The Earthly Powers Bookshelf: Rituale Romanum
Anthony Burgess’s Earthly Powers is a book made up of other books. The Earthly Powers Bookshelf charts that literary map, using as its base Burgess’s library at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation.
In one of the most memorable scenes in Earthly Powers, Philip Shawcross, a British man in Malaya, putatively possessed by demons, undergoes an exorcism conducted by Monsignor Carlo Campanati. Burgess quotes directly from a text called the Rituale Romanum during the scene.
The Rituale Romanum is one of three official volumes of the procedures of Catholic worship (along with the Missale Romanum and the Breviarium Romanum) and is used by priests during services and sermons. Each of its ten sections deal with a different Roman Catholic rite, including: the sacraments of baptism, Eucharist, penance, marriage and anointing the sick; general blessings; processions; and the exorcism of those possessed by a demon.
Burgess would have been familiar with some of these rituals from his childhood. He was raised as a Catholic, regularly attending the Church of the Holy Name of Jesus Christ on Oxford Road in Manchester (pictured here) with his family, and studying at two Catholic schools, Bishop Bilsborrow Memorial School in Moss Side and Xaverian College in Rusholme.
He underwent a crisis of religious faith at the age of sixteen which led to his apostasy; however, he continued to address religious subjects in his writing and his library includes a collection of religious texts, including several bibles, the Quran, lives of saints, several histories of world religion, and his own copy of the Rituale Romanum.
Burgess’s edition of the text was published in 1881 and is written entirely in Latin. It is a small volume bound in scuffed leather, with the monogram “G.A.” on the cover. That Burgess is using his own copy of the Rituale Romanum when writing Earthly Powers is confirmed in the exorcism scene:
[Carlo] ‘opened his book at page 366. Crossing and crossing with his right hand, book in left, he growled out the liturgy. “…Audi ergo, et time, satana, inimice fidei, hostis generis humani, mortis adductor, vitae raptor, justitae declinator, malorum radix, fomes vitorum, seductor hominum, proditor gentium, incitator invidiae, origo avaritiae, causa discordiae, excitator dolorum…”’ (‘…Therefore hear and fear, Satan, enemy of the faith, the enemy of the human race, bringer of death, of life, deviant of justice, turn away, root of all evil, the tinder of vices, seducer of men, betrayer of nations, inciter of envy, origin of avarice, cause of discord, bringer of sorrows…’
This liturgy appears on page 366 of the copy of the Rituale Romanum in the library at the Burgess Foundation.
This is not the only exorcism in Burgess’s fiction. In The Eve of Saint Venus, written in 1951, the protagonist Ambrose Rutterkin, places a wedding ring on the finger of a statue of Venus on the eve of his marriage. The statue comes alive and encloses the ring in a stony fist. In order to expunge the ghost of Venus from the house, the Anglican Reverend Norman Chauncell is called to perform the appropriate rites.
Chauncell is a typically Burgessian character: a vicar who enjoys his brandy, and maniacally sees evil everywhere, even in the birds, which he claims are ‘Devils in the guise of birds’. He uses the same pages of the Rituale Romanum to expel the spirit as Carlo Campanati does in Earthly Powers, which suggests that Burgess owned a copy as early as 1951.
Read more about Anthony Burgess’s copy of Rituale Romanum in our Object Of The Week blog series.
Throughout 2020, the Burgess Foundation is celebrating the fortieth anniversary of Earthly Powers, of which this series is a part. Find out more about the Earthly Powers 40 project.