▪ Father Henry Rope – quite a character

Father Henry Rope, Marga’s brother, seems to have been a real character.  Almost like a figure out of an Evelyn Waugh novel, he abhorred anything to do with the twentieth century, although he was something of a word-scholar and apparently a fine poet too.

Henry Edward George, as he was born (in 1880, making two years older than Marga), studied for the priesthood in Rome, from 1911 until his ordination in 1915.
Apparently, when he got his first appointment as priest, at Plowden in south Shropshire, he preached against the introduction of tractors!  Perhaps an interesting choice of subject when you consider how rural Plowden is.

He is said never to have used a motor-car, and the story goes that on his retirement from his work in Rome in the nineteen-fifties, he refused the use of a car to take him on his way to the railway station, and insisted on a horse & cart instead…
One suspects that the reason he got his appointment at a Catholic college in Rome was because he wasn’t really fitted for life in a twentieth-century English parish.

Family news

In 2010 John Beaumont wrote a book entitled “Roads to Rome: A Guide to Notable Converts from Britain and Ireland From the Reformation to the Present Day“, a list of thumbnail biographies, published by St. Augustine Press. The book contains entries for Margaret Agnes Rope of course, and her cousin Margaret Edith Rope, and (we are grateful to report) Fr. Henry Edward George himself. Mr Beaumont’s entry on Henry has a good bibliography of Henry’s works.
Recently, a Wikipedia page was also created about him.
See also a review of one of Henry’s poetry books – The Soul’s Belfry.

Of course, he is not the only fascinating figure in Marga’s family tree. The stories about her siblings and other relatives fairly bristle with interest. There’s a book in them surely if someone only had the time.

‘A Family Recorded in Glass: The Windows of Margaret Rope in Shrewsbury Cathedral’ by Peter Phillips (Midland Catholic History Bulletin 2009, No 16)
Floreat Salopia – Essays about the Catholic Diocese of Shrewsbury by Monsignor Christopher Lightbound (publ in booklet form in 2014).  The essays include a short one about Fr Henry Rope
‘Roads to Rome: A Guide to Notable Converts from Britain and Ireland From the Reformation to the Present Day’ by John Beaumont.  The entry on Harry contains the fullest list of his poetry and works of history

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9 thoughts on “▪ Father Henry Rope – quite a character

  1. A good place to start if you want to find the writings of Father Rope would be “Forgotten England and other Musings” published by Heath Cranton, 1931. It is a collection of Father Harry’s essays on various subjects, particularly rural.
    He really was a true eccentric but remembered with fond affection by many of his contemporaries in the Roman Catholic Church.


    • After writing my previous comment, I took the Heath Cranton book down and rediscovered Fr Harry Rope’s eccentricities anew.
      His written English can rise to expressive heights but is often a meandering path of sentences interrupted by literary quotations, Latin and Greek phrases (he does translate the Greek) and vehement asides.
      Another delight is the words and phrases he invents to show his disdain for the motor-car and for all kinds of “progress” and development. He calls cars “oil-wains” and “petrolleys”, refers to drivers as “motorious” and calls modern roads “bituminous skating rinks”. Throughout, the inventive language he uses for the changes he abhors is forceful and full of scorn and despair.

      The final chapter is typical: an account of a journey from Oxford to London on July 1, 1929 on a horse drawn stage coach. Although the centre of Oxford is safe from his denunciation, he is soon writing: “The barbarians have desecrated huge tracts, while filling suburbs and city alike with the noisy delirium of petrolatry”. At points along the way, he is happy to record survivals of English England: and admire the skill of the chief horseman. “To hear the wheels upon the gravel while passing under the boughs of mighty oaks and elm-trees recalled the living past to a degree no longer possible upon the more or less cockney highway”. Finally, reaching Piccadilly he describes “the wearied faces of fashion’s slaves, pale, half-dressed and daubed with lipstick, betray[ing] their taedium vitae”. At least you have no doubt where his sympathies lay!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. He was a wonderful man: an early Distributist and a sort of chaplain to Hilaire Belloc.He was devoted to the Old, traditional Catholic Faith and the worship of the church as found in the Traditional (Tridentine) Mass.
    I have managed to collect most of his small books of poetry but still can’t find one of them.
    There was an obituary in the CHRISTIAN ORDER by Ronald Warwick.
    Alan Robinson


    • Dear Mr Robinson, we have a small collection of Father Harry’s books ourselves. Which one are you looking for?


      • Thank you so much. I think that Religionis ancilla, a small book of poems, is the only one I am missing. I really don’t know of any others.
        I prefer his prose to his poetry; for example FORGOTTEN ENGLAND, is a great favourite of mine.
        Thank you for your kind reply,
        Alan Robinson


      • You’d be very fortunate to find a copy on sale anywhere. It’s quite rare.
        Shropshire Archives possess a copy though for scholars to look at.


  3. I am a bit late here: but I think that AbeBooks has had a copy or copies of FORGOTTEN ENGLAND. Look online.

    There are also two articles online (Google them) in old copies of The Ampleforth Review: Peregrinus: H.E.G.Rope, about his problems with Ultramontane Baroque Rome and his longing for the Medieval Gothic and, if not, then the Byzantine – anything except Roman Baroquerie !
    Alan Robinson


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