Friday, October 31, 2014

Charles Dickens and Ghost Stories

From Anglotopia:
Just as any modern movie-goer knows that screams and laughter constantly intermingle during horror films, Dickens understood that, at their heart, ghost stories are just good plain fun. His supernatural writings exemplify “the kinship between gaiety and the grotesque”, said biographer G.K. Chesterton. And, when appropriate, Dickens was brave enough to walk the fine line between the two. For instance, in “The Lawyer and the Ghost”, a mortal makes the tongue-in-cheek argument that ghosts should haunt more pleasant places, and not just the place they were most miserable. “That’s very true,” responds the spirit, “I never thought of that before…it never struck me till now; I’ll try change of air directly.” It’s these light-hearted moments that warm us up from the usual spine-chilling monotony and remind us that, in the title words of one of Dickens’ last ghost stories, such spooky tales are always “To Be Taken with a Grain of Salt.” (Read more.)


The Irish people have a colorful folklore, rich with stories of creatures from the Otherworld. In spite of the obviously pagan origins, many legends have endured to modern times. One legend is that of the banshee (bean-sidhe), a spirit which is supposed to haunt certain Irish families when a member is about to die.
According to Ireland's Eye:
The bean-sidhe (woman of the fairy) may be an ancestral spirit appointed to forewarn members of certain ancient Irish families of their time of death. According to tradition, the banshee can only cry for five major Irish families: the O'Neills, the O'Briens, the O'Connors, the O'Gradys and the Kavanaughs. Intermarriage has since extended this select list.
Here is a more detailed description from Irish Culture and Customs:
The Bean Sidhe or Banshee makes her appearance when someone in the household is about to die. She haunts only the families of the "high Milesian race" - those whose names have an "O", "Mac" or other prefix. One exception to this rule has been granted by virtue of the Irish poets who have given her to some of the Norman-Irish families - the FitzGerald's for example. In any event, she heralds the demise of only those who are of authentic noble stock and it is with great dread when her piercing "caoine" or keening is heard. In many respects, this mysterious creature resembles traditional Irish keeners or mourners of old; as with her mortal counterparts, those who have seen her describe her as drawing a comb through her hair, similar to tearing the hair out in anguish, which the ancient mourners used to do. Incidentally, or maybe not, while the Banshee is considered benign, she supposedly has a sister force who isn't; this force is called the Lianhan Sidhe and her sole purpose is to seek the love of mortal men. Their desire for her ultimately destroys them.
The banshee, according to legend, is usually heard at night, but sometimes in the morning, and at noon. An old Irish poem refers to the appearance of the Banshee in the morning:

Hast thou heard the Banshee at morn,
Passing by the silent lake,

Or walking the fields by the orchard?

Alas! that I do not rather behold

White garlands in the hall of my fathers.
There were a few banshee stories among some of my older relatives. (I suppose being descended from the Kavanaughs and the O'Neills as well as the O'Connors made them especially worthy of hauntings!) Irish lore is full of tales of the preternatural; the banshee is definitely one of the most interesting.


Horror and Faith

On the impact of the novel and film The Exorcist. To quote:
The novel's author, William Peter Blatty (who also penned the Academy Award-winning screenplay for the film), marked the 40th anniversary of the novel's appearance by writing a column for, in which he reveals that "I haven't the faintest recollection of any intention to frighten the reader, which many will take, I suppose, as an admission of failure on an almost stupefying scale." Rather, Blatty, the son of devout Lebanese Catholic immigrants, reveals "'The Exorcist's Secret Message": It is "a novel of faith in the popular dress of a thrilling and suspenseful detective story—in other words, a sermon that no one could possibly sleep through."

Principalities and Powers

That is not, of course, the way that the novel and the subsequent film have been portrayed by either their fans or their detractors. Indeed, many Christians have accused Blatty of opening up readers and filmgoers to demonic influences—missing not only the point of the novel but misunderstanding Christ's own teaching regarding the principalities and powers of this world. Demons hold no sway over those who are firm in their faith; but they do, in the words of Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel, "prowl about the world, seeking the ruin of souls." By denying their existence, and treating the world of spiritual warfare as a parlor game, we open ourselves to their influence and even, in extreme cases, to possession. (Read more.)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Remembering the Bubonic Plague

Will it help us fight ebola? From the Daily Mail:
Bubonic plague is one of the most devastating diseases in history, having killed around 100million people during the 'Black Death' in the 14th century. Drawings and paintings from the outbreak, which wiped out about a third of the European population, depict town criers saying 'bring out your dead' while dragging trailers piled with infected corpses.

It is caused by a bacterium known as Yersinia pestis, which uses the flea as a host and is usually transmitted to humans via rats. The disease causes grotesque symptoms such as gangrene and the appearance of large swellings on the groin, armpits or neck, known as 'buboes'. It kills up to two thirds of sufferers within just four days if it is not treated, although if antibiotics are administered within 24 hours of infection patients are highly likely to survive.

After the Black Death arrived in 1347 plague became a common phenomenon in Europe, with outbreaks recurring regularly until the 18th century. Bubonic plague has almost completely vanished from the rich world, with 90 per cent of all cases now found in Africa.

However, there have been a few non-fatal cases in the U.S. in recent years, while in August 2013 a 15-year-old boy died in Kyrgyzstan after eating a groundhog infected with the disease. Three months later, an outbreak in a Madagascan killed at least 20 people in a week. A year before 60 people died as a result of the infection, more than in any other country in the world.

Outbreaks in China have been rare in recent years, and most have happened in remote rural areas of the west. China's state broadcaster said there were 12 diagnosed cases and three deaths in the province of Qinghai in 2009, and one in Sichuan in 2012. In the United States between five and 15 people die every year as a result, mostly in western states. (Read more.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The War on Halloween

From Scott Richert:
Of course, as I've shown in Should Catholics Celebrate Halloween?, Halloween—that is, the vigil or eve of All Hallows or All Saints Day, was first celebrated in the eighth century A.D., approximately 400 years after the Celts had abandoned druidism for Christianity. And the pumpkin, which is native to North American, was not imported to the British Isles until over a millennium after the conversion of the Celts to Christianity. Indeed, as David Emery, the Expert at About Urban Legends points out in Why Do We Carve Pumpkins on Halloween?, both the name and the custom of the jack-o'-lantern date from the 17th century, and it was commonly associated with Catholic beliefs and practices:
For Catholic children it was customary to carry jack-o'-lanterns door-to-door to represent the souls of the dead while begging for soul cakes on Hallowmas ( All Saints Day, Nov. 1) and All Souls Day (Nov. 2).
Irish Catholic immigrants to North America celebrated Halloween by carving pumpkins and trick-or-treating, and, just as their Puritan ancestors had in England, Protestants of English descent in the American Northeast banned the celebration of Halloween (and of Christmas) not out of concerns over witchcraft and the "Devil's Night," but explicitly in opposition to Catholic practice. By the late 19th century, those bans had been dropped, and both Halloween and Christmas had been adopted by Protestant Christians of all stripes in the United States, but by the late 1980's Jack Chick had succeeded in reviving the earlier anti-Catholic attack on Halloween.

Happy Birthday, Satan

Chick's anti-Halloween tracts helped spread another idea that is ridiculous on its face: that Halloween is Satan's birthday. Satan, of course, is Lucifer, the leader of the angels who rebelled against God and was cast out of Heaven by Saint Michael the Archangel and the other angels who remained loyal to their Creator (Revelation 12:7-10). As such, he has no "birthday"—a fact that Chick actually admits in one of his tracts, though he attributes the casting of Lucifer and his demons out of Heaven to Jesus Christ, not Saint Michael, as the account in Revelation does. Yet that same tract, Boo! (1991), while getting the story at least partially right, shows Satan, wearing a jack-o'-lantern as a head, rejoicing that a bunch of high-school students are "coming to celebrate my birthday," before he mows 19 of them down with a chainsaw. The sheriff who is unable to stop Satan's bloody rampage finally gives up, praying, "May the saints preserve 'em"—a subtle yet potent anti-Catholic reference.

The Triumph of Chick's Anti-Catholic War on Halloween

By the turn of the millennium, Jack Chick had made great strides in his attack on Halloween, and not just among his fellow fundamentalist Christians. Many mainstream Christians, including a sizable number of Catholics who had themselves happily and innocently celebrated Halloween when they were young, decided not to let their children take part in trick-or-treating and other Halloween festivities. The common reasons given came straight out of the Jack Chick tracts that many of them had received in their own youth: the supposed Celtic and Babylonian pagan roots of Halloween; the ridiculous claim that Halloween is Satan's birthday; the possible dangers to the physical and spiritual health of their children, if they are allowed to accept candy from the neighbors that they see everyday. (These have been supplemented in recent years by the claim that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI warned Catholics against celebrating Halloween—an urban legend that I've debunked in Did Pope Benedict XVI Condemn Halloween?) (Read more.)

Female Nazi Guards

Their mugshots are the "banality of evil" personified. "These black and white portraits of the female prison camp guards which were taken after the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen, a Nazi concentration camp, while they were at Celle awaiting trial in 1945." (Read more.) Share

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon

A post from On the Tudor Trail:
Mary Tudor was an unusual princess in an age that cared little for the personal feelings of royalty, male or female. As a child, she was betrothed to the younger Charles in 1507, a betrothal firmly anchored in politics.  The negotiations waffled on for years: They should marry now. No, they should wait. The terms aren’t good. Perhaps this isn’t the best match we could get. Perhaps we should discuss this further.  The result was that Mary wasn’t married off early as her older sister Margaret had been. She remained in England and had free reign at her brother’s court.

She shone brightly there.  As her brother’s preferred dance partner in court frivolities, she came to the attention of virtually all the ambassadors to the English court whose collective description of her was middling tall, blonde, stunningly gorgeous, and unbelievably charming.

Mary was not unduly unhappy at the dissolution of her betrothal, but neither was she interested in marrying the elderly king of France. Apparently she was won over when her brother promised her that after Louis’s death, she could marry as she pleased.

But the marriage to Louis was short-lived, lasting only about ten weeks.  In poor health even before the marriage, he died on January 1, 1515.  His new widow’s immediate concern was to avoid being married off by either the new French king, Francis I, or her brother.  Both were eager to use her as a pawn in the chessboard of European politics.  Tudor that she was, Mary played them off against each other.  To Henry she merely promised she would not let Francis choose a husband for her.  To Francis, she was a bit more forthcoming, admitting that the man she was in love with — the only man she would ever marry — was Henry’s close friend, Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk.

Francis was disappointed, but somewhat mollified by the thought that Henry was going to be equally thwarted.  As for Henry, he very conveniently sent Charles over to negotiate the return of the dowry and escort the widow home.  It’s hard to know for certain what Charles and Mary had planned beforehand, but they secretly married almost immediately in Paris.  I’ve always thought they decided it would be easier to obtain forgiveness than permission, and presenting Henry with a fait accompli would take away any temptation on his part to try to change Mary’s mind about another royal marriage. (Read more.)
From Nancy Bilyeau:
 A 19th century historian wrote of Henry VIII and Charles Brandon:

"The two men were of the same towering height but Charles was, perhaps, the more powerful... both were exceedingly fair and had the same golden curly hair, the same steel gray eyes planted on either side of an aquiline nose.... owing to the brilliance of their complexions, they were universally considered extremely handsome."
This was the man Princess Mary fell in love with at the same time her brother was arranging her marriage to the King of France. There is no hint of impropriety between them at the English court; she was scrupulously chaperoned. Brandon did not escort her to France. So why did Henry VIII send his friend, infamous for his treatment of women, to escort a vulnerable Mary back to England after King Louis died? He is supposed to have made Brandon promise not to marry her in France. Brandon was always a loyal friend to Henry VIII...yet he did marry her. The French royal jewels that the couple smuggled out of the country and gave to Henry VIII--including the Mirror of Naples--mollified him. (Read more.)

Roman Teeth and Gums

From the BBC:
Prof Francis Hughes, from the dental institute at King's College London, told the BBC: "The amount of severe gum disease around today is around one third of the population.

"But much to our surprise these people didn't have a lot of gum disease, but they did have a lot of other dental problems."

He said the findings, published in the British Dental Journal, were evidence that gum disease was about far more than just brushing twice a day. Smoking is thought to increase the risk of gum disease fivefold. Type 2 diabetes also increases the risk. (Read more.)

Monday, October 27, 2014


From Vive la Reine.
Of the seventy-three years of her life, she passed eight (the best of her youth) in restraint or in a dungeon, and thirty-eight in exile; and yet she died acknowledging the mercies and the glory of God. Let us who have not known affliction, or who have been but lightly visited, derive wisdom from the instruction offered to us by the pious daughter of Louis Seize and Marie Antoinette. —The Gentlemen’s Magazine, Volume 36, 1851
For more about the life of Marie Thérèse Charlotte of France, read  Madame Royale. Share

The Mission

From The New Yorker:
When the killing reached Bossemptele, a small town deep in the isolated interior of the Central African Republic, Father Bernard Kinvi, who helps run the Catholic mission there, tried to save everyone he could. A handsome man of thirty-two, Father Bernard wears a black cassock with a large red cross imprinted on the chest. He was born in West Africa, in Togo, and when he left the seminary and came to the Central African Republic, four years ago, he knew little of his adopted country except that “it was a place of military crises.” Bossemptele, with its mission compound—a pretty little church, a modest school, and a rudimentary hospital—seemed like a peaceful place. Old shade trees lined the road, and wildflowers grew in the fields.
Until 1960, the Central African Republic was a French colony, known as Oubangui-Chari. It is rich in resources, with endless forests, gold, uranium, and oil, but it is among the world’s poorest countries. It is landlocked, largely undeveloped, and surrounded by other troubled nations: Chad, Sudan, South Sudan, the two Congos, and Cameroon. Air France flies in once a week; few other airlines go there at all.

One of the country’s meagre blessings in the past several decades has been a relative lack of religious conflict. Of four and a half million citizens, fifteen per cent are Muslims; nearly all the rest profess some form of Christianity, often infused with animist beliefs. When Father Bernard arrived in Bossemptele, he detected no tensions between the Christians and the Muslims. “There were perfect community relations,” he told me, when I visited a few months ago. “Most of our hospital patients were Muslims, in fact.” Then, in 2012, he and the mission’s two other priests and four nuns began hearing reports about the Seleka, or “Alliance,” a Muslim rebel group in the east of the country. They were marching toward Bangui, the capital, a hundred and ninety miles away. “We weren’t affected,” Bernard said, speaking as someone in Tennessee might speak of a tornado in Oklahoma—a concern, but not a threat. “Then they started coming this way.” (Read more.)

Sunday, October 26, 2014


From Vive la Reine. Poor Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte of France, it was not enough for her to lampooned as a child, but even as a mature woman she was hideously mocked. Above is a satire from the July Revolution of 1830, showing Marie-Thérèse as Dauphine ordering around her uncle and father-in-law, Charles X, with her husband Louis-Antoine looking helpless. Share

The Vatican Digitizes Manuscripts

From PBS:
One of the oldest libraries on the planet is digitizing its archive of ancient manuscripts — and they’re all available to view free of charge. The Vatican Apostolic Library is undertaking an extensive digital preservation of its 82,000 document collection. Over the course of a few years, with the assistance of Japanese company NTT DATA, the library has catalogued nearly 4,500 manuscripts online — and it hopes to reach the 15,000 mark within the next four years.

Monsignor Cesare Pasini, Prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Library, called the project a “true effort in favour of the conservation and dissemination of knowledge at the service of culture throughout the world;” writing on the library’s site that the project could eventually lead to 40 million digitized pages and 43 petabytes worth of data. The entire undertaking is expected to take at least 15 years and cost more than $63 million dollars — an effort the Vatican Library is attempting to support, in part, by crowdsourcing funding. (Read more.)

The Trouble with Beethoven

From The New Yorker:
Beethoven is a singularity in the history of art—a phenomenon of dazzling and disconcerting force. He not only left his mark on all subsequent composers but also molded entire institutions. The professional orchestra arose, in large measure, as a vehicle for the incessant performance of Beethoven’s symphonies. The art of conducting emerged in his wake. The modern piano bears the imprint of his demand for a more resonant and flexible instrument. Recording technology evolved with Beethoven in mind: the first commercial 33⅓ r.p.m. LP, in 1931, contained the Fifth Symphony, and the duration of first-generation compact disks was fixed at seventy-five minutes so that the Ninth Symphony could unfurl without interruption. After Beethoven, the concert hall came to be seen not as a venue for diverse, meandering entertainments but as an austere memorial to artistic majesty. Listening underwent a fundamental change. To follow Beethoven’s dense, driving narratives, one had to lean forward and pay close attention. The musicians’ platform became the stage of an invisible drama, the temple of a sonic revelation.

Above all, Beethoven shaped the identity of what came to be known as classical music. In the course of the nineteenth century, dead composers began to crowd out the living on concert programs, and a canon of masterpieces materialized, with Beethoven front and center. As the scholar William Weber has established, this fetishizing of the past can be tracked with mathematical precision, as a rising line on a graph: in Leipzig, the percentage of works by deceased composers went from eleven per cent in 1782 to seventy-six per cent in 1870. Weber sees an 1807 Leipzig performance of Beethoven’s Third Symphony, the titanic, turbulent “Eroica,” as a turning point: the work was brought back a week later, “by demand,” taking a place of honor at the end of the program. Likewise, a critic wrote of the Second Symphony, “It demands to be played again, and yet again, by even the most accomplished orchestra.” More than anything, it was the mesmerizing intricacy of Beethoven’s constructions—his way of building large structures from the obsessive development of curt motifs—that made the repertory culture of classical music possible. This is not to say that Beethoven’s predecessors, giants on the order of Bach, Haydn, and Mozart, fail to reward repeated listening with their cerebral games of variation. In the case of Beethoven, though, the process becomes addictive, irresistible. No composer labors so hard to stave off boredom, to occupy the mind of one who might be hearing or playing a particular piece for the tenth or the hundredth time.

And so Beethoven assumed the problematic status of a secular god, his shadow falling on those who came after him, and even on those who came before him. (Read more.)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Holly Bears the Crown

From The Cloisters:
The gardens are abuzz with activity as autumn settles upon us, and sporadic blazes of fall color across the Hudson River herald the season. To some, the onset of cooler temperatures is cause for despair. Others welcome the respite from hot summer days. What many of us share in common, though, is a renewed awareness of the natural world. It is a poignant time.

As a shower of cherry blossoms marks the ephemeral nature of spring, so does the senescing foliage signal the end of an active gardening season. Every day, we head out to the gardens to sweep and rake the fallen leaves and cut back fading perennials. While such tasks are often associated with the season, autumn is also a great time for planting trees. We just planted a small grove of holly trees on either side of a main entrance that during the holiday season is adorned with holly boughs. (Read more.)

Wedding Day at the Guillotine

From Meghan Ferrara of Regina Magazine:
On 17 July 1794, the Carmelite sisters, attired in their religious habits because they had been washing their plain clothes the morning of their arrest, renewed their vows of baptism and religious profession. They then mounted a tumbrel and were led through the streets of Paris to the Place du Trône Renversé (now the Place de la Nation).

Witnesses reported that the sisters radiated joy, as if anticipating their wedding day. Juxtaposed against the ethereal silence of the usually raucous crowds were the voices of the sisters, singing their way to heaven. En route, they chanted the Salve Regina, the Te Deum, and Veni, Sancte Spiritus, and then intoned the psalm Laudate Dominum, omnes gentes. Before each sister mounted the scaffold, she knelt before the Mother Superior to receive a blessing, kissed a small statue of the Madonna and Child, and placed herself beneath the blade without allowing the executioner to touch her. The Mother Prioress was the last sacrificed. All throughout, the silence was complete. Not even a single drum-roll sounded. (Read more.)

Learning Self-Control

From The New York Times:
Mr. Mischel — who is spry, bald and compact — faced his own childhood trials of willpower. He was born to well-off Jewish intellectuals in Vienna. But Germany annexed Austria when he was 8, and he “moved quickly from sitting in the front row in my schoolroom, to the back row, to standing in the back, to no more school.” He watched as his father, a businessman who spoke Esperanto and liked to read in cafes, was dragged from bed and forced to march outside in his pajamas.

His family escaped to Brooklyn, but his parents never regained their former social status. They opened a struggling five-and-dime, and as a teenager Walter got a hernia from carrying stacks of sleeves at a garment factory. One solace was visiting his grandmother, who hummed Yiddish songs and talked about sitzfleisch: the importance of continuing to work, regardless of the obstacles (today we call this “grit”). (Read more.)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Every Inch a Princess

Her Royal Highness, Madame the Duchesse d’Angoulême. (Via Tiny-Librarian.)

Ernest Daudet's biography of Madame Royale quotes a description of the princess by her uncle, Louis XVIII:
The portraits you have seen of our daughter...cannot give you an accurate idea of her; they are not in the least like her. She so closely resembles both her father and her mother that she recalls them absolutely, together or separately, according to the point of view from which one looks at her. She is not pretty at first sight; but she becomes so as one looks at her, and especially as one talks to her, for there is not a movement of her face that is not pleasing. She is a little shorter than her mother, and a little taller than our poor sister. She is well made, holds herself well, carries her head perfectly, and walks with ease and grace. When she speaks of her misfortunes her tears do not flow readily, owing to her habit of restraining them, lest her gaolers should have the barbarous pleasure of seeing her shed them. It is no easy task, however, for her listeners to restrain theirs. But her natural gaiety is not quenched; draw her mind away from this tragic chapter of her life, and she laughs heartily and is quite charming. She is gentle, good-humoured, and affectionate; and there is no doubt that she has the mind of a mature woman. In private with me she behaves as our poor Elisabeth might have behaved with my father; in public she has the bearing of a princess accustomed to holding a Court. She not only says courteous things to everyone, but she says to each individual the most suitable thing that could be said. She is modest without being shy, at her ease without being familiar....(Read more.)
Read more about the daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette in Madame Royale. Share

Socialism in Venezuela

From TFP:
Resource rich Venezuela, which boasts of having some of largest oil reserves in the world, has now reached an all time low in petroleum production. The exportation of crude oil used to account for 95 percent of Venezuela’s export earnings until, the late socialist savior, Hugo Chávez began to re-distribute the country’s wealth in the form of cash subsidies. Now Venezuela's petroleum minister, Rafael Ramirez, is considering importing Algerian oil in a desperate attempt to shore up their devastated economy to thwart bankruptcy.

Venezuela has always had to deal with the problem of extra heavy crude oil from the Orinoco Basin. This region produces a crude oil that is too dense to be transported through pipelines to local ports and then exported abroad. To deal with this problem, the heavy crude oil is usually diluted with super light sweet crude oils. However, this issue is insignificant when compared to the poor management of the state owned oil giant Petróleos de Venezuela Sociedad Anónima (PDVSA).

Venezuela can produce light oils needed to dilute Venezuela’s heavy crude. However, production has been curtailed by a lack of investment, abandoning the exploration of light crude and the nationalization of companies that formerly produced light crudes. This is the result of the government-run oil giant that is now being controlled by inexperienced bureaucrats who are obsessed with taking disproportional amounts of money out of the coffers. In modern parlance, it is called killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

The Venezuelan government is now asking foreign companies to invest in upgrading facilities that help make heavy crude oil exportable from the Orinoco Basin. No foreign companies want to take that risk because they fear expropriation or minority ownership under Chávez’ socialist rules. Even though oil prices have risen from $9 to $100 per barrel in the last few decades, past president Chávez and current president Maduro have managed to destroy their cash cow.

When Chávez took office in 1999, PDVSA was still in private hands, employed 51,000 people and was able to produce 63 barrels of crude a day per employee. After 15 years of socialism, PDVSA was nationalized by the state, now has 140,000 employees and produces 20 barrels of crude a day per employee according to an August 14 report by the France Press news agency. This equals a stunning 69 percent loss of efficiency in 15 short years. (Read more.)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Duchess Flees Bordeaux

The daughter Louis XVI exhorts the troops at Bordeaux before having to escape Napoleon.

As readers of Trianon and Madame Royale well know, Marie-Thérèse of France, the Duchesse d'Angoulême, daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, was at times forced to flee from wars and revolts. Above is a picture of the princess during her flight from Napoleon Bonaparte in March 1815. Bonaparte, hearing of her attempt to raise an army against him, hailed Marie-Thérèse as "the only man in her family," which was a bit unfair to the Duc d'Angoulême, who had hastened to rally his forces to cut off Bonaparte's march on Paris. The Duc and Duchesse d'Angoulême had been in Bordeaux celebrating the restoration of the Bourbons when news came of Bonaparte's escape from Elba. Although Napoleon admired the daughter of Louis XVI, he would like to have made a prisoner of her. Marie-Thérèse left for England only because to stay behind would have endangered the citizens of Bordeaux. Below is an excerpt from Chapter Sixteen of Madame Royale, describing the scene:
Thérèse and her entourage left Bordeaux in a swirling rain shower, darkness, and mud. Yet the voices of the saints seemed to pierce the curtain of rain. There was always hope. If only she knew if her husband was safe. They travelled all night, their coaches slipping and bumping along in the blackness. By morning they reached Pauillac, with its port and ship which would take them away from France. Thérèse hardly thought about where they were going. She heard Mass in the parish church, then went to board an English ship called The Wanderer. Her military escort assembled on the peer to bid her farewell, as the rain continued to pour. Where were the vast crowds? Where were those who had flung themselves weeping at her feet? Never again would she lavish a single, splintering thought on human honor and praise. It was all less than nothing. The faithful few begged for some tokens; she gave them the feathers from her bonnet, and the green and white ribbons which bound her hair. "Bring them back to me in better days!" she cried, the wind and rain blowing around her. "And Marie-Thérèse will show you that she has a good memory, and that she has not forgotten her friends at Bordeaux!"

The vessel carried
Thérèse over rough waters to Spain, and then across the channel to England. It was a tumultuous crossing; most of her ladies were morbidly seasick, besides being distressed over their belongings left behind at the Tuileries for the Buonaparte clan. When Thérèse and her party finally arrived at the royal French embassy in London, she was greeted with the news that her husband had been captured, and was a prisoner of Napoleon Buonaparte.

~from Madame Royale by Elena Maria Vidal, Ch. 16, "The Heroine," copyright 2000 by E.M. Vidal


Peacocks and Swans

From author Katherine Ashe:
While the cottagers and townsmen were celebrating Christmas with roast goose, the lord of the manor, if he was wealthy enough, was feasting upon peacock pie or roasted swan. When it wasn’t holiday feasting time, the grandeur of the seigniorial manse was secured by these ornamental birds floating in the moat or preening upon a balustrade.


Swans figure in the mythologies of northern countries, particularly Russia and Germany. There is the swan of Lohengrin, the knight of Hohenschwangau. And there is the Russian tale of the prince ravished with love for the enchanted Odette who has been turned into a swan. When the wicked sorcerer magically replaces Odette with his own daughter, Odile, at the prince’s presentation of his betrothed to his parent, the prince discovers the deception and in grief drowns himself in the Swan Lake. (Read more.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Marie-Antoinette as "Goodness" with Pelican

According to my friend Hyacinthe Desjdek: Robert-Guillaume Dardel (1749-1821) Marie-Antoinette in the guise of kindness, 1785 Terra cotta, white marble adorned with gilded bronze - 49 x 22 x 13.5 cm, Montréal, Musée des Beaux-Arts
This is an extraordinary statue which shows the Queen dressed almost as the Virgin Mary. Beside her is a pelican, which according to legend fed its young from its own bosom. The pelican is a symbol of the Eucharist. Via Vive la Reine. Share

Less Happy

From Aleteia:
In 2009, economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers published an intriguing article called The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness in which they document a pervasive, downward shift in female self-reports of happiness since the early 1970s. This shift has occurred "absolutely" – meaning, women report being less happy today than they did in the early 70s. It has also occurred "relative" to men – as in, women today report being less happy than men do, whereas in the early 70s men reported being relatively unhappier than women. These are major population-based findings – results that summarize statistics from large random samples of people. Further, these findings appear to be consistent across all of the available survey data that can measure changes over time in how people report that they are doing. Which means these aren’t accidental findings. They are probably measuring something real.

Women really are – or at least they really feel that they are – doing worse today than they were in the early 70s.

If this is true, the "Allure" cover headline “Life is one big party, and you’re all invited” seems either insensitive or ignorant. Or else, as I suspect, the editors at "Allure" don’t want to tell the truth about reality, because the truth about reality doesn’t sell magazines. This is why they persist with the Photoshop madness and the airbrush fantasyland –because we have a stubborn attachment to mythological narratives, both sacred and profane. "Glamour" and "Allure" peddle in the profane.

But this is profoundly unhelpful to ordinary women, for at least two reasons. First, because profane mythologies – about becoming like Cara Delevingne – do little more than highlight and reinforce our fallen human nature: pride, vanity, narcissism, jealousy, sensuality – the quest for perfectibility in the material realm. Ultimately this leads to despair because we really can’t have any of it. And as we flip through the pages we risk becoming sadder than when we started. We looked for hope and inspiration but we found instead that we were becoming a statistic: far less likely than before to say that we were happy. (Read more.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Art, Talent, and Beauty

An engraving from the early 1780's showing Marie-Antoinette honored by the muses of art, talent and beauty. It is sad to think that at the same time hideous pornographic pamphlets were also being circulated.

The Getty Museum has an article about Marie-Antoinette's artistic eye and her contributions to the world of  furniture design, HERE.

One of four such pieces now at the Getty, this giltwood side chair formed a suite of eight side chairs and eight armchairs delivered to the Petit Trianon by master craftsman François II Foliot in 1781. Designed by Jacques Gondoin, they were used to furnish the salon du rocher, or rock salon, of an octagonal garden pavilion known as the Belvédère.
Marie-Antoinette invited her inner circle to take a seat on these chairs while enjoying music and tea in the salon du rocher, which looked out onto an ornamental lake and grotto. Carved torches emerging from ivy-bound sticks form the chair’s stiles, or vertical sides, and are reminiscent of those used to illuminate the Belvédère and other garden features for evening receptions. Marie-Antoinette’s brother, Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II, and the future Czar Paul I of Russia and his wife were received at Trianon in this manner.
- See more at:


"Living and Breathing"

Brigit's Lorica
A review of The Paradise Tree from The Book Drunkard. To quote:
I also had Irish ancestors who came to Canada (and French ones, also), so that made the story  all the more meaningful to me.  It gives great insight into what immigrants went through once they came here.  It was not easy!  Those that survived had to have come from strong stock and Daniel O’Connor was tough.  I feel luckier after reading this book, knowing what they went through, in order for us to have what we have today.

Perhaps because this is based on a true story of her ancestors, but I felt a lot of emotion reading Daniel’s story.  The author has a knack of bringing out these feelings in the characters and in the reader.  The people in the story felt so real to me and almost like they could have also been my ancestors.  She brought them to living and breathing life on the pages and I laughed and cried along with them.  On top of that, the historical details add so much to the story and it appears that a lot of research went into the book.  I found it completely fascinating from beginning to end.

If I wasn’t a fan of Elena Maria Vidal before(I was), I definitely am now.  She knows how to evoke strong feelings from the readers of her books.  She makes them feel and think and live other lives through the people she writes about.  When I keep thinking about a book after I’ve finished it, that’s a win. (Read more.)
The Paradise Tree is available internationally from Amazon.

In order to win a free copy, visit Passages to the Past!


England Adopts the Gregorian Calendar

From History Today:
In 1750 England and her empire, including the American colonies, still adhered to the old Julian calendar, which was now eleven days ahead of the Gregorian calendar, introduced in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII and in use in most of Europe.

Attempts in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to adopt the new calendar had broken on the rock of the Church of England, which denounced it as popish. The prime mover in changing the situation was George Parker, second Earl of Macclesfield, a keen astronomer and a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was assisted in his calculations by his friend James Bradley, the astronomer royal, and he gained the influential support of Philip Dormer Stanhope, the sophisticated fourth Earl of Chesterfield (of letters to his son fame), who squared it with Henry Pelham’s initially reluctant government.

In 1751 Chesterfield introduced in the House of Lords ‘an Act for Regulating the Commencement of the Year and for Correcting the Calendar now in Use’, gracefully commending it, with Macclesfield in support. According to Chesterfield, Macclesfield spoke ‘with infinite knowledge and all the clearness that so intricate a matter could admit of; but as his words, his periods, and his utterance were not near so good as mine, the preference was most unanimously, though most unjustly, given to me.’

The bill passed through Parliament easily enough and George II signed it in May. It provided for Wednesday, September 2nd, 1752, to be followed by Thursday the 14th and for New Year’s Day to move from March 25th to January 1st, as already was the case in Scotland. The City of London flatly refused to pay taxes early, so the financial year was altered to start on April 6th, as it still irritatingly does. The changes affected festivals, saint’s days and birthdays, including that of Dr Johnson, as well as the dates of payments of wages, rents and interest, contracts for delivery of goods, military discharges and prison releases. It was all carefully explained in the media of the day under the slogan ‘The New Style the True Style’.

The change was thoroughly unpopular with people who deplored it as popery, disapproved of John Bull’s ways being altered to conform with those of foreigners or who simple-mindedly thought that eleven days had been taken out of their lives. Some claim that mobs gathered to bawl ‘Give us back our eleven days’, there were riots in Bristol and quite a few country people insisted on observing Old Christmas Day on January 5th. (Read more.)
Via Stephanie Mann. Share

Monday, October 20, 2014


Here is a review from the San Francisco Book Review that will soon be live on their site:
The Paradise Tree
By Elena Maria Vidal
Mayapple Books, $9.99, 246 pages, Format: eBook
Star Rating: 5 out of 5

"This is a beautiful book. It follows Daniel O’Connor as he grows up in Ireland, moves to Canada to pursue fortune and freedom, starts a family, and grows old surrounded by those who love him.

Taking place in the nineteenth century, the story covers a period of political and religious unrest in Ireland, creating very exciting early chapters. There is a lot of tension, as the main characters must hide their traditions while still facing systemic prejudice for their beliefs. Vidal firmly establishes Daniel’s love for his family and makes his family feel warm and welcoming. This makes the scene where Daniel decides to leave extremely painful, even as the political history justifies his decision. The entire book is full of these moments, where you sympathize with the characters while wishing they could act differently. It makes for a very human story.

What takes The Paradise Tree to another level, however, is the way that Vidal brings the settings to life. I can so vividly picture the O’Connor Christmas celebration in their small cabin in the Canadian forest that it feels like I was in the room with them. Vidal has a way of describing only the most important aspects of a scene but of describing them in such a way that the whole thing comes to life. It is fascinating.

This precision of focus works for the overarching story as well. Parts of Daniel’s life are glossed over entirely while others are narrated in rich detail. The parts that Vidal focuses on, however, are the exact parts that are most important. Learning how to be a doctor must have been interesting, but it isn’t nearly as important as meeting your wife. Vidal emphasizes the moments of connection, of family, and, in so doing, creates a very personal story. It feels like we know the characters as friends rather than acquaintances. This is a stunningly lovely book, the perfect thing to get lost in for an afternoon."
Win a free copy of The Paradise Tree from Passages to the Past.



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


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

The Landing of the Soixante-huitards

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

Sexual Revolution

In the world of popular culture, the Broadway musical Hair opened in April 1968, offering young people a combination of music and lyrics that glorified every manner of sexual license and perversion. The pollution of the sexual revolution poured into the Church through the windows opened at the Second Vatican Council to let in fresh air. Young women religious, formerly so ladylike and prim, discovered the exhilarating buzz of theological dialogue with edgy John Lennon look–alike seminarians in jeans and sandals . . . and the rest is history.

The Undoing of the Lex Orandi

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

The Mass Under Siege

Ad-libbing at Holy Mass was already becoming endemic . . . and this before the Novus Ordo Missae, which only made its début in 1970. Quantities of mimeographed wildcat “Canons” (Eucharistic Prayers) were in circulation. One summer evening, I came away from a Mass at the Jesuit House of Studies near Yale University feeling sick at heart. All remained seated throughout the celebration; the centre of attention was the priest, bright, articulate, and witty. The tone was one of wanton desacralisation. Then and there, even while engrossed in reading Jesuit Father Joseph Jungmann’s brilliant Mass of the Roman Rite, I resolved never again to trust the liturgical instincts of modernist Jesuits. There were Masses at which “Blowing in the Wind”, “The Times, They Are A-Changin'”, and Judy Collins’s “I’ve Looked at Love from Both Sides Now” were standard fare.
Tears and fears and feeling proud, to say, “I love you” right out loud,
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds, I’ve looked at life that way.
But now old friends are acting strange
they shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
But something’s lost but something’s gained in living every day.(Judy Collins)
Through it all, I knew that in Gregorian Chant I had found the native tongue of my soul. Singing Chant was life-giving for me. Even in monastic choirs, it had been cast aside. Guitar-strumming monks lulled themselves and others into the most astonishing liturgical amnesia in history.

All of this being said, when Pope Paul VI gave the Church his Credo of the People of God, I was ready and eager to receive it. What I couldn’t understand was why so few Catholics around me, including priests, seminarians, and religious, had little enthusiasm for it. Paul VI’s gift met with indifference. Was it a case of too little too late?
The actual text of the Credo of the People of God begins with article 8 of the Apostolic Letter, Solemni Hac Liturgia, 30 June 1968. Here it is, with gratitude to Blessed Paul VI from one who, with his help, survived those changing times of confusion, uncertainty, and iconoclasm. (Read more.)

Fighting Isis for Us

From The New Yorker:
The Yazidi resistance, led by a politician in his sixties named Qasim Shasho, has received very little attention outside Iraq. One account, on Medium, describes the group as being made up of just a couple thousand fighters. Few of them have any military training—Karim has never fired a shot at another human being. They are outnumbered and outgunned, with AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and a few fifty-calibre guns against ISIS’s artillery and armored vehicles. The Yazidis are capable of hit-and-run ambushes, but they haven’t been able to take and hold territory. Many of their relatives who are now refugees in Kurdistan have abandoned the idea of ever returning to their ancient home.

Around the beginning of this month, ISIS seized the road through Syria to Dohuk, cutting off Karim’s land route back to safety. His father was having heart trouble, and a few days ago the two of them travelled up Mt. Sinjar, a steep and rugged area, holy to Yazidis, that became their sanctuary and their grave when ISIS attacked the towns around it, two months ago. From the top of the mountain, Karim’s father was evacuated to Dohuk on one of the Iraqi Air Force helicopters that make regular flights back and forth, carrying fighters and weapons to the mountain and ailing and elderly refugees to Kurdistan.

Yesterday, I spoke on the phone with Karim. He’s still at the top of Mt. Sinjar, living in a military camp with around a hundred fighters, the majority of them Kurdish, the rest Yazidis. They sleep in United Nations tents and eat canned food brought in by humanitarian airdrops. There is no real way out except by airlift—in the past ten or twelve days, according to Karim, ISIS has pushed Yazidi fighters out of villages north and west of Mt. Sinjar, and they now surround the mountain. Karim told me that there are still about a thousand civilians around the mountain, also living in tents. The humanitarian airdrops are not enough, food is running low, and the past few nights have been cold with the approach of winter. The Yazidi resistance fighters want an international ground force to liberate Sinjar—something that they are unlikely to get.

A few hours before we spoke, Karim said, five Yazidi girls arrived at the mountaintop camp. The youngest was nine, the oldest twenty. They had walked several dozen miles from their town to the south of the mountain. They carried nothing with them and were barefoot. The girls said that they had been held prisoner for weeks by ISIS fighters, and were badly beaten, according to Karim. Other Yazidi girls and women have been distributed in slave markets to ISIS fighters, and when I asked Karim if the girls had also been raped, he told me, “I couldn’t bear to ask that question, to be honest.” The girls had been held in houses, not a prison, and they’d managed to escape through the back door and make contact by phone with people on the mountain. “They were quiet, not crying—even the little girls, they weren’t crying,” Karim said. “It looks like this was the first time they see a human being.”

After talking with the girls, Karim found himself unable to eat his lunch. “I don’t know. I think I’m helping people here,” he said. “I feel good sometimes—but those girls are making me heartbroken. Imagine—I don’t know their names, I don’t know where they’re from—imagine how their father or brother or someone in their family feels.”(Read more.)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Royal Bastards

From Reinette:
Product of a love affair between the king and his mistress the royal bastards were the prettier, smarter and stronger children of was thought the bastards were better looking than their legitimate half brothers and sisters because they were made with passion and love unlike their half siblings which were conceived out of duty.The truth was that legitimate children were often products of second,third or even first cousin marriages so their gene pool was much narrower and disorders and physical traits were passed form both parents and thus more pronounced.Often the kings loved their bastards more than their legitimate children.they gave them titles,legitimized them and provided well for them after their deaths. (Read more.)

Unknown Catholic Genocide

From Meghan Ferrara of Regina Magazine:
A friend suggested ‘Why don’t you do the War of the Vendée?’ Jim Morlino recounts. “And I said, ‘The what?’ I’d never heard the word; I had no idea what he was talking about. That was a period of history and an event that had escaped me.

The War of the Vendee (1793 to 1796) was an armed rebellion against the French Republican troops which resulted in a general massacre of over 100,000 Catholics – men, women and children – in the west of France.  As an early modern example of revisionist history, this shocking genocide was completely whitewashed from French history, and in fact until recently denied by the French government.


 Jim clarified how, despite the horrific efforts of the Infernal Columns to wipe out resistance to the Revolution and to eliminate the Catholic population, the Vendean soldiers conducted themselves with dignity and honor.
“The architects of the French Revolution knew exactly what their generals were doing, as proved by documentation which still exists in the National Archives.” Though they fought with cunning and used their knowledge of the land to their advantage, the Vendeans also treated captured Republican soldiers humanely, even when this was difficult.

On one occasion, when his soldiers wanted to exact revenge against Republican prisoners, Louis d’Elbée urged them to recite the Our Father. At the words, “forgive us our trespasses,” the Vendeans’ anger dissipated and they abandoned their plans for retribution.

Later, on his deathbed, Vendee commander Charles de Bonchamps pardoned five thousand captured Republicans. This act was commemorated by a statue designed by the French sculptor Pierre Jean David, whose father was among the pardoned.

The sacrifice of these Vendeans ensured the survival of the Faith in France. (Read more.)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Angels in the Garden

From Regina Magazine:
MASSIVE PAINTING BY BASTIEN LE PAGE captures the moment in May 1428, when Joan’s voices became insistent and urgent. Joan traveled to the Dauphin’s residence at Chinon and on March 8, 1429, she was granted an audience. To test her, Charles disguised himself as one of his courtiers, but Joan quickly recognized him and, by a sign known only to them, she convinced Charles of her purpose.

Her Brilliant Military Career

Before his ministers were willing to trust her, they sent Joan to Poitiers to be questioned. After an extensive examination, the panel of theologians affirmed Joan’s integrity and that of her mission. Upon her return to court, Joan and her soldiers rode to the relief of Orléans under a new standard depicting a figure of God the Father, to whom two kneeling angels presented a fleur-de-lis, along with the words, “Jesus Maria.” The French broke through the English line and entered the city on April 29. By May 8, the English fort outside Orléans had been captured, and the siege raised. After several more victories, Joan urged the immediate coronation of the Dauphin. At Rheims, on July 17, 1429, Charles VII was duly crowned, Joan standing proudly behind him with her banner.

After a failed attempt on Paris by the French, both sides signed a truce that lasted the winter. This prevented Joan from taking advantage of the momentum she’d gained at Orléans and her subsequent victories. Throughout the winter, Joan was keen to return to battle and continue her mission. When hostilities renewed in the spring, she hurried to the relief of Compiègne, besieged by the Burgundians. Her attack on May 23, 1430 failed, and Joan was captured by one of John of Luxembourg’s soldiers and remained in Burgundian custody until autumn. (Read more.)

Author Dianne Ascroft Interviews Me

Canadian author Dianne Ascroft, who has written a great deal about Ireland, interviewed me the other day, as follows:
Tell us about your novel.

EMV: The Paradise Tree is a novel of beginnings and endings; it invokes the memory of Eden while simultaneously conjuring up the Apocalypse. This is because in most lives there is an era of innocence as well as moments in which death and judgment are encountered. I have taken the lives of one man and one woman, my great-great-great-grandparents, and looked at such eras and moments in the context of their experience as Irish immigrants in the harshness and beauty of 19th century Canada. I wanted to look at what elements, amid so many difficulties, built a strong marriage and a cohesive family unit. And what elements threatened to destroy them.

What prompted you to write about this historical event? 

EMV: My cousin, Mary O’Connor Kaiser, the great-great-granddaughter of Daniel and Brigit O’Connor, suggested it to me once when I was visiting Lost Bay Lake, not far from the old family homestead of Long Point. She began to share her research about our ancestors with me and one day we drove all over the region exploring the historical sites.

How closely did you stick to the historical facts? If you used them loosely, how did you decide whether to deviate from them?

EMV: I tried to stick to the chronology of the known events, such as births, deaths and weddings, as well as the building of houses. Anything for which I could find a scrap of recorded history in either a letter, a memoir, or a legal document, I included in the novel and built the story around it.

What research did you do for this book? 

EMV: I consulted books of local history but mainly my research consisted in pulling together loose information from scattered family archives and legal records, whenever I had access to them. The bibliography in the back of the book lists my sources. I also relied on personal interviews with older relatives as well as visits to historic sites.

Do you use a mixture of historic figures and invented characters in the novel. Which is more difficult to write? Which to you prefer to write and why?

EMV: Almost every single character is historic, which is easier for me to write, because you usually have some tiny bit of evidence on which to build their persona.

In an historical novel you must vividly re-create a place and people in a bygone era. How did you bring the place and people you are writing about to life? 

EMV: I brought it to life by spending time in the area where the story takes place, and studying pictures of the way the area looked in the past. I also studied photos of the persons in the story, how they were dressed. And I read their letters.

There often seems to be more scope in historical novels for male characters rather than female characters. Do you prefer to write one sex or the other. And, if so, why?

EMV: I find it equally easy to write characters of either sex. It is not being male or female which makes the person a challenge to write but whether they are good or evil. I find it difficult to write from the point of view of characters who are sociopaths. It is a challenge for me not to make them into a caricature. (Read more.)

Remembering Carrie Buck

Eugenics come to America. To quote:
Carrie Buck, of the 1927 Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell, was born to poverty in 1906 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Her father soon abandoned the family, and her mother was institutionalized for “feeblemindedness” and promiscuity while Carrie was still young. Carrie was adopted by a foster family, and at eighteen she was raped and became pregnant. 
On grounds of her allegedly deficient intellect, her incorrigibility, and her promiscuity, her foster family had her committed, like her mother, to the “Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and the Feebleminded” near Lynchburg. She gave birth to a daughter, Vivian, who was also adopted by Carrie’s foster family. 

In that same year, 1924, the state legislature passed a law allowing the state to involuntarily sterilize the “unfit,” and the colony’s director, Dr. Albert Sydney Priddy, selected Carrie as the first patient to undergo the procedure. Opponents of the legislation filed a challenge, and the case made its way through the courts until it arrived at the Supreme Court in 1927.

Dr. Priddy had died in the meantime, leaving Dr. John Hendren Bell, his replacement as director, to continue the case. It was the heyday of the eugenics movement, and the ability to scientifically plan the transmission of genes from generation to generation, in order to improve the genetic makeup of society, was understood to be a boon to society. “Three generations of imbeciles is enough,” wrote Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in the majority opinion. The court ruled in favor of Bell, and against Buck, 8-1.
The single dissenting vote came from Justice Pierce Butler, a committed Catholic. Before the case had been decided, Holmes had worried, “Butler knows this is good law; I wonder whether he will have the courage to vote with us in spite of his religion.” (Read more.)

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Peace Portrait

From All Things Robert Dudley:
One of the most beautiful portraits of Elizabeth I is the so-called Peace Portrait, and it has long been associated with the Earl of Leicester. The queen, symbolizing the goddess of peace, Pax, holds an olive branch and stands on top of the sword of justice. The noted antiquarian and topographer, David Lysons, wrote in his Environs of London (1796) that the buildings seen in the picture’s background were part of the gardens of the old Wanstead Hall, the Essex house bought by Leicester in 1577, but replaced by a Palladian monstrosity in the early 18th century.

The portrait is known by its signature and style to be the work of Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder, a Flemish Protestant master who sought temporary refuge in England, but was resident in Antwerp between 1577 and 1586. However, he was back in London by August 1586, when he stood godfather to a child of his wife’s uncle, the merchant-intellectual Emanuel van Meteren. By the costumes, the Peace portrait has been dated to around 1580–1585; but it could have been painted later.


Next to the sword of justice a lap-dog is seen in the picture, an animal occuring very rarely in depictions of Elizabeth, Federico Zuccaro’s masterful drawing of the queen in 1575 being the only other coming to mind. This sketch is known to have been commissioned by Leicester, alongside a companion piece of his own figure in tilting armour. Both drawings, taken from life, were the basis for portraits in oil, now lost, but exhibited at the earl’s grand festivities at Kenilworth in 1575.

A little dog in a painting commissioned by Robert Dudley would certainly make sense. It might have alluded to an incident between the queen and Leicester, witnessed by the French ambassador de Foix in 1566: Catherine de Medici had heard that the English earl would like to make a voyage through France, and since she hoped for his support in thwarting a Habsburg match for Elizabeth she sent him a gracious invitation. De Foix delivered the letter in Elizabeth’s presence, assuming she knew about Leicester’s travelling wishes. Of course, Leicester had not dared to tell her, nor was Elizabeth thrilled at the prospect of having to forbear his company. Her reply to her favourite was sharp: “I cannot live without seeing you every day. You are like my little dog. As soon as he is seen anywhere, people know that I am coming, and when you are seen, they say I am not far off.”3 (Read more.)