|A Reader's Guide
to William Gaddis's The Recognitions|
I.1 pp. pages 29-46
29.10] the man who jumps into the bramble bush and scratches out both eyes: a popular Mother Goose rhyme reads:
(#28 in The Annotated Mother Goose, ed. William S. and Ceil Baring-Gould [New York: Bramhall House, 1962], 40; cf. the actions of Saint Francis of Assisi at 830.20 ff.)
29.13] The man of double deed: another Mother Goose rhyme: see 98.39 ff.
29.32] Buffon's Natural History: Comte G. L. L. de Buffon (1707-88), French naturalist, wrote with others an Histoire naturelle (44 vols., 1749-1804), completed after his death. Various editions and abridgements in English have appeared since the nineteenth century.
30.10] Cave, cave, Dominus videt: see 25.40.
30.25] Papal court at Avignon: 1309-77, a time of simony, papal extravagance, and clerical immorality. See Petrarch's comments at 305.43 ff.
30.27] Doctor Young's The Last Day: (1713) a long poem on the Second Coming by English poet and divine Edward Young (1683-1765).
30.28] The Grave of Blair: another long, didactic poem (1743), stylistically reminiscent of Jacobean drama, by Scottish poet Robert Blair (1699-1746).
30.29] Bishop Beilby Porteus, Death: a "poetical essay" in the same vein as the two preceding works; Porteus (1731-1808) was bishop of London as well as a poet. Given Gaddis's reliance on other books by Montague Summers, he probably took the above three titles from a sentence in Rev. Summers's introduction to his popular Supernatural Omnibus (1931; rpt. London: Gollancz, 1949): surveying the Victorian interest in funereal matters, he writes: "We must not forget, too, those expressions of elegant piety such as Blair's The Grave, Young's The Last Day, Samuel Boyse's A Deity, and Death by Bishop Beilby Porteus, which for a century and a half exercised an almost universal influence in the spheres of such theology as loved to ponder upon the skull, the hour-glass, crossbones, hatchments, mournful and sorrowing cherubim" (32).
30.43] griffins' eggs: see 378.5.
30.44] the woman and the bull: the well-known legend of King Minos's wife Pasiphaë (Graves calls her a Cretan moon goddess), who fell in love with a white bull and asked Daedalus to construct a hollow wooden cow in which she could hide to mate with the bull. The result of their coupling was the Minotaur.
31.2] Kublai Khan, Tamerlane, and Prester John: Kublai Khan was a Mongol emperor of China (1260-94); Tamerlane (or Timur) was a Mongol leader who ruled Persia (1369-1405); Prester John was a legendary king of East Africa (or India in other accounts). The exploits of all three rulers, especially those of Prester John (see II.3), have been highly romanticized and spun into legends.
31.13] Heracles [...] Hercules: "Heracles" is the Greek ("glory of Hera") and "Hercules" the Roman form of the name of this famous mythical hero, the subject of countless legends. See 40.23.
31.40] hawthorn tree: generally considered unlucky, it is also known as the may tree, after the month with which it was associated; see Graves for the many mythical properties of the hawthorn/may (WG 144-46).
32.20] John Huss [...] that "pale thin man in mean attire": all the details here and elsewhere (pp. 47, 407-8, 412, 545, 651) - including the descriptive phrase "pale thin man in mean attire," which will later be used for Wyatt (220.26, 407.41) - are from EB's article on Huss (11:942-43). See 545.18 for details of "his betrayal by the Emperor Sigismund" (which is discussed at length by Marsh as well: MMSM 26 ff). Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia was not the same as the "good King Wenceslaus" of the carol, a tenth-century duke of Bohemia who was assassinated by his brother for trying to convert his subjects to Christianity.
32.28] Kyrie eleison: "Lord, have mercy": opening words of a short petition used in Roman and Orthodox churches, especially at the beginning of Mass. See 545.18 for Huss's death.
32.43] Synod of Dort: an assembly held by the Reformed churches in 1618-19 at Dort (i.e., Dordrecht, the Netherlands); the five doctrinal points agreed upon were "unconditional election, limited atonement, total depravity, irresistibility of grace, final perseverance of the saints" (EB 7:545).
33.27] John H.: John H. Gwyon (see 22.41), apparently named after John Huss.
33.29] mediveal posture [...] heat from the adjacent liver: "Six hundred years ago," writes Coulton, "even educated men imagined the stomach to be a cauldron in which the food was cooked by the heat of the adjacent liver" (Ten Medieval Studies, 81).
33.40] Jesus permit thy gracious name [...] upon her heart: "this is simply from a sampler in the family many years & I don't know the girl's source" (WG/SM).
34.7] NO CROSS NO CROWN: Quaker founder William Penn wrote a pamphlet with this name (1669), taking his title from English poet Francis Quarles's Esther: "The way to bliss lies not on beds of down, / And he that has no cross deserves no crown" (ODQ).
34.10] robin: "in British folklore," Graves notes, "the Robin Red Breast as the Spirit of the New Year sets out with a birch-rod to kill his predecessor the Gold Crest Wren, the spirit of the Old Year. [...] The robin is said to 'murder its father,' which accounts for its red breast" (WG 154). Wyatt has killed a wren (31-32) and later associates himself with Welsh hero Llew Llaw Gyffes (545.32), whom Graves associates with the robin (WG 261).
34.17] Lucifer is the morning star: i.e., the planet Venus. "Lucifer" (Lat.: light-bringer) was the Authorized Version translation of "Day Star, son of Dawn," an epithet (based on the names of Canaanite deities) applied to boastful Nebuchadnezzar derided in Isaiah 14. Saint Jerome and other early church fathers applied the name, by analogy, to Satan.
34.20] To sin is to falsify something in the Divine Order: a paraphrase of de Rougemont's belief that "It is through freedom, because of it, and in it, that we have the power to sin. For to sin is to cheat with order, to oppose our egoistic derogations, errors of calculation and interested false views to the divine law. To sin is to falsify something in the arrangement of the cosmos. It is always in some manner telling a lie or effecting one" (DS 38).
34.22] Bringer of Light [...] to bear his own light!: identifying Lucifer as "the Bearer of Light," de Rougemont writes: "Satan rebelled, he refused to serve, he refused to transmit his divine message, he wished to become original, the author of his own destiny, the bearer of his own light" (DS 29).
34.39] bay tree: sacred to Apollo and thus a safeguard against thunder and lightning.
35.2] wren: see 34.10 above as well as 47.33 ff.
35.31] Lives, Sufferings [...] Persecutions: subtitle of Foxe's Book of Martyrs.
35.36] Malachi prophecy: the so-called Prophecies of Malachi, once attributed to Saint Malachi O'More (1095-1148), is a forgery believed to date from around 1590. It consists of 111 Latin phrases that are supposed to apply to the popes from Celestine II (made pope in 1143) to the final pope, to be called Peter II, who will rule at the end of the world. Cf. 944.25 ff.
35.40] Penetralia of Andrew Jackson Davis: American author (1826-1910) of works on spiritualism. The Penetralia; Being Harmonial Answers to Important Questions (1856) seems to have been the most popular of his many books.
35.41] William Miller [...] Behold the Saviour comes!": American sectarian leader (1782-1849), author of Evidence from Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ, about the Year 1843 (1842), from which presumably the quote is taken. Stood up by Christ, Miller eventually organized the Adventists.
36.9] May Day: Gaddis noted this was a "witch festival," as Hughes explains (W 112) .
36.30] Scopes trial in distant Tennessee: John T. Scopes was tried in July 1925 in a highly publicized trial for teaching evolution in defiance of a state law (William Jennings Bryan prosecuting, Clarence Darrow for the defense).
36.42] I am the Resurrection and the Life: John 11:25.
37.5] bawdy houses, where all fashions originate: from DDD 266; see note to 938.41.
37.27] Breve Guida della Basilica di San Clemente: "Compact Guide to the Basilica of Saint Clement" - see note to 906.6.
37.35] La Basilica [...] Nostra Signora col Gesù Bambino: "The Subterranean Basilica Dedicated to the Memory of Saint Clement, Pope and Martyr" [...] "Our Lady with the Child Jesus."
38.2] Il Tempio di Mitra: "The Temple of Mithra." Aunt May's description echoes Geden's in SPIM (10-11). Here are contemporary photographs.
38.37] Saint Bonaventura [...] of the righteous": the Italian bishop and theologian (1221-74) was the author of many influential books on philosophy, theology, and mysticism. Coulton quotes Bonaventura's remark, but without giving a source (Ten Medieval Studies, 55). [Mark Hale]
40.6] John Wesley [...] dead body compare: Wesley (1703-91), English theologian, evangelist, and founder of Methodism, published many collections of hymns. Aunt May doesn't remember correctly: this particular hymn is by George Whitefield (1714-1770), “ Oh, Lovely Appearance of Death”
40.7] Saint Teresa, "to die of not being able to die": the refrain of a poem that has been translated "The Life Above, the Life on High." De Rougemont cites the exclamation often: "'I die of not being able to die,' Saint Teresa says; but she means that she is not able to die to the old life enough to become alive in the new, and thus to obey without anguish" (LWW 124). Elsewhere, he comments in a note: "This famous exclamation of Saint Teresa's was inspired by the Franciscan Angela di Foligno, who said: 'I die of a desire to die!'" (LWW 133 n.2). The complaint is quoted again at 300.39.
40.23] Heracles [...] tree was dead: "It is obvious" to Charles Leslie Banning ("The Time of Our Time," 151 n.9) "that the scene of Heracles uprooting Aunt May's hawthorn bush [sic] and her subsequent demise that Gaddis is working from J. G. Frazer's telling of Hercules slaying Syleus and then digging up his vines, which Syleus had compelled passers-by to cultivate for him" (GB 442).
40.31] better to marry than to burn: 1 Cor. 7:9.
41.6] Blessed Umiliana: Blessed Humiliana de' Cerchi (1220-46), Florentine nun. Coulton's Ten Medieval Studies is the source for her devotion to quicklime (on p.48) and her concern for her nude feet (pp. 49-50).
41.11] lines of William Law [...] reaped in eternity": (1686-1761), English theologian and mystic. The quoted passage is from An Appeal to All Who Doubt or Disbelieve the Truths of the Gospel (1740), a summary of his beliefs and considered by many to be the most important of his many writings. Source uncertain: the passage is quoted in Aldous Huxley's The Perennial Philosophy (New York: Harper and Row, 1945), 174-75, as well as in The Selected Mystical Writings of William Law, ed. Stephen Hobhouse (New York: Harper & Bros., 1948), 44-45.
41.37] internes: the 1987 supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary cites this usage by Gaddis as an example of an older but acceptable spelling (taken from the French). FROM THE ENTRY
42.19] Doctor Fell: no doubt named after John Fell (1625-86), English scholar and prelate, subject of this well-known quatrain by English hack writer Thomas Brown (1663-1704):
42.38] cruel April and depraved May: from Eliot's "The Waste Land" and "Gerontion," respectively.
43.3] erythema grave: a tropical illness that Gaddis himself suffered from during high school; symptoms include a reddening of the skin, weight-loss, and high fever.
43.13] Doughty's Travels in Arabia Deserta: Charles M. Doughty (1843-1926), English explorer, travel writer, and poet. His famous Travels (1888) recounts his wanderings in North Africa, Syria, and especially Arabia in an unusual style made up of archaisms and arabisms, elevating the travelogue to a kind of metaphysical quest. It was greatly admired by T. E. Lawrence, who wrote an introduction for the 1921 edition (see 405.31 ff.).
43.14] A Coptic Treatise Contained in the Codex Brucianus: an anonymous Gnostic work (second century?), consisting of the "Two Books of Jeû." Jung found it worth citing (IP 133-35), but James had no patience for it: "The revelations they contain are conveyed in mystic diagrams, and numbers, and meaningless collections of letters, and it requires a vast deal of historical imagination and sympathy to put oneself in the place of anybody who could tolerate, let alone reverence, the dreary stuff" (ANT xxiii). Charlotte A. Baynes's English version appeared in 1933.
43.14] Rosarium Philosophorum: The Rose Garden of the Philosophers (or The Philosophers' Rosary) was one of the more popular alchemical tracts and emphasized the spiritual, rather than the chemical, aspects of alchemy. It dates from the middle of the fifteenth century and is frequently cited in Jung's IP.
43.15] two books of Dante's Divine Comedy: probably the first two, for Wyatt's career parallels that of Dante only through hell and purgatory.
43.15] Wyer's De Præstigiis Dæmonum: Johan Weyer (or Wier, Wierus, etc.) (1515-88), Belgian physician. This book (On the Wiles of the Devil, 1563) made one of the first attempts to challenge and ridicule the superstitious belief in witchcraft. A long work, it is in a sense a Protestant rebuttal to the Catholic Malleus Maleficarum (49.14). (In the first edition of R, this title was spelled De Prestigiis Dæmonum - the spelling used in the brief bibliography to Michelet's S&W, which is where Gaddis undoubtedly found it and the next title.)
43.16] Llorente's Inquisition d'Espagne: Juan Antonio Llorente (1756-1823), Spanish priest and historian. His multivolume Inquisition of Spain (Paris, 1817-18), commissioned by Joseph Bonaparte after the Inquisition was abolished in 1808, is an official study valuable for its use of original sources no longer extant. It is cited in S&W's bibliography and in PPM (213 n.59).
44.3] Clement's monogram [...] gettato a mare con un'ancora [...] threw him into the Black Sea: traditionally, Clement was sentenced to hard labor in the Crimea and later lashed to an anchor and thrown into the sea. Since then (or rather, since the fabrication of this legend) an anchor has been Saint Clement's emblem. The Italian phrase ("was cast into the sea with an anchor") is repeated by Wyatt at 382.17.
44.41] Venerable Orsola Benincasa: from Summers (PPM 106):
45.3] eight o'clock on Thursday evening [...] following afternoon at three: in a discussion of the rapturous Saint Gemma Galgani of Lucca (1878-1903), Summers notes: "The Rapture, or Extraordinary Ecstasy, frequently accompanied by mystical phenomena, used (as it was observed) to entrance her every Thursday evening about eight o'clock (the hour of the Last Supper) and on Friday afternoon about three (the hour of Calvary)" (PPM 110).
45.14] Zuñi priests planting prayer sticks: made from willow shoots and painted and adorned with feathers, these prayer sticks (referred to again at 885.3) are mentioned throughout chapter 4 of Benedict's PC (especially pp. 62 and 97).
45.32] Saint John's [...] Midsummer's Day [...] sprigs of oak trees: Frazer shows that the festivities of Saint John's Day are superimposed on the pagan customs of Midsummer Day (GB 622) and discusses the oak's association with that day (620, 661-62), as does Graves (WG 146-47).
45.43] Mojave Indians [...] in the next life: Benedict notes that the medicine man in some primitive tribes was held in suspicion because "He had the power to harm more particularly than he had the power to help. [...] The Mojave, a non-Pueblo tribe of the Southwest, carried this attitude to great lengths. 'It is the nature of doctors to kill people in this way just as it is in the nature of hawks to kill little birds for a living,' they say. All those whom a medicine man killed were in his power in the after life" (PC 121).
46.15] Saint Lawrence: one of the most celebrated of the early Roman martyrs. According to unreliable legends, he was roasted alive on a gridiron three days after the martyrdom of Pope Sixtus II in 258 (BM 19-20).
46.16] Saint Catherine: of Alexandria (d. ca. 310 according to some sources). She survived torture on a spiked wheel only to be beheaded. There are doubts she ever lived and conflicting reports of her career if she did.
46.17] Tyndale: William Tyndale (ca. 1494-1536), English translator and theologian, whose own translation of the Bible influenced the King James Version. He was strangled and burned as a heretic at Vilvorde, his last words being: "Lord! open the king of England's eyes" (BM 176-84).
46.18] words of forgiveness on the lips of John Huss [...] O Sancta simplicitas!: Huss is said to have repeated the last words of Christ ("Forgive them, father, for they know not what they do," etc.) and finally "O holy simplicity!"
46.24] Asclepius [...] Zeus slew him with a thunderbolt: "The death of Æsculapius [Gaddis uses this spelling at 393.25-26] came about as the result of an occurrence which has been attributed to no physician since his time. Pluto complained to Zeus that the prolongation of life on the earth, due to the ministrations of Æsculapius, was keeping down the population of Hades. Zeus, to restore the balance of population, slew Æsculapius with a thunderbolt" (DDD 16).
46.27] John of Bohemia [...] Hungarian king five centuries ago: "The attitude toward men practicing surgery in the Middle Ages and Renaissance was such that the surgeons were continually in jeopardy of life. [...] In 1337 a surgeon was thrown into the river Oder because he failed to cure John of Bohemia of blindness, and in 1464 the king of Hungary [Matthias I] proclaimed that he would reward the surgeon who cured him of an arrow wound, but would put him to death if he failed" (DDD 135).
46.33] Saint Cyril: commenting on the connection between faith-healing and diet, Dr. Haggard writes: "a Greek monk of the eleventh century records the fact that the physician who performed the autopsy on the divine Cyril cut out and ate his liver. He thus obtained the virtues of the subject he was dissecting" (DDD 318). Saint Cyril was a deacon of Heliopolis, martyred by the pagan population there during the reign of Julian the Apostate (ca. 362).
46.34] Pope Innocent VIII [...] three small children: "It is said that a sorcerer and itinerant physician sought to cure a nervous disease of Pope Innocent VIII [pope 1482-92] by having him drink the blood of three small children" (DDD 318).
46.36] Cardinal Richelieu: "The physicians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries apparently tried to make the deaths of their patients as unpleasant as possible; when Cardinal Richelieu was on his death-bed a female charlatan prescribed for him a mixture of horse dung in white wine, and the cardinal drank it" (DDD 328). The duc de Richelieu (1585-1642) was Louis XIII's chief minister (1624-42) but virtually ruled France until his death. Wyatt repeats the anecdote at 376.44.
46.40] caduceus [...] conducted souls to Hell: "The caduceus of Hermes, his wand of office while conducting souls to Hell, was in the form of coupling snakes" (WG 208).