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Compulsory Chapel.

[Cambridge: no publisher, 1904] Stock Code: 147579
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First and only edition of this pamphlet, anonymously printed and privately circulated by Thoby Stephen among his Cambridge cohorts, rebelling against compulsory chapel attendance for students and exhorting them to assert their right not to attend. This is a rare survival, Library Hub locates a single copy (Cambridge), WordlCat adds a copy at the BL, and two overseas.

Described on the cover as an "appeal to undergraduates on behalf of religious liberty and intellectual independence," it bears the following legend from Horace at the foot of that page: "Vidi ergo civium / Retorta tergo brachia libero", that is, "I have seen the citizens' arms twisted back behind their backs; therefore I am setting them free".

Addressing himself "to the Freshmen of Cambridge University," he writes, "with you rests our chief hope of purging our Republic of bigotry and intolerance; that yours is the power and yours the opportunity of making a worthy stand in the cause of Freedom of Opinion and Independence in Religious practices. For those who now enter either of our Universities have at least this privilege which is denied to their countrymen elsewhere, that they are compelled for once to make a clear choice between bowing to the illegal authority of hoary prejudice or asserting the rightful independence of their intellectual manhood" (p. 3).

Sketching the legal history of their freedom of religion and lamenting that he and his classmates "now seem too feeble even to enjoy the fruits of" (p. 4) the victory of their predecessors, he supports his argument with examples of undeniable religious intolerance: that there are no lay heads or deans of college; that chapel attendance is compulsory, and failure to meet this obligation results in punishment; that entering freshmen are bullied into attending, their rights not made plain to them, their dissension ignored, and punishment tacitly threatened if rebellion is scented. "It was in reference to this line of action that I used the word illegal in my first paragraph. For though deans may keep within the letter of the law when they compel all those who do not definitely associate themselves with some other recognized creed to attend the Chapel services, I maintain that in acting thus they plainly outrage its spirit" (p. 6).

His final salvo is directed at the undergraduates themselves, for "the law gives them their independence, if they will have the courage and the energy to insist upon their rights... Could anything degrade a free man more than that he should condescend week after week to fabricate excuses for not attending a religious service which he dislikes or despises? Is there any more pestilential phenomenon than the fictitious crops of pleurisies, rheums, and sciaticas that is bred by each Cambridge Sunday?" (p. 7).

"In Gordon Square the two Stephen sisters ie Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell brought together a group of innovative men whom Thoby had known in Cambridge: Leonard Sidney Woolf (18801969), a stubborn, passionate man, alert to the ills of society and with the practical sense to combat them; the biographer Lytton Strachey; the art critic Clive Bell; the artists Roger Fry and Duncan Grant; the novelist E. M. Forster; and the economist John Maynard Keynes. The shock of Thoby's death in 1906 sealed his sisters' ties to his friends" (ODNB).

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Slim octavo, pp. 8. Original self-wrappers, stapled.


Scattered light toning and spotting, small crease to upper right corner with minor loss to subsequent leaves, else internally fresh and unmarked; a very good copy indeed.


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