medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture


I don't have a horse or any other animal in this race, but I'm sure 
I'm not alone in finding the tone of these remarks somewhat 
offensive. Pfaff is a distinguished scholar who has obviously written 
a substantial work; it may have some errors, as most works inevitably 
do; but it surely deserves to be treated with more professional 
objectivity and less relentless sarcasm.


>medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
>Another change of gear: the last 250 pages consist of five chapters 
>on the secular Uses and a final concluding chapter. Picking up the 
>story of the secular Uses at about 1100 after 200 pages on the 
>monastic Uses (!), we have three chapters on the Sarum Use, with one 
>on Exeter (don't ask!) and another on the other Uses.
>The three chapters on the Sarum Use seem much more like a coherent 
>history. Not that it actually is, of course.  It's the familiar 
>story of manuscripts, saints and modern editions. There are curious 
>errors: a reference (p.373) to Frere using the same alphabetical 
>sigla for his editions of the Sarum consuetudinary and customary, 
>despite them referring to different manuscripts (yes, but the sigla 
>for the customary are in bold, and a different typeface!); the 
>reference (p.426n) to an incomplete edition of the Sarum antiphonal 
>in 1519 (a reference on p.549 to the "sole edition" of the 
>antiphonal in 1519-20 gives the correct answer); a curious belief 
>that the Sarum Processional of 1508 (edited by Henderson) was the 
>first printed one - calamitous on p.549 when an argument is 
>constructed upon it (even from my bed I can clearly see that the 
>facsimile edition has "1502" on the spine! The mistake must arise 
>from a touching reliance on Dickinson's "List of Printed Service 
>Books" of 1850: Pfaff does make use of Wordsworth's "Ceremonies and 
>Processions of the Cathedral Church of Salisbury" ["Edited from the 
>fifteenth century MS no. 148, with additions from the cathedral 
>records, and woodcuts from the Sarum processionale of 1502", 1901] 
>which should have given him a clue, but not of Bailey's "The 
>Processions of Sarum and the Western Church" [1971] - the name 
>"Terence Bailey" occurs neither in the index nor the 
>Pfaff continues to trip himself up over bibliographical and 
>biographical issues. On p.425 he writes: "As early as 1842-43 
>Charles Seager published two fascicules of a proposed edition of the 
>Sarum Book" [the Sarum Breviary] "but apparently lost interest after 
>his conversion to Roman Catholicism in the latter year." Well, no. 
>The fascicle published in 1843 was the second edition (actually a 
>re-issue with considerable added matter and a new title page) of the 
>the first fascicle of 1842. The second fascicle was published in 
>On the next page, discussing the Procter and Wordsworth edition, he 
>writes (p.426n): "the patience of the Cambridge University Press may 
>have been wearing thin." Is it fanciful to suggest that he is 
>projecting his own experience onto the 19th century?
>The Exeter chapter concludes with a reference: "Frere, p.70, citing 
>pp.10-11 of H.E. Reynolds's edition of the Exeter Chapter Acts, a 
>book unavailable to me." Well, it's not unavailable to me: I have 
>Christopher Wordsworth's copy!
>Chapter 14, "Regional Uses and local variety" is much more 
>satisfactory. The brief account (pp.445-462) of the York Use is a 
>model of clarity. Unfortunately, here we have a comparison: in 2008, 
>Matthew Cheung Salisbury published as Borthwick Paper 113 "The Use 
>of York: Characteristics of the Medieval Liturgical Office in York." 
>An attempt to compare them shows that they can't be compared: they 
>are largely examining different manuscripts! Pfaff takes five saints 
>to be diagnostic of the York Use. Salisbury (who is only looking at 
>the Office) takes a different approach: he uses the Responsory 
>series to distinguish a group of York  Breviaries from Sarum 
>Breviaries adapted to the York Use. He identifies seventeen feasts 
>as peculiar to the York Use, but argues that they cannot be used as 
>a diagnostic tool.
>The discussion of the Hereford Use (pp.463-480) is satisfactory, if 
>somewhat limited. A trick is missed in discussing the St Paul's Use: 
>Pfaff wonders why that term is used instead of "London Use", but 
>doesn't consider why the cathedral is called "St Paul's Cathedral" 
>rather than "London Cathedral". A howler seems to be perpetrated on 
>p.481: he claims that the 10th century "Rule of St Paul's" was "an 
>adaptation of the Institutio Canonicorum of Amalarius of Metz" - I'm 
>pretty certain he doesn't mean either "Institutio Canonicorum" or 
>"Amalarius of Metz" - what actually means is somewhat opaque. Total 
>obscurity occurs on p.491: "Both in Sparrow Simpson's 1875 printing 
>of that register (itself still unpublished), and in the missal" - 
>what is it that is unpublished? Several of Simpson's publications 
>are cited, but his "Registrum" dates from 1873.
>Pfaff is (probably correctly) sceptical of the existence (ever) of 
>the Lincoln Use which he considers to be a reification of Cranmer's 
>preface to the Book of Common Prayer. Here he misses a couple of 
>tricks. First, he could have mention that the list of Uses in that 
>preface: "And whereas heretofore there hath been great diversity in 
>saying and singing in Churches within this Realm; some following 
>Salisbury Use, some Hereford Use, and some the Use of Bangor, some 
>of York, some of Lincoln;" differs from the list in the preamble to 
>the 1549 Act of Uniformity itself: "Where of long time there has 
>been had in this realm of England and in Wales divers forms of 
>common prayer, commonly called the service of the Church; that is to 
>say the Use of Sarum, of York, of Bangor, and of Lincoln;" Second, 
>he could have pointed out that the preface is itself highly 
>rhetorical (Pfaff himself points out on p.478 that the Sarum Use had 
>already been made uniform for the southern province) and is a free 
>translation of Cardinal Quignon's preface to his own reformed 
>The section on "Liturgy in parish churches" is unsatisfactory: 
>unbelievably, Pfaff has difficulty defining a "parish church" 
>The last chapter "Towards the end of the story" is rather a rag-bag, 
>with subjects as diverse as the Bridgettines and printed service 
>books. This is done, of course, to avoid any suggestion of teleology 
>or whiggishness: as if it wasn't blindingly obvious (whatever Eamon 
>Duffy might say) that the Reformation was inevitable. A howler is 
>made in trying to strain a point that didn't need to be made at all 
>(in the context of printed breviaries for Abingdon and St Albans): 
>"The monks can scarcely have supposed that their choirs would soon 
>be bare, as at Abingdon, or ruined, as at St Albans." It's the other 
>way around, of course! (Pfaff's attempts to relate liturgy to 
>architecture are consistently painful.)
>Final conclusions to follow.
>John Briggs
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Susan Ridyard
Professor of History
Director, Sewanee Medieval Colloquium
The University of the South
735 University Ave
Sewanee, TN 37383

tel. (931) 598 1531

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