Posted on 9 July 2020
The first of these men, John Neville Figgis, was a political theorist and theologian who entered the Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield in 1907. While joining the Community provided him with a monastic environment of contemplation, Figgis continued to lecture on political theory at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge; this life was described by a biographer as a ‘regular pendulum motion between Mirfield fasts and Cambridge feasts’.
Figgis’s lectures and papers cover a surprising range of subjects, including medieval theologians, contemporary philosophers such as Bergson and Nietsche, and authors such as A E Housman, G K Chesterton and J M Synge. He was a student of the historian Lord Acton, who is today remembered for his remark, ‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. (Figgis edited the posthumous collection of Acton’s in which this quote first appeared.) His correspondence includes exchanges with both Lord and Lady Acton, as well as other eminent historians from the turn of the century. However, not all of Figgis’s unpublished writings ended up in the Community of the Resurrection’s archive. A manuscript on the French theologian Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, that Figgis had worked on late in his life, was lost in January 1918 when his ship to the USA was torpedoed off the coast of county Antrim. Figgis never recovered from the trauma of shipwreck, and died one year later.
This week’s second addition is the papers of Edward Keble Talbot. Talbot was born in 1877 at Keble College, Oxford, where his father Edward Stuart Talbot was the first Warden. Keble College had been built as a monument to John Keble, a leader of the 19th-century Catholic revival in the Church of England known as the Oxford Movement, out of which the Community of the Resurrection developed. Edward Keble Talbot’s mother Lavinia was a promoter of women’s education and of the prime movers in the founding of Lady Margaret Hall, one of the first two women’s colleges in Oxford. Given his middle name and background, it seems fitting that Talbot spent most of his life at the Community of the Resurrection, acting as its superior from 1922 to 1940.
Edward Keble Talbot’s correspondence offers insight into an influential Anglican family in the first half of the 20th century. It contains letters to his parents written while Talbot was serving as an army chaplain during World War I; to his brother Neville Stuart Talbot, who served as Bishop of Pretoria in South Africa; to his sister Mary Catherine, who was married to Lionel Ford, a headmaster of Harrow and Dean of York; and to Amy Buller, the founder of the Christian educational charity Cumberland Lodge. In addition, the archive preserves sermons and papers from retreats run by the Community of the Resurrection all the way up to his death in 1949.
Finally, we have the papers of Lionel Spencer Thornton. Thornton joined the Community in 1913, and worked for 30 years as lecturer in theology at the College of the Resurrection. Thornton was an influential theologian in his time, and his papers include his sermons, manuscripts of his essays and books, and even an invitation to dine with the Archbishop of Canterbury Cosmo Gordon Lang.