The words of Lady Julian of Norwich which conclude Dreams of Peace & Freedom were receiving a resurgence of interest in the 1940s. TS Eliot quoted them in Little Gidding, the last poem in his Four Quartets, which was published in 1942. Thirty years of barbarity and economic depression made Lady Julian’s mystical contemplation on the rightness of things compelling. Many echoed her desire for greater spirituality and a sense of redemption.
A number of broadcasters after the war asked those in the public eye to explain their beliefs. The BBC ran an eye catching series featuring amongst others Bertrand Russell.
David Maxwell Fyfe was asked to explain his beliefs by the totemic American broadcaster Ed Morrow in a programme called 'This I Believe' . In it he explains his faith as that of a ‘romantic’ and concludes that his ambition is ‘to secure that in the second half of our mad century the spiritual stature of man will approximate to his material and scientific advances’.
THE FAITH OF A ROMANTIC AND THE SPIRITUAL STATURE OF MANKIND
With a setting of Magna Carta juxtaposed with Lady Julian's words Dreams of Peace & Freedom opens and closes with words from centuries ago, showing that the struggle to contain power and the battle for personal and social reconciliation in a barbaric world is part of the nature of life, and will be fought forever.
If I must label what I believe, I think I could best describe it as the faith of a romantic. By romance, I don’t mean sentimentally or foolish optimism, but some idealism, an imaginative perception, a pervading sense of tradition, and a strong consciousness of the adventure of living...'
English Cabaret visited Norwich in Spring 2015 to make a short film with Sue Casson's musical setting of lines from Lady Julian's mystical work 'Revelations of Divine Love' as it's underscore.
It was published on YouTube in time for her feast day, which is celebrated each year on 8th May.
"All shall be well, and all shall be well
And all manner of thing shall be well"
Revelations of Divine Love
Very little is known about Julian of Norwich, beyond what she tells us herself in the text of Revelations of Divine Love, which was the first work in English known to be written by a woman. Even her name is unknown, for “Julian” was the saint’s name of the church in Norwich that she was attached to as an anchoress; she was walled up in a cell built on to the church, with food and drink brought to her.
We do know that she was a contemporary of Chaucer, and is now recognised as one of England's most important mystics.
Julian Meeting Groups have been set up across the country for silent contemplative prayer.
TS Eliot, famously repeated her lines in Four Quartets.
'And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.'
'... the faith of a romantic is poles apart from that perfectionism which says that if you adopt someone else’s panacea for life, government, or economics, all problems will disappear. He can’t see Christianity as a release from the problems of the world. His belief that the God who made the world came into the world and died to save it, accentuates rather than lessens his own responsibility...
I know that my faith receives many pitying smiles from the cynic and the intellectual. If I know no other, it can help me in what I believe to be my most important task: namely, to try to secure that, in the second half of our mad century, the spiritual stature of man will approximate to his material and scientific advances.'
The beliefs of David Maxwell Fyfe as set out in the radio programmeThis I Believe broadcast in 1954.
A window in Salisbury Cathedral.
A window in Norwich Cathedral.
Plaque by the site of Julian's cell.