Elgar, Newman and "The Dream of Gerontius": In the Tradition of English Catholicism

Article excerpt

Elgar, Newman and "The Dream of Gerontius":' In the Tradition of English Catholicism. By Percy M. Young. (Brookfield, Vermont: Scolar Press, Ashgate Publishing Co. 1995. Pp. xiii,162. $54.95.) History was made on November 30,1995, when Queen Elizabeth II became the first British monarch in modern times to attend in the realm a Roman Catholic religious service, Vespers, in this case, to mark the centenary of the founding of Westminster Cathedral. Her presence, in the words of Cardinal Basil Hume, was "an affirmation of the place that we Catholics have in the nation."

It was not always so, of course, given the centuries of anti-Catholic discrimination. That discrimination, and its impact upon church music, the author, a well-known critic, composer, musicologist, and honorary fellow at the University of Birmingham, sketches in the first part of this meticulously wrought slender volume.

Lovers of John Henry Newman (1801-1890) and Edward William Elgar (1857-1934) will find the second part of this book especially engaging, as Dr. Young traces the genesis of Newman's beautiful poem from a youthful desire to "make a poem on Faith.... To end with a faint imagination of the soul just freed from the bonds of the mortal body" to its enfleshment, wondrously in a single night in January, 1865, as The Dream of Gerontius. …


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