CITEAUX AND HER ELDER DAUGHTER, by Archdale King (Burns and Oates, 30s.)
'TEAL::: and her Elder Daughters" is a sub stantial and scholarly work ; a supremely interesting and highly commendable Cistercian story. It is a Cistercian story, for here is no attempt to trace the whole history of the vast Cistercian Order; the author clearly defines the limits of his history, and within those limits he succeeds admirably.
This account of the great Benedictine Reform, for that is what Citeaux became in effect. comes at a time when interest in the Cistercians is becoming ever more widespread. The popularity of the writings of Thomas Merton; the eighth centenary of the death of St Bernard, which occurred in 1953. brought special celebrations in many countries. and here in Britain was marked by the publication of Fr. Bruno Scott James's "Letters of St. Bernard of Clairvaux." All this means that there is call for some kind of continuous history of' Citeaux.
The story of the beginnings of Citeaux and the life and times of St. Bernard has been written and rewritten; so too has the story ot the order in different countries at different periods; hut there seems to have been little. or no, attempt to continue the story down the centuries. This is the large task which Mr. Archdale King sets himself.
"The aim of this book,"' he says, "is to trace the fortunes of Citeaux, as well as those of her elder daughters: La Ferte, Pontigny, Clairvaux and Morimond. This is done by treating the history of each house by way of short accounts of the particular happenings under each Abbot.
It is obviously open to objection that such a method fails to note txamples of similar forces at work in different places, and there may indeed he other drawbacks to such a scheme, hut the idea is to give a short history of the five premier Cistercian houses rather than delineate the work of the Order through centuries" SO the hook tells the story of the five houses from their foundation to their suppression. Of the five, only the mother house. Citeaux, has been restored to the Order; St. Bernard's own abbey is a state prison for political offenders. Pontigny a house of the Fathers of St. Edmund. while La Eerie and Morinsrmd have all but disapeared.
The author quotes Pope Leo XIII on the laws to be observed in the writing of history and recognises that it is not enough only "not to tell a lie" but he must not "fear to tell the truth." Even when St. Bernard's fame was at its height there were historians who could speak of "tares among the wheat": but these would not necessarily involve the "serious misdemeatsours" which the author admits occurred from time to time.
So it would have been better perhaps if the occasional lapse had been noted under the history of the Abbot or an indication offered of how, and when, the "mediocrity" appeared.
On the other hand I suppose it is an error in the other direction that the finding of the Commission for the reformation of orders, set up under Cardinal de la Rochfoucauld in the reign of Louis XIII, that the Cistercians should be suppressed as "incorrigible and hardened in evil doings" should have been left without the softening comment it obviously demands in the context.
But this said, this book remains a stimulating. interesting, scholarly work which should prove an excellent reference book for partial historians of the Order. l'here is a first class bibliography, a full and adequate index, and the text is illustrated with some eight excellent plates. MATT TALBOT AND HIS TIMES, by Mary Purcell, (M. H. Gill and Son, 12s. 6d.)
THIS is not just another life of the pious Dublin dockworker. the Servant of God, Matthew I alhot. It is "the first attempt to set out in due sequence the ascertained facts of hts life. The evidence of the Ordinary and the Apostolic Process has been made available to the author Mary Purcell. and according to the Archbishop of Dublin she has "given a vivid and faithful picture of the Servant of God."
She also discharges very adequately the promise of the rest of her title for the life, and gives a full account of the social and political troubles and struggles which the span of Matt Talbot's life covered. And they were considerable. for he was horn in the Dublin of 1856. and died in a Dublin Street in 1925.
VICTORIAN PEOPLE, by Ass Briggs (Odhams Press, I85.) 'T'HIS book the author himself subtitles -Reassessments of People, Institutions, Ideas and Events, 1851-1867." In this comparatively narrow section of the Victorian span . there is much of interest in the way of personalities, ideas. and institutions. and Asa Briggs writes of them with interest and conviction Certainly the habit of deriding anything Victorian, because it is Victorian snan, there is much of there is still much we can usefully learn and imitate from this period: and this author goes sonic way to helping us do it.