Monday, September 30, 2013

Princess Marjorie Bruce

It is from Marjorie Bruce, daughter of Robert Bruce, that all the royalty of Scotland is descended, and for that matter, all the Kings and Queens of England, beginning with the Stuarts. Hers was a short life (she died at nineteen) but her descendants are many indeed. From Susan Abernethy:
At the end of June 1306, Bruce decided to send his family away for safety. Queen Elizabeth, Marjorie, and Bruce’s sisters Christian and Mary were given an escort of Bruce’s brother Niall and the Earl of Atholl and set off across the lands of Atholl, over the hills of Braemar until they reached the stronghold of Kildrummy Castle. They were only there a short time before the English sent troops to find them. Someone in the castle set fire to the castle’s store of grain and the castle surrendered but not before the ladies escaped in the chaos.

They were probably headed for the security of the Orkney Islands and on the way they took sanctuary in the small chapel of St. Duthac’s at Tain in Ross-shire. The Earl of Ross was no friend of Bruce and he violated the sanctuary and seized the ladies. Ross sent them south to become prisoners of King Edward in England. Along the way, the Earl of Atholl had been captured and Niall was seized along with the ladies. Atholl was hung and Niall was hung, drawn and quartered at Berwick upon Tweed.

Of the four captured women, Queen Elizabeth was treated the least harshly by King Edward. She was the daughter of his friend after all. She spent time in the Tower of London as well as other places and was allowed servants. Bruce’s sister Christian spent her imprisonment in the Gilbertine Nunnery at Sixhills in Lincolnshire. His other sister Mary was confined in a solid latticed cage of timber and iron and hung over the walls of Roxburgh Castle.

Edward had severe and punitive plans for Marjorie. He ordered the construction of cage like the one Mary was confined in to be built. He wanted the cage hung from the Tower of London and was not going to allow anyone to speak to Marjorie. But this was particularly cruel and unusual punishment for a twelve year old girl. Some of Edward’s advisors counseled him against this treatment, so he rescinded the order and had Marjorie confined at the Gilbertine nunnery at Watton in East Yorkshire. (Read more.)

The Groans of the Britons

As Rome fell, Britain found itself in chaos. To quote:
In 402, the garrison of Hadrian's wall was recalled due to increasing pressures by the Goths and Vandals. Around this time we have the last evidence of minting of Roman coins in Britain. In 406, the Vandals stormed across a frozen river Rhine and assaulted Gaul. Fearful that they would be next, the Britons dispatched a certain Constantine with what remained of the Roman legions to try and stem the barbarian flow. Constantine declared himself the western Roman emperor and initially drove the Vandals back but in the end he failed to stem the flow.

Rome was by now itself under immense pressure, and the Emperor Honorius took the radical step of forever abandoning the province of Britainia. In 410, we have a record of a letter to the Britons called the Receipt of Honorius. In this he addressed the leaders of his city in Britain and directs them to look to their own defense. Rome would never again claim dominion or offer any protection over this province. (Read more.)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Shakespeare and Molière on the Chesapeake Bay

A scene from Tim Mooney's adaptation of Molière's Tartuffe at Reynolds Tavern in Annapolis, MD

Shakespearean actor Timothy Mooney
It has been a week of classic theater for me, due to the visit to Maryland of actor and dramatist Timothy Mooney, whose sister is my neighbor. Last week we drove to Annapolis to Reynolds Tavern for a courtyard performance of Molière's Tartuffe, artfully adapted for the American stage by Mr. Mooney, who sat at our table. Tartuffe is the story of a swindler whose feigned piety dupes the father of a family. As Tartuffe convinces the father to give him his daughter in marriage as well as his property, he is simultaneously trying to seduce the girl's mother. The family is saved at the end but Molière's play shows how a parent's imprudence can result in evil entering the sanctuary of the home. It also depicts how religion can be used, then as now, as a wolf's sheepskin. Conveyed in Mr. Mooney's clever adaptation with a lively repartee and a good deal of humor, the messages are as pertinent now as ever. Sitting in the courtyard on a cloudless evening with strings of lights and the branches of an elm tree overhead, the ambiance was magical. The young actors gave an energetic performance, flitting among the tables and drawing the audience into the drama. I realized once again that there is no replacement for live theater and I understood on a deeper level why the ancient Greeks saw theater as essential for maintaining a balanced personality. 

 Last night, we had only to walk a short distance to see Tim Mooney himself perform Shakespeare’s Histories: Ten Epic Plays at a Breakneck Pace in our village hall. Scenes from Shakespeare's history plays were depicted in a cohesive fashion as the actor conjured up the various Kings of England, beginning with John and ending with Henry VIII. To quote from the Timothy Mooney Repertory Theater website
I take, as my premise, that Shakespeare was writing a series of plays about the struggle of succession. A good, clean, undisputed succession leads to happiness and prosperity. An uncertain, contentious succession leads to dispute, dissension and rebellion. It leads to war and death. Horrible war and agonizing death. Death to masses of people, such that “your tawny ground [doth] with your blood discolor.” Given that Shakespeare’s current ruler, Queen Elizabeth I, was in her sixties, an ancient age in these days, Shakespeare was essentially telling horror stories to the public about the dangers a disputed succession would bring to England of the 17th century.
His rendition of St. Crispin's Day from Henry V Act 4, Scene 3 brought us to another time and place, to a battlefield in France, and we watched the former playboy Prince Hal become a leader of men. Seeing a true thespian like Mr. Mooney made me realize how often in this society we mistake counterfeits for the genuine. It is only when the genuine is set before you that you realize you have been fooled by the rest.  Here is a quote from Tim's blog about another performance he gave but it describes the night in our village hall as well:
Today I got to recite a bunch of words to an audience that DID NOT CARE that they had been spoken a million times before. I got to pretend that I was the first guy who ever thought of phrasing these ideas this particular way… and the audience laughed and gasped and sighed as if they were the first audience that ever heard these particular words… understood these particular thoughts… recognized these particular characters or grasped those particular ideas. They put a frame around life that was unimaginable before those lights came up, and that moment realized itself. (Read more.)
As an encore, Tim took requests. I requested a scene from Julius Caesar, and I was rewarded by the most stirring version of Mark Antony's funeral oration that I have ever heard. At the end of the evening I was able to purchase a signed copy of Tim's book Acting at the Speed of Life, which is a must-read for anyone interested in acting as either a profession or a hobby.

Tim is currently traveling the United States on his Fall Tour, so be sure to check his blog to see if he might be performing in your neighborhood any time soon. Share

The Danger of Good Popes

In all the agony over everything Our Holy Father Francis says or does, it needs to be remembered that no pope can alter the law of God, or the natural law for that matter, even if he wanted to do so. From First Things:
Much of the controversy surrounding Pope Francis’ interview has been unmerited, and I believe him to be a great pope in the line of his predecessors, most of whom are at some stage in the canonization process. In an article on the announcement of the impending canonizations of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, Fr. John McCloskey, was quoted as saying, “Speaking as a Church historian, I say with complete confidence that starting with Pope Pius XII up to our present pope we are in the greatest epoch of popes in history above all due to their Holiness.” Anthony Esolen, Professor of Renaissance English Literature and the Development of Western Civilization at Providence College, went further. “We have not had a bad man for pope since the Council of Trent.”

And that, ironically, can cause confusion about the papacy. Though even our most recent popes haven’t been perfect, it’s certainly the case that there has not been an egregiously bad pope in recent memory. That can make it easy to think that popes will always be this good, or that God protects the papacy from grave immorality or stupidity. But that’s not the case, as the examples already cited, and many others like them, demonstrate clearly. (Read more.)
Fr. Angelo on Pope Francis as prophet:
 What the Holy Father says specifically about religious, applies more generally to the whole Church.  As I said in my last post, the naïve utopianism of those on the left as well as the abstraction of nostalgia on the right can only offer false promises.  There is no safety in the past and no certain new dawn in the future.  But there is always the Church in the present that continues to live and breathe.  God’s providence is found here.  Everything else is a mirage.  For this reason, as helpful and necessary as all the concerned commentaries and clarifications are, we also need to allow Pope Francis to speak more loudly than all this policing.  We need to hear right now and without filters what the Spirit is saying Church in the present. (Read more.)


It is Michaelmas Day. According to Lives of the Saints:
St. Michael, who ranks among the seven archangels, is also one of the three angels mentioned by name in the Scriptures, the others being St. Raphael and St. Gabriel. St. Michael is spoken of twice in the Old Testament, and twice in the New. The first reference occurs in the Book of Daniel (chapter x), where Michael comes to comfort Daniel after he has had a vision, and promises to be his helper in all things. In Daniel xii, Michael is called "the great prince who standeth for the children of Thy people." In these references Michael is represented as Israel's great support during the seventy years of the Babylonian captivity. Daniel, wise and holy leader that he was, wanted his people to understand that God had not forgotten them, and that, even though enslaved, they had a royal champion. In the New Testament (Jude ix), we are told that Michael disputed with the devil over the body of Moses; this episode is not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible.
In the Apocalypse (chapter xii) we find the most dramatic reference to St. Michael. Here John recounts the great battle in Heaven, when the wicked angels under Lucifer revolt against God, and how Michael, leading the faithful angels, defeats the hosts of evil and drives them out. In this role he has been painted by many artists, and the poet Milton, in book vi of , recounts the famous struggle. Because of this victory, St. Michael is revered in Catholic tradition and liturgy as the protector of the Church, as once he was regarded as the protector of the Israelites. In the Eastern Church, as well as among many theologians in the West, St Michael is placed over all the angels, as prince of the Seraphim. He is the special patron of sick people, mariners, and grocers; in Asia Minor many curative springs were dedicated to him. His cult has also been popular in Egypt, Rome, France, and Germany. His emblems are a banner, a sword, a dragon, and scales. The name Michael is a variation of Micah, meaning in Hebrew, "Who is like God?"
The Archangel St. Michael is one of the patrons of France, partly because of his various manifestations in that country, most notably to St. Jeanne d'Arc. In the middle ages the Order of St. Michael was the highest among the orders of chivalry. Share

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The House of Naples

Maria Carolina of Austria and her family with Vesuvius erupting in the background. Share


A lesson in traditional manners from Gio:
Each nation has its own method of salutation. In Southern Africa it is the custom to rub toes. In Lapland your friend rubs his nose against yours. The Turk folds his arms upon his breast and bends his head very low. The Moors of Morocco have a somewhat startling mode of salutation. They ride at a gallop toward a stranger, as though they would unhorse him, and when close at hand suddenly check their horse and fire a pistol over the person's head. The Egyptian solicitously asks you, "How do you perspire?" and lets his hand fall to the knee. The Chinese bows low and inquires, "Have you eaten?" The Spaniard says, "God be with you, sir," or, "How do you stand?" And the Neapolitan piously remarks, "Grow in holiness." The German asks, "How goes it with you?" The Frenchman bows profoundly and inquires, "How do you carry yourself."

Foreigners are given to embracing. In France and Germany the parent kisses his grown-up son on the forehead, men throw their arms around the necks of their friends, and brothers embrace like lovers. It is a curious sight to Americans, with their natural prejudices against publicity in kissing.

In England and America there are three modes of salutation—the bow, the handshaking and the kiss. (Read more.)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Queen Marie Leszczynska's Gowns

From Tiny-Librarian. Marie-Antoinette was not the only one with a dress book. All the great ladies had one. More HERE. Share

The Violent, Thuggish World of Young J.S. Bach

From The Guardian:
Johann Sebastian Bach is arguably the greatest of all composers, with the St Matthew Passion and the Mass in B Minor among the most sublime masterpieces in classical music. But biographers over the past half century have "sanitised" his life, in the belief that only a saintly man could have written such heavenly music, according to one of the world's leading conductors and foremost interpreters of Bach.

After years of research, Sir John Eliot Gardiner says biographers have been so "overawed" by the composer that they have presented a misleading image of the man. They have depicted him as a "paragon of rectitude, studious and dull, with the false assumption that music of such extraordinary and sublime quality must have come from somebody who was beyond criticism".

Gardiner added: "The reality seems very different … You'd expect a more accurate and less rosy-tinted version of him."

Archival sources, including school inspector reports, reveal that Bach's education was troubled by gang warfare and bullying, sadism and sodomy – as well as his own extensive truancy.

His first school, Eisenach Latin school in Thuringia, Germany, was largely attended by the children of bourgeois tradespeople. However, Gardiner said that documents damn the boys as "rowdy, subversive, thuggish, beer- and wine-loving, girl-chasing … breaking windows and brandishing their daggers". He added: "More disquieting were rumours of a 'brutalisation of the boys' and evidence that many parents kept their children at home – not because they were sick, but for fear of what went on in or outside school." For punishment, Bach's contemporaries endured beatings and the threat of "eternal damnation". Such experiences must have left "lasting scars" on him, Gardiner believes. (Read more.)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Glorification of Marie-Antoinette

This unusual 1900 painting by Adolphe Willette is called Glorification: Assumption of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, surrounded by Love. ( Via Vive la Reine.) The angels are bearing Marie-Antoinette's head to heaven; the blood is turning to roses. The evil behind her in the shape of a shadowy wolf is receding. The cherub with the palm of martyrdom is leading her into the heavenly kingdom. It looks as if Louis is awaiting her just beyond the veil. Share

Wiseblood Books

There is a new publishing venture dedicated to literary excellence in the footsteps of Flannery O'Connor. To quote:
Wiseblood Books is a publishing line particularly favorable toward works of fiction, poetry, and philosophy that render truths with what Flannery O'Connor called an unyielding "realism of distances." Such works find redemption in uncanny places and people; wrestle us from the tyranny of boredom; mock the pretensions of respectability; engage the hidden mysteries of the human heart, be they sources of either violence or courage; articulate faith and doubt in their incarnate complexity; dare an unflinching gaze at human beings as "political animals"; and suffer through this world's trials without forfeiting hope.
We are dedicated to publishing, preserving, and editing fiction, poetry, and philosophy fit for the world stage.

Wiseblood Books is staffed by established editors marked with all the traits of incurable commitments to literature: university-level teaching experience, Doctoral Degrees in English, strong publication records, and over six years experience as freelance, Managing, and Fiction Editors for several literary magazines and major publishers.
Our dock serves as harbor to diverse vessels of literature: minimalist or stream of consciousness; philosophical thriller or epistolary novel; collection of vignettes or thousand-page opus; poetry or political memoirs; journalistic essays or academic scholarship.We seek contemporary fiction in the vein of such popular classics as Dickens' Pickwick Papers, Graham Greene's “entertainments,” Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Cather's O Pioneers!, and P.D. James' The Children of Men or as demanding as Dostoevsky's Demons, Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!, Melville's Moby-Dick, Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago, or David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. Our devotion to the life of the mind makes us watchful for works that reach the roots of fundamental questions, that turn to the almost three-thousand-year-long conversations committed to these questions, and that incite our hunger for the splendor of truth.
We are wide-eyed for new epiphanies of beauty. We are wide-eyed for epiphanies of truth.   (Read more.)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


There is a fabulous exhibit about pearls at the Victoria and Albert Museum. (Via Madame Guillotine.) To quote:
Across the Roman Empire jewels with pearls were a desirable and expensive luxury, a symbol of wealth and status. In medieval Europe pearls appear as symbols of authority on regalia, and as attributes of Christ and the Virgin Mary in jewellery, symbolizing purity and chastity. By the Renaissance, portraits show that nobles and affluent merchants were adorned with pearls, the symbolism became increasingly secular.

By the 17th and 18th centuries pearls had become lavish adornments, often worn in a seductive manner. They were also demonstrations of high social rank. By the early 19th century pearls embellished more intimate or ‘sentimental’ jewellery to convey personal messages celebrating love or expressing grief.

The opulence and ceremony enjoyed by the courts of Europe in the 19th century was favourable for pearls, necklaces of all lengths were fashionable, from long ropes to chokers.

In Paris, jewellers working in the Art Nouveau style were fascinated by the extraordinary shaped pearls and transformed them into breathtaking interpretations of nature. In the ‘Roaring Twenties’ urban life changed fashions, women wore short sleeveless slim-line dresses and pearl sautoirs dangled down to the waist and beyond. (Read more.)

Human Sacrifice in the Celtic Tradition

Those good old pagans. From
Introduction: The earliest reference to Celtic religion mentions human sacrifice. Sopater, a playwright from the late fourth century B.C.. writes about the Celts:

Among them it is the custom, whenever they win any success in battle, to sacrifice their captives to the gods…

Sopater supplies us with the main elements for a definition of human sacrifice: people kill certain other human beings for a specific reason as an offering to supernatural beings.
There are three types of written sources available that give information about so-called Celtic human sacrifice. First, Greek and Latin writings mention several types of human sacrifice purported to have been performed by various Celtic populations. Secondly, we have medieval texts from the inhabitants of countries, where a Celtic language is spoken: Ireland. Scoltand and Wales. Thirdly, folklore customs from these same countries from the last centuries have beensaid to be survivals of the practice of human sacrifice.

What strikes us immediately is that we have no direct witnesses from the Celts themselves: the information comes from Classical authors, Christian descendants of the Celts and modern scholarship. A survey and analysis of all these texts could easily fill a book, which is why the present paper is limited to the literary motif of human sacrifice in medieval Irish literature. The other sources will be referred to only when relevant.

In this survey, early Irish examples of human sacrifice are classified in four types. The first type is human sacrifice in the strict sense: an offering to Gods for a certain purpose. The other types lack the mention of supernatural beings to whom the offering is made. They can be defined as foundation sacrifice (2), vicarious sacrifice (3), and burial sacrifice (4). The length of this paper dictates that I can analyse only the most important text in depth; the other examples will be dealt with more briefly. (Read more.)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Madame Royale at Prayer

Anna Gibson has several portraits showing the Duchesse d'Angoulême at prayer. Share

Top Ten Medieval Pretenders

Perkin Warbeck is the most infamous. I have never heard of some of the others. From
A more serious threat to Henry’s reign came in 1490, when a young named Perkin Warbeck claimed to be the real Richard of Shrewsbury. This man spent most of his time in mainland Europe, where he convinced the King of France and the Holy Roman Emperor that he indeed was the long lost son of Edward IV.

Starting in 1495 he made three invasions of England, including one with a Scottish army, but all of them failed quickly. In his third and final invasion, Warbeck managed to recruit 6000 men to his cause, but once he heard that Henry VII’s royal army was closing in on him, he abandoned his troops and was captured while trying to flee. He was eventually brought to London, where he was “paraded through the streets on horseback amid much hooting and derision of the citizens”.

Perkin spent a couple of years in the Tower of London, where he made a confession that explained he was actually Flemish. Some historians still believe that Perkin Warbeck was the real Richard of Shrewsbury, and that his confession (made under coercion at the very least) was false. Whoever he really was, he only survived until 1499, when he was hanged. (Read more.)

Life in an Afghan Harem

A young Jewish American woman found herself trapped. To quote:
It is 1959. I am only 18 when my prince — a dark, older, handsome, westernized foreigner who had traveled abroad from his native home in Afghanistan — bedazzles me. We meet at Bard College, where he is studying economics and politics and I am studying literature on scholarship. Abdul-Kareem is the son of one of the founders of the modern banking system in Afghanistan. He wears designers sunglasses and bespoke suits and when he visits New York City, he stays at the Plaza. He is also Muslim. I am Jewish, raised in an Orthodox home in Borough Park, Brooklyn, the daughter of Polish immigrants. My dad worked door-to-door selling soda and seltzer. But none of this matters. We don't talk about religion. Instead, we stay up all night discussing film, opera and theater. We are bohemians. We date for two years. Then, when I express my desire to travel, he asks me to marry him.

"There is no other way for us to travel together in the Muslim world," he says. (Read more.)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Broken Harbor

Only teenagers think boring is bad. Adults, grown men and women who've been around the block a few times, know that boring is a gift straight from God. Life has more than enough excitement up its sleeve, ready to hit you with as soon as you're not looking, without you adding to the drama. If Richie didn't know that already, he was about to find out. ~from Broken Harbor by Tana French
As much as I enjoyed Tana French's mystery novel Faithful Place, she surpasses herself in Broken Harbor. Once again, Irish myth and legend are subtly woven throughout the structure of a detective story, set in contemporary Dublin, part of French's Dublin Murder Squad series. Instead of the focus being on a dysfunctional family, the drama centers on a perfect family, as perfect from the outside as the Mackeys were obviously a mess. However, beneath the smug veneer of upper middle class existence lurks the madness and preternatural fierceness of the old pagan Ireland.

To quote from the author's website:
Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy, the brash cop from Tana French’s bestselling Faithful Place, plays by the book and plays hard. That’s what’s made him the Murder squad’s top detective—and that’s what puts the biggest case of the year into his hands. 

On one of the half-built, half-abandoned “luxury” developments that litter Ireland, Patrick Spain and his two young children are dead. His wife, Jenny, is in intensive care. At first, Scorcher and his rookie partner, Richie, think it’s going to be an easy solve. But too many small things can’t be explained. The half dozen baby monitors, their cameras pointing at holes smashed in the Spains’ walls. The files erased from the Spains’ computer. The story Jenny told her sister about a shadowy intruder who was slipping past all the locks. 

And Broken Harbor holds memories for Scorcher. Seeing the case on the news sends his sister Dina off the rails again, and she’s resurrecting something that Scorcher thought he had tightly under control: what happened to their family one summer at Broken Harbor, back when they were children.
 Ironically, the downfall of the Spains is that they grew up in a rare prosperous era for the Irish, when the problems of political oppression and poverty had receded into the past, along with much of the committed Catholic faith which had helped to unite the people in their struggles. The biggest problem which Jenny and Patrick had to face growing up was how to keep their favorite ice cream shop from closing down. Living a seemingly charmed life, making all the right decisions, they are bereft of resources when the bottom suddenly falls out of the economy. They find themselves in a new house in a new development which is quickly becoming a ghost town due to the failing housing market. Unlike their ancestors, who knew how to face severe trials, Jenny and Patrick take refuge in mere positive thinking, refusing to turn to anyone for help, focusing instead on keeping up appearances. Separated from church and clan, it seems that there is nothing standing between them and inevitable doom.

It is explained in the book that the phrase "broken harbor" comes from an old Gaelic expression referring to a place to watch the dawn break. The beach there was where the police detective Scorcher Kennedy once used to go on holidays with his family. For him Broken Harbor is doubly haunted since it is also the site of his mother's suicide. His repressed emotions are so stirred by the past and present tragedies that he cannot see the truth. He is yet another character cut off from his roots to his own harm. His determination not to have children destroys his marriage; in ridding himself of the past he loses part of his future. The way the author guides the reader through the psychological turmoils of the major characters makes this novel more than a crime drama. The brief encounter with Irish myth at the very end of the book was for me the key to understanding the heart of the tragedy. This is a book I may lend to others but I will never give it away since it is worth reading again.


Triumph vs Triumphalism

Fr. Angelo Mary interprets Pope Francis for anyone who might be confused. To quote:
Pope Francis’ attribution of Pelagianism to the restorationist tendencies—in my opinion, rightly applied to the above mentioned line of thinking—has nothing to do with a failure to believe in grace or in a neglect of its sources, but with the restorationist mode of operation in the face of the modern crisis.  The traditionalist Counter-Revolution is no less pragmatic and Machiavellian than the progressive Revolution.  When the Pope becomes the enemy, this somehow seems to justify the very human propaganda campaign and political program that undermines papal authority.  Pope Francis criticizes the idea that a restoration of the past is going to solve the problems of the present and prepare for the future. 

Traditionalists believe this is a rejection of Tradition.  But human prudence is the wisdom of this world and it is human prudence that consistently pits personal opinion against the teaching authority of the Holy Father.  This is not a work of God.  It is a work of man, hence Pelagian.

I believe Pope Francis’s criticism of “triumphalist” Christians is related to what he has said about Pelagian restorationaism.  He states that while traditionalists do not believe in the Resurrection of Christ they do have a very vibrant faith in their own victories.  Obviously, no traditionalist denies the fact of the bodily resurrection of Christ.  So what does the Holy Father mean?  I believe it is this: belief in the historical resurrection of Christ and a really “deep down” assimilated belief in the “Risen One,” is a hope believed against hope, when in the present circumstances we are as good as dead (cf. Rom 4:18-19). From this hope proceeds no Pelagian Counter-Revolution, but a persevering faith in the One that God has sent (cf. Jn 6:29).  Our belief in the indefectibility of the Church and in supernatural obedience, especially to the Holy Father, is not always supported by the facts of the present circumstances as we estimate them.  When we obey the Holy Father, our faith is not in him, but in Christ—in God, not in man.  The restoration of the Church in its pastoral practice and the liturgy is not a project or campaign to be strategized with cold, hard logic.  The Church, as Pope Benedict has pointed out many times, is a person at whose feet we sit.  And we are disciples, that is, learners.  Only One is our Teacher, the Christ (Mt 23:8). (Read more.)

Cardinal Howard

From Supremacy and Survival:
Cardinal Howard was the third son of Henry Howard, the 22nd Earl of Arundel, son of Thomas Howard, the 21st Earl of Arundell and the son of St. Philip Howard, the 20th Earl of Arundel. His eldest brother, Thomas Howard, although he did succeed as the 5th Duke of Norfolk, was mentally deficient, and the middle brother, Henry Howard, fulfilled the elder's duties as Earl Marshall, succeeding him as the 6th Duke of Norfolk in 1677. It's sad to note that Henry Howard voted in the House of Lords for the conviction of his uncle William Howard, the 1st Viscount Stafford (along with almost all of the other Howards) in the charge of treason brought upon him by the Popish Plot--especially when Henry Howard had been forced into exile by the Test Acts and been charged with recusancy himself. Only his son, also named Henry, voted for the Viscount's innocence. (Read more.)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Return of Mary Queen of Scots

Here is a nineteenth century painting by James Drummond portraying the return of the eighteen year old Queen of Scots to her native land after many years. Notice how she clutches her rosary, looking as bewildered as if she had just landed on another planet. I wish I could reach back in time and say, "Go back to France, Mary!" But knowing Mary she would not listen. (Via Louis XX.)

Incidentally, we have just started a new thread dedicated to "Mary Suart in Art" for anyone who might be interested. Share

Black Robe (1991)

Huron Chief: A demon cannot feel grief. Are you a man?
Father Laforgue: Yes.
Huron Chief: You must help us Blackrobe. Do you love us?
Father Laforgue: Yes.
Huron Chief: Then baptize us.~ from Black Robe (1991)
I have been wanting to see the film Black Robe since it came out over twenty years ago but have been putting it off because I did not think I could bear the violence. I finally watched it on a Netflix DVD. Actually, it is not anywhere near as violent as some other films I have seen, although it is extremely scary and full of suspense. I heard that some Native American groups claimed that the film made Native Americans look bad. That would be the same as saying we should not watch The Tudors because it makes the English look bad. From what I have read about the lives of the North American Jesuit Martyrs, the film does an excellent job in accurately portraying the customs and habits of the various tribes who figure in the drama, although it does not come near to showing the actual horror of a full-scale Iroquois torture session, which would be unwatchable. Instead, all that is needed is for a brief appearance of a Jesuit priest who has survived the torture and bears the scars.  I assume the priest is supposed to be St. Isaac Jogues, who escaped only to later return and be martyred. When the young Jesuit, who is the protagonist of the film, meets the severely maimed priest, he is deeply moved and resolves to leave his comfortable life in France and go as a missionary to Quebec. Heroism for the love of God is contagious.

It is made clear from the beginning of the film that Father Laforgue seeks nothing but the glory of God and the salvation of souls. There is absolutely no other motive for him to leave his world behind and go on what the more skeptical would call a suicide mission. He becomes a missionary because he is convinced that, according to the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus, the natives will be lost for all eternity unless they accept the Gospel. Now being a young Catholic and meeting the tests of the world for the first time is always difficult. Being a young religious, without mentor or guide, confronting one's humanity in the context of an alien culture, is excruciating. The filmmakers do a good job in depicting the various levels of emotional turmoil that Fr. Laforgue endures so that even the physical discomforts of life in the raw wilderness appear to be nothing compared to his agony of soul. The breathtaking cinematography of Black Robe conveys the vastness of the region, the weakness of man against the forces of nature, and the utter isolation experienced by the young priest. In his interior dark night there are chinks of light, however, as he takes in the majesty of his surroundings.

While the filmmakers excel at accurately recreating the details of wilderness life, it is surprising to see how many well-known practices of Catholicism are a bit fuzzy. For instance, I never heard that saliva could be used for baptism. And it has been my understanding that the Jesuits were exceedingly careful about whom they baptized, making certain that the catechumens thoroughly understood the faith before receiving the Sacraments, except, of course, for infants. The baptism scene at the end shows the catechumens being sprinkled with a little water on their foreheads, Presbyterian-style; I thought the water had to be poured.

In spite of those annoying but few inaccuracies, the gist of the film is powerful, as summed up in the final scene, when Fr. Laforgue stands at the foot of the cross and experiences divine love. There can be no doubt, seeing the young priest bereft of everything, that he has received a supernatural gift. Love is the reason for the journey, but it is love that is the result of dying to self and being transformed into Christ.


Medieval Medicine

Few existing manuscripts are completely devoted to the antidotaries and receptaries, words used to describe the Latin recipe literature, although numerous medical and non-medical manuscripts contain folios of prescriptions for all sorts of afflictions. The authorship is always anonymous. Sigerist and Jorimann agreed that the antidotaries were compiled by monks having some medical knowledge. Most recipes are derived directly out of the works ancient authors, especially Alexander of Tralles, Aetius or Amida, and Paul of Aegina, but not two antidotary or receptary are alike. Individuality and originality are present in so far as the compiler had to make the selection himself from the plentiful supply of prescriptions in ancient texts and, therewith, came person al judgment. Galen was the most named author, Hippocrates being in the background, but many classical names were attached to the prescriptions. Some have emperors’ names, e. g., Vespasian and Alexander of Macedonia, and other writers of the early middle ages, e. g., Afrodisius, Thomas, Gentilis, Neuclerius, and Eugenius. There is evidence that new material was translated from the Greek. Still some recipes cannot be attributed to extant classical works, and it is certain there were new additions. What we have in most cases are original compilations, Sigerist said, which the writer has gathered for the necessity of his monastic needs.(Read more.)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Queen Henrietta Maria and Her Children on the River

From Tiny-Librarian. Share

The Royal Fool

From author Judith Arnopp:
William Somer first emerges in 1535 when an order appears for new clothes for ‘William Somer, oure foole.’  Henry’s ‘olde foole’ Patch/Sexton had grown too old and it was Will who was chosen to take his place.

His initial requirements included a fool’s livery; ‘a dubblette of wursteed, lined with canvas and coton …a coote and a cappe of grene clothe, fringed with red crule, and lined with fryse …a dublette of fustian, lyned with cotton and canvas …a coote of grene clothe, with a hood of the same, fringed with white crule lyned with fryse and bokerham.

It seems that throughout his service Somer was maintained by the Privy purse for although there is a surviving record from Cromwell in January 1538 of a ‘velvet purse for W. Somer’, there is no mention of anything to fill it, his expenses being met by the court. 

In this fine new apparel Will Somer’s duty was to entertain and distract the king from his worldly care, and he seems to have done so admirably. His favour with Henry raised him so high that he appears in several portraits, commissioned by the king himself. The most famous being the family portrait by an unknown artist which is now housed in the Royal Collection. (See top of page)

It depicts Henry, at his most virile and vigorous best, and Queen Jane (who had already been dead for over a decade). On the king’s right is their son Edward (whose birth caused his mother’s death in 1537). Completing the Tudor idyll are the princesses, Mary and Elizabeth, both girls bastardised and legitimised so many times, they can have had no real idea as to their royal standing .  

The entire royal family are assembled in a fantasy gathering, a made up truth to please the king, and what makes this especially poignant is that, a little behind the royal sitters, the painting also shows Will Somer, dressed in his ‘clothe coote,’ and his velvet purse is hanging from his belt. His pet monkey obligingly picks lice from the fool’s hair.

Framed in the opposite archway is a likeness of a girl, believed to be of Jane, the innocent fool of Princess Mary, whom it is believed she took into her household after the death of Anne Boleyn. The presence of the royal fools in this very personal portrayal of Henry’s family can only point to their importance. (Read more.)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Le Roi Martyr

Louis XVI alone in prison. (Via Vive la Reine.) Share

The Music Pavilion

Marie-Antoinette's Belvedere at Petit Trianon was also called le Pavillon de Musique. (from Vive la Reine.) Here is one of the sphinxes that adorned the Belvedere, part of Marie-Antoinette's Egyptian revival.


Our New Albigensian Age

From Crisis:
The Albigensians, or Catharists, were neo-Manicheans, regarding material creation as an evil and viewing all of existence as a conflict between evil matter and good spirit—but O’Brien says it was much more. Like all Gnostics, of which Manicheanism was a branch, they believed themselves to be the only “pure” ones and the only ones to have the truth. They were certainly a forerunner of Protestantism and even more specifically of the most ardent of contemporary fundamentalists, with their complete rejection of the Real Presence, transubstantiation, the Eucharist, and the Mass, and their belief that the pope was the Antichrist. Their teaching and practice, however, had enormous implications for marriage, sexual morality, and social and political life.
The parallels to the present are almost uncanny. While hatred for the Church is nothing new, the visceral character of the Albigensians’ hatred bears a resemblance to the ugliest side of the Reformation and today’s assaults on religion. For example, O’Brien tells us how the Albigensians were known for indiscriminately chopping down crosses and stamping on them. In America today, we see the relentless efforts by rabid, uncompromising church-state separationist groups to remove all religious symbols from public places and the heightened vandalism of crosses and other Christian monuments.
The sexual libertinism, views about marriage, and feminism of our time resemble the Albigensian heresy. While the Albigensians considered sex an “inherent evil,” it seems as if it was not so much sex per se that they rejected but the proper context for it. They utterly rejected marriage, mostly because it meant bringing children into the world. Pregnancy for them was diabolical. Their confusion about sexual matters made them believe that marriage was worse than fornication and adultery. In our time, people don’t quite make this claim, but marriage has become irrelevant as the condition for engaging in sexual activity and no judgment is made about the morality of almost any sexual practices. For many, particularly in lower socioeconomic status groups, marriage almost seems obsolete; children are routinely born out-of-wedlock. Others, particularly among the affluent, enter marriage—or what is called that—but have no intention of bearing children. While people may not proclaim pregnancy as evil, they act is if it is in our contracepting age. As O’Brien says, for the Albigensians even perversion was preferable to marriage....While the Albigensians wanted to abolish marriage, we have transformed it into something that they would have lauded: an association devoid of procreative intent or even, in the case of same-sex “marriage,” capability. As far as traditional, true marriage is concerned, we increasingly give it no special support or even recognition as uniquely important for society. We say that people are free to choose what “version” of it they prefer—and be officially “affirmed” in their choice.

So the Albigensians, who so rejected sex as part of their disdain for the material world and supposedly in the interest of spiritual purity, actually opened the door to sexual debauchery and the corruption of both body and soul. This was typical of Manicheans historically. Some would become extreme ascetics, and others utter hedonists. (Read entire post.)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Queen of Hungary

Empress Maria Theresa as Queen of Hungary, wearing the crown of St. Stephen, with sword in hand. (Via Vive la Reine.) Share

Sea Change

From Lapham's Quarterly:
Conrad says the love of the sea is in fact the love of ships, the thought coming to him in 1905 as an affectionate memory of the New South Dock as it was to be seen in the 1880s, “fifty hulls, at least, molded on lines of beauty and speed,” square-rigged and metal-plated, “moored all in a row, stem to quay, as if assembled there for an exhibition not of a great industry but of a great art,” such a sight as “no man’s eye shall behold again.” So too the sight of the United States Navy in San Francisco Bay between 1942 and 1945, its fleets assembled for war in the sublime and treacherous Pacific. Seventy years have come and gone, but I still can see ships of every then-known tonnage, armament, and design—aircraft carriers, destroyers, oil tankers, submarines, light and heavy cruisers, trawlers, minesweepers, PT boats—lying at anchor or getting underway on the turn of a morning’s tide. I didn’t know how to step a mast, or tell the difference between a sandbar and a reef, but I knew that the Battle of Midway was fought somewhere in the same degree of longitude that had seen the end of Captain Ahab, and I contrived to picture myself as somehow engaged in mankind’s age-old struggle with the mystery and power of the sea. (Read more.)

An Interview with the Late Seamus Heaney

HEANEY: The Heaneys were aristocrats, in the sense that they took for granted a code of behavior that was given and unspoken. Argumentation, persuasion, speech itself, for God's sake, just seemed otiose and superfluous to them. Either you were an initiate in the code or you weren't. It had to do with their rural background, with the unspoken Gaelic thing that was still vestigially there.

INTERVIEWER: Did they speak Gaelic? 

HEANEY: No, not at all. The Irish language hadn't been spoken in that part of Ulster for a century or two. But it sometimes seems to me that the gene pool in the Bann Valley hasn't been disturbed for a couple of thousand years. 

INTERVIEWER: Were there books in the house? 

HEANEY: Not many. The book environment was in my Aunt Sarah's house. She had trained as a schoolteacher in the 1920s and had got herself a library of sorts. She had a complete set of Hardy's novels, for example, and an early three-volume edition of Yeats's works—plays, stories and poems. (Read more.)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Bouquet of Bourbons

From Reading Treasure. Louis XVIII and his family at the time of the Restoration, including the Duchesse d’Angoulême, daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. To quote:
This engraving, published in 1815, puts the returning Bourbons at the center of a 'royal bouquet.' I find it interesting that the duchesse d'Angouleme is placed in the second tier of flowers, just below the right hand side of Louis XVII and on the same level as as the comte d'Artois--who was now heir presumptive. Perhaps the engraving, which was no doubt created to promote joy in return of the Bourbon monarchy, was intending to capitalize on the memory of the French. They would remember their "princess in the tower," daughter of the last king and queen, much more than her two cousins. (Read more.)

Agatha Christie's Home

From Madame Guillotine:
After quite a few years of hopeless longing, I finally managed to visit Agatha Christie’s holiday home Greenway last week and it was every bit as magical as I could ever have anticipated. I’ve been a huge fan of Christie, or Mrs Mallowan as she was known to the locals of Greenway, for literally almost as long as I can remember. My grandparents discouraged me from reading children’s books but everything else was fair game, including my mother’s collection of vintage Agatha Christie novels, which I absolutely devoured when I was about eight years old. My favourite then was Death on the Nile and in fact that still remains one of my favourites to this day, although it’s been mostly surpassed by her Miss Marple books.

Although Greenway, which rests on a hill overlooking the river Dart in Devon, was not Agatha Christie’s principal residence, it is the one that is most irresistibly connected with her as it was here that she retired every summer after finishing her latest book and here too that she played hostess at house parties and celebrated birthdays and Christmases. (Read more.)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What Babies Wore In the Past

From author Amy Licence:
For the first year of their lives, babies were immobile, bound tightly in swaddling bands and lain in cots, partly for their own safety. Unable to flail around, crawl or walk, these strips of cloth or linen were little more than torn pieces of sheet, often in white or green and bore little resemblance to the stretchy baby grows and soft suits made from cotton or towelling....

Then must have been endless laundry, in the days before washing machines, tumble driers and liquid capsules. Medieval and Tudor maps of London show sheets and clothing  spread out on the ground in fields and over bushes to dry: someone usually needed to remain with them though, as clothes were valuable commodities in the days before they were bought ready to wear and could be the target for thieves.
White clothes were treated with lye, made by running water through the ashes of a wood fire; cherry wood, apple and pear were most common but seaweed was also burned and used. Urine provided a detergent, collected from chamber post, for pre-wash soaking. Soap was very popular, enough to attract comment from foreign visitors, surprised to see it used so frequently and to such effect. It was usually made from animal fat and fragranced with flower essences. (Read more.)


Powdered Wigs

Mental Floss supplies the whys and the wherefores. To quote:
For nearly two centuries, powdered wigs—called perukes—were all the rage. The chic hairpiece would have never become popular, however, if it weren’t for a venereal disease, a pair of self-conscious kings, and poor hair hygiene.

The peruke’s story begins like many others—with syphilis. By 1580, the STD had become the worst epidemic to strike Europe since the Black Death. According to William Clowes, an “infinite multitude” of syphilis patients clogged London’s hospitals, and more filtered in each day. Without antibiotics, victims faced the full brunt of the disease: open sores, nasty rashes, blindness, dementia, and patchy hair loss. Baldness swept the land.

At the time, hair loss was a one-way ticket to public embarrassment. Long hair was a trendy status symbol, and a bald dome could stain any reputation. When Samuel Pepys’s brother acquired syphilis, the diarist wrote, “If [my brother] lives, he will not be able to show his head—which will be a very great shame to me.” Hair was that big of a deal.


And so, the syphilis outbreak sparked a surge in wigmaking. Victims hid their baldness, as well as the bloody sores that scoured their faces, with wigs made of horse, goat, or human hair. Perukes were also coated with powder—scented with lavender or orange—to hide any funky aromas. Although common, wigs were not exactly stylish. They were just a shameful necessity. That changed in 1655, when the King of France started losing his hair.
Louis XIV was only 17 when his mop started thinning. Worried that baldness would hurt his reputation, Louis hired 48 wigmakers to save his image. Five years later, the King of England—Louis’s cousin, Charles II—did the same thing when his hair started to gray (both men likely had syphilis). Courtiers and other aristocrats immediately copied the two kings. They sported wigs, and the style trickled down to the upper-middle class. Europe’s newest fad was born.

The cost of wigs increased, and perukes became a scheme for flaunting wealth. An everyday wig cost about 25 shillings—a week’s pay for a common Londoner. The bill for large, elaborate perukes ballooned to as high as 800 shillings. The word “bigwig” was coined to describe snobs who could afford big, poufy perukes.

When Louis and Charles died, wigs stayed around. Perukes remained popular because they were so practical. At the time, head lice were everywhere, and nitpicking was painful and time-consuming. Wigs, however, curbed the problem. Lice stopped infesting people’s hair—which had to be shaved for the peruke to fit—and camped out on wigs instead. Delousing a wig was much easier than delousing a head of hair: you’d send the dirty headpiece to a wigmaker, who would boil the wig and remove the nits. (Read more.)

Monday, September 16, 2013


Last Sunday, I was invited to a house concert on the Chesapeake Bay featuring the internationally known Québécois band, Genticorum. The music is Celtic; the words are in French; the combination is magical, transporting the listener to places far away. Yet the earthy, homey nature of the songs lends a warmth and familiarity to the performance, helped in no small manner by the charm and joie-de-vivre of the artists themselves.  As the River Reporter commented:
Composed of Pascal Gemme, Alexandre de Grosbois-Garand and Yann Falquet, Genticorum performs music that evokes Celtic reels, French chansons and Cajun hijinks.
The Celtic reels may be a bit surprising, coming from a French-singing group, but a lot of Scots settled in eastern Canada, too. As for the Cajun connection, French Canada is the place from which Louisiana’s “Cajuns” (the word “Cajun” comes from “Acadians”) emigrated. Genticorum’s members play guitar, bass, fiddle, Jew’s harp and flute; they stamp percussive rhythms while singing two- and three-part vocals. The Washington Post said that their music “sounds as if it were made by six people, not three.”(Read more.)
Genticorum was brought to Talbot County through Carpe Diem Arts, a non-profit organization dedicated to making the world of art, music and dance accessible to all. The concert was held at the home of Busy Graham, the director of Carpe Diem. The band played in a room lined with large windows overlooking the Bay; the water, sky and sinking sun made for a stunning backdrop to the presentation of the lively tunes. Being in such a setting, surrounded by magnificent music, made me feel like I was inside a poem, especially a poem by Keats. "Charm'd magic casements, opening on the foam...." How true it is that fine music opens windows in the mind while soothing the soul, making both alive to all the possibilities.

 Following the concert at Busy's house, there was a reception where the guests and artists lingered over food and wine, watching the sun disappear into the Bay. The evening ended with some excitement when my car became stuck in some rocks and three of the guests had to extricate it. Alex, one of the musicians of Genticorum, also helped. Quelle gentillesse! 

The next day, Genticorum played for the local school children, and the county newspaper reported the event, as follows:
In reality, Quebec, Canada, is not that far from here, Busy Graham of Carpe Diem Arts told St. Michaels Elementary and Middle schools students Monday, Sept. 9. A whole other world of culture, language and art is just up the road, and the trio Genticorum, a traditional music group made up of fiddle, guitar, wooden flute, electric bass and “jew’s harp,” brought their engaging blend of French melodies and folklore to a sea of upturned faces, curious ears and eager imaginations.
The group has traveled the world for over 800 concerts in more than 15 countries sharing their vision of North American and European folk music culture to audiences young and old. Artists Pascal Gemme, Alexandre de Grosbois-Garand and Yann Falquet were no novices at getting their student listeners into the beat with soft-shoe stepping, clapping and learning “petites phrases” (little phrases) of songs in French. During short question and answer sessions, one student asked if the group was famous ... and rich.
“We don’t do this for the money,” said Falquet laughing. “We simply love this music. A long time ago, we were students too, and we played and earned a little money. Then we made a career of it. And we continue to do all this for the music.”

Elementary students had to get up out of their seats so their still-growing legs and feet could touch the floor in time to the music. Middle school students seemed reluctant, if not downright skeptical, of anything folk and foreign. But it did not take long for Genticorum to get them out of their seats as well, dancing in the aisles, and even on stage, to their catchy tunes.

The group said many of their songs were passed down to them from their ancestors, their next-generation family and their Quebecois heritage. Some songs talked of love and romance. Some songs spoke of maple syrup and yucky rodent stew. The musicians reminded the children the words, so difficult for their audience to understand in Genticorum’s native French, were not so important as understanding the heart of their music – its lilting melodies meant to impart the feeling of home and hearth, family, history, and irreplaceable culture.
It was a normal day at the office for Graham. With school and community programs on the Eastern Shore, her locally-based nonprofit organization Carpe Diem Arts is the moving force behind bridging cultural and generational divides with the unique and the unusual. Groups like Genticorum, whose performance was made possible by Talbot County Arts Council and St. Michaels Elementary and Middle school PTA, come to Royal Oak for workshops, performance opportunities and celebrations. And they come to share who they are through their vision of the arts.
So while Quebec may seem as far away as the roots of folk music and soft-shoe stepping, its distance is only as limited as one’s imagination, Graham told students. (Read more.)
The music of Genticorum celebrates both yesterday and today; it belongs to both the Old World and the New. It is known that the French spoken in Quebec is closer to the French of the seventeenth century than what is spoken in Paris today. I find this fascinating since I live in a part of the world where there are still people who speak the English of the seventeenth century. It is also interesting that many of the Acadians (who became the Cajuns) may have originally came from Poitou, known after the French Revolution as the Vendée. In 2011, The Guardian said of Genticorum:
This is a trio of young French-speaking Canadian musicians who started out playing jazz and rock before switching to acoustic folk styles, and now mix fiddles, wooden flute and foot-stamping percussion with guitar and bass, treating both traditional songs and their own material with sturdy, confident playing and good humour. The theme of the album is travel and voyagers, though traditional songs about fur traders or the perils of rowing on the Hudson Bay are interspersed with a slinky fiddle dance tune dedicated to a cat or a waltz apparently inspired by stoves and pans. This is a band with a quirky sense of humour and some rousing songs, all in Québécois French; the harmony singing on Grand Voyageur Sur La Drave and the driving, percussive instrumental Reel Circulaire show why they deserve their growing international reputation. (Read more.)
There is more information on the albums of Genticorum, HERE. Some of their CD's are available from Amazon. I bought their newest CD and I can tell you it is great music for riding in the car with children. For one thing, if your children are studying French it will help them pick up the correct intonations.  Most of all, it is upbeat and happy music, full of the pathos of the ages, yet eternally young. Share

Dens of Iniquity

From Lapham's Quarterly:
1869: Is there any place more licentious, more fetid, more gruesomely awful than the Five Points dance hall? Certainly not, says Junius Henry Browne, author of the The Great Metropolis: A Journey Into New York City’s Underworld. Browne takes the reader into one such nighttime establishment, carefully outlining the dangers of being caught in such a place.....(Read more.)

The Dark Side of Clowns

From Smithsonian Magazine:
Clowns, as pranksters, jesters, jokers, harlequins, and mythologized tricksters have been around for ages. They appear in most cultures—Pygmy clowns made Egyptian pharaohs laugh in 2500 BCE; in ancient imperial China, a court clown called YuSze was, according to the lore, the only guy who could poke holes in Emperor Qin Shih Huang’s plan to paint the Great Wall of China; Hopi Native Americans had a tradition of clown-like characters who interrupted serious dance rituals with ludicrous antics. Ancient Rome’s clown was a stock fool called the stupidus; the court jesters of medieval Europe were a sanctioned way for people under the feudal thumb to laugh at the guys in charge; and well into the 18th and 19th century, the prevailing clown figure of Western Europe and Britain was the pantomime clown, who was a sort of bumbling buffoon.
But clowns have always had a dark side, says David Kiser, director of talent for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. After all, these were characters who reflected a funhouse mirror back on society; academics note that their comedy was often derived from their voracious appetites for food, sex, and drink, and their manic behavior. “So in one way, the clown has always been an impish spirit… as he’s kind of grown up, he’s always been about fun, but part of that fun has been a bit of mischief,” says Kiser. (Read more.)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A.J.P. Taylor is History

From R.J. Stove:
Almost every tome among the three dozen bearing Taylor’s name can be read with benefit, as much for its erudition as for its streamlined English. Even a comparative potboiler like British Prime Ministers and Other Essays furnishes permanently instructive insights into 10 Downing Street’s best known occupants. It is tempting to discourse at length on Germany’s First Bid for Colonies, on English History 1914–1945, and on War by Timetable. Nonetheless, two major scholarly feats deserve notice above all: The Habsburg Monarchy, which helped make him, and The Origins of the Second World War, which almost destroyed him.

When The Habsburg Monarchy emerged in 1941, its subject remained largely unknown even among Britain’s well-educated. Comprehensive Habsburg studies by Taylor’s compatriots Edward Crankshaw and C.A. Macartney had yet to appear. Taylor’s overview has the defects of its pioneering qualities: few experts now accept Taylor’s assumption of the early-20th-century Austrian imperium’s “unavoidable” decline. Today’s consensus—shaped by such historians as Alan Palmer, Alan Sked, and John Van der Kiste—stresses the opposite: Franz Josef’s and his successor’s pragmatic conservative radicalism. But though intermittently outdated, Taylor’s survey avoids irrelevance. Not the least important element in its appeal is Taylor’s failure to decide on his own final attitude towards the Habsburgs. Part of him—the larger part, it must be admitted—accepted the conventional Whig caricature of them as mere amusing dinosaurs. Part of him, more sensibly, respected their “sane internationalism”—a phrase coined by chronicler Sir Charles Petrie, no friend of Taylor—as a cherishable contribution to peace. (Read more.)
Weaponry and war has been a concern for humanity from its very earliest days. Empires from Greece, Rome and Persia to Napoleonic France and Colonial England have all been built on a backbone of superior firepower. From Roman’s peasants fearing Hannibal’s elephants to Irish farmers dreading the sight of Viking warships on the horizon, from Paul Revere’s “The British are coming!” to the 1950’s “Duck and Cover” drills, weaponry has haunted our nightmares for as long as it’s fueled the dreams of boys and conquerors.
The right of protection against tyranny was so important to our founding fathers that they included it as the Second Amendment to the Constitution. This debate still rages, as we weigh the costs of our gun culture against this principle. Technology, as always, drives innovation. And that is just as true with weapons as it is with the Internet.
- See more at:
Weaponry and war has been a concern for humanity from its very earliest days. Empires from Greece, Rome and Persia to Napoleonic France and Colonial England have all been built on a backbone of superior firepower. From Roman’s peasants fearing Hannibal’s elephants to Irish farmers dreading the sight of Viking warships on the horizon, from Paul Revere’s “The British are coming!” to the 1950’s “Duck and Cover” drills, weaponry has haunted our nightmares for as long as it’s fueled the dreams of boys and conquerors.
The right of protection against tyranny was so important to our founding fathers that they included it as the Second Amendment to the Constitution. This debate still rages, as we weigh the costs of our gun culture against this principle. Technology, as always, drives innovation. And that is just as true with weapons as it is with the Internet.
- See more at:
Weaponry and war has been a concern for humanity from its very earliest days. Empires from Greece, Rome and Persia to Napoleonic France and Colonial England have all been built on a backbone of superior firepower. From Roman’s peasants fearing Hannibal’s elephants to Irish farmers dreading the sight of Viking warships on the horizon, from Paul Revere’s “The British are coming!” to the 1950’s “Duck and Cover” drills, weaponry has haunted our nightmares for as long as it’s fueled the dreams of boys and conquerors.
The right of protection against tyranny was so important to our founding fathers that they included it as the Second Amendment to the Constitution. This debate still rages, as we weigh the costs of our gun culture against this principle. Technology, as always, drives innovation. And that is just as true with weapons as it is with the Internet.
- See more at:


North Korea and Nuclear Weapons

From Smithsonian Magazine:
Last February, North Korea detonated a nuclear weapon, the third test in its incredibly controversial nuclear weapons program. Then, it spent months and months posturing—threatening to resume its war with South Korea, targeting U.S. bases with long range missiles and releasing a highly provocative propaganda video depicting an attack on America. The countdown to war came and went, and North Korea’s displays just sort of faded away. But last night brought a twist: North Korea may have booted up its mothballed nuclear reactor, set to resume plutonium production and expand its nuclear arsenal.

If North Korea has restarted its nuclear program, says the New York Times, it would fly in the face of decades of work meant to stop exactly that. It also wouldn’t be particularly unexpected. North Korea, says Sung-Yoon Lee to the Times, has a “timeworn tactic of raising tensions to remind its adversaries that it is a menace that needs placating, then pushing for economic and diplomatic concessions.” (Read more.)