Letters & Emails

Comments of the week

Letters should include a genuine postal or email address, phone number and the style or title of the writer. Email: [email protected]

Due to space constraints, please keep correspondence below 250 words, longer letters may be published online

Sassoon decried the war, not its conduct

SIR – May I correct a detail in Simon Caldwell’s moving account of Siegfried Sassoon’s conversion and subsequent work (Feature, March 30)?

Sassoon’s “Soldier’s Declaration”, read out in Parliament and published in the Times in July 1917, was not “an unflinching statement of protest against the conduct and the objectives of the war”, but of the objectives only. In the declaration he stated that “this war, upon which I entered as a war of defence and liberation, has now become a war of aggression and conquest”, adding, “I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed.”

Indeed, in the draft version in his journal he specifies “military conduct”.

There is no doubt that Sassoon thought little of the military conduct of the war too, as he makes clear in one of his most famous of poems, “The General”, which Caldwell quotes. To have taken aim at the military as well as the political leadership, however, would not only have been supremely perilous but diluting of his central charge.

Allan Mallinson
Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire

SIR – The case of “Jack and Jill”, on first reading, seems exactly the kind for which Jack Sullivan (Letter, March 23) says canon law makes provision: “danger of death”. However, Fr Eccles’s question concerned not Communion for the dying Jack, who was Catholic, but Jill, his Anglican wife.

Although she pleaded for it, my Anglican mother was refused Communion at my wedding by the late Canon O’Brien, who was responsible for the sound formation of many Catholics here in Bristol. Whether this caused her “serious spiritual distress’’ I’m not sure, but I’m always grateful to the canon for his firmness in counselling me against taking communion in other churches. “Intercommunion” is akin to cohabitation in lieu of Christian marriage – it presumes a unity which doesn’t truly exist.

Pauline Harvey (Mrs)
Bristol, Somerset


Forgotten queen

SIR – Steve de la Bédoyère (Letter, March 30) writes that “England’s other forgotten Queen”, Mary of Modena, provided James II with a Catholic heir. Deposed by William of Orange in 1688, James II would live in exile. His son and heir was recognised by the Vatican, France and Spain as James III of England and VIII of Scotland when, in 1719, he married the Polish Maria Clementyna Sobieska, granddaughter of King Jan Sobieski. She is truly England’s forgotten Catholic Queen.

On her death in 1735 Clementyna was interred in St Peter’s Basilica with full royal honours. The monument to her memory commissioned by Pope Benedict XIV and sculpted by Pietro Bracci bears the inscription that she was the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland.

Nearby in St Peter’s lie James III/VIII and their sons, the Young Pretender Bonnie Prince Charlie, acknowledged by Jacobites as Charles III, and his surviving brother, Henry, Duke of York, who died a cardinal in 1807.

Michael Olizar
London SW15


Latin niceties

SIR – Joseph Shaw’s article (Comment, April 6) was long overdue. I have met some of our own bishops here in Britain and when I’ve mentioned the Old Rite they’ve said: “Sorry, we don’t do Latin.”

This made me cringe. I was a classics teacher for nearly 35 years and was a head of department. I often crossed swords with some of my younger colleagues when it came to teaching Latin to young boys. I started learning Latin at the age of nine and the first two years consisted solely of translating English into Latin, and so we were thoroughly familiar with the niceties of Latin grammar. Modern textbooks have more or less dispensed with this, alas.

Educating modern clergy in Latin would mean turning back the clock and reintroducing Latin prose composition. After all, many pupils derive more of their knowledge of Latin syntax from a book on composition than from a formal grammar. So go back to good old Bradley’s Arnold Latin Prose Composition which I had to plough through at university. Sed alii aliter sentiunt.

John Harmsen (Dr)
London SW16


Spain’s shroud

SIR – Thank you for publishing the very informative letter (April 6) from Kevin Heneghan about the Holy Shroud of Turin. Perhaps your readers might be interested in a closely related but much less well-known possible relic of Jesus’s burial, namely the Oviedo Cloth.

The marks on this cloth (which is thought to have been wrapped around Jesus’s head) and the Shroud are consistent with each other. Moreover, the cloth has been in its current home in Oviedo, northern Spain, since the 11th century, so that is an additional reason to doubt the veracity of the claims that the Shroud dates from the 14th century.

The cloth can be viewed in Oviedo Cathedral, though sadly one can’t get very close to it.

Paul Hickman
Condover, Shropshire


Not so fast

SIR – I appreciate very much Eugene O’Neale’s learning (Letter, April 6); but the history of the word cited (“collation”) is from a quote by Brillat-Savarin, not me; in any case, he in turn was saying that the word “comes from” the cloister, not that it is derived therefrom. In other words, the culinary philosopher is speaking of its historical origin, not its etymology, about which Mr O’Neale is of course quite correct.

Charles Coulombe
Los Angeles, United States