|A Reader's Guide
to William Gaddis's The Recognitions|
I.2 pp. pages 63-68
63.epigraph] Très curieux [...] Trucs et truqueurs: Fakes and Fakers (1907) is one of many books on art forgery by French writer Paul Eudel (1837-1911). The quotation is from a chapter entitled "Tableau x Anciens," in which a bitter critic remarks to a financier: "A funny thing about your Old Masters: only the most beautiful are forged." (Paris: Librairie Molière, n.d., 445).
63.1] the Dôme: I have felt it unnecessary to annotate the many Parisian places mentioned in this chapter unless they have special literary or historical significance. Gaddis's knowledge of Paris was based on his stay there in 1949-50.
63.2] George Washington [...] Ohio Territory: 1753, when Washington was twenty-one; cf. 312.25 and 938.11.
63.7] Voilà ma propre Sainte Chapelle: "Behold my own Sainte Chapelle." (famous Parisian church dating from the 13th century).
63.11] transition: an avant-garde review - subtitled An International Quarterly for Creative Experiment - founded in Paris in 1927 by Eugene and Maria Jolas; it ran until 1938.
63.13] J'vous en prie: "If you please."
63.17] age had not withered her [...] infinite vulgarity: praising Cleopatra, Shakespeare's Enobarbus says: "Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale / Her infinite variety" (Antony and Cleopatra 2.2.240-41). Cf. 938.16 ff.
63.21] The Teddy Bears' Picnic: written for solo piano by John Walter Bratton in 1908; lyrics added by Jimmy Kennedy in 1933. The song became famous first as a hit for Bing Crosby and later as the theme for The Big John and Sparky Show, a radio program of the 1950s.
63.25] Highgate: cemetery in London where many notables (like Marx) are buried.
63.27] (corde du roi): Fr.: the king's cord - corduroy, originally made of silk, was worn by the kings of France while hunting.
63.28] I've got to show these pictures [...] dying like that: taken from an episode in Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer (1934), in which Miller is ill on the day an artist friend named Kruger plans to give a private exhibition (New York: Ballantine, 1973, 176-77).
64.8] ankonoo [...] poorbwar: Fr. inconnu (unknown) and pourboire (tip, gratuity).
64.31] "A mon très aimé [...] M. Chasles [...] collection of autographs: as an example of "how a man can be great in his own specialty, yet likely to be taken in under peculiar and rather astonishing circumstances," Nobili (GAF 200-201) instances a collection of autographs sold to French mathematician Michel Chasles (1793-1880) by a forger named Vrain-Lucas:
Among other things there was included: a private letter of Alexander the Great addressed to Aristotle; a letter of Cleopatra to Julius Cæsar, informing the Roman Dictator that their son "Cesarion" was getting on very well; a missive of Lazarus to St. Peter; also a lengthy epistle addressed to Lazarus by Mary Magdalen. It should be added that the letters were written in French and in what might be styled an eighteenth-century jargon, that Alexander addressed Aristotle as Mon Ami and Cleopatra scribbled to Cæsar: Notre fils Cesarion va bien. Lazarus, no less a scholar in the Gallic idiom, and to whom, maybe, a miraculous resurrection had prompted a new personality, writes to St. Peter in the spirit of a rhetorician and a prig, speaking of Cicero's oratory and Cæsar's writings, getting excited and anathematic on Druidic rites and their cruel habit de sacrifier des hommes saulxvaiges.
Mary Magdalen, who begins her letter with a mon très aimé frère Lazarus, ce que me mandez de Petrus l'apostre de notre doux Jesus, is supposed to be writing from Marseilles and thus would appear to be the only one out of the many who can logically indulge in French, the jargon-bouillabaisse that Vrain-Lucas lent to the gallant array of his personages.
After such a practical joke played on the excellent good faith of M. Chasles, some of the other autographs seem tame. The package, however, also contained scraps jotted down by Alcibiades and Pericles, a full confession of Judas Iscariot's crime written by himself to Mary Magdalen before passing the rope round his neck; a letter of Pontius Pilate addressed to Tiberius expressing his sorrow for the death of Christ. Other astounding pieces of this now famous collection were: a passport signed by Vercingetorix, a poem of Abelard and some love-letters addressed by Laura to Petrarch, as well as many other historical documents down to a manuscript of Pascal and an exchange of letters between the French scientist and Newton on the laws of gravitation, the Frenchman claiming the discovery as his own. [...] Among other historical blunders is the supposition that Newton could have exchanged letters with Pascal on the laws of gravitation. The former being but nine years old when Pascal died, he had certainly not yet given his mind to the observations bringing about his marvellous discovery.
(Gaddis followed Nobili's own blunder regarding Newton's age in the first edition, but corrected "nine" to "nineteen" for later editions.)
64.42] Virgin appeared to Maximin and Mélanie at La Salette: Mary allegedly appeared as a sorrowful, weeping figure to these two peasant children at La Salette in southern France on 19 September 1846. The message she confided to them (the necessity of penance) was communicated to Pope Pius IX in 1851 and has since been known as the "secret" of La Salette. MMSM 154-61 gives full details.
65.8] Académie Française: founded in 1635, the French Academy is restricted to forty members at a time ("The Immortals") chosen from distinguished men of letters (women were ineligible until 1980), formed to perfect and preserve the purity of the French language.
65.32] Siren of Djibouti: Djibouti is a tiny area in east Africa at the point where the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden meet. Apparently, the Siren of Djibouti is a faked mermaid similar to those described by Gwen Benwell and Arthur Waugh in their Sea Enchantress: The Tale of the Mermaid and Her Kin: "It was for long - and until recently - the practice to exhibit a faked mermaid in Aden, and many travellers have told of the posters advertising the wonder which waited - at a moderate price - to gratify the curious" (New York: Citadel, 1965, 126).
65.33] Voici votre Perrier [...] pas d'eau Perrier: "Here is your Perrier, sir." "But I said café au lait, not Perrier water."
65.34] Son putas, y nada mas: Sp.: "They're whores, and nothing more."
65.36] Kafka: in the 1930s Austrian writer Franz Kafka (1883-1924) was still largely unknown.
65.39] Très amusant [...] très original: "Very amusing, gay, very very original."
65.43] Quelquefois [...] un tableau: "Sometimes I'll spend an entire night finishing a painting."
66.1] the joke about Carruthers and his horse: two stuffy British majors are discussing the latest scandal: "Heard about Carruthers?" "No, what?" "Been drummed out of the army." "God, what for?" "Caught in the act with a horse." "Ghastly! Mare or stallion?" "Mare, of course - nothing queer about Carruthers!" The joke is referred to throughout the novel, with the punch line finally coming at 941.22.
66.6] Banlieu: not a proper name but a word meaning "suburb, outskirts." Cf. 944.15.
66.8] Sacré Coeur: "Sacred Heart," the national church of France. Situated at the top of Montmartre, it was begun in 1876 as an expression of hope and contrition after the disastrous Commune and Franco-Prussian War (1870).
66.11] Voulez vous voir [...] Deux femmes: "Do you want to watch something dirty? Two women. . . ."
66.19] Jesuit victory over France: most of the following details concerning Jesuit activity in France are from Marsh's anti-Jesuitical MMSM (98 ff.).
66.20] Ignatius of Loyola: (1491-1556), Spanish soldier and ecclesiastic, founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1534.
66.26] Jansenists: followers of the doctrine formulated by Cornelius Jansen (1585-1638), which adopted the teachings of Saint Augustine along Calvinist lines. Louis XIV opposed them, and they were finally put down by Pope Clement XI in 1713.
66.26] Pascal: Blaise Pascal (1623-62), French mathematician and philosopher, a student (if not an adherent) of Jansenism. He attacked the Jesuits in his Lettres provinciales (1656-57), which earned it a place on the Index.
66.27] Miracle of the Holy Thorn: "Marguerite Périer, Pascal's niece, was cured of a fistula lachrymalis on 24 March, 1656, after her eye was touched with this sacred relic, supposed to be a thorn from the crown of Christ. This miracle made a great impression upon Pascal" (from the notes in the Everyman's edition of Pascal's Pensées, introduction by T. S. Eliot, who discusses Pascal's interest in Jansenism; the spelling of "lachrymalis" - instead of "lacrymalis" as in EB's account of the miracle [17:350] - along with Gaddis's interest in Eliot, suggests the Everyman's edition as his source).
66.29] its own Marguerite: Marguerite Marie Alacoque (1647-90), French nun whose famous vision in 1673 led to the founding of the devotion of the Sacred Heart, which was opposed by the Jansenists. See Marsh (MMSM 104-6) for a sarcastic summary of her "searing narrative."
66.30] Père La Colombière: Claud La Colombière (1641-82), beatified in 1929. His role in Marguerite's case is described by Marsh (MMSM 99-103).
66.36] 1864, Pope Pius IX: "Pius IX., ever 'good at need,' on the 23d of August, 1846, declared by solemn decree that the nun had practiced the 'heroic' virtues ascribed to her; on the 24th of May, 1864, by another decree, affirmed the truth and reality of the miracles attributed to her intercession; and on the 19th of August, 1864, pronounced her beatification" (MMSM 107-8). Marguerite was canonized in 1920.
66.38] the petition itself participated in the miraculous [...] unable to write their names: from Marsh (MMSM 108 and note).
66.41] a decade after: on 22 April 1875, "thus making the acceptance of this devotion a cardinal feature of the religion of Rome" (MMSM 108-9).
67.2] Devotion of the Perpetual Rosary: one of many devotions that sprang up in France in the nineteenth century. Marsh explains (MMSM 161):
The splendid success of La Salette soon led to new attempts to get up analogous manifestations elsewhere, but, as we have hinted, they were often smothered by the local jealousies of the clergy. A late movement in favor of the Perpetual Rosary of Mary was formidable enough to threaten not only La Salette and Lourdes, but even the Sacré Cur, and it was defeated only by a solemn resolution of the General Congress of the French Catholic Committees at Paris. At this congress, as appears by recent journals, Père Edouard, a Dominican, urged, as an infallible means to save France and the Church, the Devotion of the Perpetual Rosary, while Père Ramière, a Jesuit, stoutly defended the Devotion of the Sacred Heart as more efficacious. Monseigneur de Ségur said that the Holy Virgin shows very good taste by choosing France for the theatre of her apparitions, and that Gallicism in France is dead and buried since the 19th of July, 1870 [when France declared war on Prussia]. He declared himself in favor of the Sacred Heart, which was finally sustained against the Perpetual Rosary.
67.3] Virgin of Lourdes: in 1858, a peasant girl named Bernadette Soubirous (1844-79) claimed that the Virgin Mary - identifying herself as the Immaculate Conception - had appeared to her on eighteen occasions. A spring with miraculous healing powers supposedly appeared at the same time, and after Bernadette's visions were legitimized, the pilgrimage to Lourdes received ecclesiastical recognition in 1862 (MMSM 163-74; the details on "85 liters per minute" and taxation difficulties are from a footnote on pp. 170-71). Bernadette was canonized in 1933.
67.8] Saint Denis: (fl. third century) first bishop of Paris. He was beheaded along with two companions during the persecution of Decius, but, as the legend goes, "at once the body of Dionysius [the Greek form of Denis] stood erect, and took his head in its hands; and with an angel guiding it and a great light going before, it walked for two miles, from the place called Montmartre to the place where by its own choice and by the providence of God, it now reposes" (Jacobus de Voragine's Golden Legend). See 938.26 for Madame du Deffand's captious comment on this feat.
67.9] "public utility": "France professes to recognize the legal equality of Protestant and Catholic churches," Marsh writes, "and has no national, no State religion; but the recent action of the Legislative Assembly, prompted by Jesuit influence, in declaring the construction of a church dedicated to the Sacred Heart, on the heights of Montmartre, to be a work of 'public utility,' is very nearly the equivalent to a formal recognition of that devotion as the religion of the State" (MMSM 112 n.).
67.10] Cardinal Archbishop Guibert: Joseph Hippolyte Guibert (1802-86), archbishop of Paris at the time (MMSM 109).
67.12] William Godwin: (1756-1836), English philosopher and novelist. Marsh investigates the charge that the Jesuit Devotion of the Sacred Heart was plagiarized from Godwin's tract The Heart of Christ in Heaven towards Sinners on Earth (MMSM 100-103).
67.14] Monseigneur Ségur: Louis Gaston de Ségur (1820-81), French priest and author of some sixty religious works; see note to 67.2 above.
67.16] Bourse: Paris's stock exchange.
67.16] Des touristes [...] type là: "Tourists, yes, but filthy English, . . . there, look at that one there."
67.36] surréalisme: surrealism (the French word was taken from Apollinaire) was at its height in the 1930s.
68.3] Henner [...] the only way of being original: Jean-Jacques Henner (1829-1905), French painter. Henner's precept is noted in Eudel's Trucs et truqueurs (449) in a passage that can be translated: "One could even see, o decadence! in one of the most frequented quarters of Paris, an old improvident art student in a stall. On a platform, he executed his paintings by the minute, always the same view, following the precept of Henner, the only way of being original."
68.19] fabled argument between the sun and wind: one of Aesop's fables, in which the sun and wind, each claiming to be stronger than the other, attempt to strip a traveler of his coat. The wind's furious attack fails, but the sun's gentle warmth causes the traveler to gladly remove his coat. (Moral: persuasion is better than force.) The fable is related in HWF 3.4 in illustration of a sales technique.
68.26] Bitte?: Ger: pardon?
68.30] Allerheiligen-Hofkirche's [...] Frauenkirche: two noted Munich cathedrals.
68.35] déracinés: those uprooted from their native land.