Thursday, January 31, 2013


The tragedy that marked the otherwise festive occasion of the marriage of Louis and Antoinette.
The centre was occupied with a gorgeous Temple of Hymen, which seemed to lean for support on the well-known statue of the king, in front of which it was constructed; and which was, as it were, to be carried up to the skies by above three thousand rockets and fire-balls into which it was intended to dissolve. The whole square was packed with spectators, the pedestrians in front, the carriages in the rear, when one of the explosions set fire to a portion of the platforms on which the different figures had been constructed. At first the increase of the blaze was regarded only as an ingenious surprise on the part of the artist. But soon it became clear that the conflagration was undesigned and real; panic-succeeded to delight, and the terror-stricken crowd, seeing themselves surrounded with flames, began to make frantic efforts to escape from the danger; but there was only one side of the square unenclosed, and that was blocked up by carriages.

The uproar and the glare made the horses unmanageable, and in a few moments the whole mass, human beings and animals, was mingled in helpless confusion, making flight impossible by their very eagerness to fly, and trampling one another underfoot in bewildered misery. Of those who did succeed in extricating themselves from the square, half made their way to the road which runs along the bank of the river, and found that they had only exchanged one danger for another, which, though of an opposite character, was equally destructive. Still overwhelmed with terror, though the first peril was over, the fugitives pushed one another into the stream, in which great numbers were drowned. The number of the killed could never be accurately ascertained: but no calculation estimated the number of those who perished at less than six hundred, while those who were grievously injured were at least as many more.

The dauphin and dauphiness were deeply shocked by a disaster so painfully at variance with their own happiness, which, in one sense, had caused it. Their first thought was, as far as they might be able, to mitigate it. Most of the victims were of the poorer class, the grief of whose surviving relatives was, in many instances, aggravated by the loss of the means of livelihood which the labors of those who had been cut off had hitherto supplied; and, to give temporary succor to this distress, the dauphin and dauphiness at once drew out from the royal treasury the sums allowed to them for their private expenses for the month, and sent the money to the municipal authorities to be applied to the relief of the sufferers. But Marie Antoinette did more. She felt that to give money only was but cold benevolence; and she made personal visits to many of those families which had been most grievously afflicted, showing the sincerity of her sympathy by the touching kindness of her language, and by the tears which she mingled with those of the widow and the orphan.
(Read entire post.)

Popular Theater and Political Utopia

An article from the Warwick Knowledge Centre about how theater was used as a political tool in fin de siècle France.
 The relationship between art, theatre, politics and community wasn’t particularly a French phenomenon. Popular theatre was in favour in Russia both before and after 1917. German Volkstheater flourished in the late 19th century. Cities had boomed following the industrial revolution and with a sense of idealism, political groups vied to create communities out of the proletariat. What were the problems, however, of using art to create a narrow political community, and could art really be moulded to a narrow political and didactic purpose?

France’s republican governments’ attempts to create a republican community through theatre were, by and large, a failure, says Dr Wardhaugh. They founded a national popular theatre in 1920 but their subsidised ticket policy didn’t have the desired effect. Those who already attended the theatre took advantage of cheaper tickets whereas new attendees were persistently thin on the ground.

It wasn’t for lack of ambition on the governments’ part. The Trocadero Palace (pictured, right) in which the new National Popular Theatre was housed had been built in the 1870s for an international exhibition and could hold four to five thousand people. To its detriment it was unheated and located in an elite part of Paris far away from the working-class suburbs. The government hadn’t thought through who the ‘people’ were and what they actually wanted from their entertainment. (Read entire article.)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Portrait of Katherine of Aragon

Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon are once more side by side and at Lambeth Palace, of all places. Apparently many people thought for years and years that the above painting was supposed to be Katherine Parr, although the clothes are obviously from decades before Henry married her. I knew it was Katherine of Aragon.  From The Daily Mail:
For years it was assumed by staff at Lambeth Palace that the oil painting hanging in a private sitting room was of Catherine Parr, Henry VIII's sixth wife. But when experts from the National Portrait Gallery went to the Palace - the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury - to research a portrait of an earlier archbishop, they were able to shed new light on the matter. First, the portrait was in a frame that pre-dated the rotund monarch's sixth wife, second; her clothes were from an earlier period, and third, well, the woman also bore a startling resemblance to Henry's first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

Tests soon showed that they were right, and now the gallery has hung the portrait of the devoutly Catholic queen rather mischievously, side by side with a portrait of Henry, whose desperation to divorce her was the catalyst for England's schism with the Catholic church. The 'exciting discovery' about the picture was made when researchers from the National Portrait Gallery went to Lambeth Palace to find out more about William Warham, the Archbishop of Canterbury who married Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, in 1509.

The researchers, who were working on a project called Making Art In Tudor Britain, noticed the painting on the wall of a private sitting room, where it has hung since at least the 19th century but probably longer, under the assumption it depicted Catherine Parr. (Read entire article.)
Young Henry VIII

More on Katherine of Aragon in art, HERE.

Young Katherine

Young Katherine


A New Biography of Louis XVI

The life and contributions of Louis XVI have been reassessed by an American author, Alison Johnson.
Over two centuries have passed since King Louis XVI (1754-1793) was executed by guillotine.  He is the only French King to die by execution.  Ironically, Louis XVI did not want to be the king, writes Johnson.  Rather, he preferred a quiet life in pursuit of his interests in locksmithing, carpentry and geography.  When he accepted the throne, his work was dedicated to the welfare of his people until his government became engulfed in the violence of the French Revolution.

Regrettably, his reputation as being a "weak king", were the result very bad historical timing.  Nevertheless, his personal courage was undeniable.  For example, she describes an account when Louis XVI met with insurgents, who led street mobs who had murdered two of his personal officials and paraded their heads through the streets of Paris on pikes.  Just a few days later, Louis XVI rode from his palace in Versailles to Paris with no protection to meet the insurgents.

Her book's last biographical chapters are based on accounts written in the journal kept by the king's valet.  A poignant record of the King's calmness in the face of death is described.  His valet recorded that when he awakened the king on the morning of his execution by guillotine, the King told him that he had slept very well.  "That's the mark of a man absolutely secure in his conscience and religious faith," says Johnson. (Read entire article.)


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Lady of Ashes

 O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?~ 1 Corinthians 15:55
 I enjoy the work of fellow Maryland author Christine Trent, who writes historical fiction about women in trade. Christine's meticulously researched books about bourgeois life remind us that women have always worked, especially in the busy shops of cities and towns, where they often mastered the various crafts practiced by their husbands, fathers or brothers, and even ran shops of their own. Christine's fourth and latest novel, Lady of Ashes, has as its heroine a Victorian undertaker, Violet Morgan. Although Violet marries into the profession she becomes quickly adept at running the family business. While her husband Graham becomes involved in a shady enterprise involving blockade running for the Confederacy, Violet assumes full control of operations at Morgan Undertaking. Graham complains that she is neglecting the house, even though he does not leave her with many options, since he is unwilling to devote himself to the care of corpses. Violet, however, sees her role not just as work but as a vocation, burying the dead being a work of mercy. She approaches the dead with respect and the survivors with sympathy and comfort. With the appearances of a mysterious orphan, a Confederate gentleman, and a member of the royal family, Violet's life begins to change course, never suspecting the dangers that await her.

What I appreciate most about this novel is the fascinating information on Victorian mourning customs. People in mourning, especially widows, were allowed to withdraw into seclusion. Everyone understood the requirements of the grieving process, at least where the middle and upper classes were concerned. Outward expressions of sorrow were not only commonplace but expected. In our eyes the accoutrements of mourning may seem exaggerated, since now many do not have burial services but "celebrations of life." In Victorian times, a period of mourning was part of the healing process, although as in Queen Victoria's case, it could be a bit morbid. Here are some interesting facts from the author's website:
Coffin vs. Casket, what’s the difference?  A coffin is a burial container in which it widens at the shoulders to accommodate a person’s shoulders.  Think old Dracula movies and anything produced for Halloween.  A casket, however, is the modern burial container Americans generally use today, made of steel or wood, that is designed as an even rectangle with a rounded top.

Did you know that Victorians did not embalm their dead?   In fact, the practice only took off in the United States during the Civil War, in order to cope with preserving dead soldiers—on both sides—while being sent home on trains.

Do you know why the Victorians didn’t embalm their dead?  They thought it an unseemly—and un-Christian—practice to fill a body with chemicals before placing it in the ground.  

Guess why lilies are traditionally associated with funerals?  Their scent is so intense that they masked the odor of decomposing bodies.  While Prince Albert’s coffin stood inside Windsor Chapel in 1861, the profusion of lilies was so overpowering that the guards had to be switched out every hour to prevent them from fainting.

First class or coach?  The Victorians were still a class-conscious society, even if some of those barriers were breaking down.  In planning your funeral, the undertaker—wearing a top hat swathed in black crape—would offer your family options appropriate to your social status.  For example, if you were of high enough rank, you might have a funeral car with glass sides, interior curtains, and plumes adoring the top.  Were you just middle class?  Well, a smaller carriage then, no curtains and no plumes.  For those of little means, your funeral carriage was more like a long, black open cart.

What’s a professional mourner?   Depending on your social status, your undertaker might hire professional mourners to walk alongside your funeral car.  Dressed in black, the number of them helped demonstrate how important or wealthy you were.  The same is true for the number of horses pulling your funeral car, the number of ostrich plumes adorning the horses’ heads and your funeral car, and in what part of the cemetery you were buried.

Parade routes aren’t just for floats.  In America, the hearse (or, in Victorian parlance, funeral carriage) drives from the funeral home to the church to the cemetery.  In Victorian England, the funeral carriage went from the home of the deceased to the cemetery’s chapel. Except, it didn’t always go directly there.  For society people, the funeral procession would frequently detour through busy or fashionable streets, so that everyone could get a glimpse of what important person had died.
 Violet's marital difficulties are those of a woman who is compelled by circumstances to work outside the home, all the while receiving censure for failing to be the perfect housewife. As her marriage becomes more unhappy, Violet turns to the undertaking business as an emotional refuge, finding it easier to deal with families in mourning than her domestic misery, although as events unfold her occupation leads her to  unexpected adventures. Many actual historical incidents and personages are woven into the story, some little known, as the reader is given various views of London, from the gritty to the gracious. While written for an adult audience, this is one novel which I would not hesitate to recommend to teenagers who enjoy historical fiction.

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


The Porn Myth

Naomi Wolf on how porn destroys male and female relationships, saying:
The ubiquity of sexual images does not free eros but dilutes it. Other cultures know this. I am not advocating a return to the days of hiding female sexuality, but I am noting that the power and charge of sex are maintained when there is some sacredness to it, when it is not on tap all the time. In many more traditional cultures, it is not prudery that leads them to discourage men from looking at pornography. It is, rather, because these cultures understand male sexuality and what it takes to keep men and women turned on to one another over time—to help men, in particular, to, as the Old Testament puts it, “rejoice with the wife of thy youth; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times.” These cultures urge men not to look at porn because they know that a powerful erotic bond between parents is a key element of a strong family. And feminists have misunderstood many of these prohibitions. (Read entire post.)

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Storming of Versailles

The royal family is cornered. Share

Family Upheaval

Cultural differences and family values. To quote:
In a forthcoming book, Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City, Timothy Nelson and Edin, the Harvard sociologist, describe in great detail the kind of role reversal that has occurred among low-income families, both black and white. What they saw were mothers who were financially responsible for children, and fathers who were trying to maintain ties to their children in other ways, limited by the fact that these fathers have very little money, are often involved in drugs, crime, or other relationships, and rarely live with the mother and child. In other words, low-income fathers are not only withdrawing from the traditional breadwinner role, they’re staging a wholesale retreat—even as they make attempts to remain involved in their children’s lives.

Normative changes figure as well. As the retreat from marriage has become more common, it’s also become more acceptable. That acceptance came earlier among blacks than among whites because of their own distinct experiences. Now that unwed childbearing is becoming the norm among the white working class as well, there is no longer much of a stigma associated with single parenting, and there is a greater willingness on the part of the broader community to accept the legitimacy of single-parent households.

Despite this change in norms, however, most Americans, whatever their race or social class, still aspire to marriage. It’s just that their aspirations are typically unrealistically high and their ability to achieve that ideal is out of step with their opportunities and lifestyle. As scholars such as Cherlin and Edin have emphasized, marriage is no longer a precursor to adult success. Instead, when it still takes place, marriage is more a badge of success already achieved. In particular, large numbers of young adults are having unplanned pregnancies long before they can cope with the responsibilities of parenthood. Paradoxically, although they view marriage as something they cannot afford, they rarely worry about the cost of raising a child. (Read entire article.)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Albert Camus on the Death of Louis XVI

From Camus' The Rebel:
On January 21, with the murder of the King-priest, was consummated what has significantly been called the passion of Louis XVI. It is certainly a crying scandal that the public assassination of a weak but goodhearted man has been presented as a great moment in French history. That scaffold marked no climax—far from it. But the fact remains that, by its consequences, the condemnation of the King is at the crux of our contemporary history. It symbolizes the secularization of our history and the dis-incarnation of the Christian God. Up to now God played a part in history through the medium of the kings. But His representative in history has been killed, for there is no longer a king.Therefore there is nothing but a semblance of God, relegated to the heaven of principles.

The revolutionaries may well refer to the Gospel, but in fact they dealt a terrible blow to Christianity, from which it has not yet recovered. It really seems as if the execution of the King, followed, as we know, by hysterical scenes of suicide and madness, took place in complete awareness of what was being done. Louis XVI seems, sometimes, to have doubted his divine right, though he systematically rejected any projected legislation which threatened his faith.

But from the moment that he suspected or knew his fate, he seemed to identify himself, as his language betrayed,with his divine mission, so that there would be no possible doubt that the attempt on his person was aimed at the King-Christ, the incarnation of the divinity, and not at the craven flesh of a mere man. His bedside book in the Temple was the Imitation. The calmness and perfection that this man of rather average sensibility displayed during his last moments, his indifference to everything of this world, and, finally, his brief display of weakness on the solitary scaffold, so far removed from the people whose ears he had wanted to reach, while the terrible rolling of the drum drowned his voice, give us the right to imagine that it was not Capet who died, but Louis appointed by divine right, and that with him, in a certain manner, died temporal Christianity. To emphasize this sacred bond, his confessor sustained him, in his moment of weakness, by reminding him of his "resemblance" to the God of Sorrows. And Louis XVI recovers himself and speaks in the language of this God: "I shall drink," he says, "the cup to the last dregs." Then he commits himself, trembling, into the hands of an ignoble executioner. (Read more.)

Frodo and the Machine

From Fr. Angelo:
Frodo’s “failure” was actually the consequence of the risk he took out of love and sacrifice, and while his ring madness at the Cracks of Doom was the manifestation of lust for power and the will to dominate, it was though the One Ring itself subjugated and dominated Frodo.  Frodo became a machine “in the hands” of the Ring animated by the foul and soulless spirit of Sauron.  This is the malice of the machine taken to its extreme.  In this, The Lord of the Rings is not unlike the more contemporary machine myths where the machines turn on their creators and take over the world.  It is the peril of transhumanism and the false conviction that one can control other persons like machines without being sucked into such a diabolical mechanism....

These are two aspects of the diabolical.  On the one hand full diabolical possession is more or less an extraordinary occurrence, not permitted by God as an ordinary flow of life.  The usual way in which the demon directs its malice toward us is through temptation, the cajoling of our will to choose evil.  For this Satan is the great organizer, manipulator and dominator.  Those, who through their own consent become his puppets, he uses as instruments (machines) of his will.  But his ultimate purpose is destruction.  God does not allow Satan to turn us into nothing, but hell is a perpetual termination, a ongoing destruction that will last forever. It is a fire that does not consume, but neither will it ever be extinguished.

Tolkien’s machine myth tells us a great deal about what it takes to get back to the Shire and enjoy the hoped for victory.  Above all, it will mean that some will have to be martyrs for the cause, so that the many may have life. But it also means that while justice requires law and organization, the preservation of the Shire can never be about control.  In the working out of divine providence, salvation is not about coercion and control but about surrender and giving up the control.  This is the folly of the God that is wiser than the wisdom of men (cf. 1 Cor 1:25). (Read entire article.)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The King's Charity

Louis XVI assisted the needy. To quote:
The calamities of a recent winter had left a remembrance of his benevolence which made many a shattered heart beat under the rags. During the severe cold of 1783 had he not ordered distributions of wood that he supervised himself? Had he not allowed the poor to come into the chateau, to go into the kitchens and warm themselves, to take away braised meat and soup? (Read entire post.)

The Reality for Women in Combat

Life on the battlefield. To quote a veteran:
During the invasion, we wore chemical protective suits because of the fear of chemical or biological weapon attack. These are equivalent to a ski jumpsuit and hold in the heat. We also had to wear black rubber boots over our desert boots. On the occasions the column did stop, we would quickly peel off our rubber boots, desert boots and socks to let our feet air out.

Due to the heat and sweat, layers of our skin would peel off our feet. However, we rarely had time to remove our suits or perform even the most basic hygiene. We quickly developed sores on our bodies.
When we did reach Baghdad, we were in shambles. We had not showered in well over a month and our chemical protective suits were covered in a mixture of filth and dried blood. We were told to strip and place our suits in pits to be burned immediately. My unit stood there in a walled-in compound in Baghdad, naked, sores dotted all over our bodies, feet peeling, watching our suits burn. Later, they lined us up naked and washed us off with pressure washers.

Yes, a woman is as capable as a man of pulling a trigger. But the goal of our nation's military is to fight and win wars. Before taking the drastic step of allowing women to serve in combat units, has the government considered whether introducing women into the above-described situation would have made my unit more or less combat effective?

Societal norms are a reality, and their maintenance is important to most members of a society. It is humiliating enough to relieve yourself in front of your male comrades; one can only imagine the humiliation of being forced to relieve yourself in front of the opposite sex.

Despite the professionalism of Marines, it would be distracting and potentially traumatizing to be forced to be naked in front of the opposite sex, particularly when your body has been ravaged by lack of hygiene. In the reverse, it would be painful to witness a member of the opposite sex in such an uncomfortable and awkward position. Combat effectiveness is based in large part on unit cohesion. The relationships among members of a unit can be irreparably harmed by forcing them to violate societal norms. (Read entire post.)

The Purpose of Home

From the Passionate Homemaker:
My home, first and foremost, should be a place of rest from labor (1 Kings 8:66, 12:24, 13:7; Psalms 126:6), refuge (Josh. 20:6; 2 Kings 14:12; 2 Sam. 18:17; Zech 10:10), and refreshment for my husband and children. This is most common purpose indicated through the Bible. It was intended to be a place of joy (2 Chron. 7:10; Psalms 126:6), a place to make happy with your spouse (Deut. 24:5). Can my family find rest in my home? Or is there constant tension or turmoil? Is there too much clutter that the body cannot rest? (Read entire post.)

Friday, January 25, 2013

"A Souvenir of Velázquez"

John Everett Millais (British, Pre-Raphaelite, 1829-1896): A Souvenir of Velázquez, 1868. Oil on canvas. Private Collection. 
Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez
The small girl in the Millais painting (above) resembles the portrayals by Diego Velázquez of the Infanta Margarita of Spain; it appears to be a pre-Raphaelite re-imagining of the work of the great Spanish artist. The girl in the Millais painting is pensively holding what looks like a branch from a plum tree. If she is supposed to be Margarita, is she thinking that someday she will leave the gardens of Spain for Austria? For the purpose of the many portraits of the princess painted by Velázquez is to keep her future husband (and uncle) informed of her growth. She would become Holy Roman Empress and die at age twenty-one. For more of "Las Meninas" and the Infanta Margarita, go HERE.
The Infanta Margarita

Why There is Evil in the World

Some reflections on a recent talk given by Spanish exorcist,Fr. Fortea.
His talk was marked by its restraint and its thoughtful and prayerful character - that gave agreat sense of the seriousness with which he addressed the topic and also the reassurance he offered both to his hearers and, no doubt, to those to whom he actively ministers.
He began by explaining how he was introduced to the topic when his Bishop insisted on him studying the topic for his licentiate. Neither he nor his supervisor knew anything about the subject and so he traveled to see exorcists and where possible attend exorcisms. At that time there were no exorcists in Spanish dioceses, but when he had his own parish very gradually his case load built up as people cam to him.
He stressed the importance of distinguishing those suffering from psychological problems from those suffering from demonic possession. When he prayed initially with the former there were no physical reactions to indicate possession, but in perhaps 1 in 30 or maybe 1 in 200 cases there were physical signs at this prayer - trembling, stomach convulsions, spitting or vomiting - which did indicate a demonic presence.

He did cite one example which was not that of demonic possession but of a woman who was a compulsive gambler who after he prayed over here was released, and continues to be, from the addiction.

His basic guide to the issue is the record of Sacred Scripture, and following the ministry of Our Lord in such cases. He understands one function of demonic possession to be as another means of revealing Divine power in the world in order to convert those for whom more mainstream paths of Faith and Reason do not work - it is in that sense providential matter. (Read entire post.)

More on Fr. Fortea, here and here. Share

Thursday, January 24, 2013


"Tilghman Skipjacks" by Stephen J. Griffin
Living on the Chesapeake Bay has deepened my appreciation of paintings of boats. Above is a work by a contemporary Eastern Shore artist. The others are from other times and places which I found mostly on Facebook.

 "Plages roses" by Amedée Julien Marcel-Clément (Via Peter Kurth.)

 "Hauling a Boat Ashore, Honfleur"; 1864 by Claude Monet (Via I Require Art.)

"Boat in the Moonlight" by Odilon Redon (Via I Require Art.)

"White Night in Northern Norway (Белая ночь в Северной Норвегии)", c. 1890. by Konstantin Korovin (Via I Require Art.)


The Miracle of Technology

From Peggy Noonan:
Here I will tell a story that I suppose is rather personal but what the heck, today’s not a bad day for the personal. Yesterday I went to St. Patrick’s for confession and mass, to start the year off on the right foot. Walking through the cathedral—it was jammed with tourists taking pictures of statues and architecture and also, and with some startling excitement, of the regular New Yorkers in the pews taking part in the noon mass—I remembered something I experienced there last summer, at confession.

I add here that I like going to confession; I always find it quenching or refreshing or inspiring. Usually I go at my local church. But sometimes if I’m walking by St. Pat’s and it’s confession time I’ll go right in, because the great thing about St. Pat’s is that in terms of priests you never know what you’ll get—a gruff old Irishman from Boston, a mystic from the Philippines, a young intellectual just out of seminary in Rome. Once I think I heard, through the screen, the jolly voice of New York’s cardinal. But whoever I get always seems to say something I need to hear. (Read entire article.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Execution of Louis XVI and the End of Monarchy

Louis XVI in the Temple prison
A superb article from History Today about Louis XVI and the desacralization of the French Monarchy. (Via Once I Was A Clever Boy.) To quote:
It sometimes seems as if historians brought up in republics (whether American or French) expect too much of those born as subjects of monarchs, who can accept a status quo while knowing nothing of how learned men justify it. Subjects can also tolerate, join in, and even welcome a level of discussion of the royal family's private life which poses no necessary threat to the institution of monarchy. There is plenty of evidence, in fact, of both mauvais discours and libelles detailing the private depravities of French kings in previous centuries. And if Henry III's preference for young men brought censure in the 1570s and '80s, his successor's exploits with women, every bit as spectacular as Louis XV's, seem to have moved many of his subjects to admiration. Even under Louis XIV, malcontents grumbled openly about royal extravagance, warmongering, religious persecution, and the king's subjection to the women in his life. Nor was assassination anything new in French history. It cost Henry III his life, and Henry IV too, after a number of failed attempts. It is not, indeed, obvious that assassination should be regarded as any evidence at all of disenchantment with a monarchy. Leaving as idle the fact that assassins are often lone obsessives, those who try to kill kings normally do so not because they have lost faith in monarchy. Quite the reverse: in their eyes the king must die because he has not lived up to what his office demands. He is perceived as having broken in some way the rules of the institution – which is more important, and much more durable, than the transient individuals who happen to embody it.

None of this is to say, on the other hand, that the subjects of Louis XV and Louis XVI had no reverence for or belief in their sovereigns. When Louis XV fell dangerously ill at Metz in 1744 there were kingdom-wide prayers for his recovery. The fact that he had by then stopped touching for Scrofula had clearly not damaged him. In a curious way it showed respect for religious values. And if a string of military defeats, religious misjudgements and finally his all-out attack on the parlements discredited Louis XV, the accession of his grandson in 1774 was greeted with rapture, and at his coronation the next year he touched 2,400 Scrofula sufferers. The personal popularity of Louis XVI, libelles notwithstanding, lasted until at least September 1789. Most of what went wrong until then was blamed upon his wicked, despotic, deceiving ministers – or, later, upon his Austrian wife. Indeed, as his blood streamed through the floorboards of the scaffold on 21 January 1793 people rushed forward to dip their handkerchiefs in the mystical fluid while others reproached them for sacrilege. Clearly, Louis XVI still had the capacity to inspire a reverence that was at least semi-religious, right to the end. (Read entire article.)

The End of Courtship?

I don't know who is more confused: the person writing the article or the people whom the article is about. I see nothing wrong with a group of young people going out together. What is sad is that young men feel they don't have to exert any effort to win a young lady's affection. This does not mean a boy has to buy jewelry for a girl. According to tradition, a lady should not accept gifts of jewelry from a man until they are engaged. What it does mean is that a gentleman who wishes to court a lady should have good grooming, good manners, and the ability to pay for the dinner or entertainment. If a man cannot pay for small diversions when enjoying the company of a young lady then he is not ready for serious courtship, which might lead to the greater responsibilities and expenses of marriage. In that case, it is better to go out with a group of friends.

 Ladies, you need to have respect for yourselves. You need to see that if a man wishes to keep company with you, he has to deserve your regard. And when keeping company with a young man, please do not think you owe him anything other than a pleasant manner. Your kisses are not for sale; your body is not for sale. Do not settle for less than the best and do not compromise your values for any reason. It seems that now boys expect girls to "hook up" with them just because they're male and breathing. From the New York Times:
Traditional courtship — picking up the telephone and asking someone on a date — required courage, strategic planning and a considerable investment of ego (by telephone, rejection stings). Not so with texting, e-mail, Twitter or other forms of “asynchronous communication,” as techies call it. In the context of dating, it removes much of the need for charm; it’s more like dropping a line in the water and hoping for a nibble.
“I’ve seen men put more effort into finding a movie to watch on Netflix Instant than composing a coherent message to ask a woman out,” said Anna Goldfarb, 34, an author and blogger in Moorestown, N.J. A typical, annoying query is the last-minute: “Is anything fun going on tonight?” More annoying still are the men who simply ping, “Hey” or “ ’sup.” (Read entire article.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Courtier

Defining the role of gentlefolk. To quote:
Here I wish to discuss the way the figures of the gentleman and the gentlewoman developed in European culture during the Renaissance. To define these roles I will start from a very important text of Italian literature, The Courtier by Baldassar Castiglione. This book, written as a dialogue, gradually came to exert great influence on court society. It contributed unquestionably to the building of the way of life in court society during the period of modern state formation. The Courtier provided the basic grammar of European court society until the French Revolution. Why? There are four reasons which give a particular authority to this book in defining the figures of the gentleman and the gentlewoman. (Read entire article.)

Shakespeare's Plays

How did they really sound?
The CD is said to bring to life rhymes and jokes that are not audible in contemporary English - as well as to illustrate what Hamlet meant when he advised his actors to speak “trippingly upon the tongue”. (‘Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue’ -- Hamlet, Act 3) The recording has been overseen by Ben Crystal, who has chosen the actors, and curated and directed their speeches.

"For the first time in centuries, we have 75 recorded minutes of sonnets, speeches and scenes recorded as we hope Shakespeare heard them. It is, in short, Shakespeare as you've never heard him before.

“The modern presentation of Shakespeare's plays and poems in period pronunciation has already attracted a wide following, despite the fact that hardly any recordings have been publicly available," he said. The CD is also said to illustrate what Hamlet meant when he advised his actors to speak “trippingly upon the tongue”.’ (Read entire article.)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Declaration of Louis XVI (June 20, 1791)

Above is the last page of the message Louis XVI left for the people of France, written before he departed with his family from the Tuileries in Paris for Montmédy. The excerpt of the declaration says:
  Français, et vous surtout Parisiens, vous habitants d'une ville que les ancêtres de Sa Majesté se plaisaient à appeler la bonne ville de Paris, méfiez-vous des suggestions et des mensonges de vos faux amis, revenez à votre Roi, il sera toujours votre père, votre meilleur ami. Quel plaisir n'aura-t-il pas d'oublier toutes ses injures personnelles, et de se revoir au milieu de vous lorsqu'une Constitution qu'il aura acceptée librement fera que notre sainte religion sera respectée, que le gouvernement sera établi sur un pied stable et utile par son action, que les biens et l'état de chacun ne seront plus troublés, que les lois ne seront plus enfreintes impunément, et qu'enfin la liberté sera posée sur des bases fermes et inébranlables. A Paris, le 20 juin 1791, Louis.
(Read more from Le Figaro.)

The translation reads as follows:
Frenchmen, and above all Parisians, you inhabitants of a city which his majesty's ancestors were pleased to call the good city of Paris, disabuse yourselves of the suggestions and lies of your false friends; return to your king; he will always be your father, your best friend. What pleasure will he not have in forgetting all his personal injuries, and in being returned among you, while the Constitution, which he will have accepted freely, will cause our holy religion to be respected, the government to be established on a firm foundation and useful in its actions, the property and the status of each one no longer to be troubled, the laws no longer to be disobeyed with impunity, and finally liberty to be established on firm an immovable foundations. In Paris, 20 June 1791, Louis. (Read entire declaration of Louis XVI.)
Why did the Royal Family flee Paris? Because the increasing violence undermined the authority of the King, who was being treated as a prisoner. Furthermore, Louis, having privately made his Vow to the Sacred Heart, could no longer tolerate the recent legislation passed by the Revolutionary government against the Catholic Church which nationalized Church lands and made all priests swear an oath to the state. It was called the Civil Constitution of the Clergy and because of it Louis was prevented from making his Easter Communion, which he wished to receive from a non-juring priest. It was decided to escape to Montmédy where Louis had supporters and would be able to take a firm stand against the fanatics who had gained control of the government. The family was captured at Varennes.

More on the facts and myths surrounding the flight to Montmédy, HERE.


A Generation of Narcissists

The delusions of the present generation. To quote:
Psychologist Jean Twenge, the lead author of the analysis, is also the author of a study showing that the tendency toward narcissism in  students is up 30 percent in the last thirty-odd years.This data is not unexpected.  I have been writing a great deal over the past few years about the toxic psychological impact of media and technology on children, adolescents and young adults, particularly as it regards turning them into faux celebrities—the equivalent of lead actors in their own fictionalized life stories.
On Facebook, young people can fool themselves into thinking they have hundreds or thousands of “friends.” They can delete unflattering comments. They can block anyone who disagrees with them or pokes holes in their inflated self-esteem. They can choose to show the world only flattering, sexy or funny photographs of themselves (dozens of albums full, by the way), “speak” in pithy short posts and publicly connect to movie stars and professional athletes and musicians they “like.” (Read entire article.)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Water and Sky

Last summer we were visited by my cousin Ted Kaiser and his family from Toronto. As a photographer, Ted could not resist exploring the shores of Talbot county, a paradise for artists. He took several early morning shots of the old landing in our village on the Chesapeake Bay. The ever-changing skies and the play of light upon the water and wood as captured in these photos give the place a surreal beauty. For more of Ted's extraordinary work, please visit his website, HERE.

(Images courtesy of TedKaiserPhoto. Click on photos to enlarge.)


The Whittaker Chambers Farm

A debate. To quote David Chambers:
First, the Whittaker Chambers Farm is no museum. In fact is neither a requirement nor even an implication that a property designated as a National Historic Landmark need open to the public at all. In “Protecting America: Cold War Defensive Sites (A National Historical Landmark Theme Study),” dated October 2011, the NPS clearly holds the Whittaker Chambers Farm “private property, not open to the public.” Further, Whittaker Chambers (my grandfather) never claimed his farm meant much to the outside world. He described it as “a few hundred acres of dirt, some clusters of old barns and outbuildings… a few beeves and hogs or a flock of sheep.” (Witness, p. 517). It hasn’t changed much over the years.
Second, Dr. Wiener either visited under cover, through a third person — or not at all. He claims that he saw only horses “where the landmark was supposed to be.” He must have come to the wrong place: we have never owned or housed horses. According to John Chambers (my father), who lives and works on the Farm, Dr. Wiener never called on him. (Read entire article.)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Arrest of the Royal Family at Varennes

From Vive la Reine. Share

The Last Watermen

An old way of life on the Chesapeake.
Chesapeake Bay watermen are iconic figures who grapple with the natural and man made challenges of making a living from the Bay at all seasons of the year. Larry Simns believes watermen don’t give up because they are basically optimists. “We wouldn’t venture out every morning in the cold if we didn’t think the day was going to be profitable—or at least special,” he said. As long as fish continue to breed and live, Simns concludes, “Most watermen will not give up on the species or on their way of life.” (Read entire article.)

The Effects of Abuse

Does childhood abuse effect the brain?

Others believe that abuse damages a child’s limbic system, which is the part of the brain that controls emotion and survival instincts. (Spiers, et al., 1985; Teicher, et al., 1993; Teicher, 2000). When the limbic system is impaired, the child is predisposed to developing PTSD later in life. It is also associated with memory problems, chronic unhappiness, aggression, and violent tendencies toward oneself and others, which can also be linked both to MDD and BPD.

 (Read entire article.) Share

Friday, January 18, 2013

Loretta Young: A Portrait

A true lady.
Discipline and poise are the essentials for the conservation of precious time and energy. Uncontrolled emotion is as undisciplined and needlessly destructive as starting a forest fire with a carelessly tossed match. There’s no forgivable time to spend on the things that are profitless, the emotions that undermine our vitality and leave us spent and dismal. (More here.)

Edmund Burke on Manners

From The Imaginative Conservative:
It is somewhat surprising, then, to find that this enormous threat brought out Burke’s most urgent defense of an aspect of civilization as trivial as “manners.”  Of course, the very fact that we consider manners “trivial” was all part of the problem from the start, as far as Burke was concerned, and he felt driven to state his case unambiguously in his First Letter on a Regicide Peace (1796):“Manners are of more importance than laws. Upon them, in a great measure, the laws depend.” How can this apparent inversion of common sense be justified?

Manners are clearly not the same as laws. They are generally unwritten (unless we are talking about ritual), and they lack the regular, codified sanctions that support institutes and decrees. However, they have a similar function: in our small social communities and informal relationships they lay down expectations of behavior that facilitate the smooth-running and therefore expedite the purpose of these various bodies from the nuclear family to the shopping mall. These very circumstances which make sense of our manners mean that they cannot be constituted and implemented like laws and they should not; but we commit a serious mistake if we allow the institutionalized power of the latter to diminish our respect for the former. It is the very superficial weakness of manners that actually constitutes their crucial importance in our lives.
(Read entire post.)

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Some pictures of the last home of Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte de France.


Lincoln, the Slaves, and Hollywood

Was Lincoln a recovering racist?
Tell some historians that "Lincoln freed the slaves" and one can virtually see the smoke come out of their ears.

"Please don't get me started," Dunbar says after hearing that phrase.

"There's this perception that good old Lincoln and a few others gave freedom to black people. The real story is that black people and people like Douglass wrestled their freedom away," Dunbar says.

Historians still argue over Lincoln's racial attitudes. The historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. once called him a "recovering racist" who used the N-word and liked black minstrel shows.

Others point to the public comments Lincoln made during one of his famed senatorial debates with Stephen Douglas in 1858 when he said, "There is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.

"There must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race," Lincoln said in the speech.

Spielberg's film depicts Lincoln as a resolute opponent of slavery, willing to deploy all the powers of his office to destroy it.

Yet "The Abolitionists" paints another portrait of Lincoln. It recounts how he supported colonization plans to ship willing slaves back to Africa. It says that Lincoln once floated a peace treaty offer to the Confederates that would allow them to keep slaves until 1900 if they surrendered. At one White House meeting with black ministers, Lincoln virtually blamed slaves for starting the war, the film's narrator says. (Read entire article.)

St. Michaels Winery

Wine-tasting on Maryland's Eastern shore.
People often sail or motor into St. Michaels for dinner or a weekend to enjoy the charm of the small Eastern Shore boating town. Landlubbers come by car or bike, traversing the streets on a hunt for historic landmarks or unique souvenirs, while enjoying the sails and hulls in the background. No matter how they arrive, visitors to this tourist mecca will be happy to find St. Michaels Winery, a peaceful oasis of oaken barrels and copper-topped tables that welcomes wine lovers.

St. Michaels Winery is located in the front of the Old Sewing Factory Building on Talbot Street. A neighbor to Eastern Shore Brewing, the winery offers daily wine tastings that need no reservation and cater to groups wishing to have a genuine local experience. Talbot County’s only winery, St. Michaels Winery boasts a wine list of twenty, handily broken down into three categories—dry whites, dry reds, and sweet wines. (Read entire post.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Haute Couture at the Met

From the Metropolitan Museum of Art:
For more than a century, couture has been emblematic of the triumph of costume and fashion. It represents the fusion of fashion—the modern entity that combines novelty and synergy with personal and social needs—and costume—the arts of dressmaking, tailoring, and crafts constituent to apparel and accessories. Founded in the crucible of modernism's invention in the middle years of the nineteenth century in Paris, with the expanded patronage cultivated by the House of Worth, but still dependent upon the considerable support of Empress Eugénie, couture has long stood as the modern equilibrium between the garment as exquisite aggregate and the burgeoning notions of fashion as a system. (Read entire article.)

Our Eastern Brethren

From Charles A. Coulombe:
Married to this poor theological background is even poorer historical knowledge. Every Orthodox priest I have ever contended with has brought up the sack of Constantinople by Western Crusaders in 1203; almost to a man, however, they have been ignorant of the subsequent excommunication of the leaders of that expedition by Innocent III. No Catholic will deny the grievances suffered by Easterners at the hands of Latins; but amnesia engulfs the Orthodox mind with regard to the reverse. None, for example, seems to remember the kidnapping and abuse of two popes by Emperor Justinian I (a saint in their calendar); by the same token, they do not remember that monarch's seeking forgiveness and subscribing to papal primacy. Equally glossed over is the bloody, forced incorporation of Byzantine Catholics into the Orthodox Church by Tsar Nicholas I and Stalin (the Orthodox, despite their professed hatred of the latter, have been extremely reluctant to return the churches Stalin stole). Nor (although they have canonized him) do they recall the acceptance of that primacy by Constantine XII, last Emperor of the East, or the part papal opponents played in weakening Constantine's position, in the face of the Turkish menace. One recalls the Grand Admiral of the Empire, Lukas Notaras, who declared that he "preferred the turban of the Sultan to the tiara of the Pope." He must have recalled his words bitterly when the conquering Sultan Mohammed ordered him to present his sons as concubines; refusing, Notaras was forced to watch their execution before being put to death himself. One cannot resist contrasting this with the action of Paul VI, who, in hopes of safeguarding Greek lives and property in Turkey during the 1965 Cyprus crisis, returned the banners captured from the Sultan's fleet at Lepanto. For that matter, the same Pontiff gave the head of St. Andrew back to the Orthodox Diocese of Patras.

That same Turkish Sultan, anxious to break the union with Rome, appointed Gennadios II as Patriarch. From that time until 1922, the patriarchs were appointed by the sultans. Our current schism dates not from 1054, but from 1456; it owes its origin not to Pope St. Leo IX and Michael Caerularius, but to the Turks. (Read entire post.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Chesapeake Skyscapes

'Chesapeake Sunset" by Stephen J. Griffin
About a month ago I was exploring some local art galleries and came upon several artists whose works enchanted me. Above is the work of Maryland Impressionist painter Stephen J. Griffin. This painting could almost be the evening view from my window, which looks out at the Bay. See more of Stephen's work, HERE.

Next is a landscape from Plein Air artist Jill Basham which captures all the warmth of a summer's day.
"Near Oxford: by Jill Basham
I met Jill at a lovely gallery in Easton where her paintings were the main event. Jill was one of the 2012 Plein Air Easton! winners. Here is the picture which won:

"Blackwater Dawn" by Jill Basham
To quote from Jill's website:
Jill is drawn to the landscape and prefers to paint "en plein air" (outdoors, not from photographs).  "The immediacy of painting the surroundings in which you are immersed is captivating to me.  There is nothing better then feeling the scene and putting the energy and emotion down on canvas with color and brushstrokes."  The Eastern Shore of Maryland is inspiring to the artist.  Jill is also interested in urban scenes as well as any location in the world that provides inspiration.  Jill comes from a family with a multi-generational history of artists.
For more of Jill's paintings, please visit HERE.
"Before the Rain" by Margot Miller
I was also delighted to discover the works of Margot Miller, author, artist, and translator. Margot is owner of a working studio called Occasional Art, opened by appointment or on First Fridays from 4pm to 7pm.. I particularly fell in love with her paintings of Skies. Please visit Margot's website, HERE. Share

In a Monastic Garden

Herbs and drugs in the Middle Ages.
Monasteries in those past centuries had to have their own gardens: they needed vegetables for the daily food of their inmates, and fruit was grown in a special area. Flowers and aromatic herbs were raised for decoration of the church. But the smaller herbularies or physic garden was of high importance, too, particularly since the Rule of Benedict of Nursia – who founded the monastery of Monte Cassino, the cradle of the Benedictine Order, in 529 A.D. – stated solemnly: “Before all things, and above all things, especial care must be taken of the sick.”

The Benedictine monasteries, J. J. Walsh says, became the repository of important traditions in medicine and surgery, and their scriptorium or writing-rooms preserved many of the old Greek medical writings from perishing from the face of the earth in the midst of contemporary neglect of the intellectual life during the invasion of the barbarians in the early Middle Ages. Their gardens supplied the herbs which were considered to be so precious for the treatment of the various human ills even down to our own day. The beginnings of modern medical education can be connected with monastic influence. (Read entire article.)

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Summer Day at the Hamlet

A picture of the Queen in the country village she loved.

Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette and their children dining in the garden.

Happy People

What do they do differently? According to the Huffington Post:
They build a strong social fabric. Happy people stay connected to their families, neighbors, places of worship, and communities. These strong connections act as a buffer to depression and create strong, meaningful connections. The rate of depression has increased dramatically in the last 50 to 75 years. The World Health Organization predicts that by 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of mortality in the world, impacting nearly one-third of all adults. While several forces are likely behind this increase, one of the most important factors may be the disconnection from people and their families and communities.
They engage in activities that fit their strengths, values and lifestyle. One size does not fit all when it comes to happiness strategies. You tailor your workout to your specific fitness goals -- happy people do the same thing with their emotional goals. Some strategies that are known to promote happiness are just too corny for me, but the ones that work best allow me to practice acts of kindness, express gratitude, and become fully engaged. Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky offers a wonderful "Person-Activity Fit Diagnostic" in her book The How of Happiness.
They practice gratitude. Gratitude does the body good. It helps you cope with trauma and stress, increases self-worth and self-esteem when you realize how much you've accomplished, and often helps dissolve negative emotions. Research also suggests that the character strength of gratitude is a fairly strong correlate with life satisfaction.[1]

They have an optimistic thinking style. Happy people reign in their pessimistic thinking in three ways. First, they focus their time and energy on where they have control. They know when to move on if certain strategies aren't working or if they don't have control in a specific area. Second, they know that "this too shall pass." Happy people "embrace the suck" and understand that while the ride might be bumpy at times, it won't last forever. Finally, happy people are good at compartmentalizing. They don't let an adversity in one area of their life seep over into other areas of their life.

They know it's good to do good. Happy people help others by volunteering their time. Research shows a strong association between helping behavior and well-being, health, and longevity. Acts of kindness help you feel good about yourself and others, and the resulting positive emotions enhance your psychological and physical resilience. One study followed five women who had multiple sclerosis over a three-year period of time.[2] These women volunteered as peer supporters for 67 other MS patients. The results showed that the five peer support volunteers experienced positive changes that were larger than the benefits shown by the patients they supported. 

They know that material wealth is only a very small part of the equation. Happy people have a healthy perspective about how much joy material possessions will bring. In The How of Happiness, Lyubomirsky explains that in 1940, Americans reported being "very happy" with an average score of 7.5 out of 10.[3] Fast forward to today, and with all of our iPods, color TVs, computers, fast cars, and an income that has more than doubled, what do you think our average happiness score is today? It's 7.2. Not only does materialism not bring happiness, it's a strong predictor of unhappiness. One study examined the attitudes of 12,000 freshman when they were eighteen, then measured their life satisfaction at age 37. Those who had expressed materialistic aspirations as freshmen were less satisfied with their lives two decades later.[4]

They develop healthy coping strategies.. Happy people encounter stressful life adversities, but they have developed successful coping strategies. Post-traumatic growth is the positive personal changes that result from an individual's struggle to deal with highly challenging life events, and it occurs in a wide range of people facing a wide variety of challenging circumstances. According to researchers Tedeschi and Calhoun, there are five factors or areas of growth after a challenging event: renewed appreciation for life, recognizing new paths for your life, enhanced personal strength, improved relationships with others, and spiritual growth. Happy people become skilled at seeing the good that might come from challenging times.

They focus on health. Happy people take care of their mind and body and manage their stress. Focusing on your health, though, doesn't just mean exercising. Happy people actually act like happy people. They smile, are engaged, and bring an optimal level of energy and enthusiasm to what they do.

They cultivate spiritual emotions. According to Lyubomirsky, there is a growing body of science suggesting that religious people are happier, healthier, and recover more quickly from trauma than nonreligious people.[5] In addition, authors Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener explain in their book Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth that spiritual emotions are essential to psychological wealth and happiness because they help us connect to something larger than ourselves. (Read entire article.)