PMGenesis: Chapter 2

Peter Milward's Autobiography: Genesis of an Octogenarian (2008)


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Who is Peter Milward?
0. About PM Genesis of an Octogenarian
1. Attempt at an Autobiography
Pre-conscious World
Local Patriotism
Wimbledon in Wartime 
Pastoral Peace
Pastoral Philosophy
7. Life at Oxford
Between England and Japan 
9. A New Language and Culture
10. Rural Japan
Pastoral Theology
12. Teaching Shakespeare in Japan
13. A Missionary in Japan
Student Revolt  
A Floating University  
16. Literary Pilgrimages  
A Scholar's Paradise  
To and Fro in Japan  
Words, Words, Words  
Annus Mirabilis  
21. Renaissance  
Lost Years  
Two Papal Pilgrimages  
Two Peninsular Pilgrimages

More American Adventures
26. In the Footsteps of Hopkins and Newman  
Two International Conferences  
Catholic Shakespeare  
Last Words  
Bibliographical Afterword  








 11 Devas Road, Wimbledon







 11 Devas Road, Wimbledon






Blog Brittonia

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Joining the Jesuits in Japan










  A Lifetime with Hopkins  by Peter Milward









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by Peter Milward










Shakespeare the Papist by Peter Milward 









 Mystical Journey, the autobiography of William Johnston, S.J., author of Mystical Theology and many other works on mysticism








 Arise My Love by William Johnston, S.J.








All About Francis Xavier (Articles on Japanese Catholic History and Jesuits) 


















2. Pre-conscious World


Into what strange paths we are led by the gleaming will-o’-the-wisp of Freudian psychology!  And with what an unfortunate name that venerable father of modern psychology was endowed by his parents, with more than a suggestion of “fraud”!  Yet for all my sub-conscious prejudice against him with all his works and pomps, I can’t help admiring him at the same time.  After all, when all is said against him by his debunkers and detractors, there is much in what he has said, and much (to my way of thinking) that is Shakespearian.  I am not just speaking of his Oedipus Complex, which he finds as much in Hamlet as in Oedipus, I am also thinking of his emphasis on the sub-conscious and pre-conscious conditions of human beings, on what underlies everything we think or say and what preceded the emergence of our conscious mind.  Of course, this is also what we might have found long ago in Plato’s Theory of Ideas, that we all have a previous existence in a World of Ideas, from which we fall into a harsh world of reality at birth and so we begin to cry.  This is what King Lear states in his memorable words to Gloucester in their great recognition scene, “When we are born, we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools!”  This is what Wordsworth also states in his “Immortality Ode”, saying, “Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting. The soul that rises with us, our life’s star, hath had elsewhere its setting and cometh from afar.”  This is, needless to say, something about which scientists as scientists have nothing to say, except maybe to laugh at the poetic fantasy.  But Freud doesn’t laugh.  He takes it all seriously, and he explores its continuing presence in dreams.


 For the purpose of this book, however, I prefer to explore my pre-conscious world in my parents, who were after all principally responsible for my emergence on this planet in place and time.  That happened in the suburbs of London in the year 1925, on the anniversary of the very day Christopher Columbus discovered the New World, October 12 – and I discovered the ld World.  And so my second name is Christopher.  I have little idea of what I was like as a little baby, except that I must have been a difficult child to look after – like most male children.  I am told that when I was sitting in the baby’s chair at table, and my mother was feeding me, at least half the food failed to find my mouth and spilt over my bib and tucker.  I am told that once when getting onto a tram with my mother, I pointed to a man with a large nose sitting in front and asked in a loud voice, “Mama, why has that man got such a funny nose?”  I am told that once my mother came into the room I shared with my elder brother and found traces of coal round our mouths.  We had been taking coal out of the coal-scuttle and putting it into our mouths.  No wonder I have ever since taken after King Alfred and burnt the bread while attempting to turn it into toast!  All this is what I have been told about my infancy, but I have no personal memory of it.  No doubt, psychologists, Freudian or Jungian, will devise theories to explain it, but I prefer to leave them to their theories.  They are welcome to their preferred form of amusement.  But let me turn to what is more obvious and objective, namely my parents, from whom I have received so much in the ways of both heredity and environment, both nature and nurture.


My father, from whom I received my surname, came from the county of Notts or Nottinghamshire, on the outskirts of Sherwood Forest.  I didn’t care for the surname very much, as it sounded too Saxon, with the probable pedestrian meaning of “miller” or “guardian of the mill” – though which mill it was, I never found out.  At least, it wasn’t Norman or Welsh or Scottish or Irish, but – to the meanest intelligence – English.  So throughout my boyhood I could exult in the thought that “in spite of all temptations to belong to other nations”, like Sir Joseph Porter KCB, I have remained an Englishman.  In that boyhood I was particularly fond of poring over maps, and I was particularly proud to see that so much of those maps, in North America, Africa, Asia and Australia, was coloured red, for the British Empire.  For my boyhood, up till the outbreak of World War II in 1939, was spent in the glorious, golden days of the British Empire.  And my father was, it seemed to me, a notable product of that empire.  Before the first World War he had gone East as a tea-planter to Ceylon, then as a rubber-planter to Malaya, only to be recalled to England in 1914 to serve in the army.  There on the Western front he was buried alive by a land-mine, before being dug out by the Germans and made prisoner-of-war for the duration.  We would eagerly ask him about his exciting experiences, and my eyes must gave grown round in their sockets as I listened to him – though I had no mirror with me to check on their shape.  My father was a great story-teller, and in telling such stories he would cough to clear his throat and sniff once or twice to make his stories sound more interesting.


Naturally, I was impressed at the fact that he and his forbears had come from Sherwood Forest, the legendary land of Robin Hood and his merry men, clad as they were in coats of Lincoln green.  Naturally, Robin Hood was one of my boyhood heroes, even more than King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table, or the bold bad pirates of the Caribbean.  How I wished I had a bow and arrows to play with, as Robin Hood had played with them to such effect against the bold bad Sheriff of Nottingham!  Alas, our back garden at home was too small, and we might all too easily hit someone on the other side of the fence.  So we had to restrict our boyish ambitions to the more modern game of cricket.  Still, the name of “Sherwood”, partly because of its rhyme with “Milward”, exercised a magic spell on my mind, strangely akin to the spell presumably exercised on the mind of William Shakespeare by that other Forest of Arden, from which his mother had taken her maiden name of Mary Arden.  Even in the beginning of As You Like It, with its setting in that Forest of Arden, Shakespeare compares the outlaws or exiles in the forest to “the old Robin Hood of England”, where they “fleet the time carelessly, as they did in the golden world”.  One may thus see even in Shakespeare a characteristic nostalgia for the countryside and the good old days of “merry England”, and I felt the same nostalgia in myself.  I was never a town mouse, content to live my days in the shadow of London.  I was rather a country mouse, and whenever possible I made my way into the countryside of Surrey and Sussex to the South of Wimbledon, while I was growing up.


Needless to say, part of this nostalgia went back long before the days of my father, to his parents and forebears.  To our wondering ears he would tell us how we were descended on one side, that of his father, from the great John of Gaunt in the fourteenth century and so from the kings and queens of mediaeval England, and on the other side, that of his mother, from the great Prince Llewelyn, who ruled over that part of North Wales which has recently been accorded the old name of Gwynedd, the region of Snowdonia.  Somewhere he told us of a detailed genealogical chart drawn up at the request of his Welsh mother – for the Welsh are notoriously interested in such matters of genealogy – but alas, we never got to see it or to find documentary proof of what he told us.  It all seemed like a dream or vision of the mediaeval past, far removed from our middle-class suburban present.  In much the same way, for Shakespeare living and working in the sordid streets of Elizabethan London, his Arden forebears put him in touch with the Saxon nobility of Warwickshire, enabling him to look down on such upstarts of the new nobility as the local earls of Warwick and Leicester, the two Dudley brothers, whose grandfather had been the hated tax-collector for the stingy Henry VII.


Then what of my mother, whose Christian name we later found out was Hannah – for we always thought of her as “Mama”, and my father as “Dada” – and whose surname was Taylor?  Well, she was as Irish as my father was English, even from the most Irish part of Ireland, the city of Cork.  (Not all Irish, I should explain, are equally Irish, seeing that the area round Dublin, or what used to be called “the Pale”, is regarded by the Irish themselves as suspiciously English after the long centuries of English rule.)  Also, whereas my father’s family was mainly Anglican, with his two grandfathers as clergymen in the Church of England, my mother was a devout Catholic, as were her family from time immemorial.  When my father met my mother (in Cork) and eventually proposed to her (in London), he had to take instruction in the Catholic faith as a condition for their Catholic marriage, and then he decided – though he was free to do so or not – to become a Catholic.  For taking this step, he was ostracized by his family, and none of them attended their wedding, and many of them have remained unknown to me ever since.  As for my mother’s family, we got to know her two brothers, Donny and Willy, and her three sisters, Carrie, Mary and Magletts, quite well.  I never met her father, who must have died early on, and I only remember one meeting with her mother.  On that occasion, what I most vividly remember was the way she took out her teeth after dinner and put them in a glass of water.  Then I tried to do the same with my teeth, but they wouldn’t come out.  I was so envious of grandma!  She seemed quite a magician!


All through my childhood I remained blissfully unaware of any difference in nationality between them.  My mother had come over to England as a child and had grown in up the region of Weymouth.  In those days there was little love lost between Catholic and Protestant children.  My mother would recall how the Protestant children would call them “Papists!”, and they would respond with “Proddy-dogs!”  After the war, she again returned to England for employment in the post office, and so she became familiar with my father, after having first met him in Cork where he had been one of the hated “Black and Tans”.  Love triumphs over such obstacles, however, and it was in London that they had married, before deciding to go out to Canada for a job in the copper mines of British Columbia.  It was there, in Vancouver, that my elder brother Richard was born, though by the time I was born they had safely returned to England – my father hadn’t relished his experience in the copper mines – and settled in Barnes on the South bank of the river Thames.  We moved to Wimbledon a few years later for the sake of our education – first, the kindergarten run by the Ursuline nuns at the Convent, and then the school run by the Jesuit fathers at the College.  Thus all I remember of my childhood comes to me from Wimbledon.  For me Barnes has remained just a blur in my pre-conscious mind.


Only in retrospect have I come to feel a conflict of personalities within my conscious mind, the one English and the other Irish.  My father I regarded as a real English gentleman, if with an injection of Welsh blood from his mother.  But my mother, though at first she had seemed no less English than my father, owing to her English education, I came to regard as typically Irish, no less than her more obviously Irish brothers and sisters, if without their Irish accent.  This conflict, strangely enough, took the form of a feeling of liberation.  It enabled me to rise above the respective limits of Englishness and Irishness.  As an Englishman, I felt myself free to criticize the Irish for their obvious faults, such as their individualism, their hot temper, and their tendency to be late – which has always been a characteristic defect of mine, from the time I was called, even in my childhood, “the late Peter Milward”.  Even more as an Irishman, I felt myself free to criticize the more obvious faults of the English, especially as they had developed since the time of the so-called “Reformation” set afoot by the Welsh tyrant Henry VIII and brought to completion under his no less tyrannical daughter Elizabeth I.  The English, I thought, might be more punctual than the Irish, but that was only because they were living in and for time.  The Irish, on their side, had every excuse to be late, since they were living in and for eternity.  At one time we had an Irish maid named Peggy, and we regarded her as dirty and slovenly, and so we came to see all the Irish as dirty and slovenly.  Such an attitude, however, may have come down to us from my father’s forebears, some of whom may have been Low Church, if not Puritan, and it is a Puritan proverb that “Cleanliness is next to godliness.”


All this time I have been speaking of my parents and the unfelt influence they exercised on me even from the time I was a baby, and before then.  But now, what about the names I received from them?  I have already mentioned my second name of Christopher, but that made very little difference to me.  Unlike the Americans, we English rarely use our second names, except for the purpose of official registration.  Their only significance is on the occasion of baptism, when our names are commonly given by uncles and aunts.  As for the connection with Christopher Columbus and his discovery of America, I have only come to realize it in recent years.  But of my first name, Peter, I have always been deeply aware, much more than my surname, Milward.  I have often felt that I would be quite content with that one name of Peter, as in mediaeval times, when I might have been known as “Peter of Wimbledon”.  Milward was a name I thought I could well do without.  As for Christopher, I have heard mention of an uncle or great-uncle of that name on my father’s side, and I may even have had a great-uncle named Peter.  But as a Catholic boy, I preferred to connect my name with that of the prince of apostles, St Peter, whose name was specially given him by Jesus as the rock (or Greek petros) on which he would build his Church.  I might be teased by my friends as “Peter, Peter, pumpkin-eater” in the nursery rhyme, but I didn’t mind.  I liked the name of Peter, as well for its soft sound which oddly contrasted with the hard connotation of “rock”.  I also reveled in the fact that so many saints, from the time of St Peter, bore the name of Peter, and I hoped to be numbered among them when the time came for my canonization.


As for my two godparents, my godfather was the priest who baptized me at the local church of St Mary Magdalen in Mortlake, Fr Emil Burt.  He was such a kind, holy man, I wanted to be like him even before I wanted to be anything in particular.  I wanted to become a priest even before I had any clear idea of my future.  So among my earliest memories of childhood was an impulse to play at Mass with my little friends from kindergarten.  As for my godmother, she was my Aunt Mary, though I didn’t see so much of her as she was then living in Ireland, and during my boyhood we never once made the journey to Ireland, it seemed such a remote country beyond the sea.  So she had no influence on my dreams of the future.  On my childhood the Church was the great, unchallenged influence, and I may truly say that there was never a time I can remember when I didn’t want to be a priest.  This desire I have in due time fulfilled, but now it seems most unlikely that I will ever be canonized, let alone raised to the Papacy, which was also one of my childish ambitions.


That is all there is to be said, or all I can think of saying, about my pre-consciousness.  All I have to add is the famous quotation from Wordsworth, “The child is father of the man.”  So to all these memories of distant childhood, as to my parents themselves, I may say, “You are my father and my mother.  From you I came in the beginning, and to you I will go in the end.”

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