Report of an address at Southwark Cathedral
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[ 597 Report of an address at Southwark Cathedral The Times (3 Feb 1938) 8 Under the heading “Where Chaucer Worshipped / Needs of Southwark Cathedral / An Appeal for £25,000,” the Times reported on an event at Mansion House on 2 Feb, at which TSE was one of the principal speakers, with the Lord Mayor and the Lady Mayoress presiding. Speaking in support of the preservation appeal, the Archbishop of Canterbury described the continuous history of “this great treasurehouse of beauty” over the past 800 years, including its associations with Chaucer, Gower, Shakespeare and the Globe Theatre, the printing of the first complete English Bible, and “that accomplished scholar Lancelot Andrewes, who represented the Church of England at its best when it had emerged from the throes of the Reformation.” Other speakers included Lord Fermoy, president of the Harvard Club of London, who expressed “the great debt that graduates of Harvard University owed to John Harvard, their founder, who was baptized in the Cathedral in 1607.” The Bishop of Southwark “pleaded that the Cathedral at the very gateway of the City . . . was the mother church of a populous, hard-pressed, and very poor diocese . . . and now they found that the Cathedral was in imminent need of repair.” Though no direct quotations from the speech can be securely identified from this report, the journalist’s outline of TSE’s ideas are of historical value in context of his continuous support and defense of English churches and his ongoing vision of enhancing communal life within them. Mr. T. S. Eliot, representing the literary associations of the Cathedral, said that Southwark Cathedral had something that even the Wren churches in the City could not give. It had a more venerable antiquity, a greater authority, and more numerous august associations. It was not mere piety thatdroveCityworkersintoCitychurchesand,sometimes,intoSouthwark Cathedral, at luncheon hours, but the physical peace gained in that way did something to pave the way to another peace, and it was to those people who had learned to know the City churches that those buildings meant most.1 He refused to think that Southwark Cathedral was a monument only; it was still a living church and, as such, should not have to beg its annual pittance to keep body and roof together. Essays, Reviews, Commentaries, and Public Letters: 1938 598 ] Note 1. As an employee of Lloyds Bank in Lombard Street from 1917 to 1925, TSE frequently spent part of his lunch hour in the City churches of All Hallows, St. Mary Woolnoth, and St. Magnus Martyr, occasionally crossing London Bridge to Southwark Cathedral. His continuous support of English cathedrals began with his opposition to the proposed demolition of nineteen City churches in his “London Letter” of May 1921: “To one who, like the present writer, passes his days in this City of London, . . . the loss of these towers . . . and of these empty naves, to receive the solitary visitor at noon from the dust and tumult of Lombard Street, will be irreparable and unforgotten” (2.345). When the demolition proposal was renewed in 1926, TSE wrote in his Criterion “Commentary”: “A visible church, whether it assembles five hundred worshippers or only one passing penitent who has saved a few minutes from his lunch hour, is still a church” (2.832). He returned once again to his concern for (and the personal value of) English churches and cathedrals in “Lancelot Andrewes,” declaring that “there are those for whom the City churches are as precious as any of the four hundred odd churches in Rome which are in no danger of demolition” (2.817). At the time of his address in support of Southwark Cathedral, TSE had begun to develop his visionoftransformingcathedralsforthemodernreligiouscommunitybybringingcontemporary art, music, and drama into them and making them the center of religious and artistic activity in their dioceses. This vision was initially sketched in a 1931 address at Chichester Cathedral, “If I Were a Dean” (4.296), which led to the production of Murder in the Cathedral in the Chapter House of Canterbury Cathedral in 1935 and, subsequently, in a 1951 lecture to the Friends of Chichester Cathedral, published as The Value and Use of Cathedrals in England Today (1952). ...