Sunday, January 25, 2015

Maisie Ward's "commentary" on Downton Abbey

From our underground correspondent, Guy Noir - Private Eye:
Excellent commentary here on the show "Downton Abbey."

Catholics who enjoy the show will do themselves a favor by reading Maisie Ward's thoroughly enjoyable history of her family, The Wilfrid Wards and the Transitionand Insurrection versus resurrection (The Wilfrid Wards and the transition: II). She offers the Catholic reverse reflection of the show. The books document the changing of the guard quite in England and the English Church quite remarkably. Massie Ward admitted to having memorized hugs chunks of passages from Jane Austen, and at points her story reads like a Catholic version of Pride & Prejudice. Of it husband Frank wrote,
We find many people in their natural state. We see the poet Tennyson with his “Block up your ears, Josephine Ward, I am about to tell your husband an improper story”; Newman out driving with Hope-Scott, his face growing longer and longer at the endless stream of puns that poured from his companions lips; Newman again, called upon to speak impromptu and breaking down, unable to finish so much as one sentence; Ruskin drivelling forth a lecture he had not bothered to prepare, and Cardinal Manning giving forth a lecture he had stolen bodily from the speaker he was introducing; old Ideal Ward roaring with laughter at Manning’s invitation that he should come and spend an evening with him whenever he felt depressed; Baron von Hugel thumping the table and addressing Bishops and cabinet ministers, as "you fellows”; Gladstone roaring with laughter at a vocal imitation of Manning, then recollecting himself and becoming doubly statesmanlike; Balfour embarrassed because a relation had indiscreetly told the truth about him; Leo XIII searching for his snuff box and pretending not to hear something he preferred not to hear. And we feel, at the end, as though we had been in the company of giants. But it is not only individuals who are shown with their private faces. The Church herself is similarly shown. The Wards have for the best part of a century been in the unusual position of devoting themselves as laymen exclusively to the service of the Church. They began it with the terrible old man, William George Ward, who had “the mind of an archangel in the body of a rhinoceros” — the first of the Oxford Movement converts, with his thirty years of unrelenting, maddening, half-wasplike, half-lionlike warfare against the Newman he adored. His son, Wilfrid Ward, biographer-in-chief of the Catholic Revival in England, had thirty years of liaison work between Catholicism and the English mind. And Wilfrid Ward’s wife, Josephine, one of the creators of the Catholic novel, began life under the shadow of Newman and the austere old Duchess of Norfolk, and lived to speak on the streetcorner platforms of the Catholic Evidence.
“Such a family,” Sheed hardly needed to say, “grows to a special kind of intimacy with the Church as a living organism going about its daily work — Church, to return to a previous metaphor, in shirt-sleeves." And when such a family interacts with people like Loisy, Tyrell, and the early Modernists, they also have lessons that seem 100 percent timely today. [emphasis added] Those people who love the Church and also like "Downton Abbey" -- they will also very much like the family history of Maisie Ward.

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