Abbreviated Sources
and References

Annotations: title,
epigraph and

Part I
I.1 Synopsis
pp. 3-21
pp. 23-28
pp. 29-46
pp. 47-62
I.2 Synopsis
pp. 63-68
pp. 69-77
I.3 Synopsis
pp. 78-93
pp. 94-123
pp. 124-153
I.4 Synopsis
pp. 154-168
I.5 Synopsis
pp. 169-187
pp. 188-201
I.6 Synopsis
pp. 202-221
I.7 Synopsis
pp. 222-256
pp. 257-277

Part II

Part III

A Reader's Guide to William Gaddis's The Recognitions


I.1 pp. pages 47-62

47.6] guillotine: Joseph Ignace Guillotin (1738-1814) urged the adoption of the instrument that now bears his name (invented centuries earlier) to prevent unnecessary pain.

47.9] Rock of Ages: PH #149, the well-known hymn composed by Augustus Montague Toplady (1740-78) and first published in Gospel Magazine (1775). For a ribald account of the song's genesis, see J R 318-19.

47.17] When the seed began to blow: from "There Was a Man of Double Deed" (see 98-99, where "grow" takes the place of "blow").

47.19] safe-conduct from Emperor Sigismund: see 32.20, 545.18.

47.20] Keeping the road to Paradise littered with filth: see 28.44.

47.21] Limited atonement [...] irresistibility of grace: the conclusions reached at the Synod of Dort (see 32.43).

47.25] The power of God to guide me [...] Christ in height: the source of Janet's litany, extending over 47-48, is the Faed Fiada, or Deer's Cry, attributed to Saint Patrick.

47.33] a wren [...] around Christmas: Frazer identifies the British custom of killing a wren on Saint Stephen's Day (December 26) as a throwback to pagan scapegoat ceremonies. He points out that by many European peoples "the wren has been designated the king, the little king, the king of birds, the hedge king, and so forth, and has been reckoned amongst those birds which it is extremely unlucky to kill" (GB 536). Graves too notes the custom (WG 76, 153-55). Commenting on a nursery rhyme that reflects this custom, the editors of The Annotated Mother Goose note: "There is an old tradition that the first Christian missionaries to Britain were offended because the pagan druids showed great respect for the wren, 'the king of all birds.' The missionaries ordered that the wren be hunted and killed on the morning of Christmas Day. The custom was later transferred to the morning of the following day, December 26th" (42 n.64).

48.10] Midsummer Day magic of bonfires [...] raised splendid harvests: from GB 622-32.

48.15] rain in Russia: "Bathing is practised as a rain-charm in some parts of Southern and Western Russia. [...] Sometimes it is the women who, without stripping off their clothes, bathe in crowds on the day of St. John the Baptist" (GB 70).

48.14] corpse of a villager: "In Russia, if common report may be believed, it is not long since the peasants of any district that chanced to be afflicted with drought used to dig up the corpse of some one who had drunk himself to death and sink it in the nearest swamp or lake, fully persuaded that this would ensure the fall of the needed rain" (GB 71).

48.41] an Arabian camel [...] Bactrian: see 409.44 ff.

49.13] Egyptian Book of the Dead: generic name for collections of funeral texts composed by ancient Egyptian scribes to assist the dead in the afterlife. They are a major source of knowledge for Egyptian mythology and religious practices. The best-known version is E. A. Wallis Budge's 1913 edition of the papyrus of Ani, a Theban recension.

49.14] Malleus Maleficarum: the Hammer of Witches (1488) was written by two Dominican inquisitors, Heinrich Kramer and Jakob Sprenger, to alert the public to the dangers and varieties of witchcraft, and to set guidelines for judges in the prosecution of witches. Exerting a morbid fascination, the Malleus (in Montague Summers's 1928 English translation) is a source for many arcane references in R (and reappears in both J R and Carpenter's Gothic).

49.18] Index: Index Librorum Prohibitorum, the Index of Prohibited Books that Catholics were forbidden to read, except with permission in special circumstances. The first Index was issued by the Inquisition in 1557, and was updated by the Holy Office until it was finally abolished in 1966. A number of the world's greatest writers (but never an American) were placed on the Index; Jung notes that even the Bible was on the Index (IP 188).

49.18] Make full proof of thy ministry: 2 Tim. 4:5b, traditionally attributed to Paul.

49.21] "Close to the outskirts [...] a hulock may not be used": from Major A. Playfair's study The Garos (1909), as quoted by Frazer (GB 568-69). It concerns the annual expulsion of evils in an animal scapegoat by the Garos of Assam (India).

50.12] Sor Patrocino: María Rafaela Quiroga (1809?-91); Summers recounts the stigmatic's life and influence on Spanish politics (PPM 240-44) but says nothing of the cruz-con-espejos, mittens, or the sobriquet "the Bleeding Nun," indicating a different source. (Summers does feature a portrait of Sor Patrocino - grim and with hands hidden - facing p. 97.)

50.15] mesa de los pecados mortales: Sp.: "table of the deadly sins" - Bosch's painting.

50.16] Abscondam faciem [...] novissima eorum: this inscription on the bottom of Bosch's table painting is from Deut. 32:20: "I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be."

50.18] that fourteenth-century translator [...] - In this world God must serve the devil: John Wycliffe (1320?-84), English religious reformer. Posthumously condemned by the Council of Constance (1415, the same that condemned his disciple Huss), his body was disinterred, burned, and thrown into the river Swift (BM 135-39). The quotation is a paraphrase of the sixth item in the Council's proclamation "The Errors of John Wycliffe." [MR]

50.27] cover a large mirror with a tablecloth: it was once believed that one's reflection in a mirror (or water) was the soul: "in time of sickness, when the soul might take flight so easily, it is particularly dangerous to project it out of the body by means of the reflection in a mirror" - hence the custom of covering up mirrors in time of sickness or after death, when the soul of a bystander, "projected out of the person in the shape of his reflection in the mirror, may be carried off by the ghost of the departed" (GB 192).

51.18] "With regard to Saint Joseph of Copertino Rapture was accompanied by Levitation": quoted from PPM (105). The Italian ecstatic (1603-63) is said to have been subjected to many ecstasies and while deep in prayer involuntarily levitated. Cf. 910.41.

51.21] had he chased her [...] black man: from Stevenson's "Thrawn Janet": see 392.34.

52.43] Odyssey [...] Chapman's translation [...] Ogygia: Renaissance in spirit, George Chapman's 1616 translation of Homer's epic inspired Keats's equally famous sonnet (see 290.30). Ogygia is Calypso's isle (as Graves often notes); for Prester John, see 31.2 and the annotation at 408.14.

53.8] Tissandier's Histoire des ballons: Gaston Tissandier (1843-99), French aeronaut and writer. Histoire des ballons et des aéronautes célèbres was published in a two-volume edition in Paris in 1887-90.

53.14] roses of Eden [...] the Talmud [...] fires of Hell: Lethaby (AMM 110) records this belief in connection with ancient speculations on the geographical location of Paradise.

54.42] A large stone [...] for it was very great: a parody of Christ's burial; the phrase "for it was very great" is from Mark 16:4.

55.18] Seven Deadly Sins [...] Invidia: Lat.: Pride, Wrath, Lust, Avarice, Envy (not given are Gula [Gluttony] and Accidia [Sloth]).

55.25] Like Pliny [...] Saturnalia: "This festival (in late times held in December, 16-23) so closely resembled our Christmas in jollity, that Pliny (like some of us) used to withdraw to the most retired room in his Laurentine villa to escape the noise" (M&R 108). Pliny the Elder (23-79) is best known for his Natural History (see 334-21); he also wrote about the druids (next entry).

55.31] druidical reverence [...] lightning: from GB 709. Druids were an ancient Gaulish and British order of priests; little is known about their religion aside from its emphasis on magic, astrology, and the transmigration of souls, and that they held the oak and mistletoe sacred.

55.33] Aurora Borealis [...] Second Advent: such celestial phenomena have always been taken by the superstitious as signs of divine intervention; Gaddis's source unknown.

55.40] Moses had been accused of witchcraft in the Koran: noted by Hughes (W28). Suras 20 and 28 retell the encounter between Moses and Pharaoh's sorcerers (Exodus 7) and attribute Moses' magical powers to divinely inspired sorcery.

55.42] "slaves and disreputable people [...] god-dedicated virgins": from Hughes survey of the growth of Christianity (W 31, 35). .

56.1] Charlemagne [...] Saint Olaf: noting that converted kings had to force Christianity on their pagan subjects, Hughes writes: "St. Olaf [11th-century king of Norway] made his subjects choose between baptism and death, and Charlemagne conducted mass baptisms of Saxons by the vigorous expedient of driving them with swords through a river previously blessed upstream by his bishops. (The Saxons held their sword arms out of the water, that they should not be enervated by Christian effiminacy)" (W 39).

56.12] Bacchus: Roman god of wine and fertility (counterpart to the Greek Dionysus). He sprang from the thigh of Zeus (a kind of virgin birth) after being prematurely born from Semele. The wine of the Eucharist has been traced to Bacchic rites.

56.12] Osiris: Egyptian god of the underworld, brother/husband of Isis, who reassembled his parts after he was dismembered by his brother Set (see 258.30-31). Legge outlines his legend in FRC (1:33-35). The Greeks identified Osiris with Dionysus as a symbol of fertility and life (cf. annotation to Le Culte de Dionysos en Attique, 23.31).

56.12] Krishna: Hindu deity, the greatest of the incarnations of Vishnu (56.17). His uncle, King Kamsa, having been warned that one of his nephews would kill him, murdered Devaki's children at birth; Krishna was smuggled away and lived to kill him. The obvious parallels are Oedipus, Zeus (see 212.38), Moses, Jesus, et al.

56.12] Buddha: title given to Prince Siddhartha (or Gautama, ca. 623-543 B.C.), founder of Buddhism; see 877.2 for his "immaculate conception."

56.12] Adonis: hero of the Greek vegetation myth, annually reborn amid great celebrations on the part of his followers. He plays a central role in Frazer's GB and Weston's FRR.

56.12] Marduk: chief deity of the ancient Babylonian religion, avatar of many other Babylonian gods.

56.12] Balder: Scandinavian god of light; the final hundred pages of Frazer's GB focus on "Balder the Beautiful."

56.12] Attis: a fertility god whose cult began in Asia Minor and spread to Greece. Annual death and rebirth link him to the worship of Adonis and his mutilation to Osiris (links explored in detail by Frazer and Weston).

56.13] Amphion: son of Zeus by Antiope (see 385.1) who, according to Greek legend, built Thebes by the music from his lute. At his birth, Amphion, like Oedipus, was left exposed to die on a hillside but was rescued by a passing herdsmen. He was finally slain by Apollo.

56.13] Quetzalcoatl: Aztec deity who, after instructing his people in agriculture, metallurgy, and other arts, left promising one day to return. (When the first Spaniards arrived in Mexico, some Aztecs thought Quetzalcoatl had finally returned.) All the foregoing gods (except Amphion) are discussed by Frazer.

56.13] sad day the sun was darkened [...] Julius Caesar: as Conybeare points out (MMM 284-85), the tradition of the sun's darkening at Jesus' crucifixion was based on the earlier tradition of its doing likewise at the assassination of Caesar (44 B.C.), which in turn was borrowed from earlier stories.

56.17] Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva: the Hindu trinity: "From man to Brahmâ, a series of higher forms are traceable in an ascending scale till three principal divinities are reached. These, the highest manifestations of the First Cause, Brahmä{macron over final a} the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Siva the Destroyer, constitute the Tri-murti, the Trinity, typified in the magically mystic syllable Om" (AN 7).

56.18] Immaculate Conception [...] Romulus and Remus: the legendary and eponymous founders of Rome were, traditionally, sons of Mars and Rhea Sylvia, a vestal virgin. She was put to death and the twins were suckled by a wolf. (Virgin birth and/or immaculate conception is a common attribute of gods and heroes; see Conybeare's long chapter "Birth Legends" in MMM 186-234).

56.23] other voices and other rooms: Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948) is the title of Truman Capote's (1924-84) first novel, a Southern Gothic about a boy's coming of age. (Gaddis knew Capote in the late 1940s: both worked for a while at the New Yorker.)

56.26] Last Supper at the Eleusinian Mysteries: Frazer (GB 394-95), Weston (FRR 146-48), and Summers (PPM 22) speak of the rites performed at Eleusis (Attica, Greece) in ways that indicate parallels to the Last Supper.

56.27] snake in the Garden of Eden: either the "snake of consciousness" (338.27) or a phallic symbol representing sexual awakening.

56.28] the word 'thigh': stands for testicles.

56.30] Triune triangle: the female generative organs.

56.31] origin of the Cross: see 312.11-15.

57.20] Praxiteles: Greek sculptor of the fourth century B.C.; see 124.7.

57.36] Mithras [...] Mithraism [...] failed because it was so near good: this Roman mystery cult, which might have a connection to the ancient Persian god Mitra (Mithra), became very popular with Roman soldiers and traders of the first century A.D.. The cult centered on Mithras, a deity of sun and light, who was a mediator between the forces of evil and the spirit of heavenly light. What little is known of the mystery religion has been deduced from surviving inscriptions and icons. Under the Roman Empire the religion spread throughout Europe (altars have been found as far north as England) and was the principal rival of Christianity until the end of the fourth century A.D. [AZ]

On the oft-noted resemblances between Christianity and Mithraism, W. J. Phythian-Adams, whose Mithraism was Gaddis's principal source, writes: "To the outward eye the two religions of Mithras and Christ appeared to differ in accidental details only; at many important points they presented the most startling resemblances, which Christian apologists admitted with horror, but could not explain except by a charge of diabolical agency" (M 3; cf. 535.43, 536.16 ff., 719.13). At the end of his short study, Phythian-Adams concludes - as does Rev. Gwyon - "It fell at the last, not because it was entirely bad, but because it was so nearly good" (M 94). Frazer and Weston also comment on the parallels between the two religions (GB 358, FRR 164-74).

57.43] Pelagianism: the British monk Pelagius (360?-420?) rejected the doctrine of original sin and insisted that one is free to do good or evil and is personally responsible for his or her own salvation, as opposed to the Augustinian doctrine (which became dogma) that mankind, as a result of Adam's fall, suffers from "innate depravity" and can attain salvation only by the grace of God (and his church). One of the great heresiarchs, Pelagius is the author of On the Trinity, On Free Will, and other tracts.

58.7] Free will: the existence and necessity of free will is a major theme in the Clementine Recognitions.

58.16] the doctrine, which he called Aristotelian [...] shock His worshipers: from Conybeare's discussion of the development of the Eucharist (MMM 266-67):

The Aristotelian distinction of substance and accident was also called in to explain its nature. The substance of the bread, it was argued, becomes the substance of the flesh, even though the accidents of the bread - e.g., colour, size, hardness, taste, weight, smell, etc. - remain; as if, forsooth, a bit of bread had any substance apart from the entire complex of its attributes. However, the substance of the body and blood having, on this view, replaced in the act of consecration that of the bread and wine, the recipient is declared to masticate, with teeth and tongue, the real flesh and blood. It is only by the merciful providence of a God unwilling to shock and stupefy his worshippers, that the attributes or accidents are allowed to remain, and the holy bread or victim, as it is called, prevented from appearing on the altar as a bleeding mass of raw human flesh.

58.19] redemption of matter: the primary concern of alchemy; see 129.30-34.

59.36] Conte di Brescia: apparently fictitious (a descendant of Adamo da Brescia [5.30]? related to Seraphina di Brescia [314.32]?); see 246.8 ff. for details of "the brave deceit." The Conte di Brescia is also the name of the ship on which Stanley and Esme cross the Atlantic in part III.

60.1] O Blood ineffable [...] with my Beloved: source unknown.

60.30] Then the sun was obscured by a cloud [...] the shadows were gone: given Gaddis's original plan to weave every line of Four Quartets into R, this is probably an allusion to a passage near the end of part 1 of "Burnt Norton":

And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty. [Eric Bies]

60.40] München: when R was first submitted to Harcourt, Brace in 1953 it contained a whole section concerning Wyatt's stay in Munich. Though cut from the final version, vestiges of this section appear in the next two chapters.

60.43] yellow day in Boston [...] Krakatao: on 27 August 1883 the volcano Krakatao (also Krakatoa, Krakatau) exploded, killing 35,000 with its tidal waves and sending smoke and ashes around the world. The volcanic island is between Java and Sumatra.

61.2] waiting, like Manto, while time circled him: from Goethe's Faust, where the Greek prophetess says: "I wait, time circles me" (2.2.915).

61.2] make full proof of his ministry: see 49.18.

61.5] All Saints' [...] in France there would be picnics in the cemeteries: a practice mentioned by Olcott (SL 413) in his discussion of the Pleiades' influence on ceremonies for the dead (see annotation to 6.14).

61.34] transformation [...] Blessed Clara: a transformation is a wig; Blessed Clara may be Blessed Clare Agolanti of Rimini (1282-1346), who, after a dissipated life, founded a nunnery and practiced rigorous penances.

62.4] words of William Rufus [...] upon me!: quoted in Coulton's Ten Medieval Studies (p. 194) as an example of those who were "temperamentally irreligious." King William (II) Rufus of England (ruled 1087-1100) made this famous oath after recovering from an illness in 1093, blaming his maker for his sickness and vowing revenge. Bishop Gundulf (or Gundulph) was a family friend as well as the guardian of Saint Anselm (see 103.34). Swearing by the Holy Face of Lucca--an ancient wooden image of Christ (cf. Inferno 21:51)--was a habit of William's (as noted in Margaret A. Murray's The God of the Witches [New York: Oxford University Press, 1952], 163-64, where it is suggested Lucca is a corruption of Loki, the Scandinavian god of trickery).


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