Fishing my copy off the shelf, I am confirmed in my recollection that I read it while at Oxford and see that it was in fact in May of 1979, during my second year there. Thank God, there have been many times in my life that can look back on as having been particularly happy. My time at Oxford was unique in that by my second year there, I consciously knew that I would always look back on those days with a little sadness, knowing that they were filled with a joy that could never quite be recreated. The happiness was entirely based on the good and wholesome friendships that I was blessed with during my time there.
C S Lewis made perfect sense to me when I read:
"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."Returning to the book itself, I am glad that I had already developed the habit of making a pencil mark in the margin of a book by passages that I might want to revisit. Here is one that I remember reading with amusement twenty-eight years ago:
In the spring of 1570 there occurred another event that completely recast the Catholic cause; Pope Pius V excommunicated the Queen. It is possible that one of his more worldly predecessors might have acted differently, or at another season, but it was the pride and slight embarrassment of the Church that, as has happened from time to time in her history, the See of Peter was at this moment occupied by a saint.A passage that I had not remembered shows Waugh's genius at summarising the spirit of the time:
To the Catholics, too, it meant something new, the restless, uncompromising zeal of the counter-Reformation. The Queen's Government had taken away from them the priest that their fathers had known; the simply, unambitious figure who had pottered about he parish, lived among his flock, christened them and married them and buried the; prayed for their souls and blessed their crops; whose attainments were to sacrifice and absolve and apply a few rule-of-thumb precepts of canon law; whose occasional lapses from virtue were expected and condoned; with whom they squabbled over their tithes, about whom they grumbled and gossiped; whom they consulted on every occasion; who had seemed, a generation back, something inalienable from the soil of England, as much a part of their lives as the succession of the seasons - he had been stolen from them, and in his place the Holy Father was sending them, in their dark hour, men of new light, equipped in every Continental art, armed against every frailty, bringing a new kind of intellect, new knowledge, new holiness. Campion and Persons found themselves travelling in a world that was already tremulous with expectation.