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Papers of James Smith
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Letters to James Smith

These items comprise letters to Smith from various correspondents and one letter to another person which was forwarded to him (1/31).

Testimonial for James Smith by Basil Willey

Pembroke College, Cambridge.—Supports Smith’s candidature for the chair of English at Fribourg. Though he does not know him personally, his published work testifies to his wide knowledge of literature, his keen critical intelligence, and his linguistic powers. Refers to his own links with another Swiss university and his interest in promoting intellectual discourse between the two countries.

Letter from Marius Bewley to James Smith

[St Paul Seminary, St Paul, Minnesota.]—Is sorry he was unable to see Smith in New York, and apologises for appearing pessimistic about England. Today was the first registration for conscription, but he will not be able to declare himself as a conscientious objector till later, if at all. Is reading Stratmann’s 'The Church and War' and is trying to get hold of Gerald Vann’s book ['Morality and War']. Will send him the 'Catholic Worker'. Is expecting things to go well at the seminary, but a homecoming of old priests and a visit by the editor of the 'Irish Literary Review', ‘the worst sort of Bloomsbury man’, provoked personal crises. Recommends Berdyaev’s 'The Bourgeois Mind'. Is cheered by the contempt with which the other seminarians treat the compulsory course in education. Leavis’s article in September’s 'Scrutiny' shows that he is becoming increasingly discontent with his position of ‘standardless “strenuous centrality”’. Is praying for Leavis and for [F. W.] Bradbrook. Admits the justice of Queenie [Leavis]’s remarks on the ‘Catholic covert apologist’, as treated by Orwell, and refers to the cliquishness of the ‘Martindale–Ronald Knox group’. Asks for prayers in support of his desire to become a priest, and encourages Smith to consider the same step. Wilfrid is married and Dennis is consoling himself with gardening. Bewley now finds 'Scrutiny' even more justified than he did at Downing, but he would not want the ‘longingness’ with which he looks back to be fulfilled. Smith’s advice has helped him in his struggles with his attitude towards the Church. Is considering going into a third order with the Dominicans. Reiterates the archbishop’s plans for him [see 1/8]. Asks how long Smith will be in Venezuela, and suggests he consider joining the priesthood in America.

Letter from Hilary Steuert to James Smith

Downside Abbey, Stratton-on-the-Fosse, near Bath.—Thanks him for his article on The Merchant of Venice. Is sorry that the British Council have disappointed him. Suggests that he might get supervision work in Cambridge. Is excited that [Godfrey] Lienhardt is interested in the Church. Term is nearly over. Urges Smith to finish his article on Twelfth Night. Was interested by C. S. Lewis’s British Academy lecture on Hamlet and enjoyed the revised preface to his Pilgrim’s Regress. Recommends Does God Exist? by A. L. Taylor.

Letter from Hilary Steuert to James Smith

Downside Abbey, Stratton-on-the-Fosse, near Bath.—Asks him to borrow two articles by [Morris W.] Croll from the [Cambridge] University Library. Encloses particulars of a vacancy. Has just met Passarin d’Entrèves, the new Professor of Italian Studies at Oxford. There seem to be a number of Catholic dons there concerned with that subject now. Asks who got the chair at Cambridge.

Letter from Hilary Steuert to James Smith

Downside Abbey, Stratton-on-the-Fosse, near Bath.—Expresses sympathy at the way he has been treated. Is glad he is in touch with Father Bonnar. Invites him to visit when he is free from examining. Defends aspects of [C. S.] Lewis’s Hamlet paper. Dom Sebastian [Moore?], who is reviewing Preston’s book [on the Four Quartets] for the [Downside] Review, remains convinced of Eliot’s greatness and would like to discuss him with Smith. Hay, he finds, is an amateur historian, ‘but generally considered sound by responsible Catholics’. Recommends, for the other side of the secular priests’ case, Leo Hicks’ review of Hughes’s book in The Month. Cannot find the ‘Persons-Raleigh’ reference, but can ask Hicks if it is urgent.

Letter from Hilary Steuert to James Smith

Downside Abbey, Stratton-on-the-Fosse, near Bath.—Asks him to regard the invitation to Downside as a standing one, except for their two annual closed seasons. Sends two offprints of his own for comments. The Allegory of Love does not bring out C. S. Lewis’s best work, but he admires That Hideous Strength and Lewis’s popular theology lectures. Invites him to address the Literary Society again, perhaps on the 1300–1640 period which Smith is presently supervising. Asks if his friend Anthony Birrell might call on him. ‘He was at school here, got an exhibition in English at Downing & is now returning for a third year after the war.’

Letter from Hilary Steuert to James Smith

Downside Abbey, Stratton-on-the-Fosse, near Bath.—Is touched by Smith’s frankness and by his sufferings. Suggests he would be strengthened by a visit to Downside. Dom Christopher Butler has been elected abbot. Hopes that Smith will put a paper together on Chaucer for the Literary Society. Is attracted by C. S. Lewis’s popular theology, but mistrusts him when he goes outside natural theology. Many of the writers he used to reject as worthless when he was a ‘rigid Leavisian’ he has since found helpful. Discusses the appeal of remarks by Lewis on The Merchant of Venice. Is disgusted by the ‘Eliot review’ [a review of Preston’s 'Four Quartets’ Rehearsed] in Scrutiny. Thanks him for his comments on the offprints. Sheed and Ward have agreed to publish an anthology of recusant prose, if he produces one. Asks for advice on the scheme of the book. Is sorry to hear that Parker is ill. Has not yet read Parker’s book. Thanks him for offering to call on Birrell.

Letter from Hilary Steuert to James Smith

Downside Abbey, Stratton-on-the-Fosse, near Bath.—Sends Christmas greetings. Asks whether the pupils came, and invites him to come and stay. Has sent Leavis a copy of the French Catholic journal La Vie intellectuelle, containing a discussion of Scrutiny. Hopes to return to his work on the recusants when term ends. Encourages Smith to write something on Chaucer, and praises J. C. Maxwell’s survey of the criticism of Measure for Measure in the Downside Review.

Letter from Hilary Steuert to James Smith

Downside Abbey, Stratton-on-the-Fosse, near Bath.—Hopes that Smith gets the Fribourg chair. Has had a bad cold, which has affected his sinuses and jaw. Is delighted that [Godfrey] Lienhardt is under instruction. Asks whether the other young man, who has written some impressive letters to Dom Sebastian, is called Ernst. ‘Downing must fairly swarm with Papists now. I wish that meant that Leavis was nearer the Church.’ Refers to Leavis’s reception of the article in La Vie intellectuelle and to Smith’s own evaluation of it. Has arranged for Smith to receive the [Downing] Review. Discusses J. C. Maxwell’s career and character. Dom Illtyd is thinking of sending Maxwell’s article to Leavis. ‘I hope the result won’t be a violent outburst from Queenie on the ineptitude of “Christian Discriminators”!’. Suggests Smith should contribute something on the ‘misdirection of research in medieval things’ he mentioned in his letter. Has found a number of Latin tags used by Skelton in Dom Aelred [Watkin]’s 1537 Sarum Prymer. Appreciates his remarks on the recusants. Invites him to stay.

Letter from Hilary Steuert to James Smith

Downside Abbey, Stratton-on-the-Fosse, near Bath.—Has recovered from his sinus trouble. Asks Smith’s opinion of the [Downing] Review and discusses some of the contents. Reiterates his approval of Maxwell’s article, with its ‘daring strictures’ on Leavis’s style. Urges Smith to contribute something. Leavis has written thanking him for La Vie intellectuelle and criticising the eclecticism of the Criterion. Agrees that Leavis is no nearer the Church. Is sorry Smith was disappointed by the ‘Gilbey lectures’ [probably lectures by Thomas Gilby], but maintains that there are some genuinely learned English Dominicans, including his friend Kenelm Foster. As the personnel of St Michael’s have changed, except for Gerard Meath, he supposes the lectures will not continue. Agrees that the ‘aridly polemical tone’ of English sixteenth-century controversial literature compares poorly with the breadth of devotional and theological life of the Cloud of Unknowing. Asks whether he should start compiling a prose anthology of the recusants or continue working towards a book by writing occasional articles.

Letter from Hilary Steuert to James Smith

Downside Abbey, Stratton-on-the-Fosse, near Bath.—Hopes he is enjoying a rest after last term. Eliot’s British Academy lecture apparently contained ‘some startling recantations … which will flutter the Scrutiny dove-cotes’. Recommends O. J. Campbell’s Comicall Satyre and Shakespeare’s ‘Troilus and Cressida’. Moreno is going to lecture in Spain this summer. He was in great form when he visited Downside in January. Has started to collect material for his recusant anthology. Asks for news of ‘the Fribourg affair’.

Letter from Marius Bewley to James Smith

St Paul Seminary, 2200 Grand Avenue, St Paul, Minnesota.—Smith’s disgust at the failings of the Church and his own wretchedness since leaving England might both, he suggests, be relieved ‘by drawing apart from the surface of things’ in the manner described by St John of the Cross. Recommends he avoid talking to priests, especially while he is among Catholics whose faith is mainly animism. Refers to the bombing of London, and quotes in consolation St Jerome’s reflections on the sack of Rome. His coming to the seminary has saved him from ‘gibbering imbecility’. Encourages Smith to distract himself with literature.

Letter from J. H. Whitfield to James Smith

110 Banbury Road, Oxford.—Hopes that Smith will be able to come to Oxford, though he himself finds it incongenial; there is little opportunity for walks and he and Joan find North Oxford society ‘sham’. Describes disparagingly a visit by Mrs Moore and [J. K.] Bostock’s conversation at a party given by Mrs Foligno. Has been reading Manzoni and Croce and intends to write something on the autobiographical element in Boccaccio’s Teseide.

Letter from J. H. Whitfield to James Smith

110 Banbury Road, Oxford.—Sympathises with his comments on the 'inhumanity' of the [English Faculty] Board [at Cambridge]. He (Whitfield) is not yet a person of much weight at Oxford, and even Foligno was unable to persuade the Press to reprint Fanshawe’s translation of the Pastor Fido. Asks for help with a translation of Colonna’s Hypnerotomachia Poliphili he is making for a timber-merchant of Tipton [Mr Round; see 1/115]. Will post the material for him to look at. Offers him and his aunt the use of their flat at Easter.

Letter from J. H. Whitfield to James Smith

110 Banbury Road, Oxford.—Discusses the section of his translation of the «Hypnerotomachia» which he sent to Smith. Wishes he had told him of the job at the British Institute in Florence which Bottrall got. Is glad that Leavis is being helpful; ‘there is much to be said for the Cambridge throw’. Asks whether Smith has thought of writing for the Daily Worker or Reynold’s News. He now has to turn his mind to religious poetry [in preparation for next term’s lectures], in order to have time to go to Parma and Florence to research Enea Vico.

Letter from J. H. Whitfield to James Smith

110 Banbury Road, Oxford.—Sends further sheets [of his translation] and a section on vocabulary. Has occasionally cited Popelin’s French translation but it is unreliable. He wishes that Colonna’s style were as simple as the engravings in the original edition. Asks to have the translation-sheets back this week. Refers to the point he made about Boccaccio in the Modern Language Review and wonders whether his article on Fanshawe will take just as long to be published.

Letter from J. H. Whitfield to James Smith

110 Banbury Road, Oxford.—Asks whether the vocabulary-sheets arrived safely and responds to his comments on the translation. ‘As for the Ciceronians, I feel like translating Jovius’ whole folio for a change from Colonna.’ Gives the address of the editor of English, because when Smith is ready to publish on Wordsworth, say, it may be useful to have access to a journal that pays in cash rather than in offprints like the Modern Language Review.

Letter from J. H. Whitfield to James Smith

110 Banbury Road, Oxford.—Sends a cheque for Smith's work on the translation and transcription [of the Hypnerotomachia], which he hopes to post to Round on Monday. Discusses two points of detail in the text.

Letter from J. H. Whitfield to James Smith

110 Banbury Road, Oxford.—Is concerned that the cheque [for Smith’s work on the Hypnerotomachia] may have been inadequate. Discusses some points of vocabulary. Is glad Smith has found a house in Cambridge. Must work hard at his lectures on religious poetry in order to be able to go to Italy at the end of the week. Does not expect that any of his work [on the Hypnerotomachia] will be printed except perhaps an essay on the vocabulary; OUP have refused and the initial response from Methuens was not encouraging. Is sickened by the international situation; his real motive for suggesting the Daily Worker and Reynold’s [see 1/112] was that he hoped that Smith might be able to use his pen ‘in the interests of truth’. ‘I find the dishonesty of the Times appalling.’

Letter from J. H. Whitfield to James Smith

110 Banbury Road, Oxford.—Has been settling down to the new term since returning from Italy. At Florence he met Bottrall, whose appointment to the British Institute is apparently part of a plot to get rid of Goad. ‘They are building the façade of grandeur in Italy (see the press accounts of Hitler’s visit), but there’s not much but aeroplanes behind it.’ Parma shows signs of poverty, while Florence relies on the sale of bric-à-brac. Many in the Basilicata are said to have returned from Abyssinia with admiration for the valour of the blacks, and many others from the same parts are [fighting] in Spain. Sends a snap of Rodo [his son]. Plans to come to Cambridge when terms ends to look for Enea Vico prints in the Fitzwilliam.

Letter from J. H. Whitfield to James Smith

110 Banbury Road, Oxford.—Is glad that things are going well, if slowly, at Cambridge. Will come over after the end of term. When he was there last year Vincent [not identified] showed him the new [university] library and he briefly met Leavis. Discusses paintings he saw in Italy, by Correggio and others. Criticises The Times’s interpretation of recent by-election results.

Letter from Marius Bewley to James Smith

[Excelsior Springs, Missouri.]—Is at home on vacation. Matters at the seminary have deteriorated since he last wrote, and he has been struggling to distinguish the ‘Church as it is’ from the ‘vulgarity of its action at the practical level’. Is determined to remain there till the end of the year (May), but hopes to find an alternative in the mean time. However, America seems an even more impossible place to live than England, not only illiterate but arrogant, and despite its failings the seminary is a refuge. The alternative may be to teach English in China, Japan, Egypt, or India, as others from Cambridge have. Has heard that Leavis insulted Wilson Knight at a meeting of the Doughty Society. Edward Morley sends greetings.

Letter from J. H. Whitfield to James Smith

110 Banbury Road, Oxford.—The enclosed letter from Deighton Bell may explain why Smith has not received a copy of Scrutiny. Thanks him for his notes on [Enea] Vico, and refers to Vico’s Vetustissima Tabula. Is thinking of coming over towards the end of the vacation. Is sick of reading books he hasn’t read before, like De Nolhac’s Pétrarque et l'Humanisme. Cites a quotation to encourage Smith in his gardening.

Letter from J. H. Whitfield to James Smith

110 Banbury Road, Oxford.—His reading of Cicero’s Tusculanarum Quaestiones prompted him to write the enclosed parallel. Asks Smith to help him publish it in a newspaper anonymously. If he submitted it himself he thinks it would be probably be lost or rejected, like his recent letter to The Times about the demolition of buildings in Beaumont Street [Oxford].

Letter from J. H. Whitfield to James Smith

110 Banbury Road, Oxford.—Thanks him for the steps he has taken in connection his article [on Fanshawe?] and acknowledges his criticisms. It may be as well that it was rejected by Scrutiny, since Foligno might have disapproved of its ferocity. Refers to Fanshawe’s sonnets [his translations of sonnets by Camões] and some references he needs to look up. Discusses a point in the Inferno. Has discovered a Dürer drawing while researching Le Pautre in the Bodleian, and his article on it is to be printed in Old Master Drawings.

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