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F. H. Woods

In recent weeks I have been working on some of Pusey House’s smaller archive collections, and by far the most extensive and diverse is that of F. H. Woods, a theological scholar who wrote on Higher Criticism and the Hebrew Prophets. Amongst the items in this collection are a letter from Lord Teignmouth to Professor Samuel Lee of Cambridge (dated 1820; possibly part of Woods’s own collection), a copy of a note in German from the theologian Franz Delitzsch, a furious letter about Moses signed only from ‘an Octogenarian’, and a touching, almost Dickensian note from one Mrs. Trayhorn, requesting financial aid.

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Despite the many colourful fragments of this rather eccentric collection, F. H. Woods himself remains something of an elusive figure, partly due to his relatively frequently-occurring surname. The fact that everything in the archive is either to or about Woods (as opposed to from him) also does not help. However, a quick look in the 1900 edition of Crockford’s clerical directory places him in the parish of Chalfont St. Peter in that year, whilst a set of three letters of condolence sent to his wife confirm that Woods died in early 1915. Crockford’s also reveals that Woods was the author of such works as A Guide to the Study of Theology in Oxford, and was a translator.

octogenarian

 

For those wishing a glimpse into the sheer randomness of Woods’s intellectual and professional life, this somewhat quirky archive is available to view (on request) in the Library.

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Rev. P. V. M. Allen – take three!

Rev. Allen’s diaries are full of examples of his charming humour, and on countless occasions he proves himself to be fun-loving as well as caring and deeply devoted to his faith. However, one of the most notable aspects of his diary concerns the death in May 1966 of his friend, 20-year-old Peter Downs. Peter was a young member of Allen’s congregation, and the day of his death prompts one of Allen’s longest diary entries. Allen actually made a separate edition of his diary dealing with the period surrounding Peter’s death. Months later, he remains traumatised, writing, ‘I myself find it desperately difficult to accept the fact of Peter’s death’. A rood was later dedicated to Peter in Allen’s parish of Tunstall, Kent, with the Bishop of Dover describing Peter as a ‘potential saint’.

It is difficult to ignore the fact that Allen seems to have suffered from many bereavements during the latter years of his diary-keeping, frequently including tiny extracts from the Times obituary section. In addition, in 1961 he writes touchingly of the death of his nanny, ‘Old Nurse’, who had previously had a ubiquitous presence in the diary. However, Allen’s personal sadness failed to curb his sense of duty, and newspaper fragments from the 1970s contain a first glimpse of his face, such as this photograph, taken after a walk to raise money for a new church roof in 1974, in which Allen stands prominently to the left of the image:

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Years later, in 1980, the penultimate volume contains this photograph of Allen posing with friends on his 72nd birthday:

Allen birthday

By 1980, Allen, was already feeling the effects of the Motor Neuron Disease that eventually led to his death, and there is a marked deterioration in his handwriting. Unfortunately this is also the year that his diary entries stopped for good, although Allen lived in retirement for four more years. Despite this, his diary is an impressively complete account of a single human life, and more specifically of a dedicated clergyman. Allen himself, as indicated by his own production of the Peter Downs edition, considered that the diary might be worthy of publication one day, and it remains an invaluable insight into almost sixty years of history.

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Rev. P. V. M. Allen diaries – take two!

My investigation into the extensive diaries of the Rev. P. V. M. Allen continues, and I have reached his Oxford days, adulthood and career as a clergyman. Allen’s diary from Oxford contains accounts of some of his visits to Pusey House, such as this section from 28th April 1932:

‘I went to Pusey House to do some work. I actually sat at Dr. Pusey’s desk – a great honour. Reardon remarked on the inconsistency of my sitting at Pusey’s desk & reading Loisy – both for the first time. But I hope I am more a disciple of Pusey than I am of Loisy’.

The diary goes on to chart Allen’s life as a curate at various parishes in England. I have encountered tales of World War II,  bad behaviour in a catechism class, and a carefully-documented three-year trip to Australia, where he worked as chaplain of All Souls School in North Queensland in the early fifties. However, one of Allen’s most colourful diary entries, and one that rather contrasts the sober accounts of daily life in his previous diaries, occurs on 1st January 1942, when his inability to procure his annual diary book results in an unexpected feeling of liberation:

‘In most cases the war has reduced freedom or destroyed it altogether. But with my diary the opposite’s true! For the war has forced upon me a step which I had often contemplated but never accomplished – escape from the narrow confines of the Diary Book […] I refuse to be informed about the state of the moon. I am content to be in blissful ignorance about eclipses and law sittings’

Allen’s resolution to ignore legal jargon and cosmological phenomena evidently pays off, for his diary blossoms from this point: his entries become longer and more detailed, filling one of his notebooks in less than two months. In particular, his kind and beneficent personality becomes more evident, as is shown by this touching card, authored by a little girl called Beryl in 1950:

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Keep checking the Pusey House Library blog for more updates on Allen’s life and diaries!

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P. V. M. Allen archives

After making progress with the Pusey House cataloguing project, I am now starting a project dealing with some archives – the diaries of Father Philip Vernon Moor Allen (known as Vernon), an Oxford-educated clergyman whose life is meticulously recorded in tiny annual diaries.

So far, the diaries have documented his progress through Bloxham School and onto his Oxford days. So far, I have encountered detailed descriptions of school sports matches, graphic accounts of days spent suffering with influenza, and even what looks like some amateur poetry (as in the picture):

Allen

As I progress to the diaries dealing with Allen’s Oxford days, it is likely that I will be running into some entries dealing with Pusey House and what it may have meant to him…

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Easter week

Just a note to say that the Library will remain open during the week running up to Easter!

Feel free to drop in between the usual opening hours to work or to look at any books on the main shelves, although the archives will not be available to view during this period.

As usual, if there are any queries regarding the Library, please contact pusey.librarian@stx.ox.ac.uk .

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Book Repairs

Tuesday has seen more much-needed work on book repairs from Ruth, Jill, Peggy and Sue from The Arts Society Wantage. The volunteers, who are trained by an independent specialist conservator, analyse a variety of different materials, including original nineteenth-century tracts which are often the only copies currently in existence. They work with the most intimate details of books (including distinguishing between reparable and non-reparable tears!) to make sure that they are fit to be read by generations to come.

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They work with many of the library’s rare and antique books as well as a number of original letters and manuscripts from Dr. Pusey and other vital figures from the Oxford Movement, such as the extensive Liddon Bound Volumes collection (available on request from the Pusey House Librarian).

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