Reinventing Medieval Liturgy: Canon Thomas Frederick Simmons (1815-1884) and his World

This talk accompanies the publication of Reinventing Medieval Liturgy in Victorian England, which offers a novel perspective on an aspect of Victorian medievalism hitherto neglected. In 1879, the late medieval English poem now known as The Lay Folks’ Mass Book – a guide to the Mass — was edited for the Early English Text Society by Canon Thomas Frederick Simmons. It remains the standard edition of what, to modern tastes, can seem a simple work of conventional Middle English devotion. Yet this poem had a remarkable afterlife.

Our study shows that Simmons’s interest in and presentation of this poem was related profoundly to contemporary concerns about worship in the Church of England. Simmons, educated at Oxford during the height of the Oxford Movement, was recognised by contemporaries as a leading authority on liturgy, a topic that troubled prime ministers as well as archbishops. Indeed, when his edition appeared, Anglican clergymen were being imprisoned for ritualism. We show that Simmons himself used his medievalist researches as the basis for what was to be the most important attempt at Prayer Book revision between the Reformation and the twentieth century.

David Jasper is a theologian with a particular interest in the nineteenth century. He is emeritus professor at the University of Glasgow, where he was formerly professor of literature and theology. Recent publications include The Language of Liturgy (2018). He has been an Anglican priest for forty-six years and is canon theologian of St. Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow. Jeremy Smith was professor of English philology at Glasgow, where he remains a senior research fellow and emeritus professor. He is also an honorary professor at St Andrews. His specialisms include English historical linguistics, medieval studies, and book history, combined recently in Transforming Early English (2020). Both authors are Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

This free talk took place in the Henry Roe Room on 31 January from 13:10 – 14:00.

To watch the recording, please see here.


Newsletter Sign Up

Please fill in the information below and click the ‘subscribe’ button to sign up for our regular e-newsletter:
* indicates required
Please tick below that you are happy for Christ Church Cathedral to contact you via email with our regular newsletter:
You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website.
We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp’s privacy practices here.