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CHAPTER VIII.

THE COMMUNITY UNDER BLESSED JOHN

HOUGHTON-BLESSED

WILLIAM EXMEW-BLESSED HUMPHREY MIDDLEMORE-BLESSED
SEBASTIAN NEWDIGATE-OTHER EXEMPLARY MONKS-MAURICE

CHAUNCY-EXCEPTIONS-ANDREW BORD-THE LAY BROTHERS

-HUGH TAYLOR.

IN the London Charterhouse, during the priorate of John Houghton, all the characteristics of a well-regulated Charterhouse were to be seen in their perfection. This is easily understood, for this holy place harboured no less than fifteen or sixteen religious who were destined eventually to be raised to the altars of the Church.

Silence, our historian assures us, was very strictly observed. When a monk chanced to meet his father or some other relative in the cloister, he would not enter into conversation, though he had already obtained permission to receive his visit, but, simply making a sign with his hand, he would keep silence until they reached the cell. One might have believed that the cloister was uninhabited, except when the great bell called the monks from their solitude to sing God's praises in the Church.

THE COMMUNITY.

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No choir monk, excepting the Prior and Procurator, was ever seen abroad, except on walk-day ; and even the lay brothers were very exact with regard to the enclosure, and never left the monastery without necessity.

Peace, concord, and brotherly love reigned supreme in the Charterhouse; and an emulation was observed among the religious, not as to who should be in office or in dignity, but as to who would be the most mortified, the most humble, or the most zealous in the service of God. Moreover, they vied with one another as to who would keep silence the best, leave his cell the least often, or be the most exact in coming to choir.

Though several of the monks had been wealthy and accustomed to every comfort when in the world, all led in the monastery a poor and mortified life, observing in its fulness the vow, and faithfully practising the virtue, of voluntary poverty. Their clothes were of the poorest texture, and did not exceed the number mentioned in the Statutes. "Pewter platters" were forbidden by Prior Houghton, "treen dishes" alone being permitted.' In fact, everything bespoke the spirit of voluntary poverty. Of good books, however, there was a plentiful supply."

1 Letters and Papers, vol. vii., 1047.

"Tantum duplicia de aliqua re necessària, exceptis libris,

habebant."

With regard to the vow of chastity the reputation of the Charterhouse monks has remained intact, even in the midst of the calumnies and exaggerations of men whose interest it was to blacken the fair name of the religious houses. The situation of the Charterhouse just under the walls of the City, and the good opinion of the people, must have prevented the invention of stories about the monks. If, however, any real charge could have been brought against them, undoubtedly it would not have been neglected. This is sufficiently proved by the insinuation regarding the number of keys, which will be explained in a subsequent chapter.1

The vow of obedience was observed in its integrity; and in matters which do not fall under the vow, the virtue of obedience was practised in all perfection. So submissive, indeed, were the monks to the will of their Prior, that he used to complain of the responsibility they laid upon his shoulders by thus leaving everything to his judg

ment.

Chauncy gives other particulars with regard to the community under Blessed John Houghton; but they need not be recorded here, for they would be equally appropriate to any well-regulated Charterhouse. It is, however, both consoling and edifying to have the assurance of a trustworthy eye-witness that, during the last years of its prosperity, the

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BLESSED WILLIAM EXMEW.

97

London Charterhouse was in such excellent condition.

Some members of the community deserve to be especially mentioned; and first of all Blessed William Exmew, who was able, in the midst of such perfect companions, to distinguish himself by his virtues and his learning. He was of good family, very intelligent, and well versed in the Greek and Latin languages.' He was, moreover, very fervent in the service of God, and Chauncy considered that his equal could hardly be found in the English Province of the Order. He was raised, when only twentyeight years old, to the office of Vicar; and in that capacity he was for some time the confessor of Blessed John Houghton. Subsequently he was transferred to the office of Procurator, and he held it until his holy death.

The Procuratorship, generally distasteful to a good monk, was a heavy cross for Father William Exmew; for he sincerely loved the silence and solitude of the cloister. "His humble heart was rent," says Chauncy, "with a great sorrow, for he feared to lose the precious pearl he had found. Moreover, having tasted in spirit the sweet peace of detachment, the false liberty of the world had lost for him its savour." He frequently told Chauncy how ashamed

A manuscript Life of Fisher, partly destroyed by fire (Brit. Mus., Arundel 152, fol. 151), tells us that Dom William Exmew was of Christ's College, Cambridge.

H

and confused he felt at being obliged to leave the choir before Lauds. The Procurator does this because he must rise earlier than the other choir monks, in order to say the lay brothers' Mass. But . Dom William was afflicted by the thought that he held the office of Judas, who kept the bag; and that, like him, he went out before the rest of the community. Thus following Judas in life, he feared that at last he would also be condemned with him. He had, however, no reason to be troubled; for his virtues were solid, and he remained faithful to the end.

While Father Exmew was Vicar of the Charterhouse, the Procuratorship was held by Father Humphrey Middlemore. Subsequently they exchanged offices, Father Exmew becoming, as has just been observed, Procurator, and Father Middlemore Vicar. We have at present no more particulars regarding Blessed Humphrey Middlemore, excepting those which belong to the history of the troublous times.

Of all the monks of the London Charterhouse, perhaps the most distinguished as regards family, and one of the most remarkable for his virtues, was Sebastian Newdigate. His family name, which is variously written in old charters and upon ancient monuments, Newudgate, Niwodegate, Newedigate, Niudegate, is either taken from, or else gave its name to, Newdigate, near Reigate, Surrey.

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