Page 30 - MFM MAY 2014
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Montana Freemason  May 2014                               Volume 90 Number 2

in Gloucester itself, as being too southerly, but) in     though there is no way in which we can verify such
the north of Gloucestershire or in the neighbouring       theories, especially seeing that we know nothing
north of Herefordshire, or even possibly in the south     about the document save what it has to tell us about
of Worcestershire.”                                       itself, which is little.

   (A.Q.C. VII, page 35.)                                    In his Commentary on the Regius MS, R.F. Gould
   In 1889 an exact facsimile of this famous              produced a paragraph that has ever since served as
manuscript was published in Volume I of the               the pivot of a great debate. It reads as follows and
Antigrapha produced by the Quatuor Coronati Lodge         refers to the “sermonette” portion which deals with
of Research, and was edited by the then secretary         “moral duties”: “These rules of decorum read very
of that lodge, George William Speth, himself a            curiously in the present age, but their inapplicability
brilliant authority, who supplied a glossary that is      to the circumstances of the working Masons of the
indispensable to the amateur student. Along with it       fourteen or fifteenth century will be at once apparent.
was published a commentary by R.F. Gould, one of          They were intended for the gentlemen of those days,
the greatest of all his Masonic papers, though it is      and the instruction for behaviour in the presence of
exasperating in its rambling arrangement and general      a lord - at table and in the society of ladies - would
lack of conclusiveness.                                   have all been equally out of place in a code of manners
                                                          drawn up for the use of a Guild or Craft of Artisans.”

   The Regius Manuscript is the only one of all the          The point of this is that there must have been
versions to be written in meter, and may have been        present among the Craftsmen of that time a number of
composed by a priest, if one may judge by certain         men not engaged at all in labour, and therefore were,
internal evidences, though the point is disputed. There   as we would now describe them, “speculatives.” This
are some 800 lines in the poem, the strictly Masonic      would be of immense importance if Gould had made
portion coming to an end at line 576, after which         good his point, but that he was not able to do. The
begins what Hughan calls a “sermonette” on moral          greatest minds of the period in question were devoted
duties, in which there is quite a Roman Catholic vein     to architecture, and there is no reason not to believe
with references to “the sins seven”, “the sweet lady”     that among the Craftsmen were members of good
(referring to the Virgin) and to holy water. There is     families. Also the Craft was in contact with the clergy
no such specific Mariolatry in any other version of       all the while, and therefore many of its members may
the Old Charges, though the great majority of them        well have stood in need of rules for preserving proper
express loyalty to “Holy Church” and all of them, until   decorum in great houses and among the members of
Anderson’s familiar version, are specifically Christian,  the upper classes. From Woodford until the present
so far as religion is concerned.                          time the great majority of Masonic scholars have
                                                          believed the Old Charges to have been used by a
   The author furnishes a list of fifteen “points”        strictly operative craft and it is evident that they will
and fifteen “articles”, all of which are quite specific   continue to do so until more conclusive evidence to
instructions concerning the behaviour of a Craftsman:     the contrary is forthcoming than Gould’s surmise.
this portion is believed by many to have been the
charges to an initiate as used in the author’s period,       Next to the Regius the oldest manuscript is that
and is therefore deemed the most important feature of     known as the Cooke. It was published by R. Spencer,
the book as furnishing us a picture of the regulations    London, 1861 and was edited by Mr. Matthew Cooke,
of the Craft at that remote date. The Craft is described  hence his name. In the British Museum’s catalogue
as having come into existence as an organized             it is listed as “Additional M.S. 23,198”, and has been
fraternity in “King Adelstoune’s day”, but in this        dated by Hughan at 1450 or thereabouts, an estimate
the author contradicts himself, because he refers to      in which most of the specialists have concurred.
things “written in old books” (I modernize spelling of    Dr. Begemann believed the document to have been
quotations) and takes for granted a certain antiquity     “compiled and written in the southeastern portion
for the Masonry, which, as in all the Old Charges,        of the western Midlands, say, in Gloucestershire or
is made synonymous with Geometry, a thing very            Oxfordshire, possibly also in southeast Worcestershire
different in those days from the abstract science over    or southwest Warwickshire. The ‘Book of Charges’
which we laboured during our school days.                 which forms the second part of the document is
                                                          certainly of the 14th century, the historical or first
   The Regius Poem is evidently a book about              part, of quite the beginning of the 15th.”
Masonry, rather than a document of Masonry, and
may very well have been written by a non-Mason,              (A.Q.C. IX, page18)

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