Saturday, 11 February 2012

Our Summer School - 7th to 21st August

Why not join us and students of Thomas More College this summer in a two-week course, based in Oxford and the West country, on the question of Catholic identity and the vocation of the Catholic writer? We also touch on the deeper question of what it means to be human, how a vision of humanity was imperilled by the English Reformation which helped to create the modern world, and how the Literary Revival (from Newman to Tolkien) tried to recover and reclaim it.

The summer school will begin at Downside Abbey, a Benedictine community deep in the heart of the beautiful Somerset countryside, a few hours from Heathrow Airport. There we will immerse ourselves in the history of Christian England, specifically through Benedictine eyes, with a lecture and tour from the Abbot, Dom Aidan Bellenger (author of Medieval Worlds and Medieval Religion). We will then examine the experience of the Reformation and the dissolution of the Abbeys, both historically and through the eyes of writers of the time, notably Shakespeare. Our tutor here will be Lady Clare Asquith, Countess of Oxford and author of Shadowplay, a book which traces the recusant experience through the poems and plays of our greatest national writer. We are also privileged to be allowed to make a private visit to nearby Mells Manor, the Asquith family home, which has associations both with Glastonbury Abbey (whose ruins we will also visit) and with a number of important Catholic figures such as Evelyn Waugh and Monsignor Ronald Knox (the latter worked on his translation of the Bible here). Knox and the convert-poet Siegfried Sassoon are both buried at Mells. We will also be visiting at least one recusant house in the area.

After a week at Downside, where we will have the opportunity to participate in daily Mass and the Divine Office, we will proceed to Oxford, where we will stay at St Benet’s, a Private Hall of the University and also a Benedictine house. There we will learn about the pivotal role of Oxford in the history of British Christianity, from its time as a recusant centre to the revival of Catholic culture in the 19th century with the Oxford Movement, Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman and 20th century writers such as Chesterton, Greene, and Waugh. We will also look at the influence of the Inklings, particularly C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, and visit sites associated with them as well as with Newman. Finally we will visit the capital, paying our respects near the remains of St Thomas More in the Tower of London and visiting Westminster Abbey and the newly reconstructed Globe Theatre, where Shakespeare’s plays were once performed.

Further details and registration forms on request from Teresa Caldecott ( For prices and schedule, continue reading.

A Question of Humanity
From Reformation to Catholic Literary Revival

Details are subject to alteration; please check final version. Prices are as follows: full course residential £1,750 (or students £1,400). Non-residential rate: £80 per day, £50 for half a day. The residential rates include three meals a day at Downside, but only breakfast and lunch at St Benet’s Hall, as well as all accommodation. Fees cover tuition and excursions (except London, which involves extra costs). Good spoken English a requirement. Deposit: £300 by 8 April, balance by 1 June 2012.

Tues. 7th August: Arrival at Downside Abbey, near Bath
Tour of the Abbey Church with Dom Aidan Bellenger, Abbot, and the monastic Library with Dr Simon P. Johnson.

Wed 8th: A War on Contemplation: Iconoclasm and Dissolution
Dom Aidan Bellenger (author of Medieval Worlds and Medieval Religion)

Thursday 9th: The Age of Elizabeth through Shakespeare’s Eyes
Lady Oxford, the Countess of Oxford and Asquith (author of Shadowplay)
10.00  Introductions. 
10.20  The Reformation takeover. Edward III and The Rape of Lucrece
11.20 Break
11.45  Questions and discussion
2.00  Healing the Rift:  Midsummer Night’s Dream,  Merchant of Venice.
3.00  Questions and discussion

Friday 10th: The Age of James through Shakespeare’s Eyes
Lady Oxford, continued
10.00  The final assault: Lear, Othello
11.00 Break
11.30  Questions and discussion
2.00  Hope of revival: The Winter’s Tale
3.00 Questions and discussion.
For readings on these two days see NOTE below.

Saturday 11th: A Church Suppressed: Penal Times and the Recusant Experience
Gerard Kilroy (author of Edmund Campion: Memory and Transcription)

Sunday 12th: Thomas More and the Politics of Christian Humanism
Andre P. Gushurst-Moore (author of The Common Mind)

Monday 13th: Visit to Glastonbury, then Mells Manor as guests of Lady Oxford

Tuesday 14th: Move to St Benet’s Hall, Oxford.
Visit recusant houses of Mapledurham or Lyford Grange on the way.

Wednesday 15th: Visit to the Kilns, then Littlemore, with a seminar on the Marian thread in modern Catholic literature after Newman.

Thursday 16th: The Second Spring Sermon and its context
Historical tour of Oxford with John Whitehead. Lecture by Ian Ker.

Friday 17th: The “Man with the Golden Key” – G.K. Chesterton
Stratford Caldecott, with visit to Chesterton Library

Saturday 18th: Tolkien, Humanity, and Imagination
Stratford Caldecott, with visit to Magdalen and/or Exeter College

Sunday 19th: Optional High Mass at Oratory at 11 am
Talk on C.S. Lewis after lunch at the Eagle and Child

Monday 20th: Excursion to London, visit to Tower (St Thomas More) etc.

Tuesday 21st: Departures

NOTE. Readings for 9th and 10th August:
Shakespeare, Edward III (Acts I and II); The Rape of Lucrece; A Midsummer Night’s Dream; The Merchant of Venice; King Lear; Othello; The Winter’s Tale.
John Dryden, The Hind and the Panther: First Part.
John Donne, Satires
Velma Richmond, Shakespeare, Catholicism and Romance (Continuum)
Alison Shell, Catholicism, Controversy and the English Literary Imagination (Cambridge)
Thomas More, to the bishops who urged his presence at Anne Boleyn’s coronation in 1533:
‘Your Lordships have in the matter of matrimony hitherto kept yourselves pure virgins, yet take good heed my lords that you keep your virginity still. For some there be, that by procuring your lordships first at the coronation to be present, and next to preach for the setting forth of it, and finally to write books to all the world in defence thereof, are desirous to deflower you, and when they have deflowered you, then will they not fail soon after to devour you. Now my lords, it lieth not in my power but that they may devour me; but God being my good lord, I will provide that they shall never deflower me.’ (Yale edition of the Complete Works of Thomas More [1963-97], p. 59, quoted ODNB.)
Please note: these classes are for our registered residential students only.


  1. This schedule sounds wonderful. I had thought to take the ship as I don't like to fly, but it either arrives July 12 or ninth of Aug. If it arrives in the morning, I suppose it might be possible to get there for the Clare Asquith's lectures. It is annoying that these ships don't go once a week or once every two weeks as they used to.

  2. Dear Anon., I should make clear that you cannot just turn up - you need to have booked with us in advance, and in fact I think the residential places are now all taken. Please do not come just for the lectures!

  3. Dear Mr. Caldecott, I had never intended to just come for the lectures. I intended to go for the entire residential course. Only, I was complaining about the ship schedule. The July 6 sailing was inconvenient and put me in England quite early. The August 3 sailing arrives on the morning of Aug. 10. Do you still have residential places? Is the cost 1,750 pounds? Thank you so much. This is a wonderful opportunity, and thank you for putting it together.

  4. We will see what can be done for you. Please write by email to and we will be able to take this further. Thanks for your interest!

  5. Yes, I will do that.

  6. Is it too soon to sign up for summer 2013?


    Ginny Martin

  7. Not too soon to express an interest! Keep following this blog or and you'll see when we announce it. Thanks for your encouragement.