Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sinister Street re the Little Office

Sir Compton Mackenzie brought out his novel Sinister Street in 1913-14, being an account of the boyhood and  youth of a young man, Michael Fane, in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods - it's a good read.  (The author, by the way, became a Catholic in 1914.)  Here, in the chapter entitled "Incense", Michael discovers religion, of the Anglo-Catholic variety, and at the moment is visiting his friend Bernard Prout: 
'Shall we say Vespers?' suggested Mr Prout. 'You know - the Small Office of the Blessed Virgin.  It won't take long.  We can say Compline, too, if you like.'
'Just as you like,' said Michael.
Michael was handed a thin sky-blue book labelled Office of the B.V.M.
'Latin or English?' queried Mr Prout.
'Whichever you like,' said Michael.
'Well, Latin, if you don't mind.  I'm anxious to learn Latin, and I find this is good practice.'
'It doesn't look very good Latin,' said Michael doubtfully.
'Doesn't it?' said Mr Prout.  'It ought to.  It's the right version.'
'I expect this is Hellenistic - I mean Romanistic - Latin,' said Michael, who was proud of his momentary superiority in knowledge.  'Greek Test* is Hellenistic Greek.'
'Do you know Greek?' asked Mr Prout.
'A little.'
Mr Prout sighed.
[* In those days, schoolboys at public (that is, private) schools studied Latin and Greek, including the New Testament in the original.  O tempora, O mores!]

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