Sunday, 9 December 2007

An Early Christmas Present

One of my parishioners - and a leading light in our Young Adults Group - is the great-nephew of Mgr Ronald Knox. We sometimes speak about his famous relation and I recently lent him Fr Milton Walsh's Ronald Knox As Apologist: Wit, Laughter and the Popish Creed.

Anyway this evening he gave me a handmade Christmas card and inside, as an early Christmas present, was a letter from his great-uncle which he had recently found in an old book. It is dated 30 April 1924 from Courtfield, Herefordshire (where Cardinal Vaughan grew up). The contents aren't particularly amazing but they show the author's great gifts as a man of letters.

Mgr Knox refers to a tour in the country he recently completed with 'the bard' and says: 'I will only emphasize the undesirability of going at any time or for any purpose to the Lamb inn at Wallingford, which is a whited sepulchre and a wolf-cub in Lamb's clothing.' One wonders what was so objectionable about this establishment and trusts that it has improved in more recent years (though the fact it was once visited by William of Orange doesn't bode well).

Knox seems to have done something of a pub crawl, in the Chesterbelloc tradition, for he also refers to a don he met at the Bear Inn at Wantage who is 'now at Oxford, extending the Universities, and boring the countryside.'

A few weeks ago I passed through Mells, the little Somerset village where Mgr Knox is buried. It is a quintessentially English village - a medieval church, with a little row of almshouses leading to the front gate:

Next to the church is a sixteenth century manor house, the home of the Asquiths, where Mgr Knox spent his latter years. The manor was purportedly procured by Jack Horner upon discovering the deed in a pie given to him to carry to London by Richard Whiting, the last Abbot of Glastonbury. Here is the gate, designed by Lutyens:

The churchyard unusually contains the graves of some distinguished Catholics. Here is Mgr Knox's:

The tombstone also has an inscription on the back - ''You have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God':

Nearby are the tombs of the war poet and convert, Siegfried Sassoon, who asked to be buried near Knox, and Christopher Hollis, Catholic politician and writer (and father of the present bishop of Portsmouth!).

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Anonymous Fr Redman said...

Did you visit the Catholic church in Mells? Still ad orientem!

10:54 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an interesting post Fr..our Catholic women's Book Club studied Waugh's Knox..i found it tough going..

4:24 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mells churchyard is amazing. Doubtless you noticed that the local notabilities - the Asquiths, Mgr Knox etc - are buried in the furthest eastward extremity in order to be the first to greet the Lord at the Last Judgment, leaving ranks of their tenants and retainers massed behind them. Let's hope that they get off lightly.

11:09 pm  
Blogger Christine said...

Wonderful! And what a thoughtful and lovely gift from your parishioner!

2:01 pm  
Blogger Fr Justin said...

And I seem to remember in Mells Churchyard a grave of someone with the strange (and somewhat entertaining) name of O'Nions. Why do people do that? There are far worse names than Onions!

11:49 am  

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