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Anglican Versions of the Breviary

By the Reverend Thomas J. Williams

In this fascinating study, which first appeared in COWLEY, Father Williams answers many questions frequently asked by visitors to our Religious Houses and others as well. Here is the story of one of the most important and interesting aspects of the century-old Revival of the Religious Life in the Anglican Communion. One of the Breviary Offices, Compline, is now included in the Scottish Book of Common Prayer. The English Proposed Book of 1928 included forms for both Prime and Compline. So far as we are aware, this is the first time so comprehensive a survey has been made.

IN 1627, the Venerable John Cosin (subsequently Bishop of Durham) issued, under the imprimatur of the Bishop of London, an adaptation of the Breviary Offices for Anglican use, entitled Collection of Private Devotions in the Practice of the Ancient Church, called The Hours of Prayer. The book became popular at once in High Church circles, and although it was bitterly attacked by the Puritans, its use survived the opposition leveled against it for nearly a century. (It was reissued in 1719, then not again until 1841.) Designed by Bishop Cosin for the devout laity, especially for the ladies of the court of Charles I, it was modeled after the medieval Horae or Primers. It had an important influence on both the Kalendar and the text of the Book of Common Prayer of 1662.

It is from Cosin's book that the revisers adopted the Ember Day and Rogation prayers and, most important of all, the well-known paraphrase of Veni Creator, "Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire." For all its excellencies, Cosin's book was not a complete or (within its limits) an exact rendering of the Breviary Offices. But its possibly unbroken, if increasingly rare, use among devout High Churchmen down to Tractarian days prepared the way for the translations and adaptations of the Breviary which were initiated by Newman's Tract Number Seventy-Five of the Tracts for the Times.

The subject of this tract, issued in 1836, was The Roman Breviary as Embodying the Substance of the Devotional Services of the Catholic Church. To illustrate his thesis, Newman translated portions of the Breviary, including many of the hymns. The latter, unlike Cosin's versions, were translations, not paraphrases. (They were also real poetry, not mere verse. Some of them, through Hymns Ancient and Modern, have since passed into common use.) Whereas Cosin's book was specifically intended for devotional use, the purpose of Newman's Tract was primarily didactic. It was avowedly written with the aim of inspiring a right understanding of the Daily Services of the Church of England, and of showing the historic relation of these offices to the ancient worship of the Church.

Perhaps Newman also foresaw and intended another effect which the publication of this Tract produced: the recourse of the clergy, of his circle to the ancient offices for the enrichment of their own devotional life. As early as 1839, Dr Pusey was accustomed to supplement Matins and Evensong of the Prayer-Book by the private recitation of Prime, Terce, Sext, None, and Compline from the Breviary. These offices he recited in Latin from the current Roman Use; for the same reason that had compelled Newman to employ the Roman Breviary rather than Sarum or any of the other ancient English Uses as the basis of Tract Seventy-Five. The few copies of the Sarum and other English Breviaries which had survived the Reformation were hidden away in Cathedral or College Libraries, whereas "the Roman Breviary was to be had in every form from any Roman Catholic book-seller."

It was not until 1840 (the same year in which Pusey began to think hopefully of the revival of monastic life in the English Church) that steps were taken to make available for general devotional use translations of at least parts of the Sarum Office. In March of that year Keble tried (unsuccessfully) to unearth a copy of the Sarum Breviary "which professed to be in the College Library" at Winchester. Newman, in spite of the lead which his Tract had given, was less favorable to the plan than Pusey and Keble. The latter advised the publication of the whole Sarum book in Latin "as a document, and of a selection of parts to be translated for a devotional book, on the principle of taking such things only as are virtually sanctioned by Edward the Sixth's First Book.... A plan of publication by subscription was set on foot, but it came for the present to nothing."

Three years later the plan for translating the ancient offices was renewed. Although "the projected translation of the Breviary had not originated with Pusey," he had continued to hope, and now began to agitate, for its realization. In December, 1843, he was again in consultation with Newman and Keble as to the advisability of a renewed effort to use the translation made by "several hands (which) had been engaged upon it, ever since the appearance of Newman's Tract.... Prominent among these translators was Mr Samuel Wood (uncle of the late Viscount Halifax) . . . a layman of saintly life, whose early death was mourned by Pusey and Newman. His manuscripts passed by his will into the hands of Mr Robert Williams . . . Pusey was asked for advice and assistance . . . He did what he could to urge his friends to complete (the work)." In 1844 Dr Pusey wrote that he was "anxious not to lose time" in bringing out the completed work. Newman's translations were to be used for such hymns as he had already turned into English.

The most that came of these efforts was the appearance in the Oxford shops of fragments of Mr Wood's translations, in brown paper wrappers. The work was never completed, but these published fragments were used in the oratory of Newman's proposed monastery at Littlemore and later by the Sisters of the Community of the Holy Cross founded by Dr Pusey on Wednesday in Easter Week, 1845.

From the very beginning of the revival of the Religious Life at 17, Park Village West, Regents Park, London (the convent of the Sisters of the Holy Cross), all the Breviary Offices, including the Night Office, were said by the Sisters in their oratory. In addition they attended daily Morning and Evening Prayer in Christ Church, Albany Street, nearby. Frequent mention is made of the Breviary Offices, and of the difficulties and problems arising from their use, in Dr Pusey's correspondence concerning the Sisterhood, as well as in the full account of the daily life of the Community written by a former novice.

It is not known what form of the Divine Office was used when on October 27, 1848, the First Vespers of the Feast of Saint Simon and Saint Jude were sung in a rented house in George Street, Moricetown, Devonport, by Priscilla Lydia Sellon and the three or four other women who on that day and on that occasion were constituted "The Church of England Society of Sisters of Mercy of Devonport and Plymouth." Bishop Phillpotts—"Henry of Exeter" —had given his blessing to the Sisters and his approval to the foundation and to the Offices to be used by the Community. Dr Pusey was the officiant at the service. All that is known of the offices used is that they were largely made up of Psalms and Prayer-Book collects, and that Bishop Phillpotts had asked the Sisters to use the terms "First Hour," "Third Hour," "Sixth Hour," and "Ninth Hour," instead of the ancient names, Prime, Terce Sext, and None; and that by February, 1849, the use of the longer terms had been abandoned as awkward and inconvenient. It is known also that the Sisters said Lauds at six o'clock each morning in their oratory. Inasmuch as Dr Pusey had, from the first, been interested in Miss Sellon's venture and she herself had spent some time as.a visitor in the Sisterhood of the Holy Cross before establishing the Devonport Society, it is not unlikely that her Community used the same translation of the offices as the older Sisterhood.

By 1851 the Devonport Society had developed an ordered life of prayer, monastic observance, and social service, set forth in its Seven Great Rules. Its Constitutions were as yet unwritten, but they were being evolved from the daily needs and experiences of the Lady Superior and her Sisters. The Fourth Great Rule of the Society, Of Purity, prescribed, along with the reading of Holy Scripture and other approved ascetical and devotional works, the use of The Psalter of David according to to the Use of Salisbury and The Breviary according to the Use of Sarum "provided for the Society."

When the Rules were first set forth, the Breviary had not actually been provided for the Society; but during 1851 portions of it were being translated by Sister Amelia Warren and copied by each Sister into the blank leaves bound up for that purpose with the printed Psalter. This Psalter, so often mentioned in early accounts of the Society, has been described as bound in black leather covers, and fastened with two silver clasps. It contained the "Ordinary" of the Canonical Hours (including the Night Office) and was evidently the germ out of which the translation of the complete Breviary was being developed. These Psalters, it is recorded in contemporary letters, were the Office Books taken by the Devonport Sisters to Scutari in the Crimea when they went out with Miss Nightingale in 1854. In that same year and the next, Sister Amelia was kept busy in a secluded cottage near Windsor, working on her translation of the complete Breviary.

This remarkable lady joined Miss Sellon and her Sisters in nursing cholera patients at Plymouth in 1849. At the end of the year she was received as a Sister. She was fifty years old at the time. Her education, received from her father, the Reverend Dawson Warren, sometime Chaplain to the Duke of York and later Vicar of Edmonton, included a thorough grounding in Latin. This enabled Sister Amelia (later known as "Deane," because of her seniority of years among the Sisters) to make a translation of the Sarum Breviary which, in spite of certain inconveniences of arrangement, has stood the test of time and use and is still the Office Book of the Society for which it was produced. The translation has been pronounced by a student of liturgics to be excellent, and the work as a whole of great credit to its translator. [1]

The growth of the Devonport Society, through the absorption in 1856 of the Sisterhood of the Holy Cross, added to the already numerous duties of Deane Amelia. In addition to superintending the Society's "College" for Sailor Boys at Plymouth, she was Sister-in-charge of Saint Dunstan's Abbey (the Mother House of the Sisterhood) and Mistress of Novices. Consequently the completion of her work was long delayed. The title page of the edition of The Breviary of the Renowned Church of Salisbury, Translated into English According to the Use of the Society of the Holy Trinity, Devonport, now in use at Ascot Priory bears the date 1889, with the imprint of Gilbert and Rivington, publishers. The translation must have been completed before 1869, the year of Deane Amelia's death; and inasmuch as the printing of the Breviary was done on the press of the Devonport Society, it is probable that 1889 is merely the date of the edition now used at Ascot. An abbreviated form of the Night and Day Offices was provided for the Sisters of Charity, who formed the Third Order of the Devonport Society—some of them following in their own homes a Rule suited to the life of a mother, wife, or daughter.

Deane Amelia did not attempt the translation of the Office Hymns. As neither Dr John Mason Neale nor Mr John David Chambers had published their translations of the ancient hymns when the Deane began her work [2] she availed herself of the renderings of the Reverend Edward Caswall. The texts translated were not those of the Sarum book; and the frequent employment by Caswall of meters other than the original measures involves much procrustean stretching of syllables to suit the plainsong melodies. This is still a trial to those who use the book.

The Devonport Breviary was not published or sold for general use; nor does any other Religious Community seem to have adopted it.

At East Grinstead Dr Neale began at an early date to provide manuscript versions of the Breviary Offices for the use of the Sisters of the Society of Saint Margaret whom he had gathered into a Community in 1854. It was not until after his death in 1866 that these translations were published in their complete form: The Night Office of the Church (three volumes, 1870, 1877) and Breviary Offices from Lauds to Compline (1877). Sarum Use was the basis of these translations, with much generous borrowing from other Medieval English Uses, and from Roman, French, and other continental sources. Dr Neale's own matchless translations were used for the hymns.

Mr John David Chambers' Psalter has been passed over with less notice than it deserves, for the reason that it was avowedly not intended for devotional use. It is probably for this reason that an eclectic translation of the psalms is employed, rather than the Prayer Book version. The book, beautifully printed and bound in vellum (some copies having metal clasps like the Devonport Psalters) may still be purchased through second-hand book-sellers. There are two good copies in the Library of the General Seminary in New York.

Canon Liddon, while Vice-Principal of Cuddesdon Theological College, compiled a manual for the use of the students, entitled Hours of Prayer, published in 1854. This was an English version of the "Little Hours" of the Breviary. Reissued in 1856 under the title of Hours of Prayer for Daily Use, its appearance caused a storm among the enemies of the Catholic Movement.

Subsequent editions, incorporating other material and entitled The Cuddesdon Manual, complied with the recommendations of the three archdeacons appointed by the Bishop of Oxford. But the Breviary Offices in English had been introduced to the rising generation of High Church clergy. This book, like another smaller one, entitled A Manual of Prayers for the Hours, belongs to the history of secular and lay devotion rather than to that of the revived Religious Communities. But it was the influence of Dr Liddon's work that produced the Office Book which was for many decades the version of the ancient offices most widely used among Religious as well as by clergy and devout laity, The Day Hours of the Church of England.

Adapted from the Sarum Office, with certain simplifications from the Roman Breviary, The Day Hours was the work of a devout and distinguished layman, Sir Francis Ligon, afterwards Earl of Beauchamp. The Sarum text of the hymns was followed, in translations by Dr Neale, Mr Chambers, the Reverend W. J. Copeland, and Dr Littledale. Immediately after its first appearance in 1858 The Day Hours was adopted as the Office Book of the Communities of Saint Mary the Virgin, Wantage; of Saint John Baptist, Clewer; and of the Holy Cross, London Docks. Dr Neale wrote a review of it for The Christian Remembrancer, and began the use of it at East Grinstead, as "more convenient than the MS. translations which involved each Sister making a copy for herself when she joined the Community"! It was widely used by the secular clergy: Archbishop Benson of Canterbury recited daily the Office of Sext from The Day Hours. In 1876, Bishop Mackarness of Oxford, less timid than his predecessors, gave the book his official sanction and hearty commendation. Devout laity outside Religious Communities found it helpful in their devotional life, especially in the abbreviated form published under the title The Order of Prime, Terce, Sext, None, and Compline, "printed in a form suitable for binding with the various editions of the Book of Common Prayer."

In The Day Hours as originally set forth only the "Red Letter Days" of the Prayer Book were celebrated with full office. "Black Letter Days" were commemorated in the traditional manner at Lauds and Vespers. It was not until 1898 that a supplement to The Day Hours, entitled The Service for Certain Holy Days, made provision for the full day office of all Black Letter Days and a few other feasts, such as Corpus Christi. Previous editions of The Day Hours had excluded not only direct invocation, but even comprecation, of the Saints, although explicit prayer for the departed was retained from the original offices. The supplement of 1898 included collects and hymns in which God was asked for the help of the prayers of the Saints.

Between 1858 and 1898 The Day Hours passed through five editions (1858, 1873, 1877, 1884, 1891), a total of twenty-seven thousand copies. For some years the book was out of print. In 1908 a "Revised Edition" appeared, in which the matter contained in the supplement of 1898 was incorporated. A "New Edition" was published in 1914, and reprinted in 1917, 1922, 1926, and 1931. A "New and Enlarged Edition" appeared in 1937, containing the new office of the Sacred Heart and the office of the feast of Christ the King. A corrected reprint of this edition was issued in 1938.

The first book of Breviary offices produced on this side of the Atlantic for Anglican use was The Book of Hours compiled by the Reverend Morgan Dix, Rector of the Parish of Trinity Church and Pastor of the newly founded Community of Saint Mary. The aforesaid Sisterhood, founded on February 2, 1865, adopted The Book of Hours as their Breviary on the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, 1866, soon after its publication. Less full and more conservative than The Day Hours and other English Office Books, and marred by a few eccentric divergencies from ancient usage, it nevertheless did good service in the Episcopal Church, and prepared the way for the adoption of the East Grinstead Breviary Offices by the Community of Saint Mary, and the use of that and other more accurate versions of the ancient Office Books by American Churchmen, both Religious and secular. It continued to be published until the end of the last century.

From an early period of their history the All Saints Sisters of the Poor have used an Office Book of their own, at first in manuscript, later in printed editions. The first of these latter, privately printed and bearing no date, was entitled The Day Hours and Other Offices as Used by the Sisters of All Saints. It was translated and adapted from the current Roman Use, "as being simpler than the Sarum". The translator was Sister Maria Francesca, sister of Dante Gabriel and Christina Rosetti. In 1921 a revision was made by the late Reverend Mother Emily, entitled A Book of Day Hours for the Use of Religious Societies, and embodying some of the reforms of Pope Pius X (1910). The translation of most of the Office Hymns is the work of Dr Neale.

Sometime after 18G6 was published The Day Office of the Church According to the Kalendar of the Church of England. It is stated in the introduction that "this English version of the Day Hours of the Church is based upon the Horae Diurnae Breviarii Romani . . . published at Mechlin in 1852 and 1862". The text of the Office Hymns was not, however, that of the Roman Breviary of Urban VIII, but the older, "untouched form . . . as they appear in a Roman Breviary published in 1724"; making it possible for the editor to avail himself of the "matchless translations of the late Dr Neale". For the use of the clergy who might wish to supplement their obligatory recitation of Morning and Evening Prayer by the use of the five lesser Day Hours, an edition of The Day Office was provided, entitled The Little Hours of the Day.

These books constitute an exact counterpart, according to then current Roman Use, of the respective Sarum-based Day Hours and Order of Prime. The name of the editor of The Day Office is not known. His work is well done. The book served for many years as the English version of the Day Hours most widely used by the secular clergy of the American Church. Designed specifically for the use of Religious Communities, it was for a long period the official Breviary of at least four Religious Communities of the Episcopal Church: The Order of the Holy Cross, the Order of the Poor Brethren of Saint Francis, the Poor Clares of Reparation and Adoration, and The Order of Saint Anne.

In 1872 a translation of the Night Office and Day Hours of the Roman Breviary was issued in three volumes for the use of the Society of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, Oxford. This is the Community founded in 1849 by Miss Marian Rebecca Hughes, the first professed Religious of our Communion since the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Much of the translation was the work of Philip Pusey, the scholar-cripple son of the great Dr Pusey. The hymns, following the text of Urban VIII's revisers, are given in the version of the Reverend Edward Caswall. Like the Devonport Breviary, this Office Book was not published for sale or general use. In regard to the invocation and comprecation of Saints, it follows the bolder line of The Day Office, rather than the conservative "Anglicanism" of the earlier editions of The Day Hours of the Church of England.

In 1872 two parish priests, the Reverend Joseph Oldknow, Vicar of Holy Trinity Church, Bordsley, Birmingham, and the Reverend Augustine David Crake, Vicar of Cholsey, Wallingford, brought out a manual entitled The Priest's Book of Private Devotion. This contained fragmentary forms of devotion for Prime, Terce, Sext, None, and Compline. In the second edition these were expanded to correspond with the little Hours of the Sarum Breviary, with the exception of Compline, which was given in the simpler Roman form.

A separate edition of these offices was issued, entitled Prime and the Hours, which eventually superseded the editions of The Day Hours and The Day Office containing the lesser Hours. Father Frere of the Community of the Resurrection was associated with the Editors in issuing subsequent editions of The Priest's Book of Private Devotion, and it is perhaps to him that it is due that the Community of which he was for many years Superior adopted Prime and the Hours as their office book. The Mirfield Fathers recite Morning and Evening Prayer instead of the ancient Night Office, Lauds, and Vespers, supplementing the two Prayer Book offices with Prime and the Hours.

The Day Hours of the Breviary Offices of the Society of Saint Margaret have been twice revised—in the first instance by the late Bishop Hall, for the use of the American affiliated House in Boston and for the use of the Cowley Fathers in this country. This revision, unsatisfactory though it was, served for many years as the office book of the Communities of Saint Mary and the Transfiguration, as well as of the two Boston Communities. The latest revision, made at East Grinstead in 1914, is scholarly and usable, embodying most of the features of Dr Neale's book (including many collects, aniphons, and a few hymns from French and other non-English Breviaries).

The Night Hours of the same Society's Breviary Offices appeared in three volumes—the third volume, the Proper of Saints, was issued in 1877. A revised edition of the Night Hours appeared in 1899 A paragraph from the Preface of the first edition of Volume III, written in 1877, contains an interesting glimpse of the recitation of the Divine Office in the early days of the Society of Saint Margaret:

. . . After our Founder was taken to rest, we were urged to publish the Matin offices he had given us; and we did so, filling up the blanks left by him with insertions from the same book from which he had translated (as, for instance, the lessons of the third nocturn, which he had been wont to turn into English extempore, when saying the office).

Quite recently the Society of Saint Margaret has produced a Supplement to the Breviary Offices for its own use. This contains proper offices for Christ the King, the Precious Blood, and other feasts, together with the new office of the Sacred Heart. Provision is made for both Matins and the Day Hours.

After long use of Breviary Offices, the Society of Saint John the Evangelist published in 1910 its own Office Book, entitled Hours of Prayer from Lauds to Compline. It is the work of one of the Society's liturgical specialists, Father Trenholme of the English Congregation. "This office-book is, in the main, an English rendering of the day hours from the famous Salisbury or Sarum diocesan breviary adapted to present-day devotional needs by means of selection, free translation, enrichment from other liturgical sources, and some simplifying and abbreviation." The "other liturgical sources" include many English and Continental breviaries. The book has been twice revised, in 191 and 1928. The most recent edition appeared in 1939.

In 1945 the American Congregation produced a new edition of its Supplement to Hours of Prayer, containing material necessary for adapting the volume to the American Prayer Book, together with certain offices and prayers proper to that Congregation.

Hours of Prayer is used by several English Communities, and in this country by the Community of the Transfiguration, the Sisters of Saint Saviour, and the Brotherhood of Saint Barnabas, in addition to the American Congregation of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist.

The late Reverend G. H. Palmer spent many years in perfecting a translation of the Sarum Diurnal whose rhythms and accents make it possible to use unaltered the ancient plainsong melodies with the English words. Musical editions of various portions of this book, especially The Vesperal Noted, have been issued from the press of the Community of Saint Mary the Virgin at Wantage—a community which has for many years taken a foremost part in the liturgical revival in our Communion.

The first publication in English of the Day Hours of the revised Roman Breviary (1910) for the use of Anglicans was effected by the Order of the Holy Cross in 1927. For a time it served as the Breviary for that community, and for the Order of Saint Francis and the Poor Clares. In spite of many misprints and other errors it has proved a valuable contribution to our liturgical progress, and has made ready the way for the version of the complete secular breviary which is in preparation by the Frank Gavin Liturgical Foundation.

None of the early communities of the Revival adopted either in the original or in translation the offices of the Monastic Breviary. It was not until the Reverend Joseph Leycester Lyne, better known by his religious name of "Father Ignatius", revived the Benedictine life in the Church of England in the eighteen-sixties, that the Monastic Office again came into use in our Communion. Father Ignatius and his monks—and later his nuns—said or sang the ancient Office in the original Latin. Scraps may have been translated into English, but certainly not the whole of even the Diurnal.

It remained for the American Church to give to the Anglican Communion its first English version of the Monastic Office. In 1916 the late Reverend Canon Winfred Douglas prepared a modified form of the Benedictine Night Office in English for trial use by the Community of Saint Mary, Peekskill. This book was privately printed and was never published. Meanwhile Canon Douglas and the Sisters of Saint Mary, with other expert help, were at work on the Day Hours. In 1918 the Community printed an edition of the Day Hours of the Monastic Breviary for trial use. From this experimental edition was evolved the beautifully printed, well translated, easily used Monastic Diurnal which was issued by the Oxford University Press in 1932. Subsequent editions appeared in 1935 and 1940.

The Monastic Diurnal is widely used throughout the Anglican Communion, and even beyond its limits. It is used by many English Communities, and in this country not only by the Community of Saint Mary, but also by the Order of the Holy Cross, the Society of the Catholic Commonwealth, the Brothers of Saint Joseph, the Order of Saint Anne, the Community of the Way of the Cross, and the Teachers of the Children of God. Among the secular clergy it is used as widely as once was The Day Office of the Church.

In 1943 the Community of Saint Mary produced a revised edition of The Order of Matins for use with The Monastic Diurnal. Regulations of the War Production Board made it impossible to publish this beautifully printed volume at that time. Now that the war is ended, the book may be purchased.


[1] It is interesting to note that the late Canon Frederick Warren of Ely followed his aunt into the field of liturgics and produced such outstanding works as The Liturgy of the Ante-Nicene Church, The Liturgy and Ritual of the Celtic Church, an edition of The Bangor Antiphoner, and (a worthy companion to his aunt's production) The Sarum Missal in English.

[2] Dr Neale's translations were first published in the Hymnal Noted (1852-1854). Mr Chambers' versions first appeared in 1852, in his translation of the Sarum Office entitled The Psalter or Seven Ordinary Hours of the Sarum Breviary (not to be identified with the Psalter of the Devonport Sisters), although Mr Chambers' sister, Catherine, was "Mother Eldress" (Assistant Superior) of the Devonport Society.

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