|A Reader's Guide
to William Gaddis's The Recognitions
II.1 pp. pages 311-342
311.7] I'm a Little Piece of Leather: "sung (& recorded) by a cult chanteuse in the 40s named Stella Brooks, she was quite a dish" (WG/SM). Brooks (1910-2002).wrote and recorded this song ca. 1946; it appears on an album entitled Diverse Songs and Moods: Stella Brooks & Greta Keller (Folkways Records, 1981). A short woman, she is described in the liner notes as having "dark hair in a page-boy bob and blue eyes."
311.22] Bronzino: Il Bronzino (real name Agnolo di Cosimo Allori, 1503-72), Florentine portraitist.
311.24] Infessura [...] Sixtus IV, "puerorum amator et sodomita fuit": from Saltus's description of the corruption of the Renaissance papacy: "Of Sextus IV., Infessura says, in words that are best left untranslated, 'Puerum amator et sodomita fuit.' And it would appear, not only that he was guilty of these charming practices, but that he granted indulgences for their general commission" (AN 100).* Sixtus IV was pope from 1471-84; Stefano Infessura (ca. 1435-ca. 1500) was an Italian historian; see Summers' note on him in MM (xxv, n.). The Latin phrase, which translates "he was a lover of boys and a sodomite," is from his notorious Diarium urbis Romae.
*Gaddis followed Saltus in the first edition of R, but corrected "Sextus" to "Sixtus" and "puerum" to "puerorum" in later editions; these errors appear in the first edition of The Anatomy of Negation (New York: Scribner and Welford, 1886) and in Brentano's 1925 reprint, one of which Gaddis obviously used, but were corrected in the revised edition of AN published by Belford, Clarke & Company in 1889.
311.31] Dionysian processions [...] Holy Ghost: source unknown.
311.40] jus primae noctis: the "first night's rights" that a medieval lord could claim over any bride in his domain. Recent scholarship dismisses this as folklore: see Alain Boureau's The Lord's First Night: The Myth of the Droit de Cuissage, trans. Lydia G. Cochrane (U Chicago P, 1998).
312.10] Lupercalia [...] naked women whipped: a Roman festival of expiation, later of fertility, celebrated on February 15. Roman women, to ensure fertility (and not necessarily naked), would put forth their hands to be stricken with the leather thongs carried by young men (Luperci) appointed to celebrate the festival. In 494 Pope Gelasius I changed the day to that of the Purification of the Virgin Mary.
312.25] she looked rather like George Washington [...] for her money: 1759 (cf. 63.2).
312.31] Popeye: the name of the depraved protagonist of Faulkner's Sanctuary (1931), though Gaddis may not have known this (see note to 187.6).
313.2] Tertullian [...] De Virginibus Velandis [...] evil angels: adapted from Conybeare (MMM 232-33):
The idea that spirits, especially evil ones, approach women through the ear, which these early legends of the Virgin Mary embody, was an old Rabbinic one, found in the Talmud, in Philo, Josephus, and, above all, in Paul. The latter, in I Corinthians, ch. xi., forbids a woman "to pray or prophesy with her head unveiled. She must carry on her head a talisman (lit. power), because of the angels." Tertullian, the earliest of the Christian Fathers to comment on this passage, explains that evil angels were ever lurking about ready to assail even married women, much more virgins, through their ears. From this point of view he penned his weighty treatise, De Virginibus Velandis - "On the Necessity of Veiling Virgins"; and the Church has been careful, in devising a dress for nuns, who are espoused to Christ, to cover up their ears and protect them from this class of risk.
313.9] The Virgin conceived that way, the Logos entered her ears: an early Christian belief, based on earlier Egyptian beliefs; see MMM 230-34. The Logos is, of course, the Word of God (John 1:1; cf. Faust 1224-37).
313.11] Vergil [...] mares were made pregnant by the wind: Vergil says this of the mares of Boeotia in the third of his Georgics (ll. 266-76), quoted in MMM 196.
313.21] Fuisse deam [...] a goddess had just appeared: from Ovid: see 254.22-23.
314.10] pony boy: one who assumes a subservient role in certain sadomasochistic scenarios.
314.11] Victoria and Albert Hall: cf. the Royal Albert Hall, Victoria and Albert Museum, etc.
314.32] Seraphina di Brescia: see 59.36 (and cf. 295.30).
315.12] The Boof on the Roof: that is, Le Boeuf sur le Toit - a cabaret in Paris (named after Milhaud's 1919 ballet) known to expatriates as the "Nothing-Doing Bar." The French name appears at 575.21 and in partial translation at the bottom of 608.
315.17] Emerson's advice: see 264.10.
315.21] Baby and I [...] wonderful hot: see 219.2.
315.28] Tarahumara Indian [...] not having danced enough: verbatim from FRR (88). A chosen member of this indigenous Mexican tribe would dance to procure rain for their crops.
315.35] Greek Clement [...] generation and death: from Clement of Alexandria's (see 373.1) Stromata, as quoted by Saltus (AN 76).
315.43] Philippe Auguste: Philip II (ruled 1180-1223) married Ingeborg in 1193 but quickly developed a dislike for her; he repudiated the marriage and in 1196 married Agnes, daughter of Bertold IV, duke of Meran. The marriage was opposed by Popes Celestine III and Innocent III, and in 1201 Philip agreed to separate from Agnes (who died later that year). Ingeborg was kept in prison until 1213. The details of Philip's marital history may be from EB (17:718); the description of France under the interdict is from Saltus (AN 95).
316.25] Piero di Cosimo: (1462?-1521?), unusual Florentine artist who did much to advance landscape painting.
317.10] brushing at a spot on his sleeve: see 770.17.
317.33] dawn's early light: from "The Star-Spangled Banner."
317.39] Max Schling: a well-known florist shop at the time.
319.44] Leptis Magna: see 83.35, where Wyatt owns a ground plan of the Libyan city. Somehow Wyatt comes into possession of this ceramic fragment, or one very similar (see 895.38).
320.8] the middle sea: the literal meaning of Mediterranean.
321.13] Saint Catherine [...] Saint Lawrence: see 46.15-16.
321.42] Jesuit Father Anchieta: José de Anchieta (1534-97), Spanish missionary known as the Apostle of Brazil. "When walking in the sun," Marsh relates, "he would summon flocks of birds to hover over his head and keep pace with him, performing the part of a parasol" (MMSM 91).
322.2] Saint Peter of Alcántara, Saint Peter Nolasco, Saint Peter Gonzalez: "The Franciscan mystic St. Peter of Alcántara, the director of St. Teresa, an ascetic of surprising holiness, walked upon the waves of the sea as though it were dry land, as also did St. Peter Nolasco [d. 1256], Father of the Mercedarians, and St. María de Cervellione of the same Order, and the Dominican St. Peter Gonzalez [1190-1246]" (PPM 68).
322.11] the Gabrielis: Andrea Gabrieli (1510?-86) and his nephew Giovanni (1557-1612) were Italian composers and organists at Saint Mark's in Venice. References in the singular (186.19 and 744.18) are probably to the latter (cf. 323.7), considered the more important of the two.
322.12] Corelli: Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713), Italian composer.
322.24] dove sei Fenestrula?: It., "where is Fenestrula?" Fenestrula is the fictitious Italian town at which Stanley meets his end.
322.29] Liber Usualis [...] Quando júdex est ventúrus: the Liber Usualis is a modern compilation of the texts and music for the Mass and daily Office; the Missae pro Defunctis ("Mass for the Dead") includes the famous medieval hymn "Dies irae" (usually ascribed to Thomas of Celano), which begins:
írae, díes ílla,
(As scanned in the Liber Usualis, ed. the Benedictines of Solesmes [Boston: McLaughlin and Reilly, 1950], 1810): "That day of wrath, that dreadful day, / Shall the whole world in ashes lay, / As David and the Sibyls say, // What horror will invade the mind, / When the strict Judge, who would be kind, / Shall have few venial faults to find!" (trans. Wentworth Dillon).
322.33] Misereris omnium: the only hymn of this title in the Liber Usualis is the one for Ash Wednesday (525).
322.34] verse by Michelangelo: a madrigal; see The Complete Poems and Selected Letters of Michelangelo, trans. Creighton Gilbert (New York: Random, 1963), 7. Gaddis's source unknown. This poem plays an important role in Agapé Agape.
326.18] Hestia, Vestia, virgin-sworn, the hearth and the home: Vesta was the Roman goddess of the hearth (corresponding to the Greek Hestia) and custodian of the sacred fire. Women dedicated to her service ("vestals") were sworn to virginity and buried alive if they violated their vows.
326.25] Cardinal Spellman: Francis Joseph Spellman (1889-1967), American clergyman, made archbishop of New York in 1939 and a cardinal in 1946.
327. 34] darkness that Moses called down: see Ex. 10:21-23.
327.36] Zwingli's soldiers: for Zwingli, see 7.2; source of quote unknown.
329.1] Dawn [...] a woman of bad character: nearly verbatim from Lang's Custom and Myth, p. 210.
329.23] Saturnalia: the Roman festival of Saturn during the third week in December (the week in which the present chapter is set), when debauchery and role reversals took place.
329.26] like buttons from a host of common ladles: probably from Ibsen's Peer Gynt: act 5 (scenes 7, 9, 10) features a Button-moulder, an agent of God who melts down the souls of those who are neither good nor bad, to furnish the raw material for new souls, just as defective buttons are melted down in a ladle for new ones. Wyatt repeats this image of the streets filling with people like buttons at 376.1 and 384.15.
329.34] a pavan by a dead Spaniard: the phrase recalls Ravel's Pavan for a Dead Princess, but this is "just a parody throw away I believe" (WG/SM).
329.38] Raphael, Tintoretto, Murillo: noted Italian (1483-1520), Venetian (1518-94), and Spanish (1617-82) painters.
330.15] Another blue day: see 238.27.
330.34] Loyola's Spiritual Exercises: the famous manual of devotions and prayers by Saint Ignatius of Loyola (see 66.20).
331.22] La nuit des Rois: Shakespeare's Twelfth Night has been translated into French under this title.
332.14] Boyma: see 268.27.
324.21] Pliny? [...] discourse on colors?: Natural History, book 35.
334.25] Portinari triptych: an enormous work painted 1476-78; a detail from the work is used on the cover of the 1993 Penguin Classics edition of R.
334.29] Valéry's line [...] one only abandons it: an often quoted dictum of Paul Valéry (1871-1945), French poet and critic.
335.15] if the gods themselves [...] cannot recall their . . . gifts: from Tennyson's poem "Tithonus" (1860), ll. 46-49:
wilt thou ever scare me with thy tears,
335.38] a disciplined nostalgia: this definition of criticism is used later by the British R.A. (670.39).
336.32] semper aliquid haeret? something always remains: a Latin proverb. Bacon, for example, used it thus: "Audacter calumniare, semper aliquid haeret" ("Hurl your calumnies boldly; something is sure to stick" [De Augmentis Scientiarum]). The proverb and many variants will recur throughout the novel.
336.39] Hubert van Eyck's right arm [...] Saint Bavon's in Ghent: the anecdote is recorded in the article on Hubert in EB (9:3). The Van Eycks' Ghent Altarpiece is in the Church of Saint Bavon's.
337.9] Michelangelo's Cardinale di San Giorgio [...] thanked him?: No. The cardinal demanded his money back from the dealer and refused to countenance Michelangelo when he first came to Rome (EB 15:410; cf. GAF 82, 89-90, and Lindey's Plagiarism and Originality, 228-29).
338.10] Visitation: the Virgin Mary's visit to her kinswoman Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist (Luke 1:39-56).
338.11] Stabat Mater: the Virgin weeping for her son on the cross, from the famous poem that begins: "Stabat mater dolorosa" ("The mournful mother stood weeping") attributed to the thirteenth-century monk Jacopone da Todi.
338.12] Nicodemus [...] and be born?": his story is told in John 3:1-14.
338.13] Saint John, that . . . least reliable of the gospels: cf. Conybeare: "This fourth Gospel enshrines, no doubt, many noble thoughts, but is, on the whole, frigid, insincere, and full of exaggerations. We may safely neglect it in any attempt to get back to the earliest traditions of Jesus" (MMM 20).
338.26] Eden: unidentified.
338.33] Ecclesiastes? [...] women have sought out many inventions: "And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her. [...] Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions" (Eccles. 7:26, 29), where "they" refers to "man" (or mankind in general) and not, as Valentine alters it, to women. The first part of this passage is quoted with approval in the misogynistic Malleus Maleficarum (47).
342.14] Onward Christian Soldiers: famous hymn (1864), words by Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924); PH 3399.