713 pages, softbound, ISBN: 978–1717258649, $30.00 at
online retailers such as Amazon.
Schuchard’s biography on book publisher Simon & Schuster’s
website says that she received a Ph.D. in British literature for her
explorations into the esoteric-erotic underground traditions of
17th- to 20th-century secret societies and their influence on British and Irish poets and artists. Members of the Scottish Rite Research Society may be familiar with her from her contribution to
Heredom, the annual transactions of the Society.
Schuchard’s academic background means that many of her
previous works are not always familiar to the average reader. For
this present book, she says in her Acknowledgements that,
“For many years, potential readers of my lengthy scholarly
works have complained about the high price, which has pre-
vented them and even their libraries from acquiring them. I
thus determined to explore the newly emerging methods of in-
Being independently published has brought the cost of this
massive collection of papers within the reach of non-academ-
ic readers. The book does not suffer, except that lay readers
would no doubt be grateful for chapter titles at the head of the
pages so that they can flip the gigantic volume open and find
The writer has staked her claim in the Masonic academic world
in the domain of the Jacobite (generally: sympathetic to the Scottish claim to the shared English throne) Masonic lodges. This includes the (real or purported) networks of political agents and
lodges practicing “high degree” Masonry—often identified as
Écossais, which is the French word for “Scottish.”
Masonic Rivalries deals with “… Masonic-related British literary works and their political context from the 1680s to the 1750s.”
In a broadly chronological series of chapters, the author explores
writers who are usually also Freemasons. They attempt to influence public or administrative opinion in matters of political importance and may have connections through Jacobite (or opposition Whig) pamphlets, news articles, and other literature.
Throughout Masonic Rivalries, while there is always a suggested Masonic connection somewhere, the battle for the hearts
and minds of British citizens in the press and private letters is
not only Masonic, and there is a lot of information to encounter
outside of the Masonic bubble. Freemasonry is considered as a
facet of a larger world.
Because of the naturally limited openness of the subject
(treason—or loyalism, depending on one’s perspective), the
writer often suggests interpretations that rest on possibilities
and probabilities, and the reader must weigh these for themselves. On the other hand, some readers will probably enjoy
Schuchard’s many footnoted references, bold statements offering counter-histories for mystically-inclined Masons and disenfranchised lodges and fringe rites, as well as her many references
to troves of infrequently or never before published letters and
West, David and West,
Matthew, Masonic Legends,
Hamilton House Publishing,
Ltd., 2018, 237 pages,
softbound, ISBN: 978–
0995720527, $20.00 from
Lewis Masonic, $21.00 at
Amazon, and up.
This book is a collection of essays by David West and Matthew
West. Co-author David West, according to an interview with him
lectures on Freemasonry, has published several other books (
including on Freemasonry), and has written for The Square magazine. Each essay here deals with a specific topic and some claimed
relationship with Freemasonry.
Each chapter of Masonic Legends deals with a claim to Masonic
relevance. Chapters are as follows: Robin Hood; King Aethelstan
& the York Legend; The Queen of Sheba & the Temple of Jerusalem; Masonry & the Emancipation of South America; Cuba, the
Craft & Castro; and The Lodge & Rudyard Kipling.
Legends in this book are dealt with by giving a short timeline
of events surrounding the period associated with a particular legend, and then restating what connection to Freemasonry there
could be in the authors’ view (or is sometimes suggested that
there is by others), and then asking, is this likely to be true? Chipping away at those answers is at the heart of this book.
Some of the legends examined in this book have only a thin
connection to Freemasonry (at least as presented by the writers).
For example, the chapter entitled The Queen of Sheba & the Temple of Jerusalem opens with an account of the completion of King
Solomon’s Temple and the reception of the Queen of Sheba. The
“legend” is examined on the basis of this account, which is taken,
according to a footnote, from the “St Laurence Ritual, privately
printed for the members of St Laurence Lodge, No. 5511.” This is
David West’s mother lodge. Unfortunately, there is no discussion
of how common it is to hear this Queen of Sheba story in Masonic
ritual. How many lodges use it? Is it restricted to a geographic area
or language groups? Can we guess at who may have added it to the
ritual, and why? This might be helpful to the reader to know.
Similarly, the chapter dealing with Robin Hood begins:
“To avoid distracting controversy, let us start with a legend with
only the most tangential connection to Freemasonry, just to see
how legends work. As far as we know, the only connection be-
tween Robin Hood and Freemasonry appears in episode 87 (The
Mark) of the 1950s TV series The Adventures of Robin Hood.”
The book opens with this quote: “ When the legend becomes fact,
print the legend.” Sometimes, entertaining the legend can be ex-
citing. If opening a dialogue about what might be, or could have
been, is something that you enjoy with your friends, then this
book might be that exciting place to start a new conversation.