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Looking for a biography of Adrian Fortescue, then 'turn again Dix',
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This review is from: Latin Clerk: The Life, Work and Travels of Adrian Fortescue (Paperback)
Anyone (such as myself) looking for a biography of Fortescue should stop right here - this is not that book! Whereas it has been advertised as a biography, it contains only the slightest of biographical sketches, rather it is an extended essay on Fortescue's extensive work and travels and a miscellenary of his thinking/ writing on various issues.
With regards to the brief biographical sketch, it is a shame that Nichols does not make more of the life of Fortescue; whereas he provides a short ancestry for Fortescue, he tells us nothing of his early life, other than a few short observations, similarly with his time in seminary and early curacies is skipped over in a few pages. This is a real shame as Fortescue (alongside Percy Dearmer) who, despite being a Roman Catholic, was an eminent liturgist who has done much to inform by Roman and Anglo-Catholic liturgy, e.g. at such shrines as All Saints, Margaret Street in London, a Church whose Church life has been described as: "music by Mozart, choreography by Fortescue, decor by Comper, but libretto by Cranmer".
Interestingly Fortescue's best known work `Liturgies of the Roman Rite Described' is coming back into vogue given Pope Benedict's relaxing of the rules governing the use of the "Extraordinary" Form, the Mass Rite used prior to the introduction of Novus Ordo or New Order of the Mass in the 1960s, which itself has been revised and updated in the Roman Missal promulgated in Advent 2011.
[Edited to add: What is perhaps most surprising and interesting about Fortescue is that he had no time for ceremonial precisionism; despite the fact that he has become the Patron Saint of such people - his `Liturgies of the Roman Rite Described' has become a Bible for those (whether Priests of Servers at the Mass) who like their Mass to be done `just so'. He understood that the Mass should be beautiful and done well (he had experienced far too many badly done Masses according to Nichols), however, he understood that the focus of the Mass was the Eucharistic action, not whether the third MC was wearing an appropriately coloured cincture.]
This is a real shame as there is, at present, there is no modern biography of Fortescue in print (just as there been no great biographical work done on the other great English liturgists of the era: Percy Dearmer or Dom Gregory Dix). My hope had been that Nichols' book would fill this gap, sadly I was disappointed on that front. It is, however, no less interesting and Fortescue's learning (alongside that of Nichols') shines through in this book.
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