Friday, August 31, 2012

Queen of Hungary

Sisi is crowned in Budapest.
So great was the enthusiasm aroused by the appearance of the Empress-Queen, that it is scarcely wonderful if her whole heart went out anew to a people who, by the warmth of their reception, the many tokens of admiration and love bestowed upon her, presented so vivid a contrast to the manner in which the Teutonic portion of her husband’s subjects had comported themselves towards her when the imperial crown had been placed upon her brow, almost thirteen years before. Her predilection for Hungary from henceforth became more than ever marked. She learned the terribly difficult Magyar language with her usual facility, devoting herself with such energy to this task that she absolutely amazed her instructors, and most of her time was spent in her marvelous Castle of Gödöllö, near Budapest. (Read entire post.)

The Death of Margaret of Anjou

It is sad how everything was taken from her, even her dogs. At least her relics went to the Church. In the words of author Susan Higginbotham:
As I mentioned a few posts ago, Louis XI, who as a condition of ransoming Margaret of Anjou from the English had forced her to sign over all of her inheritance rights to him, wrote to Jeanne Chabot, Madame de Montsoreau, to demand that Jeanne give to him all of the dogs that Margaret had given to her. What I didn’t realize until I took another look at the French original, though, is that Louis wrote the letter on August 12, 1482–while Margaret was still alive. (It can be found in Lettres de Louis XI, vol. 9, 1481-82, p. 276, on Google Books.) Historians writing in English have almost always overlooked this fact: Both Cora Scofield and Paul Murray Kendall, for instance, indicate that Margaret was already dead when Louis demanded her dogs.

To make matters more interesting, who was Jeanne Chabot, Madame de Montsoreau? Having labored under the wrong impression that Louis was asking for Margaret’s dogs after Margaret died, I had assumed that Jeanne was someone in Margaret’s household who had somehow got stuck with taking care of Margaret’s dogs. In fact, Jeanne Chabot, Madame de Montsoreau, married to Jean de Chambes, was a lady of high standing. Louis XI wrote to her on March 3, 1472, asking her to house his queen during a measles epidemic, and her son-in-law was none other than the famous memoirist Philippe de Commynes, who married one of her daughters, Helene de Chambes. According to Kendall in his biography of Louis XI, the king paid 3,000 crowns to Jean de Chambes in return for Jean’s giving the barony of Argenton to his new son-in-law. So when Margaret sent her dogs to Jeanne Chabot, she could be reasonably sure that they would be well fed.

But what was the relationship between Margaret and Jeanne Chabot? The chateau of Montsoreau is in the neighborhood of Dampierre, where Margaret spent her last days, so the women could certainly have visited each other if they were inclined. Did Margaret owe Jeanne money and send her the dogs (presumably well-trained hunting dogs) as payment toward the debt? Was Margaret hoping to keep the dogs out of Louis’s hands by sending them to a high-ranking lady? Or was Margaret simply sending her dogs to an old friend? I haven’t the slightest idea of what the answers to these questions could be, but they’re interesting to ponder.

A couple of weeks after Louis demanded her dogs back from Jeanne Chabot, Margaret was dead. Oddly, none of Margaret’s biographers writing in English, not even the indefatigable Agnes Strickland, seems to have noticed the following description of Margaret’s burial and the disposition of her personal effects, which appears in Louis de Farcy’s Monographie de la cathédrale d’Angers, which can be found here. (Read entire post.)
Gareth Russell also has a post about the iron-willed Margaret of Anjou, HERE.  To quote:
Marguerite was, and is, a controversial queen consort. The daughter of a French princeling who had a claim to the throne of the Naples, she was married to the deeply religious and mentally-imbalanced King Henry VI when she was fifteen years old. Strikingly beautiful, Marguerite also had an iron will and tenacity that her husband lacked. More than one observer made the catty remark that the House of Lancaster might have kept the throne if the genders of the King and Queen had been reserved. Whatever Marguerite privately thought of her husband's increasingly bizarre pieties, she was never anything less than totally loyal to him. She struggled valiantly, and sometimes savagely, to hold the monarchy together when Henry became to suffer the first of his frequent nervous breakdowns and states of mental paralysis. Sensing an opportunity to advance their own power, the King's cousin, the Duke of York and his family, began to make moves through parliament and then militarily to oust Henry from the throne and put a York in his place. Marguerite fought them every single step of the way. (Read entire post.)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Lost Soldier

A mysterious Confederate soldier is identified at last.
The Washington Post brings us an interesting story about a portait that was donated to the Library of Congress. As far as portraits from the Civil War go, this one is quite famous. It shows a confederate soldier looking a bit disheveled and very serious while holding an 1855 Springfield single-shot pistol. The portrait appeared in the Ken Burns series about the Civil War. When the Liljenquist family donated the portrait to the Library of Congress, however, it was catalogued as a picture of an "unidentified soldier in Confederate uniform." But, now, the mystery has unravelled. The Washington Post reports:
"Last month, through a chance meeting at a Civil War memorabilia show, the old photograph was identified as that of Confederate soldier Stephen Pollard of Carroll County, Ga., who fought in and survived the war.
"And it turned out that the identity had been known in Georgia but apparently not far beyond."
(Read entire article.)

Blessed Thomas Percy

A martyr of the Northern Rebellion.
On Elizabeth's accession the earl, whose steadfast loyalty to the Catholic Church was known, was kept in the North while the anti-Catholic measures of Elizabeth's first Parliament were passed. Elizabeth continued to show him favour, and in 1563 gave him the Order of the Garter. He had then resigned the wardenship and was living in the South. But the systematic persecution of the Catholics rendered their position most difficult, and in the autumn of 1569 the Catholic gentry in the North, stirred up by rumours of the approaching excommunication of Elizabeth, were planning to liberate Mary, Queen of Scots, and obtain liberty of worship. Earl Thomas with the Earl of Westmoreland wrote to the pope asking for advice, but before their letter reached Rome circumstances hurried them into action against their better judgment. After a brief success the rising failed, and Thomas fled to Scotland, where he was captured and, after three years, sold to the English Government. He was conducted to York and beheaded, refusing to save his life by abandoning his religion. He was beatified by Leo XIII on 13 May, 1895, and his festival was appointed to be observed in the Dioceses of Hexham and Newcastle on 14 November. His daughter Mary founded the Benedictine convent at Brussels from which nearly all the existing houses of Benedictine nuns in England are descended. (Read entire post.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"Les Cochons"

The dehumanizing of the Royal Family. To quote Vive la Reine:
One of the most common ways to attack the royal family, particularly common after the flight of 1791, was to turn them into animals. Animal caricatures were not only a humiliation, but a way to dehumanize the king and his family—or anyone else the author needed to attack. The following is an abridged excerpt from “Description of the Royal Menagerie of Living Animals… Established at the Tuileries.” (Read entire post.)

Legends of the Tower

How the Tower of London became a place of Victorian romance.
On a December night in 1840, a sizable group of writers, editors, publishers, printers and illustrators gathered at the Sussex Hotel, in the fashionable town of Royal Tunbridge Wells, for a dinner party. It is possible that Charles Dickens, the young author of Oliver Twist and The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby,  was invited to the party. Most definitely in attendance was George Cruikshank, the talented illustrator of Oliver Twist. 

The host of this lavish affair was the famed 35-year-old novelist William Harrison Ainsworth. The occasion: the successful serialization over the last year of his fifth novel, The Tower of London: A Historical Romance, which told the story of the tragic Lady Jane Grey, beginning with her arrival by barge at the Tower to launch her nine-day-reign and ending with her decapitation on Tower Green on July 10, 1553. (Read entire post.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


And authority was given it over every tribe and people and tongue and nation...and it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast should speak, and to cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. —Revelation 13:7, 15

If My requests are not granted, Russia will spread her errors throughout the world raising up wars and persecutions against the Church, the good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated. —Our Lady of Fatima, July 13, 1917
It happened far away and decades ago, yet the repercussions are all around us today. While we are continually reminded of the crimes of Hitler, those of Joseph Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, alias Stalin, are forgotten or unknown by many today. And yet Stalin ruled much longer and killed more of his own people than had died in all of Russia's wars put together. Edvard Radzinky's masterful biography is therefore a must-read. To quote from Publishers Weekly:
Russian historian and playwright Radzinsky, whose bestselling The Last Tsar chronicled the assassination of the Romanov royal family, has produced a vivid, astonishingly intimate biography of Joseph Stalin. By drawing heavily on previously unavailable primary-source documents in recently opened party, state and KGB archives, he portrays the Soviet dictator as even more sadistic and methodically demoniacal than Western historians had supposed. Pointing to the young revolutionary's repeated escapes and trips abroad, Radzinsky builds an intriguing circumstantial case that Stalin was a double agent working for both the Bolshevik cause and the czarist secret police. He documents how Lenin recruited Stalin into terrorist violence and used him to tame and crush dissidence within the party ranks. Through interviews with Stalin's granddaughter and with the niece of Nadezhda Alliluyeva, the dictator's wife, Radzinsky pieces together the violent quarrel between Stalin and his wife that led to her suicide weeks before she was to have major surgery. Using oral testimonies, the author deduces that Stalin's murderous anti-Semitic campaign of 1953, whose goal was the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Jews to Siberia and Kazakhstan, was a prelude to his plan to launch a third world war. Radzinsky also tracked down one of Stalin's bodyguards, Peter Lozgachev, whose testimony that Stalin's guards deliberately denied him medical attention and left him to die adds weight to the author's hypothesis that Stalin was eliminated by close aide Lavrenti Beria (who reportedly boasted, "I took him out") as part of a conspiracy to avert nuclear Armageddon. Stalin died in 1953, aged 74 by standard sources, although Radzinsky maintains he was a year older.
One of the first things that struck me about the biography was how Stalin deliberately wove a veil of mystery around his past. Not that he had anything to be ashamed of in his childhood, other than the fact that his family was poor and his father was an abusive alcoholic. Nevertheless, he spread the rumor that his mother had been a prostitute, quite contrary to the truth. Stalin's mother was an impoverished but devout lady who took in washing and prayed for her son to become a priest. She saved her money so that she could send her son to the Orthodox Seminary. Why did he deliberately manufacture layer upon layer of rumor and falsehood about himself? Perhaps it enhanced his mystique as the great hero, the superman, who came out of nowhere, as well as to inexorably break with his Christian past.

It was while studying at the seminary, surrounding by the most beautiful liturgical ceremonies in the world, that Stalin fell in with revolutionaries, lost his faith, and became a terrorist. The power of free will is a frightening but unalterable reality. He killed thousands of people while still in his twenties and was arrested several times but never executed. Radzinsky makes a strong case for Stalin as double agent, betraying other revolutionaries to the tsarist government. The betrayal of his fellows became a deeply ingrained personality trait from which millions of Russians would suffer in the years to come.

Radzinsky carefully traces Stalin's rise to power. As a dictator, his hero was Ivan the Terrible, whom he sought to imitate in his ruling methods. In his zeal to force Communism on the Russian people, Stalin used every form of terror and torture, including mass starvation. Of course, religion was persecuted and churches were closed and/or destroyed. As shown in the film Burnt by the Sun (1994), the Revolution turned upon its own children during the Great Purge of the 1930's, in which Stalin sought to "purge" or annihilate any potential rivals, including the "old guard" Bolsheviks of 1917. The book places a great deal of focus on the Great Purge, since the author has had access to information in the Soviet archives previously not available to the public. The number of deaths is worse than I ever imagined. Throughout Russia, husbands reported on wives and children on their parents; entire families were sent to the gulags if they were fortunate enough to escape being tortured and shot. Stalin engaged in a similar purge after World War II, in which he annihilated the officers who had made the victory possible. His thirst for blood seemed never to be sated.

Since volumes have already been written about Stalin's role in World War II, and his interactions with other world leaders, Radzinsky did not spend too many chapters on it. It is odd how Stalin, who thought in terms of chess while everyone else played checkers, refused to believe that Hitler was going to attack Russia, in spite of receiving intelligence to the contrary. Stalin thought that the Soviet Union and Germany would be conquering the world together, which is how world socialism would be established. It was entirely out of character for Stalin to be taken in by Hitler but he was; it was the Russian people who paid the price with millions of casualties. In order to rally the people, Stalin allowed the churches to reopen and the holy icons to be venerated by those who knew that only God could deliver them.

The most frustrating chapter was the one on the Yalta Conference and the other post-war diplomatic disasters in which Stalin triumphed, hands down. I think Churchill and De Gaulle were the only ones who had an inkling as to what kind of monster they were dealing with; Roosevelt and Truman had not a clue. Of course, those who paid for the naivety of Western leaders were the already brutalized citizens of several Eastern European nations which were handed over to the Soviets to learn all about Stalin's ideas of freedom and democracy. The gulags and prisons were kept busy for decades.

By the early 50's, Stalin was planning World War III and the final annihilation of the Jews. The plan was supposed to launch on March 5, 1953, which ended up being the day Stalin died. His death, like other aspects of his life, is shrouded in secrets. Radzinsky's claim that Stalin was assassinated cannot be overruled. However it happened, his death saved many lives. I cannot help thinking of all the rosaries that were being said in the free world at that time for peace and for the conversion of Russia. After reading Stalin's biography, Our Lady's request to Pray for Russia has infinitely more meaning for me. It is hard for us to imagine the amount of suffering that went on for seventy years of Communism in a country as vast as Russia. No one really knows how many souls experienced untimely deaths. Every aspect of life was turned upside down  and perverted by Marxism; every human relationship was placed under strain. Religion was erased or marginalized as the Communists tried to destroy all manifestations of faith. Being a missionary religion in itself, Communism, according to Stalin's plan, has indeed spread throughout the world. With thorough scholarship and careful sifting of data, Radzinsky's Stalin exposes the apocalyptic nature of the events through which many of us have already lived. Let the past not be forgotten, lest it be repeated.


Murder With Words

Slander and its consequences.
When did lies — and these things are lies — become so easy for us?

I’m not talking to the atheist/secularist crowd. I’m talking to Christians; to the people who sing Holy, Holy on Sundays and claim they serve a Risen Lord.

We do not have the privilege of indulging our fallen natures in public discourse. The dark satisfaction we get from slandering another person to the point that it becomes a form of social murder is straight from the pit. It does not make us righteous before God and it certainly does not bring the Light to the darkness of our world.

Do not allow yourself to become so angered by the vast injustices of our world that you fight those injustices in ways and with tactics that align you with the darkness. Do not fight satan with satan’s weapons. (Read entire post.)

Monday, August 27, 2012

My Week with Marilyn (2011)

Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe: Little girls should be told how pretty they are. They should grow up knowing how much their mother loves them.  ~from My Week with Marilyn (2011)

Having watched The Prince and the Showgirl starring Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe an inordinate number of times, I made a point of seeing the recent film about the making of it. The main contention of My Week with Marilyn seems to be to prove (once again) that Marilyn could indeed act. Seeing Michelle Williams portraying Marilyn's showgirl character Elsie Marina with only a fraction of the bounce and verve that Marilyn gave to the original role has indeed convinced me that I, for one, have underestimated Marilyn's talent. Especially since the new film emphasizes the fact that Marilyn was a psychological shipwreck throughout the production, unable to sleep or remember her lines, while indulging in lengthy crying jags. It is only through the intervention of a gallant young British gentleman named Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), who showers Marilyn with chivalrous attentions in order to boost her flagging self-esteem, that the 1956 movie is completed at all.

To quote the review from The Wall Street Journal:
The week in question was in 1956. That's when Colin Clark, a young Oxford graduate from a distinguished family, worked as a lowly gofer on the set of "The Prince and the Showgirl," an Edwardian comedy that starred Marilyn Monroe opposite Laurence Oliver, who was also the film's producer and director. The pairing was as exasperating as it was unlikely. Olivier, a no-nonsense professional who happened to be a genius of stage and screen, couldn't abide Monroe's neediness, her spasms of neurotic paralysis, or the protective people around her who conflicted with his directorial authority. The new movie, which was adapted from Clark's published recollections, is told from his perspective; he's played appealingly by Eddie Redmayne. Michelle Williams is Marilyn and Kenneth Branagh is Olivier.

The best part of "My Week With Marilyn" is a coming-of-age-story: Colin became Marilyn's friend and companion, and grew to understand the fear that prompted her erratic behavior. (He went on to become a noted writer and filmmaker.) But the main part is the battle of the stars, and it clanks false on both sides. Mr. Branagh's Olivier is a busy parody, stripped of his subject's rapier wit on stage and his simplicity offstage. Ms. Williams's dear-in-the-headlights Marilyn displays one quality at a time—usually kewpie-doll vulnerability—without a hint of the shrewdness and technical knowledge that Monroe brought to her sets. The only suggestion of spontaneity occurs when Ms. Williams does a delightful little dance taken directly from Monroe's screen performance. The only convincing character is Sybil Thorndike, who seems to have been taken directly from Judi Dench's unerring instincts.
Williams' performance is touching although she cannot seem to come out of herself the same way that Marilyn could. Yet she is able to communicate Marilyn's child-like wonder at the sights of Britain, while also showing the unhappy little girl inside who is always looking for the love she had missed from her parents. Although Julia Ormond is a lovely, gracefully aging actress, she made an abysmal Vivien Leigh. When I first saw her nose it frightened me and I thought, "What have they done to Vivien?" Kenneth Branagh as the great Olivier did not bother me as much as it does some people, simply because I did not expect much. No one can be Olivier but Olivier.

The Carters of Virginia

Aristocracy of the Old South.
 [O]ne is almost forced to conclude that there was something in the stock of the Carters that bred greatness through the female side, or else that something in the dealings of the Carter mothers with their sons inspired successive generations to high endeavor. The Alexandria boy who played on the lawn of Shirley [Plantation], during his mother’s visits, was wholly unconscious of it but his possession of his mother’s blood, in descent from Robert Carter, was the best endowment for greatness that he could have had in the Virginia of his day. In some subtle way, he was advantaged in the contests of men because his mother was of the Carters of Corotoman.

By those same Carters at Shirley, as by his mother in his own home, Robert [E. Lee]  saw exemplified a very simple, straightforward loyalty to family, to church, and to God. (Read entire post.)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Reading

Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette, Madame Royale, and the Court listening to a reading of Paul et Virginie by Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre. Share

Young Bess at Home

The trials of Elizabeth Tudor as a child and young girl were mitigated by the loyalty and loving care of her household.
On the 19th May 1536, Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn, was executed as a traitor and adulteress. Just 11 days later, Elizabeth’s father, Henry VIII, married Jane Seymour and within two months of her mother’s death Parliament had confirmed that her parents’ marriage was invalid and that Elizabeth was illegitimate. Elizabeth went from pampered princess, the apple of her father’s eye, to ignored bastard. Elizabeth was so forgotten that her governess, Lady Margaret Bryan, had to write a letter to Cromwell begging for him to intercede with the King as Elizabeth had outgrown all of her clothes and her household had no money to buy more. J. L. McIntosh points out that “there is no evidence to suggest that Henry even saw his younger daughter from January 1536 until September 1542″ and “thereafter, they encountered each other only during Elizabeth’s infrequent and short visits to court from 1543 until Henry’s death in 1547.”1 With her mother gone and her father intent on producing a legitimate male heir, Elizabeth’s household became her family.
But who made up her household? Who were the people who Elizabeth depended on in her childhood, the people she was talking about when she said “we are more bound to them that bringeth us up well, than to our parents”? (Read entire post.)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Summer Clouds, 1917

A masterpiece by Charles Courtney Curran. Share

Tea Set

The traveling case of Marie-Antoinette. (Click for better view.) Share

The Royal Cider

At Sandringham. To quote:
The cider, which is believed to be the first commercially home-grown alcohol from the Queen’s estates, was initially produced as a trial batch of 350 bottles in 2010, but proved so popular, selling out within weeks, that production was tripled to 1,000 bottles last year. The drink, which is 6 per cent alcohol, costs £3.99 per bottle and can be bought only from the royal estate, which is privately owned by the Queen.
The Duke of Edinburgh, 91, is known to be very hands-on in the development of Sandringham’s farm and samples its products, as does the Queen.
The Duke of Cambridge, who uses the estate for shooting parties, has frequently proclaimed his preference for cider and had an apple named after him as a 21st birthday present. “Until recently, cider was seen as an old traditionalist’s drink but Prince William has turned that image upside down,” a Waitrose spokesman said when it credited the future king with sending cider sales soaring. (Read entire article.)
Via Nobility. Share

Friday, August 24, 2012

Requiem Mass, 1835

A mass for the soul of Marie-Antoinette at the chapelle expiatoire. Share

The Mexican Revolution Revealed

A fascinating and indispensable lecture on the Cristeros. Share

A Music of Light

Hildegard and her music.
The earliest composer whose name and music we still know was a medieval nun who lived in the obscurity of an anchorite's cell until she was middle-aged. Though never trained in composition or musical notation, she wrote over 150 songs, mysteriously beautiful and fiercely difficult to sing, that have been preserved to this day. She believed her music was inspired by God.

Hildegard of Bingen was forty-two when a vision and a "voice from Heaven" transformed her life. "Heaven was opened," she said, "and a fiery light of exceeding brilliance came and permeated my whole brain, and inflamed my whole heart and my whole breast." (Read entire post.)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Eagle Banned

How the Society of the Cincinnati, an order of chivalry founded by King Louis XVI for both Americans and Frenchmen, came to be outlawed during the Revolution. Share

The Fall of the Aztecs

Legend vs. reality.
Of course, by the time Tenochtitlan fell, Montezuma II had long departed this world. That is another common misconception; that Montezuma II was the last Aztec Emperor. He was not, in fact he was not even the next to the last or the next to the next of the last. But that brings us to one of the last and most ridiculous claims about this historical episode which is the “hierarchical” Spanish imposing their own system on an otherwise simple and egalitarian native society. This is clearly ridiculous but it plays upon some popular stereotypes. The Spanish were Catholics after all and the Catholic Church is “very hierarchical” (a bizarre phrase if ever there was one) and many people do have the perception of all Native American peoples being nature-worshipping egalitarians. Honestly, some Native American groups were fairly egalitarian but these tended to be the least advanced and a civilization as large and powerful as the Aztecs could certainly never have been built without someone being in charge and making use of a strict chain of command.

In fact, if anything, the Aztecs might have been “more hierarchical” than the Spanish. The Aztec Emperor was treated with extreme reverence, as a semi-divine figure, the earthly representative of the gods and had the most exalted position. He had the best of everything, including women (Montezuma II reportedly had around 1,000 wives and concubines all to himself) and slaves carried him on a litter everywhere he went or spread fine mats in his path as he walked as his person was considered too sacred for his feet to even touch the ground. This was obviously a far different position from the politics of the monarchies of western Europe in the High Middle Ages in which dealings between monarchs, nobles and common people had more of a contractual style about them. And, aside from the Aztec Emperor there was also an aristocracy and a priestly class who held special privileges. There is nothing, of course, wrong with any of that, but it is, again, another aspect of the Aztec civilization that many today seem to prefer to leave out.

So, we should try to keep a more honest and realistic view of such a significant historical event. Certainly neither side was perfect, there was a great deal of destruction, plundering and viciousness that accompanied the fall of Tenochtitlan, however the changes also brought an end to the barbaric practice of human sacrifice and at least some relief for those subject peoples who had been enslaved by the Aztecs. The fall of Tenochtitlan was a turning point in the history of the Americas but it was also by no means “the end” of the Aztecs. In fact, for several decades there continued to be an Aztec Emperor, the last one passing away in 1565. However, it was the end of a chapter and the beginning of a new one in the history of Mexico. (Read entire post.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Fountainhead

I chose Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead for my summer reading long before the controversy over Paul Ryan blossomed in the media. I thought it would be interesting to read it simultaneously with Edvard Radzinsky's biography of Stalin, since Rand, a staunch anti-Communist, wrote in reaction to the Marxism which consumed her native Russia. Marxism and the Randian philosophy of Objectivism are both atheistic, materialistic philosophies which have shaped contemporary thought. While Marxism makes a god of the state, demanding the total immolation of each individual to the needs of the People, Objectivism makes a god of the individual, exalting self-actualization, along with sex and money, as the highest goals in life. According to American Writers:
The Fountainhead (1943; film, 1949), which became a durable best-seller, depicts its architect-hero as a superman whose egoism and genius prevail over timid traditionalism and social conformism. The Objectivist philosophy embodied in the book, inspired by Nietzsche, held that all real achievement is the product of individual ability and effort, that laissez-faire capitalism is most congenial to the exercise of talent, and that selfishness is a virtue, altruism a vice. Rand's reversal of the traditional Judeo-Christian ethic made her a beacon for an avid and self-renewing cult of libertarian-conservative followers.
I found it helpful to read Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead in the light of the Communism she was reacting against. When the Bolsheviks came to power in Russia, they confiscated Rand's family's prosperous pharmaceutical business. The family almost starved to death. Businesses all over the  new Soviet Union were taken over by the government in the 1920's, as were the farms and factories. The most successful businessmen, farmers, artists, and craftsmen were killed, imprisoned or starved to death under Stalin, unless they were able to escape the country. Complete immolation on the altar of Communism was expected of every citizen; only mediocrity was safe. Everyone lived in fear of the consequences of speaking out; even dedicated Communists would be arrested and tortured if they were seen as a threat to Stalin's power. Anyone could be arrested on false charges or on the slightest suspicion. Being arrested often met that one's entire family would be sent to the gulags.

Rand was able to escape from Russia to the United States but the rest of her family were not permitted to leave. She went from being a non-religious Jew to an atheist. She became a successful screenwriter in Hollywood. She objected to the socialism that she saw seeping into American arts, politics and culture, seeing it as bringing not only mediocrity and vulgarity but the destruction of the American work ethic.

In The Fountainhead, her arch-villain is the writer Ellsworth Toohey, who like Stalin was a former seminarian, but instead of leveling people with fire and sword Toohey does so with his pen. He despises the young architect Howard Roark who, unlike the successful Peter Keating and thousands of others who have sold their principles for worldly success, cannot be bought, nor can he be browbeaten into sacrificing his vision and individuality. To quote from Toohey's long rant to Peter as to what must be done to create the new society:
Kill man's sense of values. Kill his capacity to recognize greatness or to achieve it. Great men can't be ruled. We don't want any great men. Don't deny the conception of greatness. Destroy it from within. The great is the rare, the difficult, the exceptional. Set up standards of achievement open to all, to the least, to the most inept—and you stop the impetus to effort in all men, great or small. You stop all incentive to improvement, to excellence, to perfection....Enshrine mediocrity, and all shrines are razed. (pp. 635-636)
Stalin would have agreed; in the Soviet Union he was enforcing Toohey's ideals at gunpoint. In the meantime, Roark, Rand's hero, is a reproach to those who have caved in to the system, not being threatened by death as Stalin threatened people, but merely giving in to the fear of the loss of human respect. Peter Keating sells his wife to a publisher in order to secure a lucrative commission. In The Fountainhead, Americans who sacrifice themselves and their loved ones for mere money are pitiable, much more so than those who capitulate from fear of bodily harm in Communist hellholes. Russia and Communism are not mentioned in The Fountainhead, which is why it is helpful to understand Rand's background

 Roark is a man of few words. I wonder if his blunt manner is the reason some conservative young people have such poor social skills, thinking that they are imitating Howard Roark, and therefore dispense with social pleasantries? Roark is admirable, however, for his refusal to bow to public opinion. He will not sacrifice his integrity for anyone, not even for the woman he loves. Any artist, writer, architect, etc. who has ever trouble succeeding can (rightly or wrongly) identify with Roark's struggles, which is certainly one of the reasons the novel is still widely popular.

Another reason for the book's enduring success is surely the romance between Roark and the exquisite but troubled Dominique Francon. Roark and Dominique have an intermittent affair, beginning with the ravishment of Dominique by Roark at her country house in Connecticut. It is disturbing that Dominique revels in the fact that she was "raped" by Roark, making a criminal act into her romantic fantasy. Whether Dominique was actually raped is a matter of debate; the scene is nevertheless misleading about the nature of sexual violence and brutality against women. The volatile passion of Roark and Dominique can be seen as a a response to the puritanical side of Bolshevism which discouraged romantic love and fidelity, as embodied by Toohey's disdain for sexuality, except as a tool to degrade people.

Roark is an atheist and lives for his achievements in this world. The Fountainhead is subtly (and often not so subtly) hostile to religion, which is how the book fails to offer a powerful rebuke to Communism. Rand merely sets up another false god, and every false god is a demon, as C.S. Lewis said. Objectivism is as rooted in materialism as is Communism, and material possessions cannot bring lasting happiness. In the words of Whittaker Chambers:
Communism is the central experience of the first half of the 20th century, and may be its final experience—will be, unless the free world, in the agony of its struggle with Communism, overcomes its crisis by discovering, in suffering and pain, a power of faith which will provide man's mind, at the same intensity, with the same two certainties: a reason to live and a reason to die.
It is faith which overcomes the evil of the world, and in despising faith Ayn Rand misses the source and the goal of happiness. Conservatives who drink too deeply of her philosophy will not be the irresistible force against Marxism which our world so desperately needs. It is possible, I believe, to imitate some of her better ideas as put forth in The Fountainhead, such as the refusal to sacrifice one's honesty and integrity for the dust that is public opinion.


110 Rules of Civility

By George Washington.
1)      Every action done when in company ought to be done with some sign of respect for those present.
2)      When in company, do not put your hands on any part of the body that is usually clothed.
3)      Show nothing to a friend that may frighten him.
4)      When in the presence of others do not hum or sing to yourself or drum with your fingers or feet.
5)      Be as quiet as possible when you cough, sneeze, sigh, or yawn. Refrain from speaking when yawning; cover your face with your handkerchief and turn aside.
6)      When others talk, do not doze off. Do not sit down while others are standing. Do not speak when you should hold your peace. Do not continue walking when others stop.
7)      Do not undress in front of others, nor leave your bedroom half dressed.
(Read entire post.) Share

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Queen of Troubadours

Eleanor of Aquitaine in England.
 Little do we know about the personality of the queen whose wooden funerary effigy lies under the main dome in the Abbey of Fontevrault. Eleanor of Aquitaine died in 1204, though the exact place where she passed from the world is not known for sure: according to some chroniclers, she ended her life in Poitiers; according to others, she was taken to Fontevrault “where she put on the garb of a nun before closing her eyes”. Her hands are holding a book, most probably a prayer book, the Holy Bible – or, why not, a courtly romance… The granddaughter of William IX of Aquitaine – the first known troubadour –, Eleanor, was born in 1122 or 1124, somewhere in the far south of Aquitaine, probably in Bordeaux or Belin, where she spent her early childhood before moving to Poitiers after 1130. “Charming”, “welcoming” and “lively”, as Geoffroi de Vigeois described her, she exercised an unquestionable influence in the development and popularisation of the new courtly sensibility in France. Highly intelligent and well-educated – she probably knew Latin, Eleanor was the great patron of the two dominant poetic movements of the time: the courtly love tradition, conveyed in the songs of the troubadours, and the historical Matter of Britain, best represented in Chrétien de Troyes’ roman courtois. (Read entire article.)

Birth of the Tsarevich Alexis

August 12, 1904.
The weather was very hot that summer and the breeze coming off the bays near the palace helped alleviate the court's discomfort. On 12th August, the Tsar and Tsarina sat down to luncheon together, as usual. The Empress was nine months pregnant. She made it to the soup course before excusing herself and hurrying to her rooms, with her servants and doctors. After all the pain and panic that had gone into hoping for a boy, and all the pain and panic that would follow this particular little boy, Alexei Romanov's birth was actually surprisingly easy. Labour lasted less than an hour and in the early afternoon, the guns at Peterhof fired out to announce the birth of another imperial child. Protocol demanded three hundred shots for a boy and one hundred and one for a girl. By the time the one hundred and second shot was fired, the nearby imperial naval base at Kronstadt had started their own salute. The population of the country's capital, Saint Petersburg, heard the news when the enormous cannons of the Peter and Paul Fortress began thundering out across the city and the cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan led the city's churches in a bell-ringing cacophony. (Read entire post.)

The Prophecies of Humanae Vitae

From Catholic Lane.:
On July 25, 1968, Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae re-affirmed the Catholic teaching on life, love and human sexuality. In that document, he listed the consequences of life lived outside Catholic teaching. He predicted that:
1.     Contraception would lead to conjugal infidelity.
2.     Contraceptive practice would lead to a “general lowering of morality.”
3.     Contraception would lead men to cease respecting woman in their totality and would cause them to treat women as “mere instruments of selfish enjoyment” rather than as cherished partners.
4.     And finally, widespread acceptance of contraception by couples would lead to a massive imposition of contraception by unscrupulous governments.
In other words, Pope Paul VI predicted that contraception would evolve from “a lifestyle choice” into a weapon of mass destruction. How dreadfully his prophecy has been vindicated by population control and coercive sterilization programs, fertility reduction quotas, and the promotion of abortion literally everywhere in the world.
Contraception’s destruction of the integrity of the marital act—as unitive and procreative—has dire consequences for society and for our souls. Contraception, in other words, is a rejection of God’s view of reality. It is a wedge driven into the most intimate sphere of communion known to man outside of the Holy Sacrament of the Mass. It is a degrading poison that withers life and love both in marriage and in society.
By breaking the natural and divinely ordained connection between sex and procreation, the Pope saw that women and men—but especially men—would focus on the hedonistic possibilities of sex. People would cease seeing sex as something that was intrinsically linked to new life and to the sacrament of marriage. (Read entire post.)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sugar Cane Plantations

From Leah Marie Brown:
The rise of sugar cane plantations in the 18th Century, particularly on the French islands of Martinique and Saint-Domingue, allowed impoverished French noblemen the opportunity to rebuild their wealth. 

Many white plantation owners took African mistresses. Soon, the islands were filled with mulatto children. Some were treated kindly by their fathers and even afforded a superior education; others suffered the pain of not being accepted by either race. (Read entire post.)

Growing Up With Two Moms

Dr. Robert Lopez describes his experiences.
In the Bronx gay world, I cleaned out enough apartments of men who’d died of AIDS to understand that resistance to sexual temptation is central to any kind of humane society. Sex can be hurtful not only because of infectious diseases but also because it leaves us vulnerable and more likely to cling to people who don’t love us, mourn those who leave us, and not know how to escape those who need us but whom we don’t love. The left understands none of that. That’s why I am conservative. (Read entire article.)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Credo of the People of God

Surviving the summer of 1968. To quote Fr. Mark:
Pope Paul VI promulgated The Credo of the People of God on 30 June1968, less than one month before releasing his prophetic Encyclical Humanae Vitae. I lived through these events. I remember them well. It was a very hot summer; I was volunteering in a program for disadvantaged inner-city children. Robert F. Kennedy had been assassinated earlier that same summer on 5 June.

Priests, religious, and seminarians were thrust into a whirlwind of liturgical, theological, and moral confusion. Many lost their footing in the faith. Even "enclosed" monasteries were affected. It was not uncommon to find that Zen Buddhism, so-called "Catholic" Pentecostalism, and a fascination with Garabandel and other apparitions had all made inroads into the same monastery. The Trappists, it seems, were especially hard hit by the rage for pluralism. The idea was that there should be something for everyone: "I'm OK, You're OK" (published in 1967) was the new Summa. Everything was subject to redefinition and reformulation. And, not to be forgotten: The National Association for Pastoral Renewal came out with the "Make Celibacy Optional" bumpersticker.

The Landing of the Soixante-huitards
In Paris, student protestors and strikers launched the now famous social revolution of mai 68, the matrix of a generation of soixante-huitards (sixty-eighters), who, alas, would carry their groovy ideologies forward into the new millennium in both the world and the Church.

Sexual Revolution
In the world of popular culture, the Broadway musical Hair opened in April 1968, offering young people a combination of music and lyrics that glorified every manner of sexual license and perversion. The pollution of the sexual revolution poured into the Church through the windows opened at the Second Vatican Council to let in fresh air. Young Religious of the Sacred Heart, formerly so ladylike and prim, discovered the joy of theological dialogue with edgy longhaired Jesuit scholastics in jeans and sandals . . . and the rest is history.

The Undoing of the Lex Orandi
Among Catholics, there was a heady feeling in the air, enticing even the brightest and the best to believe that everything in the Church and in society had to be re-imagined and re-created, beginning with the liturgy. Tampering with the liturgy led to tampering with the doctrine of the faith; and tampering with the doctrine of the faith led to a skewed moral theological and ethical praxis.

The Mass Under Siege
Ad-libbing at Holy Mass was already becoming endemic . . . and this before the Novus Ordo Missae, which only made its début in 1970. Quantities of mimeographed wildcat "Canons" (Eucharistic Prayers) were in circulation. I came away from a Mass at the Jesuit House of Studies near Yale University feeling sick at heart. Then and there I resolved never to trust the liturgical instincts of a Jesuit. There were Masses at which "Blowing in the Wind", "The Times, They Are A-Changin'", and Judy Collins's "I've Looked at Love from Both Sides Now" were standard fare.

Tears and fears and feeling proud, to say, "I love you" right out loud,
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds, I've looked at life that way.
But now old friends are acting strange
they shake their heads, they say I've changed
But something's lost but something's gained in living every day.
(Judy Collins)

Through it all, I knew that in Gregorian Chant I had found the native tongue of my soul. Singing Chant was life-giving for me. Even in monastic choirs, it had been cast aside. Guitar-strumming monks lulled themselves and others into the most astonishing liturgical amnesia in history.

Books I Remember
I remember the publication of the first English edition of the Dutch Catechism in 1967. Before long it seemed to be on everyone's bookshelf alongside of books by Michel Quoist and Marc Oraison. The Divine Office was subjected to a rapidly-changing series of adaptations; bravely I held on to my Collegeville Short Breviary and to Collegeville edition of Lauds, Vespers, and Compline. I was doing my lectio divina in the first edition of the Jerusalem Bible in English, and reading things like Abbot Marmion's Christ, the Ideal of the Monk and Christ, the Life of the Soul, Dom Eugene Boylans's This Tremendous Lover, William G. Most's Mary in Our Life, and Bernadot's, From Holy Communion to the Blessed Trinity. Around the same time I was introduced to the life of Father Willie Doyle, S.J. by Alfred O'Rahilly and the writings of Josefa Menendez in The Way of Divine Love. Through it all Pius Parsch's The Church's Year of Grace held me spellbound.

All of this being said, when Pope Paul VI gave the Church his Credo of the People of God I was ready and eager to receive it. What I couldn't understand was why so few Catholics around me, including priests, seminarians, and religious, had little enthusiasm for it. The Holy Father's gift met with indifference. Was it a case of too little too late?

The actual text of the Credo of the People of God begins with article 8 of the Apostolic Letter, Solemni Hac Liturgia, 30 June 1968. Here it is. Will it meet with a better reception the second time round, 44 years later? I can only pray that it will. (Read entire post.)

Happiness vs. Having-it-All

The mother of a disabled child speaks her mind.
As someone in her 40s, unequivocally in middle age, I find myself and my friends in that stage of life that seems to auger constant assessment -- am I happy? Am I doing the right thing with my life?

Evidenced by the number times Anne-Marie Slaughter's Atlantic piece "Why Women Still Can't Have It All" was posted on Facebook, it served as a cri de coeur of the collective unconscious of those of us swimming in the Gen X/Baby Boomer estuary, last stop before becoming truly elderly. (It's apparently also the most-read article in the magazine's 155-year history.) Slaughter rightly questions why having a family complicates the career ladder for women in a way that it does not for men. But the hidden heart of the article, I believe, is its hinting at that unspoken yearning for that perfect life that has been promised to us by ... someone? Ads? TV? Ms. Magazine? Those ATHLETA catalogs?

Let me compare and contrast that with a typical incident that happened just last week in my own 40-something working mother life. My husband and I were sitting in the office of a neuropsychologist who had just run an assessment on our 12-year-old son who has a variety of disabilities and medical problems. (Read entire article.)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Dinner Etiquette

From History and Other Thoughts:
The conversation at the dinner-table should be general, unless the company is large, and the table too long to admit of it. But in any case, each one is responsible first of all for keeping up a pleasant chat with his or her partner, and not allowing that one to be neglected while attention is riveted on some aggressively brilliant talker at the other end of the table. No matter how uninteresting one's partner may be, one must be thoughtful and entertaining; and such kind attention may win the life-long gratitude of a timid débutante, or the equally unsophisticated country cousin.

Dinner-table talk should be affable. The host and hostess must be alert to turn the conversation from channels that threaten to lead to antagonisms of opinion; and each guest should feel that it is more important just now to make other people happy than to gratify his impulse to "floor" them on the tariff question. In short, at dinner, as under most social conditions, the watchword ever in mind should be, "Not to myself alone."
(Read entire post.)

The Standoff

Church vs. State.
 Refuse to cooperate, refuse to pay the fines and await “overt, forcible political repression.” In other words, prepare for some bishops and their supporters to go to jail. Wiley argued that this is the only “tactically sound,” “logically sound” and “morally sound” response.

If this results in jail time, then that is a consequence believers in other eras have willing faced, she concluded. “Rejoice and be glad. Historically, prison has always been an excellent pulpit and a school of saints.” (Read entire post.)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Queen of Children

How the Elisabeth, Queen of the Belgians, cared for hundreds of children during the upheavals of World War One.
In two little villages of wooden barracks, the Queen provided for 600 children- one group of children from 6 to 10, and the other from 11 to 16.

The barracks were placed, on soil well drained, flat thought it was, and around them bloomed the most beautiful flowers from early spring until late autumn. Between the two groups of barracks was a large vegetable garden which the older boys helped to work.

The barracks were light, well but simply furnished, and everything about them showed that somebody of taste and culture was at the head.

The Queen was fortunate in having the pick of available personnel and this made other authorities growl occasionally, but the growls were low and not very deep. Certain it is that whether we ascribe it to her brains or luck, Her Majesty made there a real school. A beautiful little chapel stood among the other buildings. The instruction was modern. The children really learned something. And the whole atmosphere of the place unquestionably lifted most of them up to a plane they never would have reached had there been no war and no school of the Queen. Twice during the war, we tried to get over from America the most modern books on education for a present to the Queen out of other than relief funds, as we knew her great desire to have them, but the shipments had not come through when the war ended. (Read entire post.)

Blasts from the Past

Some thoughts from Rob Stove:
Of the 400,000-odd students who graduated from Australian universities last year, some, at least, must hope to become non-fiction writers. Can they envision an Australia with no internet? No blogs? No social media, let alone Twitter? No mobile phones? No readily available desktop-publishing packages? Nothing resembling a global economy? No journalism degrees or even courier companies to speak of? No Post-It notes or liquid paper except as luxury items largely confined to legal offices? No foreign periodicals available at the average newsagent apart from Time and Newsweek?

Welcome to the Australia of 30 years ago. The time when I, for one, started notching up newspaper and magazine article publications.

In retrospect, the early-to-mid-1980s were boom times for Australia’s rookie but diligent non-fiction freelancers. Newspapers had better things to do, on the whole, than syndicate articles from abroad. Since almost no one hereabouts contemplated terrorism save as regards Northern Ireland, print media editors could be reached with an ease nowadays beyond imagining.

One could literally telephone on Monday for an appointment with a features boss on Tuesday, be given a deadline for the following Friday, be published the next weekend but one, and be paid the week after that. I cannot once recall an editor doing more than taking a cursory glance at my prior clippings (this glance signifying a straightforward desire for confirmation that I was not actually illiterate). As for being expected to supply either a résumé or evidence of an academic qualification, the suggestion would have been considered ludicrous.

If the comparative shortage of authorial competitors in those days made obtaining commissions an almost absurdly straightforward task, submitting copy to head office was the reverse of straightforward. Every newspaper (bar The Canberra Times alone) had installed a different kind of obstacle course, but the most intimidating was The Australian’s. For all Rupert Murdoch’s latter-day reputation as swashbuckling union-buster, he proved to be the most demure pussy-cat in terms of The Australian’s unionized work practices. Because of this, authors needed to dictate their copy, phrase by wearisome phrase, to receptionists – always female – who would type it up for the system’s benefit.

A few receptionists struggled with basic English clichés (I recall one of them turning Lenin’s alleged phrase “useful idiots” into “youthful idiots”). Many, by contrast, were not only keyboard whizzes but educational whizzes, much more cultivated than most writers whose discharges they keyed in. They possessed a striking arsenal of foreign words and names, which they spelled with 100% accuracy. (One, I recall, reminded me about the e-acute in André Gide’s first name.) Whether bad or – mostly – good, the receptionists could not be avoided. As one editor told me, it was unthinkable even to contemplate bypassing them.

Equally unthinkable was using a word-processor. I first saw a word-processor in 1985 – the parliamentarian who hired me at the time sought to reassure me by his insistence that “basically it’s just a bloody typewriter” – and had nightmares for weeks about its complexity. Tiny pulsating light green type on an almost pitch black screen cannot have done much for users’ optical health either. Floppy discs then really were floppy. Hard drives probably had less memory storage than does the simplest and cheapest MP3 now.

But if one found the word processor too intimidating, then pounding out one’s prose on an electric typewriter or even a manual typewriter remained socially acceptable. When a portable electronic machine came along which could actually store an entire page of typed text and exude it days or weeks later, we thought this was the absolute ultimate in hi-tech. The worst thing about this machine was its incompatibility with any paper save thermal. One would therefore print out one’s document, store the printout in a filing cabinet, and discover three months afterwards that it had so faded as to resemble an abstract expressionist pencil sketch.
Not once do I recollect an editor worrying about plagiarism, if only because the very idea of taking credit for others’ writings had not yet entered the average Australian freelancer’s head. Had we been formally warned “Don’t commit plagiarism,” we would have felt as baffled as if we had been formally warned “Don’t strangle kittens.” That plagiarism was odious, we could appreciate. That it might be glamorous, we would have found fantastical.

As for the current nostrum of trying to elevate plagiarising into an Eleventh Commandment – via continual adolescent rage against Intellectual Property, or, as its foes prefer calling it, “so-called Intellectual Property“ – this particular scam we never even considered. Equally foreign to our world: extolling one’s own books under a pseudonym; erotically charged stalking (also pseudonymous), over months, of authors whose existence had somehow managed to offend us; and assuming that to belch forth four-letter words in plethoric measure was to construct a knock-down argument. All these phenomena abound on the internet – more especially on Australian websites – such that anyone who criticises them will usually be thought archaic.
In this connection I have suddenly recalled an amiable flake whose name shall be changed to Petronius Jehoshophat, to protect the guilty. Every few months he descended on North Melbourne’s News Weekly office during 2001, while I was employed there. On one occasion Jehoshophat was particularly insistent that we at NW publish his latest effusion concerning world politics. I examined it, and just as I prepared to inform NW editor Peter Westmore that it might not be quite bad enough for the wastepaper-basket, a typo caught my eye. President Chirac’s Christian name had been misspelt “Jaques”.

Thus mystified, I ran the relevant sentence through Google. Sure enough, Jehoshophat had lifted that sentence and most of “his” article from a Wisconsin-based periodical, The New American. (The sentence was deleted from that periodical’s archive sometime in the last 11 years. I’ve just checked!) Mr Westmore, apprised of this theft, tried explaining to Jehoshophat that NW was not in the habit of publishing plagiarists. He might as well have tried explaining quantum physics to Lara Bingle.
* * * *
At times I wish that I was a 20-something scribbler again. To have put something like Wikipedia at our disposal, authors of my age would have signed many a Faustian bargain. (We made do, instead, with such now-forgotten hardback doorstoppers as Chronicle of the World.) And no survivor of the 1980s’ cumbersome, boring procedure for inter-library loan requests will feel nostalgic about it, when today we can initiate such requests at the click of a mouse button.

Overall, though, I have little envy for the non-fiction tyro aspiring, in 2012, to an authorial career. As Los Angeles movie critic Steve Sailer once observed: “The Internet Age is a reader’s dream, but it can also be a writer’s nightmare because it is so hard to get paid in an age when everybody expects ‘content’ to appear magically for free.” What really alarms me is the number of literary wannabes who – doubtless thanks to blogging more than to any other factor – regard payment as evil. This, I guess, is the most important reason why (after a singularly dim-witted hiatus of years) I recently re-joined the Australian Society of Authors, and why I intend to stick with it for as long as I can still write grammatical English. There are, nonetheless, other factors also at work, including such largely forgotten concepts as pride of workmanship.

No less renowned and experienced a wordsmith than Phillip Knightley (Sydney-trained historian of warfare, espionage, and the 1960s thalidomide scandal) said last year in public: “My work as a freelance has dried up almost totally. What little remains is so poorly paid it is hardly worthwhile turning on the computer.” Does even the most Panglossian optimist believe this situation to be desirable?

If those who have done their best to impede the authorial life, and who would like to destroy it entirely, had any frankness, they would say something like: “Yes, we do indeed want to reduce your income prospects to those of a Shanghai sweatshop. So harden up, princess.” That, alas for the cause of intellectual rigour, is precisely what they dare not say.

Meanwhile, some of us continue to allow ourselves a few rueful reflections upon Rerum Novarum, Quadragesimo Anno, and other such pontifical defences of fair wages for a labourer. Horribly “papist” of us, naturellement, to think on these lines. May the conjoined shades of Marx and Ayn Rand forgive us. (Read entire article.)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Burial of Mary Queen of Scots

From Once I Was a Clever Boy:
In 1603 Queen Mary's son, now King James I of England, sent Garter King of Arms with a pall decorated with Mary's arms to place on her tomb. A new tomb for her in Westminster Abbey was commissioned in 1606 from Cornelius Cure and, following his death the next year completed by his son William.  

Finally on October 11th 1612 came exhumation from Peterborough. A modern plaque and the Royal and national flags of Scotland today mark the site of the grave. Queen Mary's remains were taken for reburial at Westminster in the south aisle of King Henry VII's Chapel, opposite Queen Elizabeth I who lies in the north one. Queen Mary I had planned to rebury her mother Queen Katherine at Westminster and provided for a joint tomb in her will in 1558, but that plan was never carried out. Queen Elizabeth I did nothing to recover the body of her own mother from its ignominious grave in the Tower of London. King James may have had no personal memory of his mother - they were separated when he was only a few months old, but in death he honoured her, and perhaps by burying her at Westminster implied not merely that she had given him his title to the English throne, but that she was herself its rightful occupant. (Read entire post.)

More on Tolerance

People can only take so much of it. To quote:
Among all the words in a language already so battered and bruised as to almost become unrecognizable, one word stands out for having taken the brunt of the beating.


Tolerance has been so misshapen by the abuse that many people think that it means something opposite to its nature. After all the injustice the word has suffered, I am unsure if it can or even should survive. Nevertheless, I wish to testify to its true meaning, even if in eulogy.

So let us begin with the basics. Contrary to what you may have heard, tolerance of its own can never be a good thing. By its nature, tolerance means abiding a bad thing. Even in our diminished capacity, nobody would say that they tolerate something good. One doesn't tolerate ice cream. One tolerates liver.

Metaphors aside, to tolerate is to abide something wrong, something in error, something evil.

Now many people today would have you believe that tolerance is the highest of the civic virtues, but it is not and never can be. Abiding evil can never be a virtue in and of itself and therefore it can never be demanded of anyone, least of all a Christian.

There are many reasons Christians may legitimately tolerate error, but they all must have one thing in common, the good of the sinner. We sometimes tolerate such error in the hopes that eventual realization of the folly will lead to repentance and eventually to truth. But there are also some errors and actions that cannot and must not be tolerated for the good of the sinner and the good of society. (Read entire article.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Presentation of the Princes

His Royal Highness the Duc d'Anjou, whom many recognize as Louis XX, recently presented his twin sons, the Ducs de Bourgogne and de Berry, to the people of France at the Hôtel des Invalides in Paris. The Duc was also accompanied by his wife, the Duchesse d'Anjou, and their daughter, the Princesse Eugénie.


The Tyranny of Modernism

A thought-provoking essay.
Whereas earlier traditions of artistic creation embraced symmetry within complexity, modernism has embraced extreme simplicity, dislocation, and imbalance. Whereas earlier traditions sought to bring pleasure to an audience ... modern art attempts to “nauseate” or “brutalize” an audience.... (Read more.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Death of Thomas Cromwell

From Stephanie Mann:
Cromwell had been arrested in June, stripped of all his titles, and held in the Tower of London; he wrote letters to Henry VIII protesting his innocence, but he had fallen victim to the machine of injustice he had helped his master construct. Henry VIII's distaste for Anne of Cleves was matched by his desire for Catherine Howard, so he arranged the annulment of the first marriage (July 9), his marriage to Catherine, and the execution of Thomas Cromwell accordingly--he married Catherine the same day at Oatlands Palace in Surrey that Cromwell was beheaded on Tower Green in London. He had designated Oatlands Palace as Anne of Cleves' residence--just to add to the completion of Henry's triumph over this arranged marriage. (Read entire post.)
More HERE. Share

Etiquette: American vs English

Via Gio:
In England, there were two types of tea: “great teas” and “little teas”, with the “high” or “meat” teas coming under the former, and afternoon tea falling under the latter. High tea was largely a country institution, as the custom of late dinners during the London season interfered with the informality of country life. A “high tea” consisted of preserves, cakes of various times, hot muffins, crumpets, toast, and tea-cakes. A tray with the tea and its accoutrement were placed on one end of the table, and a tray with the coffee was placed on the other end. The sideboard held cold salmon, pigeon and veal and ham pies, boiled and roast fowls, tongues, ham, veal cake, and roast beef and lamb were there for the gentlemen of the party. In America, high tea took the place of dinner on Sunday evenings in cities, and were considered dinner in rural cities and the countryside. They were formerly fashionable in Philadelphia, where guests ate hot rolls and butter, escalloped oysters, fried chicken, cold ham, waffles, hot cakes, and preserves, and the hostess offered guests their choice of tea, coffee, or chocolate. Mrs. Sherwood doubted the popularity of high tea in America’s major cities, since “the custom of eight-o’clock dinners prevails.” (Read entire post.)

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Tragedy of King Lewis the Sixteenth

 King Lewis XVI: My days are few. My life will soon
Be raft away of them intent that guilt
And innocence shall hang not on a deed
But on a state of life.
~ Act 5, Scene 5, The Tragedy of King Lewis the Sixteenth
The execution of King Louis XVI is immortalized by poet David Lane in his newly released dramatic work, of such quality that it is worthy of the Bard himself. From the publisher's website:
In The Tragedy of King Lewis the Sixteenth, written entirely in traditional blank verse, the author, David Lane, has revisited the Classic style, making use of the inexhaustible riches of the English language. Whether you want to stage the play or simply read it as a story, pick up David Lane's exquisite book and experience The Tragedy of King Lewis the Sixteenth today.
By committing the suffering and death of Louis XVI to Shakespearean English, Mr. Lane highlights the prophetic and apocalyptic nature of Louis' immolation, making it clear that the King's death holds a unique place in the unfolding of history, both secular and ecclesiastic. The poet gives a grandeur and a dignity to the drama which prose can never bestow. The reader is startlingly aware that whatever his mistakes, Louis, through his kingly vocation, shares in the office of Christ the King.  Therefore in attacking the Kingship, the enemies of the faith attack Christ himself. But as Act 1, Scene 1 reminds us, the battle is between the principalities and powers, as we are allowed to glimpse behind the veil of the senses and view the cosmic struggle of the ages.
Queen Mary Antoinette: The darkful time for showing glint of tears
Is this. Upon the dreaded bright of dawn
Will come from gath'ring throats to frighted ear
Th' inevitable cry of terror. Now
Each shadow round us deep'ning seems to mask
A watching presence. O sweet God, make safe
Our souls and persons! Keep us in Thy care.
~ Act Five, Scene One
The Queen's agony is captured as she watches the fall of the dynasty she has married into, as well as the destruction of the man who has been her husband since age fourteen. Most of all we see her dread for her children. Nevertheless, she does not succumb to despair, but is kept afloat by hope and faith. The King's sister Madame Elisabeth has some magnificent lines which contain the heart of the matter, which is the nature of sacrifice.
Before we join the vast before us gone,
We'll quit as Christians; that, as turns this plough
Of persecution, we should drop as seeds
Of blood. Soon thence the faith may follow flush
And mantling fruit for God be many.
~Act Five, Scene One
It is by participating in the passion of Christ that we help to save souls, a fact which blazes forth in Mr. Lane's play, transforming tragedy into triumph.

(*NOTE: This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for my honest opinion.)


The Pornography Obsession

Author Teresa Tomeo has some strong words to say about the latest in pop fiction porn.
“Grey is the devil’s favorite color.” How I wish I could take credit for that powerful quote. However, it actually belongs to none other than philosopher, Catholic convert, author, and esteemed professor Dr. Peter Kreeft. A wise listener of mine sent me the Kreeft quote to help summarize the current obsession, and not just among the general public, with the Fifty Shades of Grey book trilogy. The fictional series written by E.L. James focuses on the sado-masochistic relationship between a young woman, Anastasia Steele, and her billionaire boyfriend, Christian Grey. It is so terribly raunchy it’s been dubbed “mommy porn” by secular critics and so graphic it’s described as yet one more example of “violence against women” by Dr. Drew Pinsky, TV host and popular relationship expert. 

Kreeft’s clever quip was not referring to Fifty Shades of Grey in particular, of course, but to moral relativism in general. You know the “We can do whatever we want with whom, whatever makes us happy or feel good” approach that in many ways has taken over our way of thinking, if you can even call that thinking. Book sales have reached the 30 million-plus mark. The movie rights have been sold for $5 million. The owners of a hotel in Great Britain have also decided that, out of the goodness of their hearts, they are replacing Gideon Bibles with Fifty Shades of Grey, because, well, some of their guests may be too shy to purchase the books or feel a little strange about reading them at home around family. So that’s just the type of thoughtful hotel proprietors they are. And in June E.L James signed the dotted line on a deal with an agency responsible for licensing and building the Fifty Shades brand, a brand that is expected to include lingerie, perfume, and even bedroom furniture and linens mostly targeted at adult women. Here’s another quote that comes to mind, and this one is from P.T Barnum: “There is a sucker born every minute.” (Read entire article.)