Monday, 11 August 2008

A Recording of Cardinal Manning's Voice

Flicking through a volume of The Tablet from 1894 the other day - as you do - I found a fascinating report of a phonograph that was made of Cardinal Manning's voice as he lay dying in 1891 (he finally passed away on 14 January 1892). He was encouraged to do this by his friend, Charles Kent (author of The Modern Seven Wonders of the World), and the recording was made by Edison's representative in the UK, Colonel Gouraud. 'In the beautiful library of the Cardinal,' we read in the report, originally printed in the Pall Mall Gazette, 'the message was dictated and afterwards reproduced, to the unconcealed pleasure and amazement of its author.'

Three recordings were made - one for Cardinal Gibbons in America, another for Pope Leo XIII ('the reception of which made a great effect upon the Pontiff, who could hardly believe that it was not the actual voice of his friend that he heard') and the third for posterity, to be played only after the Cardinal's death death. 'Upon my handing him the cylinder,' wrote Colonel Gouraud, 'the Cardinal took it with a curious expression in his eyes, as if he were trying to realize that the next time the message was heard he would be in his grave.'

The message was finally played on 16 February 1894 in a large reception room of Whitehall Court. Distinguished guests were invited, rather morbidly, 'to meet his Eminence Cardinal Vaughan and Henricus Edwardus Cardinalis Manning, Archepiscopus Westmonasteriensis.' Those assembled included the Cardinal's faithful Secretary, Mgr Johnson, the American Ambassador and a representative of the Prime Minister, Sir Algernon West. 'The scene was a very impressive one and the audience listened with bated breath to the faint scratching of the phonograph...the message came forth slowly, solenly, deliberately, and with long pauses of thought: "To all who come after me; I hope that no words of mine, written or spoken in my life, will be found to have done harm to any one after I am dead - Henry Edward Manning, Cardinal Archbishop." A few other voices were put upon the phonograph after this, including those of Tennyson, Browning, General Sharman, and others who in life will never be heard again. It is the intention of Colonel Gouraud some day to deposit these priceless treasures in the British Museum. Till then they will in all probability never be listened to in England again' (Tablet, 24 Feb 1894, pp290-291).

I must investigate to see if this valuable recording is to be found in the British Library's hi-tech Sound Archive.

UPDATE: I've received a reply from the British Library saying that they don't have the recording in their collection and don't know whether it survived. It's the sort of thing that might be lying around in an attic somewhere!

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Blogger William Newton said...

Father: I would suspect that this recording, if it still exists in Britain, is probably in The British Library as they have recordings of everyone from Queen Victoria onward.

1:12 am  
Blogger William Newton said...

Oh dear, and now I just realized that in your last sentence you said exactly the same thing I had commented on. Oh well - sorry, Father.

2:26 am  
Blogger William Newton said...

Dear Father:

I still haven't found your recording, but I live in the Georgetown area of Washington, D.C., and attended Georgetown University. You might find it interesting that a number of Charles Kent's papers are in the special collections here, including what looks like a diary entry referencing that this recording was made! Best wishes - WBDN

Box: 1 Fold: 21 Anecdotes about Cardinal Manning

DESCRIPTION: Incomplete Typescript by Charles Kent titled "Anecdotes About Cardinal Manning" (3 pages) including a 1 page listing of the contents numbered 1 to 17. 1 page dated 5/8/1865 describing Archbishop Manning's first blessing. 1 page of extracts from Kent's diary for 1891 with references to Colonel Gouraud, Stephen Moriarty, Cardinal Gibbons, Pope Leo XIII, Father Kenelm and John Vaughan.

12:04 am  
Blogger Fr Nicholas said...

Oh - thanks for looking. That sounds interesting.

2:16 pm  
Blogger William Newton said...

It's very random that Kent's notes on this recording found their way over here, a few blocks from my house.

12:10 am  
Blogger Bernardus said...

Very very interesting. I once knew a man in Melbourne who had worked with Ned Kellys brother on the railways of Victoria.

10:27 pm  

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