arts, books, other reviews
7 February - 29 April Admission £10; concessions £8
The exhibition of Hogarth's paintings and engravings at Tate Britain gives us a comprehensive view of his work. He was by far the most influential artist working in Britain in the first half of the eighteenth century, sometimes even called 'the age of Hogarth'. He held a mirror up to his times, and painted contemporary society from the heights of fashion and success to the very dregs of humanity.
He trained as an engraver, and many of his engravings are in this exhibition. There are political cartoons, shop cards, book illustrations and the Analysis of Beauty, his study of the nature and variety of beauty. There are the well-known and influential sequences of pictures: Industry and Idleness, A Rake's Progress and The Four Stages of Cruelty, to name but a few.
His sequences of paintings that tell a story are famous and are well represented in this exhibition. They startle one afresh with the immediacy of their message, their humour, their eye for human frailty and, often, their stark tragedy. They are beautifully painted pictures, full of colour, vitality and detail. The detail is worth studying for it enhances and explains the story - the dogs steal meat from careless housewives, and the children are already marked with disease; the prostitutes ply their trade even at a funeral; the pictures on the wall are a commentary on the action taking place.
Hogarth was not just a painter of cautionary social tales, though these were an important part of his work, but he also painted family groups and individual portraits. The conversation groups are delightful, with a sense of order and cultivated politeness to them. People sit in drawing rooms looking at books, talking with each other, and there is a sense of ease and confidence to them. Here are no heroics, no magnificent pictures, but quiet, prosperous, confident people, in their tastefully appointed homes. Even in these there is unexpected humour - is the man looking through the telescope really being tipped off his chair into the river? His lovely portrait of the Graham children is here, full of childish glee and sparkle, all the more poignant because the youngest child died while the picture was being painted, and had to be painted in posthumously. Hogarth was much in demand as a portrait painter. He brought a sense of ease and confidence to his portraits, as well as an understanding of their character. His magnificent portrait of Captain Coram, the original founder of the Foundling Hospital, was one of which he himself was justly proud. Hogarth was a great supporter of the Hospital and took no payment for the portrait. Captain Coram, an active, passionate and peppery man, is brilliantly portrayed and seems about to leap from his chair, and engage in some immediate activity. His portraits of women are dignified, with no need of coquetry or display. This sense of dignity is also especially apparent in his composite portrait of his servants, gentle and confident in their usefulness and worth.
Hogarth was a significant painter with a beautiful technique, but this exhibition shows us more than that. We see people observed in all their frailty, cruelty, indifference and selfishness, but also in their gaiety and cheerfulness, and all painted with a perception and directness which brings us back to his pictures again and again. They are a commentary not just on his own times but on ours as well, and explain why he was the most important British painter of his age and has been influential ever since.
Permanent; admission free
For those of us whose knowledge of Japan begins with You only live twice, and ends at the sushi bar, the newly refurbished Japanese gallery in the British Museum confirms many prejudices, but also reveals unexpected insights. The gallery displays Japanese culture, high and low, ancient and modern. There are no ninjas ('better than commandos, Bond') but there are swords, the blades made of steel folded over many times and then damasked to produce the highly prized cloud and mist effects. It is a tradition of craftsmanship which continues today in rural artisan centres where cooks' knives are made with the same delicate patterns but without the lethal intent.
The sense of tradition is also found in pottery. The Gallery's best examples were thrown by highly respected twentieth-century craftsmen awarded the title 'national living treasure.' The examples of earlier wares are relatively crude and highlight the importance of outsiders - Chinese, Koreans, the Englishman Bernard Leach - for bringing skills and ideas to Japan.
A further example of outside influence is the inevitable Great wave by Hokusai which represents the flowering of a Japanese take on Dutch landscape. Next to it is a more homegrown print of a bathing beauty, hinting at the side of Japan that 007 was interested in and at the riches of the Museums print collection. And that is almost all there is of classic prints. Unlike Paris' Musee Guimet, few of the Museum's Japanese prints are on show, though that is probably as well, remembering its lewd and unflattering print of a prostitute and a Dutchman at the V & As 'East meets West' exhibition.
Another reminder of Dutch influence, though a more poignant one, is described as a bread box, a wooden and mother of pearl box for hosts. It is a survival of the great Jesuit mission to Japan begun in 1549 under St Francis Xavier. By 1569, there were 150,000 Christians in Japan but this success bred fear and resentment and then waves of anti-Christian persecutions, egged on by English and Dutch Protestants. On 6 February 1597, St Paul Miki and his companions became the first Japanese martyrs and thousands more followed before the exclusion of foreigners in 1640. Forced underground, the Church survived and the few Christian items in the gallery represent some of the outward signs of that underground faith.
Unfortunately there aren't any of the statues of Our Lady hidden during the persecutions and whose joyful reappearance after 1865 was a sign of new religious freedom. Instead at the entrance there is a fine copy of a statue of the goddess Kanon. Her long slender face represents the traditional Japanese ideal of beauty. By contrast, at the end of the gallery the more rounded faces of fashionable Tokyo ladies of the Thirties show a Japan the West knows, the Japan of Bond and sushi. The Gallery ends with manga storybooks, Western looking but deeply Japanese. As our man in Japan tells 007, you leave only just beginning to understand.
Sir William Henry Harris
Choir of St George's Chapel, Roger Judd (Organ), Timothy Byram-Wigfield (Director)
Naxos 8570148, £5
Faire is the heav'n is the anthem which has kept the name of Sir William Harris (1883-1973) alive in Church music, and one has only to hear it to know why. It is an outstanding contribution to the Anglican choral repertoire. Yet the man who moved from New College and Christ Church in Oxford to be the organist of St George's Chapel, Windsor, composed other music for the services of the Church which deserves to be heard. With this disk, Naxos makes a particularly welcome addition to its already impressive list of recordings of English Church music, and it is fitting, given Harris' long association with Windsor, that his works are performed by the choir of St George's Chapel on their home ground. It is also pleasing that the excellent accompanying notes have been written by Alastair Sampson, who was a chorister at Windsor under Harris, and whose words provide heart-warming testimony to the affection and respect which the older man inspired in his singers and pupils.
The pieces recorded here leave one in no doubt about Harris's musical accomplishment. He was clearly rooted in the school of Parry, Stanford and Charles Wood, with Tallis and his contemporaries providing additional inspiration, but there is an adventurous use of key changes in his works which stamps them as his own. He was also discerning in his choice of texts to set, though his bizarre selection of some truly dreadful words by Swinburne in From a heart made whole shows that he could have an off day. (They prompted an off day in the music as well.)
Why, then, have Harris's works not kept a greater hold on good church choirs? A large part of the answer lies, as Sampson readily acknowledges, in the composer's unwillingness to pen really memorable melodies. This reluctance was not the result of inability to write 'a good tune'. The delightfully simple carol The shepherd-men and the anthem Strengthen ye the weak hands show that he could produce the melodic goods when he wished. The problem, it seems, is that he was excessively respectful toward the words he set, not wanting to distract the listener from them by too dominant music.
Such an approach to the task of composition has, however, an advantage, because it means that Harris's work repays repeated listening. Closer acquaintance with his anthems leads to increased admiration for what he did. For this reviewer the real discovery on the disk was a sublime setting of words by Sir Thomas Browne, The night is come. It is not something you can whistle, but in capturing the mood of Browne's fine poem it is first class and deeply moving. Its closing pages reveal Harris's gift for writing music suggesting quiet contemplation. What a pity that its ten minutes' duration is likely to keep it from being placed regularly on the programme of cathedral choirs for choral Evensong.
The singing of the Windsor Chapel Choir is generally good, though marred by some moments of shaky intonation and an occasional failure of the trebles to attack entries and top notes cleanly. These slight blemishes should not prevent lovers of good church music from exploring what for many of them will be unfamiliar pieces.
Barry A Orford
A WEEK OF SIMPLE OFFICES
Simple Offices Saints and Seasons
LOOK WITH MERCY
Penitential Rites and Intercessions for use
at the Eucharist
Penitential Rites and Intercessions
Vol.2 Feast Days
Eric Simmons cr
CONFESSING OUR SINS
WAYS OF BELIEVING
Simon Holden cr
Community of the Resurrection Mirfield
These volumes were published 2000-2006. The Simple Offices I have often recommended to people because they are easily popped into a pocket or handbag. They provide a daily resource of liturgical prayer for morning and evening that is flexible in its use in time and place and priced at £4 and £4-50. They link one's praying to the larger community of prayer in the chapels wherever CR is at prayer. It is 'simple' and is drawn directly from the CR Office and thankfully with only one daily choice from two alternative readings. The Offices are short and consist of a hymn, Scripture, psalmody and canticle which are set for the day of the week on which they are used in the Community. The Offices are designed 'to be read silently, or recited aloud, or sung, alone or with others.' I might add, on the bus or train and when having to sit and wait.
After prolonged use this prayer will sink deeply into the memory and subconscious to stimulate spontaneous prayer whenever. Additional Prayers for various intentions are provided, some thoughts on Finding God in all Things and a simple form of Compline. This Simple Office of daily prayer is adapted for Saints and Seasons, so it would be wise to have both volumes at the bargain price of £8-50.
The Look with Mercy volumes come at £8-50 each. They centre on the ancient Lord, have mercy prayer used by the people of God and focus on intercession for a world 'which is wide of its good,' let-
ting 'the needs and concerns of the human family which are in our minds and on our hearts,' inform our intercession. Such public intercession must be addressed to God and what we ask of our Father should be matched by how we live. Praying for peace and justice, faithfulness and holiness means that in our relationship with others we have to be 'peace-bearers ... just and faithful in all things'
The first volume is a series of meditative intercessions for the Church's Seasons from Advent to Pentecost, Ordinary Time to Christ the King. Volume 2 develops this same principle of intercessory prayer for the Feast Days of the Christian Year. Every parish should have copies of these volumes and then perhaps we will be saved from so much self-regarding intercession that priests allow untrained intercessors to pour out Sunday by Sunday.
Confessing our sins, is about the practice of the sacrament of confession that should be a central part of the Christian life but recently has seen a falling off in practice. Here confession is discussed in the light of a change in our understanding of sin, some which once had a high priority are now
little regarded while others have taken on a new significance. The concern is to help Christians find in it the grace and strength of healing that God has provided for the deliverance of those who 'suffer from guilt, from uneasy consciences, from sin which they can't get rid of Here is sound sacramental doctrine, sensitive pastoral care with clear and practical guidance about how to use this sacrament and at £3-50 the price is right for most people. It should be on every parish bookstall.
Ways of Believing is slim, but feel the quality not the width. It begins with a quotation from St Gregory of Nyssa on finding divinity in everything. It is an aid for stressed people, manipulated by government, media and commerce, in the preserving of their personal worth and human dignity. It focuses on the Gospel's message of the significance of the individual's personal worth in the sight of God and made in God's image but also of what sin is and how God has redeemed us from sin and death in salvation-life, the Christ-life in which we live in the Church in everlasting life.
NEW ENGLISH PRAISE
to the New English Hymnal
Canterbury Press, 240pp, pbk I853II724 2,£I5
In a Church of England with fewer and fewer certainties, it is comforting to know that there are some things etched in stone and utterly immoveable. One of these is the post-confirmation bun fight in the church hall, which will invariably involve tea with the consistency of tar and some poor PEV being assaulted on all sides by elderly matriarchs. Another given is that there is nothing which can spark off a good old-fashioned parish bust-up like the introduction of a new hymn-book. The vicar will, of course, love it. The PCC will approve the funds reluctantly because he's not been there long and they don't want to appear hostile. The choir will hate it, and the organist will use two copies to prop up the bench. Miss Timms will sing all the new hymns lustily, on the grounds that 'Father knows best,' and Brigadier Plumtre will sing equally lustily, magnificently off-key and sit down in silence for any verse he considers 'wishy-washy lefty nonsense,' which is most of them.
The successors to the editors of the English Hymnal are to be congratulated on ensuring the avoidance of strife by producing not a new hymnal, but a fine supplement containing some of the best of modern hymnody and some equally fine older specimens which did not make it into the New English Hymnal in 1986. The numbers, comfortingly, begin at 600, emphasizing the continuity with that book.
The most welcome return must surely be John Mason Neale's translation of Alleluia, Duke Carmen at 605, but there are first appearances of other classics such as Frederick Myers' Hark What a Sound set to Richard Run-ciman Terry's magnificent Highwood, and Isaac Watts' Join all the Glorious Names. Patrick Brennarfs Hail Redeemer King Divine, which many readers will recall from Benediction at Walsingham after the 75th anniversary procession, is, in this writer's humble opinion, set to become a classic in its own right, with its catchy tune and joyful refrain, although many years too late. / Vow to Thee, my Country will save choirmasters scrabbling round for photocopies on Remembrance Sunday morning.
Of the modern inclusions, Christ Triumphant, Ever Reigning to Guiting Power is perhaps best known, alongside Lift High the Cross, to Crucifer. Michael Perry's How Shall They Hear the Word of God is a hymn for the Church's mission based on sound Gospel principles, and James Quinn's Now, From the Heav'ns Descending is a splendid metrical vision of the new Jerusalem.
In the liturgical section, modern Catholic parishes will find the greatly enlarged number of responsorial psalms most useful. Metrical settings of the canticles are also provided, although this writer feels that these might be better sung to traditional Anglican chant.
Gospel acclamations and proper verses for use throughout the year appear, and the Asperges and Vidi Aquam are taken directly from the pages of the good old Anglican Missal. Stephen Dear's Water of Life also makes an appearance.
Churches without the luxury of a choral mass setting each week will welcome the inclusion of Dom Gregory Murray's A People's Mass and Martin Shaw's much undervalued Anglican Folk Mass. The Composite Mass, including the Lourdes Gloria (another appearance at the Walsingham 75th anniversary festivities), is perhaps best used sparingly, but useful nonetheless. However parishes would be foolish not to consider also using the timeless Anglican setting for the Mass by John Merbecke, at 542 in the New English Hymnal. This consideration of music from both books is really what New English Praise is all about. It seeks - successfully - to supplement rather than replace, and to present to church musicians a breadth of options for the liturgy. The Advent Antiphons in modern language will not be to everyone's taste, but they appeared in traditional language in the NEH, and appear here in modern notation, which will be of invaluable assistance to less experienced singers.
Perhaps most satisfying of all is the treatment of the texts of the hymns. No massacre of the poetry here for the sake of political correctness, nor any attempt to bowdlerize traditional patterns of addressing the Almighty by using 'you' and 'yours' in an embarrassing display of'accessibility'. Best of all, no nauseating worship songs with irritating choruses (the nearest it gets is Will you come and follow me? at 647, which at least works as poetry if not as song).
New English Praise presents to the Church of England solid Christian theology presented in accomplished hymnody from the past and from the present, accompanied by useful and sensitive tunes which congregations should find easy to follow. Its outlook is generally catholic, and the English Hymnal tradition, it would seem, is alive and well.
MARKING THE HOURS
English People and Their Prayers 1240-1570
Yale University Press, 202pp,
hbk 0 300 11714 0, £19-99
It is always a joy to sit down and read one of Professor Duffy's books and this volume is no exception. I would be tempted to advise readers to simply enjoy the beautiful illustrations, were it not that Duffy manages to bring to life this period of English devotion in such a thorough and easily digested manner.
These books of hours were books for the people. Initially in manuscript form, they would only have been owned by the wealthy in society, both the nobility and some merchants. It is interesting to see how many paintings show families using their primers in private prayer. These books were to be used by the individual, and they offered prayers for different times of day as well as additional devotions to the Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady.
With the advent of the printing press, these devotional texts became more widely available to the ordinary man and woman. In some cases they were still printed with lavish illustrations, but in being made popular, they do in some way become less attractive and less lavish, although many of the woodcut illustrations are attractive.
What is key is that these were books for individuals and were to be used alongside the rites of the Church - they did not supersede them. They added an extra element in going to church and would have added to the devotional practices of people who, whilst not understanding Latin, could still read. With Henry VIII's primer in English, we see the height of this. Gone is the Latin, but still there are all the prayers of the Catholic Church and they continued to be used and more importantly understood by all the people.
These books were, however, not simply to be kept in pristine condition. They were to be annotated and added to by those who prayed them. Thus in a Book of Hours owned by her uncle, under an illustration of her name-saint Katherine of Alexandria, we find Catherine Parr writing that when he looked upon the page he might remember and pray for her. Often, pages were annotated with the names of the dead for whom prayers would be offered. Thus these books are personal objects. They teach the faith, and they also offer a window into the prayer life of ordinary people in the medieval period.
It is to his credit that whilst Duffy does include some lavish illustrations in his book, he does also show us pages we would not ordinarily see. He does this to illustrate the point that these books were personal items of devotion; they were over-written and 'vandalized': as Duffy puts it, 'a librarians nightmare.' Yet for Duffy it is these pages that tell the story. Just as with his book The Voices of Morebath, he examines the religious life and devotion not of the clergy but of the laity.
This period was clearly a golden age in English devotional writing and it is easy to imagine it all being swept away at the Reformation. Whilst a photograph of a primer defaced to remove the image of St Thomas of Canterbury is distressing, it is interesting to note prayers by John Foxe being illustrated in a similar way to those of his Catholic contemporaries. While Foxes prayers commemorate the persecution of Protestants under Queen Mary, both primers seek to commemorate martyrs to their cause. They do so in remarkably similar ways.
With the emphasis on corporate worship in the native tongue, of the later Reformation, it was clear that the primer would die out. Perhaps it was too individualistic. As Duffy points out, the primer would not long survive as a Protestant devotional tool, and whilst Books of Common Prayer would continue to be illustrated, few would be done on such a lavish scale until the Victorian period.
These medieval texts open windows into several areas. They show us how people worshipped, how they viewed the liturgy, and how they prayed. Most of these books were owned by women and so Duffy offers us a valuable insight into the devotion of women in the Middle Ages. I was particularly amused to read that even in the Middle Ages, English manuals contained more legendary stories of the saints and more exotic devotions than their French counterparts.
This is a beautifully illustrated book and is well worth £ 9.99. It is to be hoped that we in our worship might be inspired to take up a small book of private prayers to use during our worship and in preparation for the Mass. It is also to be hoped that we might one day see affordable books beautifully illustrated as they were in the Middle Ages, and then perhaps more people will be inspired to bend the knee before Our Lord in his most Blessed Sacrament and pray: 'O Jesu Lord, welcome thou be, In form of bread as I thee see, Jesu for thy holy name, Schield me this day from sorrow and shame...'
A theological commentaryJaroslav Pelikan
SCM, 320pp, hbk
0 334 04059 0, [£19-99]
A most valuable book - a companion perhaps rather more than a commentary. It is based, as the author makes clear in his introduction, on 'the most radical presupposition of all: that the church really did get it right, in its liturgies, creeds and councils - yes, and even in its dogmas.' The move from apostolic church to Church Catholic is not a later nor an invalid development, but the natural outworking of the Apostles' original purpose.
It would be hard to overemphasize how unusual this approach is within the recent tradition of critical scholarship of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. So widely is it presumed to be a description of a group of pre-Church men, a history of individual responses to the preaching of the Gospel, a record of an almost haphazard progress of evangelization, that Professor Pelikan's approach is almost revolutionary.
Written by an international and orthodox scholar at the very end of his academic career (he died shortly after it was finished), it is full of wisdom and profound insight into the forms of Scripture and the Church. But it is also, let the reader be warned, quite hard work. The coverage is not as simple as an ordinary commentary - themes are dealt with at the moment they appear most forcefully - so that one must read more than the immediately relevant chapter and verse.
Understanding builds slowly, and with it a mixture of challenge and reassurance at the great mystery which is Christ's Church. Speaking for myself, brought up as an evangelical, it is not easy to see so much in the Bible itself. Pelikan has shown me that I had more to learn than I had imagined. His description of 'reception within the context of the Council of Jerusalem in ch.15 takes a modern problem back into the pages of the New Testament; but more important still is the manner in which it fits in with the other demands and constraints of those first years.
We are drawn further into the texts we treasure. A wonderful act of faithful elucidation and reflection - the work of a genuine theologian.
WALES'S BEST ONE HUNDRED CHURCHES
Seren, 300pp, hbk 978I854II426 6,£I9-99
A delightful and beautifully produced book, with good photographs and nice typesetting. For visitors from the bigger country, a selection of the hundred best churches of the principality makes a worthwhile guide book to take along on the occasional trips out west. One hundred in England would be too few; a thousand in Wales way too many. Actually, the author cheats a little, and we are given rather more than the bare century.
Let me get rid of the main criticism straight away. The maps are appallingly inadequate, hand drawn with no roads marked. Totally useless. We are at least given the grid references, but to those of us who do not know our Welsh names as we ought, it is a major drawback. The publisher must correct this for a second edition, which it undoubtedly deserves.
Ancient favourites, such as St Govarfs Chapel in Pembrokeshire, or its larger brother next door, St David's Cathedral, are well covered. Medieval parish churches, altered, broken, restored, abound. But so too do the chapels. The integration of the simple Protestant chapels of the villages with the grander, more ornate town churches is, for me, the special charm of this book.
Burnetts Hill Chapel (grid reference SN 024 097) is little more than a cottage, now isolated and unused in the middle of a field, built in 1812 when the local Methodists made their decisive break from the parish church. There is not a great deal to see, but if I am passing I will surely pause to visit it, so eloquent is the writing.
Faber, 220pp, pbk 9780571223800, £12-99
People who are unhappy with the way we live often see the answer in a renewal of community life. What is it that helps generate wholesome communities? Travel writer Tobias Jones went with his young family to live in a number of communities in England and Italy in search of an answer to that question. He wrote up his findings in this provocative book which won for him an appearance on BBC Radio 4s Start the Week.
His conclusion? After staying in an orphanage, retirement home, detox centre and farm Tobias Jones concludes that communities work better with a religious rather than a secular basis. This is a book that brings encouragement to those who almost despair of Christianity getting a good press in our land. The author tells how at the end of their tour his family get intrigued and drawn into the Pilsdon community in Dorset which welcomes wayfarers and society's outcasts in the spirit of Christ.
Whereas Richard Dawkins made an anagram of religion - gerin oil' - seen as an addictive drug, Tobias Jones protests such a naive interpretation. In the best of the communities he experienced in his tour religion was an aid not to escaping reality with a drug but to facing human reality with compassion. Hence he cites one of the most creative responses to homelessness as being the Emmaus community of the late Abbe Pierre, as well as the Italian Nomadelfia community renowned for its care for orphans.
In the Sixties people flocked into communities of choice which eventually foundered on lack of common purpose. Utopian Dreams writes of how communities with common vision bring individuals together and help them flourish all for each and each for all. The best aspect of religion is revealed in the etymology of the word: to 'tie in or bind. Community evolves from religion as much as collaboration derives from common purpose.
Christian evangelization seems to work best when people get intrigued by a Christian community. That Tobias Jones found himself drawn by a community like Pilsdon links to that community's capacity to transcend social barriers and open up a vision of the mysterious world to come. This surely is what Jesus does when he is around.
THE MONASTIC WAY
Ed by Hannah Ward and Jennifer Wild
Canterbury, 254pp, hbk 185311 757 9, £16-99
Of the making of anthologies there is no end. If an anthology is to be of value it must, therefore, offer a clear sense of purpose, a justification for its collection of texts that suggests a new insight or understanding. Many of the most successful anthologies have been those which are most aggressively personal, even idiosyncratic. One thing you must not be, surely, if you wish to compile your own is either timid or polite.
This anthology offers 'ancient wisdom for contemporary living' with a short reading for each day of the year from various monks and nuns, known and unknown, medieval and contemporary. The juxtaposition of the rather Zen-like stories of the desert fathers with modern scepticism is an odd one; it makes clear that each item is entire unto itself, a source, I presume, for reflection and meditation.
It is perhaps a gentle version of the self-help manual, a gentle one-minute nudge away from the trivia of everyday life. The compilers lay rather too much stress on humour: it sounds too much like an excuse for timid politeness. What, after all, am I or anyone else to make of this observation which will come during the joy and celebration of Easter Week: 'Everything goes against the grain with me, the daily chores and my whole surroundings irk me beyond bearing. The length of the night office is a torment to me, I often collapse under the manual labour, the food sticks in my mouth, more bitter than wormwood, and the coarse clothing bites through skin and flesh to the very bone. A Cistercian monk.'
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