PMGenesis: Chapter 17

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  




  St. Andrew's Church, Pasadena





Ruins of Bury St. Edmunds










Who is Peter Milward?

Blog Brittonia

All About Francis Xavier


Who are the Jesuits?

Joining the Jesuits in Japan







  A Lifetime with Hopkins  by Peter Milward






     Jacobean Shakespeare
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) 







17. A Scholars’ Paradise


  One of the first rules of the Society of Jesus which I had to learn in my noviciate was that “It belongs to our vocation to travel to any part of the world.”  As for myself, in coming to Japan I may claim to have fulfilled at least that one rule to perfection, not only because I have come here from such a far country as England, but also because from Japan I have had many opportunities both of returning to my country again and again and of visiting other countries in Europe, Asia and Australia, not to mention the Holy Land.  It seems as if my life is a perpetual pilgrimage.  It may have been noticed in the last chapter that my first tour of England took place in the summer of 1970 and my second in the summer of 1972.  In other words, I wasn’t taking such a tour every year, but only every other year.  I didn’t just want to run a kind of tourist agency for Sophia students, specializing in England.  I also wanted to pursue my own academic research on Shakespeare and his religious background, since my book on the subject was still in preparation.  It was only published in 1973.  For my research I found a perfect place on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, at the Huntington Library, San Marino in California.  My first visit there was in the summer of 1968, which, as I have said, coincided with the outbreak of the student revolt at Sophia, and I wasn’t going to cancel or postpone my plans just because of a few rebellious students.  I may have had a momentary feeling of fleeing from them, but in fact I was happy to do so.


  Some of my readers may be scandalized at the many journeys in which I was now involved, here, there and everywhere, so much at variance with the ideal of the monk who is supposed to stay put in one place for an indefinite length of time.  That, however, is the Benedictine, not the Jesuit ideal.  In any case, if I had stayed in Japan for the summer, where the climate becomes so hot and humid, I would have had no energy to do anything.  But as a teacher at Sophia University, I was always able to organize a group tour and travel free as guide and leader.  Moreover, in between such tours, I had an excellent reason, as a Shakespeare scholar, for pursuing my research at the Huntington Library.  What is more, while there, I could always stay at a Catholic church in the neighbourhood and let one of the parochial staff take a vacation while I supplied in his place on Sundays.  So instead of having to pay for my board and lodging, I was paid for my supply, and that pay helped to cover my journey to and from Los Angeles.  It all worked out perfectly for me.  And so by leaving Japan during the summer, I was able to spend my time profitably, whether on tour in England and Europe or doing research in California.  It was, of course, no less hot in California than in Japan, but there it was a dry heat, and in any case I was living and working in air-conditioned rooms.


  My Sundays in California were devoted to my supply at the church, but on weekdays one of the parishioners would drive me to the library every morning.  I myself never drive a car, not even in America, where driving is a part of daily life.  I have never even tried to drive a car, my nervous reactions are too slow.  In a sudden emergency, with the sudden need of putting on the break, I might well step on the accelerator and run over the person I might be trying to avoid.  So I think it is better for me, and for all my probable victims, not to drive a car.  Fortunately, I always found a parishioner willing to drive me to the library, and one of the readers, a good friend of mine, would drive me back.  Of course, it was too far for me to walk from the one place to the other, let alone in that burning heat.  Once on leaving the library I missed my friend, and I couldn’t find anyone else on whom I could count for a lift.  So I thought I might walk for once and see how long it would take me.  In fact, it took me over an hour in that sweltering heat, and by the time I reached the rectory, I was perspiring all over.  “Never again!” was my firm resolve.  On another occasion, my friend drove me back to the rectory and waited outside, as we were going on to a restaurant together.  Inside I met the pastor with the cardinal archbishop of Los Angeles, and I was introduced to him.  Then after a brief conversation, I had to explain that my friend was waiting outside, and the cardinal responded, by way of farewell, “Stand not upon the order of your going!”  I was so impressed that an eminent cardinal of the Holy Roman Church was so ready with a Shakespearian quotation!


The Huntington Library was particularly rich in books of religious controversy from the age of Shakespeare, which was the very subject of my intended research.  I didn’t have so much time during the two summer months, and I wanted to cover as much ground as I could.  Every day, therefore, I spent all my time in the rare books room, devouring book after book, from the time of Elizabeth’s accession to the English throne in 1558.  I aimed at going through all the controversies in chronological order, beginning with the disputes between the Catholics and the Anglicans in the 1560s, then turning to those between the Puritans and the Anglicans in the 1570s, and so on.  Each decade seemed to have its own special kind of controversy, and each controversy developed into a ding-dong battle, since none of the controversialists on either side was willing to give up and cede the field of battle to his opponent.  Thus one book invariably led to another in an accumulation of book upon book.  Even scholars of the Elizabethan period in general and of Shakespearian drama in particular seem to be hardly aware of this wealth of controversial literature.  They either despise it as a series of trivial quarrels or pay attention only to the more famous contributions.  Yet the more deeply I entered into it, the more fascinating I found it, not just on the Catholic side but on all sides, not least that of the Puritans.  Here, it occurred to me, were the real issues of the age, fought out in books, just before, during and just after the time when Shakespeare was producing his great plays. He may not have referred to this literature, he probably disliked controversy of this kind, but it was part of the atmosphere he breathed.  It wasn’t just a matter of a few books on religion published in London from time to time.  In the course of my research I was able to identify no fewer that 630 printed books of religious controversy published within the 45 years of Elizabeth’s reign, and another 764 such books in the 22 years of James’ reign.  In sheer quantity it was overwhelming, nor was the quality, I found, at all inferior.  Yet few scholars, whether of Elizabethan history or of Shakespearian drama, seemed to be aware of it, except in a vague, general manner.  So I felt myself making my way, like an explorer, through a virgin forest with its entangled undergrowth.  Needless to say, few of the books I consulted in the rare books room of the Huntington Library had ever been reprinted, and if a few were reprinted this was only within a year or two of their original issue.  So I found myself every day surrounded with piles of really old books.  Nor would I make use of the micro-films that were available, since they were bad for my eyes.


In this way, every other year from 1968 onwards I would go West – or rather, it was East from Japan – to California.  Each time it was the same.  Whenever I went to Pasadena, I found a church waiting for me, though it wasn’t always the same church.  I also had my transport to and from the library, and on my desk I had my pile of rare books, which were always changing.  There I must have made a record for the number of rare books which I took from the counter every morning and which I brought to the copying room every evening.  Yet I never got into the Guinness Book of Records for this or for anything else.  I never made the application.  It was so quiet in that rare books room, the ideal of academic silence, as contrasted with that other ideal of “academic freedom” which, from my sad experience of student revolt, involves a lot of noise.


At noon I would leave my books and walk through the pleasant grounds of the library, which had formerly been the palatial residence of Henry Huntington, the railroad millionaire.  He may have made his money on the railroads, but he spent it to good purpose on books, as well as paintings and other treasures of art.  In the gardens there was a restaurant, where we could have lunch and meet other scholars, who were always happy to speak about their special areas of expertise.  It was astonishing how specialized some of those areas could be.  Shakespeare himself could, of course, hardly be regarded as a special area, he was so vast and universal.  My friend, who was also a Shakespearian, had devoted his whole life to just one, lesser known play, All’s Well That Ends Well, and within the scope of that one play he paid special attention to its medical background.  He was now happy to find that I could throw light on his chosen play from my religious and controversial background, particularly in view of a controversy over miracles that was taking place about the time the play was written.


 Not that I limited my attention to religious controversy while I was in California.  Like the students on board the “Margarita”, I also took this opportunity to visit Disneyland on two occasions – once more than I have taken during my longer sojourn at Sophia to visit the Tokyo Disneyland.  On both occasions I had the strong feeling on entering that there should have been a notice, “Adults not permitted, except in company with children.”  Both times I went there in company with a fellow Jesuit, and everywhere we passed parents with small children, who made us feel strangely out of place.  On the contrary, in Tokyo Disneyland most of the people I passed on my one occasion there were university students of the female sex, as it was a weekday and small children would, no doubt, have been at school.


 Also during my sojourn in California I had three ports of call over and above the church and the library.  One was the home of an American family who had their palatial home not far from the library in a neighbourhood where all the inhabitants must have been millionaires – to judge from the splendour of their houses.  The father was a lawyer, who went in for funerals and had established a lucrative connection with Japan, and it was in Tokyo that I had first met him.  He wasn’t himself a Catholic, but his wife and children were, and I was always welcome to visit him at home in the evening and to relax in his pool.  It was a large and lively family, and I always felt at home with them.  Another home I visited was in downtown Los Angeles, where father and mother had migrated to the States from Hiroshima after the war, and it had been through friends in Hiroshima that I got to know them.  They were on a lower social level, the father making his living on Japanese landscape gardening, but their house, though small, was none the less homely – in the way Americans know how to make their dwellings with no division, such as I was accustomed to in England, between dining-room and living-room.  One thing I found unique about this Japanese-American family was that the parents spoke only Japanese – neither of them had managed to pick up fluent English over the years – whereas their children, a boy and a girl, spoke only English.  Yet the parents could understand the English spoken by their children, and the children could understand the Japanese spoken by their parents.  As for myself, I found myself in between, speaking now in Japanese to the parents, now in English to the children.  It was an interesting experiment in cross-breeding, and it seemed to work very well.  A third place I used to visit, on the feast of St Ignatius, July 31, which invariably fell during my sojourn, was the Jesuit community residence at Loyola University, now renamed “Loyola-Marymount” from the merging of two neighbouring universities, Loyola for men and Marymount for women.  One of the fathers at this residence had studied English with me at Campion Hall, Oxford, and when the feast of our founder came round he would drive all the way to Pasadena to pick me up and at the end of the feast he would drive me back.  Such a long distance for him to drive four times in one afternoon!  Yet I find the Americans think nothing of driving such long distances for the sake of doing someone a kindness.  They are such generous people, with hearts as wide as their country and its open spaces.


As a result of my many visits to California I had two things to show.  One was the two-volume publication of my work on the religious controversies, first those of the Elizabethan Age, which came out in 1977 from the Scolar Press in England and the University of Nebraska Press in America, and secondly those of the Jacobean Age, which came out in the following year from the same joint publishers.  The other was my reply to some Japanese interviewer – I forget what he was interviewing me for – about the situation in modern England.  Then I could truly say – it must have been in the late 1970s – I knew more about the situation in modern America, especially California, than in modern England.  “Thus,” as the Fool remarks in Twelfth Night, “the whirligig of time brings in his revenges.”  Or as Puck similarly remarks in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “Lord, what fools these mortals be!”

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