EVERYBODY who has a proper veneration for the reredos, and who, without holding extreme opinions on the subject of the dalmatic, feels correctly on that of the alb, who has a soul that can appreciate mediaeval art, particularly the beautiful foreshortening of our ancestors, and who would revive their ecclesiastical practices and institutions to an extent just tastefully Romanesque, will be “ryghte glade” to hear that it is proposed to found a Convent, on Anglican principles, under the above title. The vulgar, who think that a minority is necessarily a sect, will, of course, call it a Puseyite Nunnery: that cannot be helped.
The Convent will be under the superintendence of a Lady Abbess, who will be a real Countess, at the least. One principal object of the institution is to recall the good old times when the gentle BLANCHE or the high-born BRUNHILDA, taking the vows and the veil, connected the hallowed cell with the heraldic griffin, the coronet with the crosier.
The Nuns will all make an engagement of celibacy; but, to preclude them from contracting any rash obligation, only for so long as they may remain in the Convent, which they shall be at liberty to quit whenever they please, at a month’s notice—or the equivalent alternative. Each Nun will be required to contribute to the necessities of the Convent at least £10 a week, that sum being the minimum at which it will be possible to defray the expenses of the establishment, and keep it select. She will be, also, expected to bring two silver forks, and all the usual requisites of the toilet.
The vow of poverty, pro tem., is also to be taken by the Nuns, as it safely may, because, from the nature of the establishment, their whole incomes will be expended for conventual purposes. The sisters will all have separate cells, fitted up comfortably, combining the boudoir and the oratory. Each sister will be attended by a male and female domestic. It was at first intended that the former should be clad in the attire of an antique serving-man, but this apparel being likely to incur puerile derision, it has been deemed expedient, on the whole, that he should wear the Lady Abbess’s livery.
The Nuns will have a common sitting-room, carpeted with an imitation of encaustic pavement, the roof-timbers to be of dark oak, the walls frescoed, and the chairs and piano beautifully and grotesquely carved. Their refectory will have a dais, at which will sit the Lady Abbess and the sisters of title, that the seemly distinctions of social rank may be observed.
The usual diet of the Nuns will be optional—that is to say, of course moderate—in point of quantity. All fast days, however, will be strictly kept, by religiously eating red mullet and raspberry jam tart. If no red mullet is to be had, John Dory, salmon, or any other fish in season may be substituted.
The costume of the sisterhood will consist of a judicious admixture of the conventual style with the fashion of the day. The Nun will not be obliged to sacrifice her hair, but only to wear it plain, à la Madonna, and it will be permitted to be partially visible.
Absolute seclusion will by no means be enforced; indeed it will be incumbent on the Nuns to appear in society, in order to display the beauty of sanctity. There will be no objection, therefore, but rather the reverse, to their going to flower-shows and concerts, or even to HER MAJESTY’s Theatre, whenever they please. At the same time, they will thoroughly renounce the world, in the Belgravian sense.
The time of the Nuns will be devoted to practising the charities of life by making morning calls, and occasionally visiting soup-kitchens and model lodging-houses in a properly appointed carriage, or, if they walk, attended by a footman. Otherwise, their leisure will be employed in illuminating books of devotion, practising ecclesiastical tones, and working slippers for the younger clergy.
A certain number of Bishops shall be elected Visitors to the Convent, and shall be invited to come in that capacity to all soirées, of which not less than three shall be given at the institution every week—the company to be admitted by vouchers, on the principle of Almack’s; so that none but the most eligible parties hall be introduced.
No Austerities calculated to injure the health or personal appearance will be permitted at this Convent. The sister who rises early to attend matins in cold weather, must submit to have her bed carefully warmed for her by the time she comes back. The inordinate indulgence in maceration, encouraged by Rome, will be disallowed; and the only means sanctioned for the restraint of the flesh, will be the gentle and moderate compression of stays.
That the Anglican Convent, thus constituted, will lead to “perversions” there is no fear. Alas! the hard multitude will rather that the Puseyite sisters are only playing at Roman Catholics, and the vile punster will remark that their Convent is more a Monkey-ry than a Nunnery.
From Punch, or the London Charivari, vol. XIX, 1851, p. 163.