The Latin Clerk: The Life, Work and Travels of Adrian Fortescue

By Aidan Nichols

An insightful biography of the Roman Catholic priest, scholar and traveller Adrian Fortescue, showing the breadth of his interests and achievements.

ISBN: 9780718892746
All Titles By:


This biography of Adrian Fortescue presents an insightful look at a man, now perceived as an icon of Catholic traditionalism, facing a crisis of conscience over his affiliation with Liberal Catholicism and objections towards the intellectual conservatism of the papacy.

The Latin Clerk thus reveals an interesting discord in Edwardian culture between theological doctrine and secular developments, and also reflects frequent tensions existing within the Roman Catholic Church of today, making the inner conflicts of Fortescue pertinent to modern society.

Not only will this book be of interest to historians and theologians, but it will also appeal to students of the Eastern Churches. Through a presentation of Fortescue’s extensive work as an Orientalist and Liturgist, the reader may explore the riches of the ancient Eastern Churches, the Greek Fathers, and the history of the liturgy.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Pages 308

Trade Information LPOD

About the Author

Aidan Nichols OP is the author of forty books, including the recent G.K. Chesterton, Theologian (2009), and From Hermes to Benedict XVI: Faith and Reason in Modern Catholic Thought (2009). A member of the Dominican Order, he now resides in Blackfriars, Cambridge.


List of Illustrations

1. Background and Boyhood
2. The Formative Years
3. Ordination and First Steps in Priesthood
4. The Levantine Grand Tour (1906-7) and The Greek Fathers
5. Studies of the Eastern Churches, Far and Near
6. Letchworth and Beyond
7. The Theory of the Liturgy: Encyclopaedias, and The Mass
8. The Practice of the Liturgy: Rivalis Villa, the Ceremonial, and the Chant
9. Anglo-Roman Debates
10. Liberal Catholicism, Catholic Modernism, and the Posthumous Boethius
11. Conclusion

Index of Names


Endorsements and Reviews

It is not possible to do justice here to what Aidan Nichols has done in this book … This is a very fine study of a fascinating, brilliant and complex man.
The Revd Peter McGeary, in Church Times

Adrian Fortscue is now remembered best as the cynosure of rubricians, whose Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described had a samizdat thrill in the colleges and seminaries of the 1980s, and is now once again the definitive vade mecum for every MC’s Extraordinary Form needs. … Aidan Nichols’ new book is a comprehensive overview of Fortescue’s writings, and of his liturgical work at mission for which he was responsible in Letchworth Garden City, or Rivalis Villa as he called it.
Robin Ward, in New Directions, March 2012

Aidan Nichols’ work rescues Fortescue from any suggestion of obsessive liturgical pedantry, and presents instead a compelling picture of an exemplary priest, a meticulous scholar and a lively, adventurous and humorous man. … Aidan Nichols’ work succeeds admirably in presenting a more rounded picture of Doctor Fortescue than the image that one has if one only knows him as the author of a ceremonial guide. Fortescue was the model of the priest scholar, comparatively uncommon then as now, and very much a man of his time, throwing himself into controversies and parish life with equal energy.
Dom Benet Watt OSB, in The Downside Review, Vol 130, No 458

This biography is both enlightening and entertaining. It illuminates Fortescue’s key insights, many of which remain just as true today as they were during his lifetime. But it also paints a vivid picture of Fortescue and his greatness. From reading Nichols’s book, it becomes clear that Fortescue was a brilliant, eccentric, and colorful character. … Overall, The Latin Clerk does an impressive job of capturing both the essence of the man and a particular epoch in Catholic history.
Anthony Dragani, in The Catholic Historical Review, Vol 98 (4)

‘The Latin clerk’, as Fortecuse called himself, well deserves the sympathetic presentation of his life and work that Aidan Nichols has given in this informative and readable book.
Hugh Wybrew, in The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Vol 64.1

Fortescue emerges from Nichols’s study as a bold scholar who was unafraid to push boundaries, especially when prompted by historical-critical method, as well as an adventurer who trekked fearlessly across inhospitable and hostile terrain in his quest to understand the ecclesiologies and liturgies of ancient Christendom in their real breadth and diversity.
David Grumett, in Reviews in Religion & Theology, Vol 20, Issue 2

This book is elegantly written with comprehensive footnotes and is a joy to read.
Anglo-Catholic History Society Newsletter, May 2013

… Nichols is surely to have the final word [on Fortescue].
Peter Allott, in The Tablet, 26 January 2013