The great event of today has been a tea party at the Deanery. The Dean wished to meet the ‘chosen few’ and so Low, Wood, Wade and myself went to tea at 5 o’clock. Barrington-Ward and G. Williams were to have come but they had a rehearsal [for the Latin Play] and were prevented. We went straight into the Dining Room where a sumptuous tea had been provided. Rackham poured out and Simpson, the Etonian, and later Turbot (Turrrbot!) of the Deanery young men were also there. The Dean arrived a minute or so later with a ponderous tome under his arm and sat himself down in an armchair next to me. Conversation was not easy with everyone listening, Rackham made frantic efforts and eventually we got on to Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ * and the Dean then remarked ‘One of my earliest recollections is having it read aloud to me and having to go to bed not knowing if Faithful had got out of the castle or not, that and having pins and needles!!…
Rackham asked the Dean if he had any distinguished people to the [Latin] Play and the Dean remarked ‘I’ve asked Wilson!!’ (Wilson was a most unpopular Captain of the School four years ago!) Then the Dean turned on me and we discussed what we would like him to talk to us about, he said he was ‘so filled with matterrrr and details which were interesting to him [but] mightn’t be so to us.’ Eventually we decided to put it off till next term and as I had suggested doing the history of the Monastery after the Conquest, he suggested going through the history of the Abbey by Flete, a monk of the Abbey, whose history has never been published. As the Dean said it would be ‘a thread and he could hang some bread upon it’ in the way of illustrative matter. I put in a suggestion that perhaps he might give us some idea of the inner working of a Monastery, the daily life etc but he didn’t much rise and only remarked it was ‘such a verrry difficult subject.’
He then showed us an account of a tremendous quarrel which the Abbot had about the right of the Bishop of London to come into the Abbey in 1222. The matter was referred to the Pope and a commission appointed who found the Bishop hadn’t got a ‘leg to stand on’. Consequently he was told he had no jurisdiction nor could he hold any services in the Abbey, St Margaret’s or St John’s and especially not ‘ad confirmandos pueros’ and that is the reason why the Dean never asks the Bishop of London to confirm the School but always gets some other Bishop. The right of St Margaret’s and St John’s was taken away by an Act or Parliament in 1843 but as the Dean remarked he didn’t think any Act of Parliament could take away spiritual jurisdiction without consulting the Dean. However, when the present Dean was Rector of St. Margaret’s he was not inducted by the Bishop nor did he read the 39 articles, following thereby the precedent of his predecessors.
‘Does the Bishop then waive his right’ I asked
‘Oh! Well I’m not responsible for the Bishop of London, any how he didn’t say anything!’
Consequently the Dean now makes a solemn protest whenever the Bishop comes to the Abbey ‘to keep him in his place’ whereby he undertakes to understand that he comes only by the Dean’s invitation and has no legal right at all. The same thing happens with the Archbishop for ‘the Dean is answerable to the Ring alone’! In the same way the Dean told us the Archbishop of York may not have his cross carried upright before him anywhere within the province of Canterbury under penalty of ┬ú50. Consequently the Dean had specially to ask him to bring it for the consecration in the Abbey and the two Archbishops walked side by side with the Dean and ‘if the Archbishop of Canterrrburrry chose’ said the Dean ‘to send in a bill to the Archbishop of Yorrrk that was his affairrre not mine!!’
A propos of the Bishop of London, Flete defines the bounds of the Abbey and speaking of the Tyburne he says ‘at the point where it touches the garden of Robert the Weaver’. ‘Oh! Dearrr!’ says the Dean ‘I am afraid we have lost Robert the Weaverrr!’
During the course of the Bishop of London quarrel the Abbey produced a charter of St. Dunstan, Bishop of London, with his seal appended, giving the Abbey the privileges they wanted. The Charter has been preserved and the Dean had a facsimile of the seal made and gave it to the present Bishop of London saying he thought he might like to have it ‘especially’ as he added to us ‘as St. Dunstan probably never had a seal!!!’
We then passed on to relics and the Dean slapping the book said. ‘Oh! Lovely things you shall just hearrr some of the things we had’ (reading) ‘the finger of St –, the hairrr shirt of St Agatha, the chemise the chemisia(!) the head of St Morice etc’…
Somehow we got on to the Chapter House and the Dean told us that when Convocation met there the Bishops used to sit in the Chapter House and the lower house used to sit down in the ‘Locutory’ or vestibule which was called the ‘Bassa domus’ and though he wouldn’t say for certain he believed that to be the historical origin of the term ‘Lower House’ because it was the lower house.
The Dean then departed having I may say, made an extremely good tea fairly stuffing and enjoying his tea in great loud sips. Some of the others were being shown something by Rackham so the Dean watched them for some time much amused and finally remarked ‘Well Rackham, you had better let them go now’. However we didn’t go for a minute but eventually got out just after 6.15.
* The Dean remarked he had made one person read the ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ namely the designer of the new Bunyan window.