Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Letters of Baron Friedrich Von Hügel and Maude D. Petre: The Modernist Movement in England

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Letters of Baron Friedrich Von Hügel and Maude D. Petre: The Modernist Movement in England

Article excerpt

The Letters of Baron Friedrich von Hügel and Maude D. Petre: The Modernist Movement in England. Edited with Introduction by James J. Kelly. [Annua Nuntia Lovaniensia, Vol. XLIV.] Leuven: Peelers. 2003. Pp. xxxiii, 196. Paperback.)

For roughly half a century serious scholars pursuing the truth about the Roman Catholic Modernist crisis or about the life and thought of Baron Friedrich von Hügel have had access to von Hügel's manuscript letters to Maude Dominica Petre and the one complete remaining letter of Petre to von Hügel, first in the British Museum and now in the new British Library. These letters are a priceless source for following the development of von Hugel's ideas on mysticism, for understanding his sense of what the Modernist movement was all about and what his role in it really was, and for just gaining a sense of the man himself. Consequently, to have a critical edition of these letters in print, and thus readily accessible, should be a boon both to scholars and to educated individuals interested in religious history.

Unfortunately, James Kelly's edition of these letters is not such a critical work, and it will be a disappointment to scholars and intelligent readers alike. For scholars a definitive establishment of the actual text is crucial and the absolute first requirement for a printed edition of manuscript material. Anyone who knows von Hugel's handwriting knows how difficult it can be at times to transcribe accurately. But such accurate transcription is the sine qua non for printed critical texts. In Kelly's text over and over one finds proper names from the letters mangled: Vistue for Bishop Virtue, Laotze for Professor Lotze, Newham for Newnham College, Magle for Sydney Mayle, Hilton for the Pembroke estate at Wilton, and so on and on. If the editor really understood the given letter's context, if he were widely read in von Hügeliana and relevant related materials, these mistakes could not have occurred. Moreover, in several places the editor leaves a blank where he claims a word in a letter is illegible. Others, however, using the same manuscripts have been able to read the supposedly illegible word, as for instance nimbleness on page 18. And other words are just mistakenly transcribed, as for instance on page 137 help becomes keep, and on page 157 telling becomes taking.

The unsatisfactoriness of this printed edition of the letters for the intelligent reader who is not a scholar is simply overwhelming. …

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