Thursday, March 31, 2022

The Cressy Hall Topiary

From Country Life:

It is remarkable these days to come across an extraordinary garden that has not been splashed across the pages of the garden press. Even more so when it rises like a luxuriant oasis on the otherwise flat, watery and largely treeless landscape of the fens of South Holland in Lincolnshire.

The nine-acre pleasure grounds of Cressy Hall, nestled in a dense woodland plantation on the north-eastern skirts of the village of Gosberton, have miraculously remained a well-kept secret. Although it is full of surprises, with lime allées and eye-catchers, the garden’s crowning glory is its display of geometric topiaries.

It was not always thus. When Michael Hill and his wife, artist Janey Hill, acquired the property in 1990, its late-Georgian house sat isolated amid the open fields of the fenlands. Cressy Hall is an unusually refined house for the area, with its fine brickwork and flanking pavilions, but the grounds were, in the Hills’ own words, in ‘poor condition’ and ‘quite boring’, and the views over the encompassing arable fields and dykes ‘unremarkable’.

The early-medieval and 17th-century houses that preceded the present dwelling, however, appear to have had quite ambitious ornamental gardens, of which traces survived, including ancient earthworks, the remains of a medieval moat, a late-17th-century water garden, a stretch of decayed garden wall and a ha-ha. These relict features would provide the Hills with a useful framework.

He has always liked topiary, but Mr Hill is, by his own admission, neither a gardener, nor terribly interested in horticulture. His achievements at Cressy, however, reveal that he is an imaginative designer, an accomplished topiarian and a patient improver. (Read more.)


Rules of Etiquette for Southerners

 From Southern Living:

Never chew with your mouth open or talk with your mouth full. Do. Not. Smack.

Take off your hat or cap in the house, especially when eating or when a lady is present. Don't even think about coming near Mama in her house with that thing on your head. Not if you want to keep it. And we'll leave it to you to decide whether "it" refers to your hat or your head.

Elbows off the table.

Don't sing or whistle at the table.

Don't talk about unpleasantries at the table.

No cell phones at the table, in church, at the cemetery, or anywhere near Memaw. She hates those things.

Surely that stack of paper plates you just plopped down on the serving table aren't for takeout supper, prepared free of charge by your host. Surely, surely not. (Read more.)


Fingal’s Cave

 From Ancient Origins:

This sea cave has been able to draw tourists to the deserted island for several reasons. Apart from being a geological marvel, Fingal’s Cave is also an important site in Irish legends. Another of the cave’s claims to fame is that, despite being in an uninhabited part of the world, it has been visited by a number of well-known figures over the centuries, and it even served as the inspiration for a concert overture. Fingal’s Cave has a height of about 22 m (72.18 ft.) and a depth of about 82 m (269.03 ft.). It has been speculated that Fingal’s Cave is over 50 million years old. As the island of Staffa is situated in an area of volcanic activity , Fingal’s Cave was created by lava flow. The cave is made up of three layers. The base consists of a layer of tuff and the top is composed of a layer of basaltic lava lacking a crystalline structure. In between these two layers are interlocking colonnades (perhaps as many as 40,000) of black fine-grained Tertiary basalt. (Read more.)


Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Eleanor of Aquitaine in Command


From History Hit:

But to England, Eleanor was simply ‘the Queen’ – and she resumed that role seamlessly. Her first task was to prepare the country to welcome the stranger who was their new king. Eleanor focused on undoing some of Henry’s most unpopular actions, all in Richard’s name, and ruthlessly playing on her emotional capital. When she released a bunch of prisoners, a statement was made that personally understood the troubles of those imprisoned – a touch worthy of a modern PR adviser. A glorious coronation was planned, music composed at Eleanor’s command to proclaim Richard as the King who would welcome an era of peace and prosperity. Her popularity is well evidenced by the fact that the planned exclusion of women from the coronation was relaxed in her favour ‘at the request of the nobles of England’.

Yet this initial flurry was a gentle start to the industrious and challenging period of Eleanor’s golden years. When Richard was due to depart on the Third Crusade, Eleanor was left in charge of the country – again not as Regent, but as ‘the Queen’. Yet she was too important to leave in one place – Eleanor was also needed to reconcile Richard to her youngest son John. It was at her insistence that John (the only other member of the family with a real link to England) was not barred from the country. (Read more.)


St. Joseph: The Model of Manhood

 From The Catholic Gentleman:

Why did God choose St. Joseph? Of all the thousands of Jewish men, many of whom no doubt were righteous, why was a humble carpenter chosen for the task of being the earthly father of the Savior? The answer is simple: God knew St. Joseph would immediately do anything that was asked of him, no matter how difficult.

The saints agree that conformity to the will of God through prompt obedience is one of the surest paths to holiness. St. Joseph exemplified this virtue, and a perfect example is the flight into Egypt. The angel of the Lord appeared to St. Joseph in a dream, warning him of the danger that was coming. Scripture then tells us that, “When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt.” Did you catch that? The minute he woke up, he obeyed. He didn’t let fear of uncertainty paralyze him, he didn’t spend weeks planning, and he didn’t save up some money first. He took Jesus and Mary and left for Egypt, entrusting his family to the providence of God. That is prompt obedience, and that is why  St. Joseph was entrusted with the greatest responsibility ever given to a man. (Read more.)


Talking Animals - What Do They Know?

 From The Prairie Reader:

Speaking for those of us who are pet owners, it often seems like our pets are trying to tell us something. That pensive look they give us at dinner time or when it appears that they see something we can’t or a strange noise is heard. Their seeming desire to speak can be especially spooky when it occurs in the dark of night. What could be waiting for us in the other room or under the bed? If only they could talk, it might clear up such mysteries. However, some animals actually do talk, at least in the books we love to read. Here are some examples of stories that show friendly animal characters and sometimes some that are not so friendly.


Lewis Carroll takes us on a trip in his book, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” along with his heroine Alice. Published in 1865, Alice deals with many strange people and creatures. One well known character is the very recognizable Cheshire Cat. This smug cat got his start in 1788, long before Carroll’s book was published, by appearing in a collection of slang words amassed by a Militia Captain who scoured the London slums during his idle hours. Later, the captain published his collection under the title “A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.”


Alice’s version relates to a cat that waxes philosophically at times and can appear out of thin air and also disappear in the same way leaving with his head last followed by his well known grin. The Queen of Wonderland, being an evil type, is always demanding “Off with their head” everytime she becomes disenchanted with one of her subjects. One mystery that she seeks to resolve is “can a disembodied head be beheaded?” Good question.

“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” (1900) by L. Frank Baum brings to life a talking lion who travels with a lost young girl named Dorothy and two other characters to the city of Oz. This lion is expected to be brave, powerful and courageous but, is instead, fearful of the world around him. By the end of the book he has proved himself to have gained all of these missing traits by being a good and helpful friend to Dorothy and her companions. (Read more.)


Tuesday, March 29, 2022

The Essential Bar

 From Chartreuse and Company:

I love cocktails. I love crafting and experimenting with new flavors and alcohols. I’m enough of a snob that if I mix one, and it’s not up to snuff, I’ll pour it out and start over. The mixing is half the fun, and why waste the calories (and alcohol consumption) on less-than-excellent drinks?

As the weather changes, and starts to bring us back inside, you’ll want to up your bar game indoors. When guests visit, when you’re prepping dinner, any time, it’s good to have a well-stocked bar ready. While some homes (and budgets) can accommodate a dedicated, plumbed bar, most of us need to find a convenient – and attractive – spot to house our bar.

In addition to cocktails, I love home decor magazines, and while perusing House Beautiful online, I came upon a great article full of inspiration for tucking a bar into almost any sized spot in your home. The decorator, inspo pictures are from House Beautiful (except for the picture of my kitchen bar here at home), but I just love the ideas and wanted to share them with you (and some great options, if you want to create one of your own)...(Read more.)


Be Temperate Toward Material Things

 From Finer Femininity:

Ill-regulated love of material things can be the cause of much trouble, unhappiness, and downright misery in the home. Your attitude toward money can be a source of great friction if it is not well ordered.

Two extremes are to be avoided: miserliness and prodigality.

A miser lives in some comfort, but has to struggle mightily with himself to give away even a small sum. A spendthrift is one who foolishly, wastefully, and usually selfishly squanders money, whether he happens to possess little or much.

Today there is a craze for buying on credit. A wife who cannot not see an expensive item for household use in a store without buying it can keep a man so loaded down with debt that he will find no joy in the use of these unpaid-for luxuries.

When a wife is foolish and childish in handling money, it would be prudent for a husband not to let her have any money at all. But such cases are rare.

The other extreme is intolerable miserliness. The principle is: “I pay as I go.” Some men not only refuse to incur debts, but strive for a bank account ten times greater than the cost of anything their wives want to buy.

A little debt can be a good thing: it keeps both spouses striving and working together; whereas, without it, there is less incentive to cooperate and sacrifice. But that means a reasonable amount of debt.

A sensible wife will accept limitations on her desire for new things, and at the same time a sensible husband will be willing to incur a reasonable debt.

Miserliness is not in accord with the honesty and sincerity you owe your family. If you are the father of a family, your first obligation is to provide the economic necessities for your wife and children. You are to be the breadwinner of the family, and you should not expect your wife to neglect your home and children for the sake of extra income unless extraordinary circumstances indicate a real need.

A mother’s job is to keep up a good home and raise her children properly. Greed or selfishness should not induce her to neglect these tasks for the sake of the additional income she can earn from a job outside the home.

In marriage you entered into the closest possible partnership with each other. The result of this partnership is that you are bound to share not only those faculties that are involved in the procreation of children, but other things as well, such as material possessions.

The free use of material things is one of the greatest joys of ownership. If you, as a husband, deprive your wife of that joy, you are not sharing in the full sense of the word. The fact that you pay the bills does not mean that you are sharing these things completely.

Do not be a party to some of the abuses practiced by some “money-pinching” husbands. Do not keep from your wife the actual amount of your income or refuse to let her have a word to say about money matters, with the result that she has no idea how to buy for the present or to plan for the future.

She has a right to know exactly how much you are earning, and she should be taken into your counsels on the economic planning for the home. Business dealings and other arrangements that affect the welfare of your home should be common knowledge.

Neither of you should ever contract a personal debt without first talking it over with the other and reaching an agreement.

A wise wife is satisfied with giving her honest opinion. The final decision rests with her husband, who is the head of the home, even as Christ is the head of the Church.

Do not imitate the practice of some husbands who give their wives just barely enough to provide necessities for the home, for herself, and for the children.

Your wife should be a sharer of your income, not an unsalaried servant, held to account count for every penny she spends. Some husbands spend freely on their own amusements but cannot afford recreation money for their wives and children. (Read more.)


Where is Cleopatra’s Tomb?

 From Historical Eve:

The tomb of the last queen of Egypt, Cleopatra, has long been a mystery to archaeologists.

Despite the great fame of the legendary queen of ancient Egypt, immortalized for thousands of years as a beautiful seductress, her tomb is one of the great unsolved mysteries of archeology. Cleopatra was the greatest woman of an age and one of the most iconic figures in the ancient world.

Some believe that she was buried in Alexandria, where she was born and ruled from her royal palace, a city decimated by the 365 AD tsunami.

Others suggest that her final resting place could be some 50 kilometers away, in the ancient temple of Taposiris Magna, built by her Ptolemaic ancestors in the Nile Delta.

In 2020, two mummies of high-status individuals, who were contemporaries of Cleopatra, were discovered in Taposiris Magna, as they were originally completely covered with gold leaf, a luxury that could only be allow those who belonged to the highest echelons of society.

The mummies were radiographed, establishing that they were female and male. They could be priests who played a key role in maintaining the power of the pharaohs. One carries an image of a scarab, symbolizing rebirth, painted in gold leaf.

Although Cleopatra was the last of this dynasty to rule the Ptolemaic kingdom in Egypt for almost three centuries, not a single tomb of any Ptolemaic pharaoh has been found.

In the place of the altar of the temple (Taposiris Magna), where the priests would have made offerings to the gods, 200 coins with the name of Cleopatra and her face have been discovered.

This find directly links the queen of Egypt to Taposiris Magna and reveals a strong image of the queen on these coins, appearing with a prominent nose and double chin, not like the classic beauties about her that have been immortalized in movies. (Read more.)


Monday, March 28, 2022

Twitter Jail and Henrietta Maria


 So there I was getting ready to call my friend Connor for an interview on Plotlines and suddenly I realized I was banned from Twitter. I had no idea why and the reason they gave was "hateful conduct." I could not recall being hateful towards anyone. At the moment, it was extremely inconvenient, since Twitter mail was where the Zoom link to contact Connor could be found. I checked my regular mail and found enough of the contact info in an email, so the show could go on. We had a great conversation. I later discovered that I had been banned for using a male pronoun for a biological male who is now referred to as a female.

Anyway, I hope everyone enjoys the interview.


The Western Reinvented. Again.

I actually thought The Power of the Dog was an excellent film, and not so much about a gay cowboy as about a brave young man who uses his intelligence to protect his mother from a bully. From Quillette:

Violent psychopaths are a mainstay of Old West fiction. The directors of classic Westerns like John Ford and Anthony Mann filled their films with morally ambivalent characters. Some reviewers seem to think that The Sisters Brothers is revolutionary simply because it treats the Old West with humor and irreverence, which suggests that they’ve never read Charles Portis’s True Grit, or Thomas Berger’s Little Big Man, or Darryl Ponicsan’s Tom Mix Died For Your Sins, or Clair Huffaker’s Flap, or, for that matter, any cowboy poetry.

In 2021, Tom Lin, a graduate student at UC Davis, published his first novel, The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu. In an interview for the Big Thrill website, Lin said, “The idea for the book came to me as a one-line pitch, intense and inchoate: a Western, except the protagonist is Chinese American.” In an interview with UCDavis magazine entitled “Reimagining the Outlaw,” Lin added, “I think the Western as a genre is so powerfully integrated with the United States and cultural concepts of Americanness. I decided to lean into it and see how the myth-making machine of the Western genre might be repurposed.”

Lin was born in Beijing in 1996, so he can be forgiven for the assumption that this is a new idea. Baby Boomers will recall the same concept from the TV series Kung Fu, which starred David Carradine and ran from 1972 to 1975, for a total of 63 episodes. It inspired several feature films and TV series re-boots, as well as a handful of tie-in novels. But even in the 1970s, this concept was not new. Asian characters, and even Asian protagonists, had been showing up in Western novels for years. One of the best-executed novels dealing with this theme is The Land of the Golden Mountain, published in 1967 and written by C.Y. Lee, better known for his novel, The Flower Drum Song, which became a Broadway (and then a Hollywood) musical. The Land of the Golden Mountain is the tale of a young Chinese woman who comes to California as an indentured servant during the Gold Rush era. She has to disguise herself as a boy to avoid sexual harassment. But even while she is passing as a boy, she attracts her share of sexual interest from other men—further evidence that the Western novel was dealing with race and gender issues long before anyone felt the need to repurpose it.

A nearly identical set-up gets a more frank treatment in Gillian Stone’s 1980 Western novel, also entitled Land of Golden Mountains (the Chinese referred to America by that name, so it appears in the titles of several novels about Chinese immigrants to the US). Li-Li, the protagonist of Stone’s novel, also comes to California during the Gold Rush, but she doesn’t hide her femininity and ends up employed in a brothel. Ching Yun Bezine’s excellent 1991 novel, Children of the Pearl, tells a similar tale about a group of Chinese indentured servants who come to California in 1911 and are forced to make their way in a hostile environment not much different from the one that awaited earlier arrivals. One of them ends up working as a prostitute. Sex work has long been a factor in Western fiction (one of the main characters in the long-running Western TV series Gunsmoke is a former prostitute). Red Lights on the Prairie, James H. Gray’s 1971 exploration of sex workers in the Old West, was published as a mass market paperback by Signet and sold on the same supermarket spinner racks as the works of Louis L’Amour and Elmore Leonard. The Asian-immigrant-comes-West theme existed long before anyone ever thought of re-inventing the Western. (Read more.)


The Two Camps of Crime

 From CrimeReads:

Christie’s DNA has its source in Poe’s “stories of ratiocination,” and seminally in the character of his Inspector Dupin, who through a detached and cool contemplation works the case of “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.”  Out of the incomprehensible facts, which on the surface would seem to the reader “impossible” to explain, Dupin solves the puzzle.  He puts the world right again, here resolving for the reader the tension created in the otherwise inexplicable.  He makes sense out of non-sense, thus satisfying a fundamental drive all readers share, which is to comprehend the larger meaning of the facts of any story.  Writers in Christie’s camp most assiduously develop a “noetic thread,” and to an exact and ultimate meaning.  Christie, in the bulk of her narratives (there were thirty-three Poirots), first introduces the reader to a group of individuals forced by circumstances to close interaction, most of these individuals variations of types.  A murder, or murders, take place (“Murder becomes a habit,” says her sleuth, Poirot).  As written, any of the individuals in Christie’s dramas could have committed the murder, or then—murders.  Christie brings her sleuth in late (in person, or in action) and only after the reader is thoroughly flummoxed by her cast of murder-motivated suspects.  Following an engaged consideration of all the “facts” of the case through her sleuth, the murderer is revealed—even when he or she—or it—is as preposterous as an orangutan (as in Poe’s  “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”).

It is most instructive to note that the first murderer in the lineage of ratiocination is an absurdity.

And why is this important?  Because, even granted the plot is ridiculous—an orangutan, having escaped its seaman owner, enters an apartment via the chimney and kills the apartment’s two occupants—and beyond unlikely—the story still delivers its pleasures.  Through it, the reader is transported, however briefly, into the rarified air of mystery and murder.

How could the murderer have gained entrance to the apartment when the doors and windows were locked? the reader is compelled to ask.  Why was this murder committed?  And by whom? (Read more.)


Sunday, March 27, 2022

Chartreuse is a New Neutral

 So is pink, in my opinion. From Emily Henderson:

“I have a brass canopy bed. Chartreuse walls look beautiful with it,” said Patricia. “You could add lilac/mauve/violet/chartreuse/cerulean/cognac/yellow curtains, accessories or wall color, bedding or rugs,” said Mouseface (and while I wish I had created this highly-descriptive portmanteau, the credit belongs to the commenter in question). Chartreuse, huh? I started poking around the internet and landed on one image in particular that really made my heart skip a beat…(Read more.)

Of course, my friend Virginia built a business around the color chartreuse


Sylvia Plath, 1950s Psychiatry, and Confessional Poets

 From Literary Hub:

Before I wrote my first book, I was a licensed psychotherapist. I wound up doing some postgraduate work at a Northern California mental hospital. (Coincidentally, it was the same mental hospital where Ken Kesey worked when the experience inspired him to write One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.) When you walked into the mental ward, there was a waiting room and a little kiosk with used books. I noticed one day that The Bell Jar was in it.

I’d read the novel by Sylvia Plath when I was younger. I can’t exactly remember when I read it—I guess in some ways it’s always just been there in my psyche. But this time, as I reread it, I realized that this semi-autobiographical novel was so much more than just the story of a young girl hospitalized for manic depression; it was also telling a parallel story of the birth of a radical literary movement known as Confessional Poetry.

Like Sylvia, the mainstays of this poetry movement—poets like Robert Lowell and Anne Sexton—were diagnosed with manic depression and subsequently hospitalized. In the late 50s and early 1960s, they all found themselves in Boston, Massachusetts, writing poetry that was raw and honest about subjects that were, at that time, totally taboo. I wanted to tell this story. (Read more.)

Margaret Beaufort Maligned

 From Royal History Geeks:

No one expects historical fiction to be completely accurate.  Or at least, they shouldn’t.

But the ‘Spanish Princess’, now in its second season, has crossed a line. 

Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII and grandmother of Henry VIII, is one of England’s most fascinating figures.  In her own time she was revered and respected.  Those that have really studied her are fascinated by her courage, conviction and compassion.  But historical fiction continues to muddy her name.

In both ‘the White Queen’ and the ‘White Princess’ – the predecessors to the ‘Spanish Princess’ – she is presented unfavourably.  I don’t agree with either presentation.  But I recognise that script writers must be allowed to make creative choices.

But in the ‘Spanish Princess’ it has reached new levels.  Margaret is depicted as the pantomime baddie, the orchestrator of every horrible event.  This is not just a case of rearranging events to fit the narrative.  They have placed her at the heart of crimes that we can prove she had nothing to do with.

Here are just five of the most noteworthy distortions. (Read more.)


Also from Royal History Geeks:

We will never know Margaret’s inner feelings during the wars of the roses.  But we can have a pretty good guess. The Beaufort cause was intrinsically tied up with that of the house of Lancaster.  They were close kin and the Beauforts had been the most stringent supporters of their mainline cousins.  Margaret’s sympathies almost certainly lay with her Beaufort cousins and Lancastrian kin.

When Margaret did rise to power, as the mother of the King, she celebrated the memory of Henry VI and campaigned for him to be recognised as a saint.  This might, in part, have been an attempt to emphasise her Lancastrian heritage and build credibility for the new Tudor regime.  But it was more than that.  Margaret had likely always been a great supporter of the pious King.  She would have extended that loyalty to his son.  Not seen her own boy as a rival. (Read more.)


Saturday, March 26, 2022

Curiosities, Ink

An interview with an innovative young shopkeeper, Katherine Crum. From Chartreuse and Company:

At the top of the stairs, just to your left (make a U-turn), you’ll find tucked under the eaves a quietly evocative shop, Curiosities, Ink. Created and owned by Katherine Crum, this moody, romantic niche blends a passion for ancient history, mythology, and the written word into a fascinating collection of jewelry, books, and objects.

Here’s a little of what Katherine has to say about her venture:

Chartreuse & co: So, Katherine, who, or what, inspired you most as you developed your style? 

Katherine Crum: Stories, largely, I suppose. When I was a child, my mother used to read to my sister and me before bed every night — Greek mythologies, the Narnia series, Arthurian legends, the Prydain novels — anything to stimulate a young mind. Nightly conjuring up these worlds of enchantment, of rich color and verve, the world bloomed into something far more vast and uncanny and grand than the childish existence that characterized our days. These stories combined with my early immersion in all things design-worthy were the biggest influences on Curiosities, Ink’s style.  In a lot of ways, I like to think of Curiosities as the merging of Old World legends with the drape of time — looking backward from the spot we now occupy.  I like to think of figures like Morgan le Fey: cloaked in the bulwark of medieval majesty, yet steeped in the ethereal potency of ancient myth.  Like the Arthurian figure, bringing together two different moods oftentimes results in one that’s greater than either alone.

Chartreuse & co: Wow! Just listening to that draws so many visual references! We’re seeing your style evolve as you create your shop here at Chartreuse, how would you describe your style?

Katherine Crum: My grandmother has always said that I’m an old soul. I can’t speak to that, but I do love the interplay of time’s striations — characterful, curvatious antique items (the more worn, the better!) breathlessly attended by a sleek, modern piece — but what draws me even more are those things which are ageless: natural elements appeal to me, as do the timeless works of art and literature which set the human race apart.  Gnarled branches, gilding, ribbed vaults, aged parchment, and tracery all excite me. Mingle these Gothic elements with sleek marble, metal, glass — elements of modern decor — and reveal spontaneous style and inspiration!  I love all things which are crafted by human hands and hearts, particularly those with a reverence for the past and a healthy appetite for the future.  My theory is that accessorizing your home is all about setting the stage for the life you wish to lead.  Fill it with the things you love, the things that excite you, the things that inspire you, and seize the opportunities that come your way.

Chartreuse & co: We couldn’t agree more with that sentiment! So, this brings us to an obvious question: How did you get into this business?  

Katherine Crum: Both my mother and my grandmother, before her, were in the home decor business.  I grew up in and around antique stores, exploring the exquisite remains of the past: picturing the other fingers that had touched them, the other places they had seen, the voices they had heard, the epochs they had witnessed.  For me, the curiosities of each and every object spoke loudly and naturally in wonder, echoed from my mother and grandmother.  Since the time I was old enough, I’ve worked alongside my mother, learning from her about this business, until at last the time was right to jump in, myself, and bring Curiosities to you. (Read more.)

A Theology of Fiction

 I love how First Things either ignores, or is ignorant of, most current Catholic fiction writers. I wonder if many fine Catholic fiction writers are not well-known because they have been ignored by Catholic publications like First Things. I have to confess that I never heard of Sr. Mariella, who sounds wonderful. Or any of the authors listed below, except Gioia. From First Things:

 A spirited debate has been going on for nearly a decade now, much of it in these pages, about the apparent dearth of religious ideas in recent American fiction. Because many of the interlocutors—among the most prominent are Paul Elie, Randy Boyagoda, Dana Gioia, and Gregory Wolfe—are Catholic, particular concern has been devoted to the role of Catholicism in contemporary literature. Where has faith in fiction gone? Have institutional barriers in MFA programs and publishing houses played a role in its disappearance? Is the problem that we lack Catholic voices in American letters, or that we too often fail to notice the ones we have? But no one has yet asked the logically prior question: Where did Catholic literary fiction come from in the first place?

One answer is astonishingly straightforward. At least some portion of the ­mid-twentieth-century Catholic literary boom in the United States can be attributed to the determined efforts of a single Benedictine nun.

Sr. Mariella Gable seems to have been forgotten now, at least outside of the College of St. Benedict, the small liberal arts college in Minnesota where she taught (with one four-year gap) from 1928 to 1973. But in the 1940s and 1950s, she was well known in Catholic circles as a sometimes-controversial teacher, editor, and critic. In her reviews and anthologies, Sr. Mariella helped to establish the careers of two writers who would go on to become household names in Catholic fiction: J. F. Powers, winner of the National Book Award for his novel Morte D’Urban in 1963, and Flannery O’Connor, who needs no introduction. She also brought stories by several Irish writers—including Mary Lavin, Bryan MacMahon, Frank O’Connor, and Seán Ó Faoláin—to American audiences for the first time.

Beyond championing individual writers, Sr. Mariella sought to raise the standards of Catholic fiction generally (she cites T. S. Eliot approvingly on this subject: “The greatness of literature cannot be determined solely by literary standards; though we must remember that whether it is literature or not can be determined only by literary standards”) and to broaden the definition of what could be considered “Catholic fiction” in the first place. Both efforts put her in the crosshairs of other Catholics, and the series of controversies that dogged her most productive years was likely a cause of the relative obscurity in which she dwells today.

But Sr. Mariella is worth remembering. Her often scathing indictment of early-twentieth-century Catholic fiction gives context and depth to the story of Catholic letters in this country. Her definitions of Catholic fiction, at once precise and capacious, could do much to clarify current debates. And her sharp-eyed criticism—which aimed at times to describe a form of fiction she felt was desperately needed but did not yet exist—opens up new vistas to those searching for faith in fiction today. (Read more.)


The True Age of Catherine Howard

 From Royal History Geeks:

In recent years, historians have feared that Catherine Howard was just 15 years old when she married the aged Henry VIII.  But according to the Tudor Queen’s most recent biographer, robust evidence places her year of birth earlier than has recently been assumed.

In 1527, Isabel Worsley left a modest bequest of 20 shillings to her young granddaughter, Catherine Howard.  She could never have fathomed that this little gift would form the basis of an academic debate 500 years’ later. 

Like all of Henry VIII’s English wives, the year of Catherine Howard’s birth is shrouded in mystery. 

Baptismal records were not systematically kept.  Though Catherine was born into a great family, she was firmly on its fringes.  Few could have predicted that her date of birth would ever be a source of interest to future generations.

Mercifully, a handful of clues survive.  In the will of John Leigh, Catherine’s step-grandfather, the future Queen is not mentioned.  Scholars have traditionally dated this document to 1524.  Yet, just three years later, Isabel’s will gave due mention to both Catherine and a little sister.

Many have assumed that Catherine must have made her debut between the drafting of these two documents.  Given that she had to arrive with time to spare for a baby sister, 1525 leaps out as the most logical choice.

This conclusion matters.  It makes Catherine just 15 when she married the 49-year-old Henry and became Queen of England.  Phrases like “child bride” or “abusive marriage” may be anachronistic.  But they would not be entirely inaccurate.

It’s a horrifying conclusion.  But is it the right one?

According to historian Gareth Russell, Catherine’s most recent biographer, there is more to this debate than meets the eye.

“The idea that Catherine was born in 1525 is based on a misreading of her grandparents’ wills,” Gareth explains.  “It’s an understandable mistake.  But it is unambiguously a mistake.” (Read more.)


Friday, March 25, 2022

Why did Our Lady of Fatima Mention Russia?

Let us remember that when Our Lady appeared in 1917, "the Ukraine" was part of Russia as one of the Tsar's dominions. Tsar Nicholas II abdicated on March 15, 1917. He returned to Tsarskoe Seloe where his children were recovering from measles. The family began to pray the Akathist hymn to Our Lady every day. In less than two months, on May 13, Our Lady appeared at Fatima. On July 13, 1917, Our Lady revealed the three secrets, including the request for the Pope to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. A year and three days later, the Russian Imperial family were murdered in Ekaterinburg. From Aleteia:

During World War I, the people of Russia were starving and their economy was in shambles. Their army was no match for Germany and led to enormous casualties. This increased animosity towards the government and a desire for a solution.

Rioting erupted in Russia, including what is now called the “February Revolution” (Russia at the time used the Julian Calendar). It took place on March 8, 1917, and led to the abdication of Czar Nicholas II on March 15, 1917.

It was the beginning of an even greater movement, as it facilitated Vladimir Lenin‘s rise to power. Lenin was a disciple of Karl Marx and was ready to introduce his own version of Marxism in Russia, beginning with a socialist revolution.

His version of communism would devastate Russia for decades to come and would spread to many other countries throughout the world.

For example, in 1921 China adopted communism, directly influenced by the revolution that occurred in Russia.

When Our Lady of Fatima appeared on May 13, 1917, the world was aware of the February Revolution, but not of the communist rise to power that would grip the world.

It wasn’t until Our Lady appeared on July 13, 1917, that she spoke to the children at Fatima about Russia.

To prevent [another World War], I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and the Communion of reparation on the first Saturdays.

If people attend to my requests, Russia will be converted and the world will have peace. If not, she [Russia] will scatter her errors throughout the world, provoking wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, and various nations will be destroyed.

In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me; it will be converted, and a certain period of peace will be granted to the world. In Portugal the dogmas of the Faith will always be kept.”

The little children at Fatima could have never thought of the damage the Russian government and its communist philosophy could inflict upon the world.

Yet, that is exactly what happened as World War II shattered lives and ushered in a new reign of terror under the Soviet Union. (Read more.)

The text of the Consecration which will be made today is HERE.

The Russian Imperial Family

Prayer is not magic. A consecration is not a magical spell. Our Lady is a mother, not a high school algebra teacher. Russia is finally going to be mentioned by name in a consecration to the Immaculate Heart. Let us the Church militant, united with the Church triumphant and Church suffering, pray for a shower of grace upon the world. Once the prophet Elias prayed for rain to end Israel's drought, and the rain came.


Everything is Broken

 From Tablet:

The reigning aesthetic of the 20th century was modernism, which articulated in one word the values of the industrial revolution. Modernism and the Machine Age brought with them their own features: Anti-classicalism; anti-Victorianism; the power of science; the absence of filigree; an emphasis on the future over the past, and the valorization of machine production and engineering as the highest forms of human creativity. This new aesthetic soon began to transform all parts of cultural and material existence, from visual art and poetry to fashion and the built environment.

Starting in the second decade of the 1900s, certain Communists began seeing in modernism a potential advertisement for the values of a mass society of industrial workers laboring under the direction of a small group of engineers. In other words, this aesthetic—which whole swaths of the Western world were already in the process of quickly adopting—could also be the perfect delivery mechanism for their political ideology.

One hundred years later, we find ourselves in the middle of a similar cultural and political struggle.

Today’s revolution has been defined by a set of very specific values: boundarylessness; speed; universal accessibility; an allergy to hierarchy, so much so that the weighting or preferring of some voices or products over others is seen as illegitimate; seeing one’s own words and face reflected back as part of a larger current; a commitment to gratification at the push of a button; equality of access to commodified experiences as the right of every human being on Earth; the idea that all choices can and should be made instantaneously, and that the choices made by the majority in a given moment, on a given platform represent a larger democratic choice, which is therefore both true and good—until the next moment, on the next platform.

Here’s a description of the aesthetics of Silicon Valley (emphasis added):

It’s the realm of coffee shops, bars, startup offices, and co-live/work spaces that share the same hallmarks everywhere you go: a profusion of symbols of comfort and quality, at least to a certain connoisseurial mindset. Minimalist furniture. Craft beer and avocado toast. Reclaimed wood. Industrial lighting. Cortados. Fast internet. The homogeneity of these spaces means that traveling between them is frictionless, a value that Silicon Valley prizes and cultural influencers take advantage of. Changing places can be as painless as reloading a website. You might not even realize you’re not where you started.

“You might not even realize you’re not where you started.” The machines trained us to accept, even chase, this high. Once we accepted it, we turned from willful individuals into parts of a mass that could move, or be moved, anywhere. Once people accepted the idea of an app, you could get them to pay for dozens of them—if not more. You could get people to send thousands of dollars to strangers in other countries to stay in homes they’d never seen in cities they’d never visited. You could train them to order in food—most of their food, even all of their food—from restaurants that they’d never been to, based on recommendations from people they’d never met. You could get them to understand their social world not as consisting of people whose families and faces one knew, which was literally the definition of social life for hundreds of thousands of years, but rather as composed of people who belonged to categories—“also followed by,” “friends in common,” “BIPOC”—that didn’t even exist 15 years ago. You could create a culture in which it was normal to have sex with someone whose two-dimensional picture you saw on a phone, once.

You could, seemingly overnight, transform people’s views about anything—even everything.

The Obama administration could swiftly overturn the decision-making space in which Capitol Hill staff and newspaper reporters functioned so that Iran, a country that had killed thousands of Americans and consistently announces itself to be America’s greatest enemy, is now to be seen as inherently as trustworthy and desirable an ally as France or Germany. Flatness, frictionlessness.

The biological difference between the sexes, which had been a foundational assumption of medicine as well as of the feminist movement, was almost instantaneously replaced not only by the idea that there are numerous genders but that reference in medicine, law or popular culture to the existence of a gender binary is actually bigoted and abusive. Flatness.

Facebook’s longtime motto was, famously, “Move fast and break shit,” which is exactly what Silicon Valley enabled others to do.

The internet tycoons used the ideology of flatness to hoover up the value from local businesses, national retailers, the whole newspaper industry, etc.—and no one seemed to care. This heist—by which a small group of people, using the wiring of flatness, could transfer to themselves enormous assets without any political, legal or social pushback—enabled progressive activists and their oligarchic funders to pull off a heist of their own, using the same wiring. They seized on the fact that the entire world was already adapting to a life of practical flatness in order to push their ideology of political flatness—what they call social justice, but which has historically meant the transfer of enormous amounts of power and wealth to a select few.

Because this cohort insists on sameness and purity, they have turned the once-independent parts of the American cultural complex into a mutually validating pipeline for conformists with approved viewpoints—who then credential, promote and marry each other. A young Ivy League student gets A’s by parroting intersectional gospel, which in turn means that he is recommended by his professors for an entry-level job at a Washington think tank or publication that is also devoted to these ideas. His ability to widely promote those viewpoints on social media is likely to attract the approval of his next possible boss or the reader of his graduate school application or future mates. His success in clearing those bars will in turn open future opportunities for love and employment. Doing the opposite has an inverse effect, which is nearly impossible to avoid given how tightly this system is now woven. A person who is determined to forgo such worldly enticements—because they are especially smart, or rich, or stubborn—will see only examples of even more talented and accomplished people who have seen their careers crushed and reputations destroyed for daring to stick a toe over the ever multiplying maze of red lines.

So, instead of reflecting the diversity of a large country, these institutions have now been repurposed as instruments to instill and enforce the narrow and rigid agenda of one cohort of people, forbidding exploration or deviation—a regime that has ironically left homeless many, if not most, of the country’s best thinkers and creators. Anyone actually concerned with solving deep-rooted social and economic problems, or God forbid with creating something unique or beautiful—a process that is inevitably messy and often involves exploring heresies and making mistakes—will hit a wall. If they are young and remotely ambitious they will simply snuff out that part of themselves early on, strangling the voice that they know will get them in trouble before they’ve ever had the chance to really hear it sing. (Read more.)


The Fall of Númenor

 From Tolkien Gateway:

The first narrative of the Fall of Númenor is found right after The Lost Road manuscript is interrupted, and Christopher is quite sure that it was written in the same time.[1] Although it follows the outline, it is also full of corrections made at the time of composition and others for the second version.

The narrative begins telling the afterwards of the Great Battle: the Elves were called to Valinor and the Men who fought against Morgoth were given a great land in the middle of Belegaer, raised by Ossë, established by Aulë and enriched by Yavanna. The island was called Númenor (Westernesse), Andúnië (the Sunsetland), and later Atalantë (the Ruin); and its main city was Númar or Númenos. However, an early correction of the passage concerning the names explains that the Valar named it Andor (the Land of Gift), while the population called it Vinya (the Young) among them, and Númenor among the Men of Middle-earth, Andúnië being the chief city.[2]:19

There are no details about the history of Númenor til its Downfall, except describing how the Númenóreans were the greatest mariners, and that they explored all the seas, being so powerful that they were even confused for gods by the peoples of Middle-earth. They could navigate so far that they glimpsed the Gates of Morning in the East. Unlike the mature version, here it is told that they did visit Tol Eressëa, and even the kings could go beyond before their coronation. But the Gods forbade them to sail beyond the Isle, and although their lives were longer thanks to the closeness to Valinor, they murmured against this decree and tried to prolong their lives, and even sent spies to Valinor to know these secrets.

During the reign of Angor and his wife Istar, Sûr (called Thû by the Gnomes) came to Númenor in the likeness of a great bird and preached about the second coming of Morgoth. This coming did happen, but only in spirit, as a shadow upon the mind and heart, for Morgoth was expelled out of the World. The monarchs and most of the people believed Sûr, and a temple was built in the midst of the land, where Sûr dwelt. When Angor felt the oncoming of age, Sûr convinced him that the only way to obtain undying life was mastering the West. Therefore great fleets were made that sailed West without wind, surpassed Tol Eressëa and began the attack against Taniquetil.

After Manwë's prayer, Ilúvatar gave power to the Gods, who changed the shape of the World: Valinor was sundered from the earth and the Middle-earth was bent back and made into a globe. The whole fleet fell into the abyss, and the mortal warriors would lie in the Forgotten Caves until the Last Battle, but the king and the queen fell like stars into the darkness. Christopher notices that the rift that sinks the fleet, separating Valinor, seems to destroy Tol Eressëa, of which is said that "remained only as a shape of the past", but this is quite improbable.[2]:21

Númenor was destroyed, but a remnant of Númenóreans escaped the ruin, including those who still revered the Lords of the West and did not believe Sûr. In Middle-earth they became lords and kings, some were evil and others of good will, but all of them became obsessed with death, building better houses for the dead than for the living. Therefore the Old World became a place of tombs, and later Men began to bury their dead in ships and set them in pomp to the western seas, hoping their spirits could find the land of the Gods. However, the survivors kept trying to find the West, exploring all the seas and new lands, but they realised that the world was now round indeed. But knowing about the Straight Road, some built ships that could sail through the air, but even those failed and they tried to forget any legends about the Gods.

Nevertheless, some Númenóreans remained faithful and the old knowledge was preserved, knowing that the Fate of Men was beyond the roundness of the World and the Straight Path. And they always fought against the shadow and Thû, destroying his temples. The lands inhabited by those Númenóreans and the Elves were still called Beleriand, and their king was Amroth, who allied with Elrond and fought Thû. Amroth died fighting against him, but Thû was defeated and hid himself in a dark forest. But this war hastened the fading of the Eldar and their place in the world came to an end. (Read more.)


Thursday, March 24, 2022

Mapping the English Civil War

 From History Hit:

What’s in a name? The title of the wars is, in itself, a misnomer. Between 1642 and 1651 there were in fact three English Civil Wars which raged across England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. On this basis alone, the term English Civil War seems entirely inadequate.  The term ‘the Wars of the Three Kingdoms’ is the latest offering – and this serves the purpose – not perfectly, but better, perhaps, that all that has gone before. Military maps and plans are drawn and used for the purposes of defence, fortification, military policy, strategy and to deal with the threat of rebellion, invasion and war. They are also used to record an action retrospectively and, as such, they are an invaluable military record. Furthermore, and importantly, they provide considerable social-historical and non-military information about the surrounding townscape and landscape; its development agriculturally, industrially and demographically. (Read more.)


A Doctor’s Impassioned Critique of Big Pharma

 From Undark:

According to John Abramson, a health care policy lecturer at Harvard Medical School, the sap of this poisoned tree is so-called Big Pharma, the coalition of drug companies that have structured American health care into a money-generating machine. In “Sickening: How Big Pharma Broke American Health Care and How We Can Repair It,” Abramson sets out to answer the “paradox of American health care,” building his case using the testimony of patients and former drug executives.

In the book, Abramson reveals how doctors are regularly duped into prescribing expensive drugs with extreme side effects while major pharmaceutical companies rake in record profits. Yet recent research suggests that 46 million Americans can’t afford health care. According to a 2020 survey, two-thirds of consumers live in fear of medical bills.

The book is a crash course in the profit-driven systems built by Big Pharma that dominate the U.S. health care industry and how they can cause undue suffering, starting with several recent pharmaceutical scandals that have cost the lives of thousands of Americans while enriching major corporations.

Abramson, who has also worked as a family physician for years, has served as a legal expert in about 15 civil trials involving drugmakers, in which he highlighted the drug industry’s flawed research and shrewd marketing tactics. The first few chapters are sprinkled with dramatic courtroom sequences, demonstrating his long-standing reputation, as writer William Heisel described him in 2009, as an “outspoken critic of the pharmaceutical industry.”

“As an expert in litigation, I have had access to manufacturers’ scientific data as well as their business and marketing plans,” Abramson writes. “These are the pieces of the puzzle that, when put together, show how drug companies convince doctors to prescribe their expensive new drugs even when they offer little or no added value (and sometimes harm) compared to less expensive alternatives.”

In one illuminating scene, Abramson explained to a jury how Pfizer persuaded doctors to overprescribe the epilepsy drug Neurontin (gabapentin) off-label for bipolar disorder. In the late 1990s, Pfizer sponsored numerous swanky dinners and held meetings where the pharmaceutical company presented misleading data showing remarkable improvement. But they withheld data “which had shown the drug was significantly worse than placebo,” Abramson writes.

Pfizer later pleaded guilty to illegally marketing their drug, but the company’s profits from Neurontin only increased. This example — far from an anomaly in the biotechnology sector — demonstrates how deeply corporate interests have infected nearly every aspect of the American medical system, and why it will be so difficult to fix. (Read more.)


The Secret Life of Beatrix Potter

 From The New Yorker:

What was Potter doing all that time she lived at home with her parents? In childhood, she rarely ventured into the rest of London, and she had few friends besides her younger brother, Bertram. Mostly, it seems, she spent her days drawing. She drew compulsively, rapturously, from a young age, in a sketchbook that she made from drawer-lining paper and stationery. “It is all the same, drawing, painting, modelling, the irresistible desire to copy any beautiful object which strikes the eye,” she wrote. She drew when she was unsettled, regardless of the subject. “I cannot rest, I must draw, however poor the result, and when I have a bad time come over me it is a stronger desire than ever, and settles on the queerest things,” she wrote in her journal. “Last time, in the middle of September, I caught myself in the back yard making a careful and admiring copy of the swill bucket, and the laugh it gave me brought me round.”

Potter’s sketchbook and coded journal, and many of her other belongings, are on display at the V. & A. through early next year, in an exhibition titled “Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature.” (Rizzoli has recently published an accompanying book by the same name.) Some two hundred and forty eclectic objects, including manuscripts, sketches, tchotchkes and collectibles—even the alleged pelt of Benjamin Bunny–—tell the story of a remarkable transformation. Having lived the first two-thirds of her life in near-total acquiescence to her family’s wishes, she made a sudden turn in her third act. “A town mouse longing to be a country mouse,” as Bilclough put it, Potter gave up the trappings of her privileged life in London and bought a cottage in a remote part of the English countryside. She became a farmer and conservationist, with muddy shoes and prize-winning sheep. She walked the fells and lakeside paths around her new home, sketching them, and ultimately saving them from destruction.

Potter may not have had many friends as a child, but she had lots of animals. She and Bertram sneaked a rotating cast of pets into their nursery, including snakes, salamanders, lizards, rabbits, frogs, and a fat hedgehog. The V. & A. exhibition, which includes a series of dark rooms that evoke the cloistered atmosphere of Potter’s childhood, showcases her early drawings of the natural world as she would have known it then: a mouse, a caterpillar, a beady lizard. The siblings loved animals, but they were “unsentimental about the realities of life and death,” as the show puts it. When their pets died, they would stuff them, or boil their skeletons for further study. There’s a drawing by Bertram of a pickled fish next to a human skull, and a note from him about his pet bat: “If he cannot be kept alive . . . you had better kill him, + stuff him as well as you can,” he wrote to Potter from boarding school. Nearby, stretched out in a display case, is a flattened rabbit hide and the disturbing sign, “Rabbit pelt, thought to be that of Benjamin Bouncer.” Benjamin Bouncer was one of a series of rabbits that Potter owned, and a favorite muse. She brought him home in a paper bag when she was in her teens. Later, she brought home the rabbit Peter Piper, who learned how to jump through hoops but “flatly refused to perform” in company.

In early adulthood, Potter observed her pets closely, inventing narratives about them, and filling her letters to the children of friends with their adventures. Her dispatches are playful and alive, illustrated with pen-and-ink drawings of rabbits. In 1892, she wrote a letter to Noel Moore, the son of her former governess, about an encounter that Benjamin Bunny had with a wild rabbit in the garden. (Benjamin hardly noticed; he was eating so much.) After Benjamin died (“through persistent devotion to peppermints”), Peter Piper became Potter’s leading man. In 1893, she wrote to Noel again: “My dear Noel, I don’t know what to write to you, so I shall tell you a story about four little rabbits whose names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter.” A drawing of a whiskered Peter on his hind legs, ears perked, immediately suggests mischief.

Potter sent the Moore children story after story in illustrated letters, until Noel’s mother suggested that she try to turn them into books. (The children had saved their copies.) In 1901, Potter self-published the first edition of “The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” which appeared almost exactly as she had written it to Noel, down to Peter’s “blue jacket with brass buttons, quite new.” A series of established publishers had turned her down, partly because of her insistence on keeping the book’s price low. “Little rabbits cannot afford to spend 6 shillings on one book, and would never buy it,” she wrote to a friend. She was also particular about the size of the book; it had to be small, for small hands. The following year, Frederick Warne & Co. agreed to put out an abridged version. Potter compromised on the cover image, which she called the “idiotic prancing rabbit.”

“Peter Rabbit” was an instant hit, selling out multiple editions. (“The public must be fond of rabbits! what an appalling quantity of Peter,” Potter wrote.) Her publisher asked for more books, and she began pumping them out one after another, beginning with “The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin” and “The Tailor of Gloucester.” She also patented her characters. In the exhibition, there’s a fraying Jemima Puddle-Duck doll, with a fabric bonnet and shawl, and a Peter Rabbit teapot, as well as a complicated-looking board game. “She was very savvy in what was created, and what was made,” Helen Antrobus, who co-curated the show, told me. Potter believed that her first books found an audience because they were written for real children. “It is much more satisfactory to address a real live child,” she wrote. “I often think that that was the secret of the success of Peter Rabbit, it was written to a child—not made to order.”

She also had a knack for making the familiar strange. Her attention to the practicalities of being an animal, even a very civilized one, produced beguiling images. If a hedgehog wears a bonnet, as one does in “The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle,” her quills will certainly poke through. If a tortoise is invited to a dinner party, as happens in “The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher,” he’ll probably bring a salad in a string bag. She took silliness seriously. At the V. & A., one display case holds tiny folded letters that Potter wrote as if they were sent from one character to another: “Letters between Squirrel Nutkin, Twinkleberry Squirrel and Rt Hon. O. Brown, Esq. MP.” (Read more.)


Wednesday, March 23, 2022

"Henrietta Maria’s Incredible Story"


A lovely review from Andrea Zuvich, the Seventeenth Century Lady:

Those who do know about her tend to fall into one of two camps: those who loathe her and those who love her. I very rarely have come across people who have a nuanced opinion on this subject. Much of what we think about Henrietta Maria comes from the heavily biased accounts and propaganda from the civil wars. In short, she was one of the daughters of Henri IV of France and his second wife, Maria de’ Medici, and was born in 1609. A sister to King Louis XIII of France, Henrietta Maria wed Charles I of England, Scotland, and Ireland in 1625 and she was a rather unpopular and controversial choice because she was both Roman Catholic and French. (As an aside, historian Leanda de Lisle is writing a much-needed biography about Henrietta Maria and, as she did with Charles I, I am sure it will be a fascinating and illuminating read).

As for Vidal’s novel, I found the peripheral characters are well-formed, I really enjoyed the developing love story between Charles & Henrietta Maria, and I particularly liked the characterisation of Anne Villiers. I don’t remember having previously read a historical fiction work which centres on Henrietta Maria herself, although she is found often enough as a secondary character in some books, so this was interesting as well in that light. Of course, this being the beginning of the ‘Henrietta of France’ trilogy, there is scope for much more character development and story to come and I do look forward to seeing what Vidal does with Henrietta Maria’s incredible story. I enjoyed this book. (Read more.)


I am honored. Thanks, Andrea!


Ketanji Brown Jackson on Child Pornographers

 From Life News:

Yesterday, Sen. Josh Hawley raised concerns about U.S. Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson’s leniency toward criminals convicted of child pornography during the first day of her confirmation hearing Monday.

Jackson also has a pro-abortion record that includes working with abortion activists on a case about suppressing pro-life advocates’ free speech.

Her record on unborn babies’ rights has pro-life advocates opposing her nomination. Then, last week, Hawley, a pro-life Republican, raised additional concerns about Jackson’s “soft” record on child sex offenders.

On Monday, he voiced those concerns in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, pointing to seven cases in which Jackson gave lenient sentences to criminals convicted of possessing child pornography and other child sexual abuse charges.

“What concerns me, and I’ve been very candid about this, is that in every case, in each of these seven, Judge Jackson handed down a lenient sentence that was below what the federal guidelines recommended and below what federal prosecutors requested,” the Missouri senator said.

Hawley pointed to one case where a criminal possessed thousands of images of child pornography and planned to travel across state lines to abuse a 9-year-old girl. The senator said guidelines call for a sentence of 97 to 121 months, but Jackson sentenced the criminal to only 57 months.

In another case, Jackson gave a lesser sentence to a man who distributed more than 100 child pornography videos and sent lewd images to his own 10-year-old daughter, he continued.

These cases, he said, represent Jackson’s actions on child sex offenders while serving on the federal district court. He noted that these were cases where she had discretion with the convicts’ sentences; he did not include other cases in which the sentences were mandated by law.

Hawley, who already has received criticism for exposing Jackson’s record, said some critics believe the federal sentencing guidelines are too harsh for child sex crimes, but he disagrees

“The amount of child pornography in circulation has absolutely exploded in recent years,” he continued, citing a New York Times article in which tech companies reported 45 million online photos and videos of children being sexually abused in 2018, twice the amount from the previous year.

Last week, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also released a new report that found 85 million files of child pornography in 2021, he continued.

Hawley said he wants to be fair and to give Jackson the opportunity to explain why she made the decisions that she did.

“I’m not interested in trapping Judge Jackson. I’m not interested in trying to play gotcha. I’m interested in her answers,” Hawley said.

The Missouri lawmaker’s findings come amid concerns among parents about sex being pushed on younger and younger children through school sex education programs (often run by pro-abortion groups), “sexy” summer campsentertainment media like the “Cuties” film on Netflix and more.

There also appears to be a growing push to normalize pedophilia. An ethics professor at the State University of New York at Fredonia recently was exposed for saying it “is not obvious” to him that an adult having sex with a willing child is wrong.

Jackson’s confirmation hearing is scheduled to continue through Thursday in the U.S. Senate.

Biden promised that he would appoint a black female justice who supports the so-called “right” to abortion on demand, and pro-abortion groups have praised her nomination. (Read more.)