. My one regret is that he did not engage the help of a poet for the translation: the phrasing is often heavy.

David Nicholl

THE SPIRIT OF

ANGLICAN DEVOTION

Arthur Middleton

Prayer Book Society, 28pp, pbk

0 9535668 3 8, 񋳽5

If anyone can produce a concise introduction to the spirit of Anglican devotion, it is Fr Arthur Middleton (note: on the editorial board). His reading and reflection, crammed into over thirty years of parish ministry, has given intensity to his considered opinions and conclusions. Reading this little book is akin to bumping into the tip of an iceberg the reader is aware that there is something immense and real below the surface; the encounter is an exhilarating one! Parish ministry has also shaped Fr Middleton抯 style; it is at once both accessible and practical. This does not mean to say that it is without colour or depth; his total immersion in the English of Andrewes, Herbert, Vaughan and Traherne has left its mark.

He has given the reader a very clear map to navigate the spiritual landscape of sixteenth and seventeenth century Anglicanism. The key to this map is the interrelation between prayer and morality, which is balanced by the concern that public liturgy and private devotion should mutually inform. The main features are the Prayer Book, the English Bible, their accompanying Primers and Books of Private Devotion. Then follow sections on the Catechism and the volumes on practical Christian living. Fr Middleton points out the beauty of each aspect of this landscape and the routes that interconnect them. There is a clear sense that in Anglicanism there is a cohesive spirituality that encompasses theology, ethics, and devotion expressed in practical living in the workaday world.

There are saints in this landscape: Laud, Andrewes, Taylor, Law and Herbert, to name a few. These men have provided Anglicans with a language to speak to God and we listen in to their private conversations with the Lord. We are given a taste of their poetry and hymnody, sermons and letters. Footnotes send the reader off in search of treasure. It is a clearly produced pamphlet although sometimes this reviewer became puzzled as to what was a quotation and what was not. I understand a full-blown version is yet to come it will be a welcome addition to the library of anyone who has a love of learning and a desire for God.

Andy Hawes

THE ST ALBAN扴 PSALTER

Jane Geddes

British Library, 136pp, hbk

0 7123 0677 3, 25

Around 1140, Geoffrey, the Benedictine abbot of St Alban抯, commissioned the artists and scribes of his monastery to produce this highly original and artistically important book, for Christina of Markyate, a notable anchoress.

A set of forty pictures, primarily of the life of Christ, are a triumph of English Romanesque art, drawing on Anglo-Saxon, German and Byzantine models with a lively imagination, and unusually with no accompanying text. Another artist produced miniatures within the opening initial of each of the Psalms, illustrating Christological themes from each. Both show a greater bias to the feminine than we would expect.

Still more interesting is the intensely personal nature of the production, reflecting the passionate but chaste relationship between these two powerful religious figures, the anchoress and the abbot. This book was developed from a personal friendship and it shows. A life of St Alexis is presented and illustrated as an allegory of their own longing for each other, while elsewhere a note has been added ostensibly to explain the pictures but also to quell the gossip and jealousy associated with the genesis of this book.

The twelfth century saw an increasing acceptance of newer or wider forms of love, new models of intense personal friendship. They are worth studying in their context, for they show both a richer appreciation of human society than religious writers often suppose, but also just as clearly a lack of explicit sexual longing.

Contemporary liberals suppose a culture of suppression and fill in any gaps with their own lurid imagination, and so read back their own presumptions. The merit of looking at an actual artefact of that culture is that it proves such modern conspiracy theories to be sheer nonsense. This is a genuinely touching and fascinating production: we do not learn everything, but there are enough details to bring this twelfth century friendship vividly to life.

Nicholas Turner

endpiece

ON TIME, GENTLEMEN, PLEASE

Walter Raleigh has a lot to answer for. He introduced the potato to England, which has helped considerably to make us all a nation of fatties; and he introduced the narcotic habit of smoking, which has been killing much of the population one way or another ever since.

In black and white films in the Thirties and Forties and well into the Fifties, you could hardly tell who was who or what was what for the fug that engulfed the screen. Everyone seemed to be smoking, whatever else they may have been doing. Advertisements all showed characters smoking. It was the most natural thing in the world. Even the most famous of railway advertisements recommending the bracing virtues of Skegness had everyone smoking, as well as wearing trilbies and heavy suits, and substantial twin-sets at the height of the English summer. It is a world we have lost.

With our current obsessions with losing weight and stopping smoking, the House of Commons has seen which way the wind is blowing the smoke, and has voted for a complete ban on smoking in public and private pubs and clubs, except the Houses of Parliament themselves (funny that). No doubt wardens will be appointed to stalk the pubs and clubs and to issue on-the-spot fines (50, and 2500 for the landlord who does not prevent his customers) for anyone transgressing this latest healthy edict. Perhaps they will carry a bucket of sand or a water pistol to dowse the offending weed.

Repeat offenders will be rounded up and spend a few well-deserved weeks in prison, but there will be no danger of reform or rehabilitation because the law does not extend to Her Majesty抯 prisons. The prison authorities would find it nearly impossible to control their clients were it not for the soothing, calming influence of tobacco and nicotine. What a commentary on our system. The crime statistics may rise as those wishing to continue smoking commit serial smoking or smoking-related offences (arson, for one) to spend some time at Her Majesty抯 pleasure, finding pleasure in the noxious weed.

Where will it end? It can be only a matter of time before smoking is banned at any public gathering, indoors or outdoors, and then walking in the street. How long will it be before smoking in the home is restricted and then banned altogether? It cannot be far off in this new utopia that is being gradually constructed, when medical care is denied to those who are too fat, or who have been smokers; when education is restricted to those from smoke-free families and whose height杦eight ratio is within acceptable bounds; when exceeding the state limit of daily calories, or fats, or sugars is cause for compulsory courses of re-training in acceptable social mores; when only those fit, tall, blond and blue-eyed are considered for any profession. Now why does that sound vaguely familiar and familiarly sinister?

Smoking is an obviously disgusting habit which not only does damage to those benighted souls who indulge in it, but also to those who come into contact, however inadvertently, with it. One of life抯 irritants is that other people抯 smoke lingers on your own clothes for days and days; that previously smoke-free rooms take a week of open windows before the residue of that one smoker is dissipated. That is why some of us have a degree of ambivalence about this new manifestation of the nanny tendency. As someone who has never smoked and who cannot bear the smell of cigarette smoke (pipe smoke and cigar smoke is qualitively different), there can only be rejoicing at the ban and the pleasant prospect of being able to go into a pub twenty-four hours a day and emerge only palatically drunk and reeking of alcohol to perfume the diesel, petrol, exhaust-fume air of old England.

But a little bit of freedom and the right of the individual has died. A tiny corner of our independence has been colonized. Some part of our right to choose has gone and that can only be regretted. And so it goes on. No more fox hunting, no more smoking, no more binge drinking, no more eating what is not good for us. Healthier, perhaps; happier, perhaps. But the price we pay is regimentation and the loss of an ability to choose.

John Player

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