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a Roman Catholic Protest'—which headed my first article have clearly rendered any justification in their eyes of my position impossible, for reasons to which I shall refer hereafter.
In that article I ventured to assert that the Pope's attempt to enforce the universal adoption of Gregorian, plain song, or the classic polyphony in Roman Catholic places of worship was a threefold blunder-artistic, psychological, and, if I may so express it, diplomatic. I was very well aware that such a statement would arouse the wrath of the sacristy, but I must frankly own to indifference on this point. I expressly stated that I was not appealing to certain minds. Nevertheless the sacristy has answered me. I fear that I am neither convinced by its arguments nor alarmed at its anger. It is not a little difficult to separate Mr. Taunton's arguments from his personalities in his article entitled The Pope and the Novelist, but I will endeavour to deal fairly by the former, both from his point of view and from my own; with the latter, as they are couched in terms which make it impossible for me to ignore them, I propose to deal later on in these pages.
Mr. Taunton observes that he and I differ fundamentally on the philosophy of sacred music, and I readily admit the fact. I confess that, in common with a vast number of my fellow creatures of all nations, I regard music, whether it be sacred or profane, from a broader and no doubt a more material standpoint than that of the expert or the religiously minded. If music be an art, like all art, it must surely be progressive. Mr. Taunton himself unconsciously supplies me with an argument to illustrate my contention that the Pope's action, however laudable theoretically, and however logical from the strictly scientific point of view, is an offence against art.
'From the days of Gregory I. (604), if not earlier,' says Mr. Taunton, 'the Popes have issued decrees on the subject and Councils have legislated.' If I am not mistaken, Benedict XIV. issued a decree even more drastic than the motu proprio of Pius X. in the hopes of
reforming' Church music. I would ask Mr. Taunton with whom lay the victory, with Popes and Councils, or with the mass of the people whose ideals had progressed since the year 604, and whose musical needs had developed with the centuries ?
In a word, artistic progress triumphed against the ecclesiastical love of retrogression, as it may confidently be expected to triumph again to-day.
It will, of course, be objected that corruption and decay, rather than artistic progress, was the result of ignoring the decrees of Popes and Councils to which Mr. Taunton alludes, and the low standard of Church music in Italy and Spain will be pointed to as an example. I submit—and here I must again observe that I am not appealing to the professionally religious or to the musical purist—that there may be something to be said from the psychological point of view even for the profane and theatrical music in Italian churches which so shocks Mr. Taunton, and which the Abbé Perosi (for Mr. Taunton is in error when he affirms that this insipid and unoriginal composer had no hand in the Pope's project) and Pius X. very rightly wish to reform.
Mr. Taunton waxes indignant at the very idea of defending such inartistic enormities as the rendering of a motif from the Traviata or similar profane music during a Mass, and he professes to believe that I defend such practices from an 'artistic' point of view! He has either not read my article attentively or, as I fear is more likely, in his anxiety to please those who had decided that I must be 'sat upon he has preferred to place a false construction on what he read. I commented upon the practice of adapting light opera music to the Mass purely from a psychological standpoint. Mr. Taunton, by the way, jumps at an unwarrantable conclusion when he argues that I heard Bizet's L'Arlésienne from a shilling front seat in a London sanctuary, and that I, therefore, could not have studied the faces of the congregation. When I attend a Roman Catholic church in England I sit as near as I can to the door, lest there should be a sermon.
To return to my argument it does not seem to strike Mr. Taunton and the Pope that human beings are not all cast in the clerical mould, and that temperaments differ in all classes, and among all people. Mr. Taunton, to quote his own words, is proud to take his stand as a musician by the side of the fearless Pius X., who recalls us to a better sense of true art, and I congratulate him on taking up so elevated a position. At the same time I am proud to stand by the side of any Italian peasant whose devotions are not interfered with by the fact that the organist is rattling out an operatic melody. Verdi's music probably appeals to the spiritual side of some natures quite as much as 'classic polyphony' does to those of Mr. Taunton and Pope Pius X. We do not all want to be recalled to the spiritual and mental conditions of the sixth century, nor even to those of the fifteenth century.
I feel that I must not insist too much upon this point, or my Roman Catholic critics will accuse me of upholding the performance of drinking songs during Mass.
Mr. Taunton makes the very surprising statement that music by itself is vague unless it has associations. If it be not too presumptuous to differ from a musical expert, I would reply that, as a humble lover of Beethoven, Schubert, Wagner, and many smaller masters, I have not found this to be the case. It can scarcely be necessary to inform Mr. Taunton that I am not a religious person ; it is, I suppose, merely my novelist's imagination that makes me prefer a movement from a Beethoven symphony as a spiritual and intellectual aid to all the plain song or classic polyphony ever chanted by priests.
I have already stated in my first article my reasons for believing the recent action of Pope Pius X. to be a triple blunder, and I need not, therefore, repeat them. Mr. Taunton has declared that I have misunderstood the Pope's instructions. I contend that I have not done so, and that if the obvious intentions of his Holiness are loyally carried out, music specially composed for the Church by great masters can never again be heard ; that a large quantity of music of minor artistic value which yet appeals to thousands of people of all classes is banished ; and that the complete exclusion of instrumental music except under very special and restricted conditions is to be deplored.
Mr. Taunton's arguments, as I have said, do not convince me, while his assertion that I have misunderstood the Pope's intentions is manifestly absurd. The Pope speaks too plainly to be misunderstood. We are, as I remarked in my previous article, confronted by another instance of the perpetual struggle on the part of the priesthood to force the world to move backward. Let Mr. Taunton honestly confess the truth. He must admit that, when all is said and done, there must always be those to whom the forms of music made obligatory by the Pope appeal, and those to whom they are a weariness to the spirit and a hindrance rather than an aid to devotion. The latter may not be, indeed, I am sure that they are not, ‘musicians' in the technical sense, which evidently alone commands Mr. Taunton's sympathies ; but they exist, and exist in very large numbers in every country. So large a body are they, indeed, that their opposition has stultified those former decrees of Popes and Councils to which Mr. Taunton alludes. In whatever other ways I may be misunderstood, I do not wish to be misunderstood on this point. I do not, as Mr. Taunton would infer, uphold from an artistic point of view the use of that theatrical music which the Pope rightly condemns. I merely observe that the Pope and his advisers have ignored the fact that all men are not clerics, and that few of us, save those who are clerics, wish to revert to the sixth century. However disagreeable it may be to Mr. Taunton and his supporters, the fact remains that thousands of Roman Catholics in this country and millions on the Continent and in America regret and deplore the Pope's action. Many that I have spoken to content themselves with shrugging their shoulders and declaring their intention of only attending Low Masses so soon as the Papal order is put into force. No doubt this attitude, were it not for diminished offertories, will be more pleasing to the English Roman Catholic clergy than a 'protest' which might appear to question their dearly loved ' authority.' · I now, with considerable reluctance, pass to the consideration of Mr. Taunton's personal attacks upon myself. I can assure him that I feel no resentment on account of them, for I am fully aware that in making them he is only the mouthpiece of his superiors, who have long been unwilling openly to attack me lest by so doing they should draw attention to my writings. I can but apologise to my readers for touching upon personal matters; but those who have read Mr. Taunton's article in the July number of this Review will, I think, recognise that the responsibility for their introduction does not rest with me.
Mr. Taunton prefaces his criticism of my previous article in this Review by examining what he calls my 'position. I am grateful to him for having done so, for he has afforded me an opportunity of stating publicly what it is of little use to state in private. He resents the fact that my previous paper bore the sub-title of ‘A Roman Catholic Protest.' He states that I have thrown myself 'heart and soul into the Quirinal party.' I pass over, as unnecessary to notice here, other remarks which appear to me to be irrelevant, and to have been written more with a view to please others than to damage me.
Mr. Taunton and his supporters must now forgive me if I examine my 'position' from another point of view, and I will do it as briefly as possible.
Some years ago, in 1899, I published an article in the Nuova Antologia entitled 'L'Inghilterra si farà cattolica ?' Although it touched upon no theological question, and was of a purely speculative nature, my statements regarding the inaccuracy and exaggeration in the returns periodically sent by Cardinal Vaughan to Rome as to the numbers and importance of the converts received into the Church, coupled with the fact that the article attracted considerable attention, gave great offence to the English Roman Catholic party. Since that occurrence, although I have studiously avoided attacking any dogma or article of faith, with a single exception, of the Church, I have been persistently accused of doing so. I have written from a political and a social standpoint only against the temporal pretensions of the Vatican and in favour of United Italy. The expressions put into the mouths of characters in my novels have been asserted to be my own views! An obviously inartistic and unfair way of judging a writer of fiction. Were any proof needed of the bitterness of the English Roman Catholic body as a whole towards any Roman Catholic differing from the Vatican politically, Mr. Taunton's remarks as to my 'position' would amply provide it.
It is true that I am a 'convert.' But in view of the fact that it has been repeatedly asserted by certain prominent English Roman Catholics that I only became a 'convert' four or five years ago in order to make 'copy' out of the Roman Church, I take this opportunity of observing that I joined that Church three-and-twenty years ago.
Many reasons have been assigned to explain why I, an English Roman Catholic, should, as Mr. Taunton expresses it, have thrown myself heart and soul into the Quirinal party and written against the temporal policy of the Vatican. I proposed for the hand of a daughter of a well-known 'black' house in Rome and was refused, and therefore wrote against the 'black' party out of pique. I may here observe that it has never been my misfortune to be refused by any Roman lady, 'black' or otherwise, or by her family; and also that, under somewhat exceptional circumstances not often enjoyed by a foreigner, I made a study of the political and social questions relating to Vaticanism for seven years before venturing to write about them. I was the tool of unscrupulous anti-clerical journalists ; I abused my religion in order to make money. These and many other equally fantastic and dishonourable reasons have been advanced and widely circulated, I regret to say, by English Vaticanists, who well know that they were unfounded, in the hopes of gradually discrediting my literary work with the public; and a well-known ‘converted' ecclesiastic has not been wanting to take an active and untiring part in disseminating them.
I am, as I have said before, grateful to Mr. Taunton for having been more courageous and more honourable in his methods than some of his supporters, and for having given me an opportunity of publicly explaining my 'position,' and of denying certain statements circulated with no other object than to damage my reputation as a writer. I hope he will understand that I respect an open attack, however bitterly it may be made. What I cannot respect is the system of dealing secret blows on the part of those who well knew my political views long before I put them into print, and who have until now been afraid to answer me in a straightforward manner.
In none of my writings have I ever attacked a dogma or article of faith of the Roman Church, with the single exception of the dogma of infallibility, which has been attacked by some of the greatest Catholic writers on the Continent, and which may be said to be at least as much a dogma of political as of religious import. My personal belief or disbelief in religious doctrines I have kept rigidly to myself as being altogether outside my sphere to discuss in print. In my Roman novels British convert fanaticism is, it is true, held up to ridicule and compared with the moderate and unaggressive attitude of the vast majority of Continental Catholics; but my English Roman Catholic critics are very well aware that I have not attacked any definite dogma, except the one to which I have already alluded. I imagine that they would have been better pleased with me had I done so.
Mr. Taunton and others resent my application of the term Roman Catholic to myself or to any protest penned by me. I would ask them on what grounds they do so.
If the authorities of the Roman Church disapprove of my attitude from a dogmatic point of view an obvious course is open to them. Until this course is adopted I am, I submit, at least officially a member of the Roman Church, and as such I have as good a right to qualify myself as a Roman Catholic as any other English convert, layman or ecclesiastic.