30 September 2010

John Leland, and does the Devil break wind over Wales?

I commend to Oxford residents a small but exquisite exhibition in Bodley about the work of Henry VIII's antiquary John Leland, whose notebooks are deposited there.

In the 1530s, as Henry Tudor attempted to gather evidence in his campaign for the annulment of his marriage - and later, his contest with the Pope - a tame intellectual called Leland was sent round the monastic libraries of England to pick up, in the years before the imminent dissolution, texts which might help the royal cause. He also did what he could to secure, for the royal collections, some of the choicest books harboured by the religious orders. He was not very successful in the former enterprise; when he got to the Oxford Greyfriars, where he confidently expected to secure a great haul of the works of Grosseteste, he found ... zilch ... I wonder why ... But in the latter business, he did rather better; you can see in Bodley a preconquest book put together by S Dunstan, looted from Glastonbury, with a picture of a prostrate monk which might conceivably have been drawn by the Saint himself.

I hope you made your way through my recent post on the Middle Cornish plays written at Glasney College in Cornwall, and the iniquities of Bad King Tudor. Leland ... drole, yes? ... found it prudent to 'discover' in Cornwall evidence that Tudor was not so bad, after all; surprise surprise, he was a good religious king and a benefactor of the Church! 1984 and all that!

Incidentally, although nowadays the so-called 'Celtic' nations go for a warm pan-Celtic solidarity, there is little evidence for this in the Middle Cornish texts. The sorceress Owbra, while collecting substances whereby to get the amorous Tudor stuck in her bath (memories of Anne Bullen 'bewitching' Henry VIII?), includes the 'noises' ('trosow': 'farts'?) which the Devil 'throws' over Wales.

5 comments:

Col. Hugo Thrumpington-Mange said...

That would explain why the Archbishop of Wales is such a wind bag!!

GOR said...

Father, it takes you to come up with some esoteric detail from former times! Now I can’t get the image of Satan hovering over Llandudno out of my mind…

But, no mention of the “CofE Easter Egg”…?

I read today that its introduction is imminent. The announcement noted that “Nearly 8,000 church schools are being encouraged to whip up demand for the product by placing orders before December 1. It is hoped teaching staff will use the arrival of the eggs early next year to teach about citizenship, the meaning of Easter, the role of Fairtrade and the place of charitable giving.”

Now why didn’t we think of that?

Of course here in the US rather than the Easter Egg it would probably have to be the “Easter Bunny” - which is sort of lacking in religious significance, citizenship, and probably wouldn’t be Fairtrade anyway...

√Čamonn said...

The Welsh are rather a case apart, though; their language is incomprehensible to everyone else! The Cornish could understand the Bretons, just as the Irish can understand the Scots. The Pan-Celtic strain in all these cultures is however mostly a taste for drunkeness and violence!

Fr. Mark Zorab said...

Personally Father I have always found living and returning here to Wales and the land of our Saints like a breath of fresh air!!!

Sir Watkin said...

just as the Irish can understand the Scots

Only the Highland Scots. The Lowland Scots (like the other inhabitants of Yr Hen Ogledd) spoke a language closely akin to Old Welsh (later displaced by the dialect of English known as "Scots").