|A Reader's Guide
to William Gaddis's The Recognitions
II.2 pp. pages 343-373
343.epigraph] This is as if [...] Recognitions, Book V: from chap. 4, "Ignorance of Evils," which begins:
"From all these things, therefore, it is concluded that all evil springs from ignorance; and ignorance herself, the mother of all evils, is sprung from carelessness and sloth, and is nourished, and increased, and rooted in the senses of men by negligence; and if any one teach that she is to be put to flight, she is with difficulty and indignantly torn away, as from an ancient and hereditary abode. And therefore we must labor for a little, that we may search out the presumption of ignorance, and cut them off by means of knowledge, especially in those who are preoccupied with some erroneous opinions, by means of which ignorance is the more firmly rooted in them, as under the appearance of a certain kind of knowledge; for nothing is worse than for one to believe that he knows what he is ignorant of, and to maintain that to be true which is false. This is as if a drunk man [...]" (continues as quoted in epigraph).
344.23] Saint Louis: Louis IX, king of France 1226-70, a member of the Sixth Crusade (1248-54). Coulton records his advice when a Catholic is bested in a religious dispute with a Jew: "As St Louis pleaded in the same century, a layman's only valid argument in such cases was 'to thrust his sword into the Jew's belly as far as it would go'" (35). Cf. 346.27.
348.12] Reverend Gilbert Sullivan:
from the British comic opera partnership Gilbert and Sullivan. Wyatt
will adopt this name in the next chapter.
350.17] Wild Gousse Chase: in his review for the Saturday Review (12 March 1955) Maxwell Geismar said R's plot was reminiscent of Rex Warner's novel Wild Goose Chase (1937), but Jack Green insists it does not resemble it in the least (33). Gousse is French slang for a lesbian: "dyke"; see 188.28 ff for a synopsis of Max's novel.
350.19] What hasn't been written before?: Minkoff (250 n.10) finds a parallel in Mephistopheles's words after meeting with the newly graduated Baccalaureus: "What wise or stupid thoughts can man conceive, / Unponder'd in ages the pages passed away?" (part 2, act 2, "High-Vaulted, Narrow Gothic Chamber").
350.27] Let me give you some advice: Minkoff again (250) hears an echo of the advice given by Mephistopheles to the student in the first part of Faust (1636-42):
351.36] Menander: see 7.40.
352.30] Ennius: Quintus Ennius (239-169? B.C .), Roman poet; only fragments of his work are extant. The anecdote comes from Lindey's Plagiarism and Originality: "Virgil was not insensitive to this implied criticism [that he plagiarized others]. Someone, finding him with a volume of Ennius in hand, asked pointedly what he was doing. He replied, with uncharacteristic acerbity, that he was plucking pearls from Ennius' dunghill" (65-66).
352.30] Chrysippus: Greek Stoic philosopher of the third century B.C. The anecdote is recorded in LEP 7, where the play is identified as Medea.
352.40] A symposium on religion: beginning with its February 1950 issue, Partisan Review devoted a portion of four successive issues to "Religion and the Intellectuals: A Symposium."
353.10] diary of dead souls: compound literary allusion to Russian author Nikolay Gogol's (1809-52) story "Diary of a Madman" and his novel Dead Souls.
354.8] All the world loves . . .: a sentiment derived from Emerson's "All mankind love a lover" (ODQ).
354.33] Lex Cornelia: a series of laws established by the Roman dictator Sulla in the first century B.C., which restored to the Senate its former power and laid the foundations of Roman criminal law. (In the first edition of R, Gaddis mistakenly followed his source [Hughes 153] in calling it Lex Cordelia.]
359.5] supralapsarian: one who holds the Calvinist doctrine that God's plan of salvation for some preceded the fall of man from grace, which had been predestined. (Infralapsarians believe salvation followed - and was a result of - the fall.)
359.35] gone home and taken his wages: from the fourth line of the famous song in Shakespeare's Cymbeline: "
360.43] your daughters all were fair: see 273.32.
361.20] The equation of x [...] Fermat's last theorem: Pierre de Fermat (1601-65), French mathematician, called the founder of the modern theory of numbers. There is a short article in EB entitled "Fermat's Last Theorem" (9:173-74), but Gaddis seems to be quoting a different source.
362.3] Saint Peter, upside-down: "Jerome saith that he was crucified, his head being down and his feet upward, himself so requiring, because he was (he said) unworthy to be crucified after the same form and manner as the Lord was" (BM 4).
362.12] crucifer: the cross-bearer in a religious procession.
363.19] Caligula: see 383.9.
364.6] Gresham's law: the tendency of money of lower intrinsic value to circulate more freely than money of higher intrinsic and equal face value (e.g., a paper dollar circulates more freely than a silver dollar), after English financier Sir Thomas Gresham (d. 1579), though first formulated by Copernicus.
365.41] the saint [...] Agatha of the Cross: "Agatha of the Cross (1547-1621), a Spanish Dominicaness, for the last eight years of her life did not sleep at all" (PPM 63). Agatha, however, was never canonized.
366.16] Cuff: from an old "witticism": When a woman was suspected of having dyed hair, it was wondered if "collars and cuffs" matched.
366.25] Blessed Dodo of Hascha: "Little is known of this Beato, but it is chronicled that at his death in 1231, it was discovered that his hands, feet, and side, were marked with the Five Sacred Wounds" (PPM 185).
367.10] vulgar means, people: from Latin vulgus.
367.36] Blessed Didée: Summers only says of this beato the "pus [...] of the Blessed Didée gave forth a strong scent of Madonna lilies" (PPM 175).
367.36] Blessed Bartolo of San Gimignano: from Summers (PPM 175):
Blessed Bartolo of San Gimignano, who lived about 1300, when fifty-two years old, was attacked with leprosy in its most virulent form. The holy man, "the Job of Tuscany" as he was called, literally rotted to pieces with the inroads of the horrible disease. And yet there was no contagion. Moreover a most heavenly perfume exhaled from his poor body, the odor del paradiso as the Italian phrase goes. When he died his little hermitage became radiant with light, and the air laden with the fragrance of beds of violets.
367.39] Doctor Biggs of Lima Peru: dismissing various scientific investigations into stigmatization (and especially its relation to self-induced hypnosis), Summers says: "Of no account and not worth detailing are the experiments of Dr. Biggs of Lima as reported in the S[ociety for]. P[sychical]. R[esearch]. Journal, May, 1887" (PPM 121).
368.2] Saint Rose of Lima: Peruvian recluse (1586-1617) who subjected herself to severe penances but had many mystical experiences as a reward; cf. 550.36. Summers reproduces an old portrait of Saint Rose in PPM (facing 161).
368.2] Don Diego Jacinto Paceco: Summers (PPM 19) contrasts the insubstantial ghosts of antiquity with
the glorious vision of St. Rose of Lima, when she appeared to Diego Jacinto Paceco [sic - should be Pacheco], a copyist who earned his livelihood by engrossing legal documents, but who was seized with agonizing writer's cramp so that his right-hand and whole arm were paralysed. Starvation, or the most abject beggary, seemed his fate. But there entered his room a Dominican nun, who smilingly sat down at his bedside, took the arm in her hands and stroked it gently. There was a spasm of pain, and the arm and hand were perfectly cured, and remained so until the day of his death. He was, in fact, able to write more clearly and with greater speed than ever before. This was not many years after Saint Rose's death, and seeing her portrait he at once recognized his visitant.
368.8] Mozart [...] Four four four: see 81.23.
369.19] something new under this sun: Ecclesiastes insists there's nothing new under the sun (1.9).
370.30] Persephone [...] Proserpina: Proserpina is the Roman equivalent of the Greek Persephone, for whom see 98.6-16.
371.30] "In Arethusa [...] corn being put into their . . .": "In Arethusa [in Greece], several were ripped open, and corn being put into their bellies, swine were brought to feed therein, which, in devouring the grain, likewise devoured the entrails of the martyrs" writes Foxe of Christian persecution under Julian the Apostate in the year 363 (BM 35).
371.32] "scourged [...] his body torn with . . .": "Romanus, a native of Palestine, was deacon of the church of Caesarea at the time of the commencement of Diocletian's persecution. Being condemned for his faith at Antioch, he was scourged, put to the rack, his body torn with hooks, his flesh cut with knives, his face scarified, his teeth beaten from their sockets, and his hair plucked up by the roots. Soon after he was ordered to be strangled, November 17, A.D. 303" (BM 27).
371.32] Martha Constantine: from BM 109, under the heading "An Account of the Persecutions in the Valleys of Piedmont, in the Seventeenth Century":
Martha Constantine, a handsome young woman, was treated with great indecency and cruelty by several of the troops, who first ravished, and then killed her by cutting off her breasts. These they fried, and set before some of their comrades, who ate them without knowing what they were. When they had done eating, the others told them what they had made a meal of, in consequence of which a quarrel ensued, swords were drawn, and a battle took place. Several were killed in the fray, the greater part of whom were those concerned in the horrid massacre of the woman, and who had practiced such an inhuman deception on their companions.
371.38] the guy they tie little bags of gunpowder: "Peter Gabriola, a Protestant gentleman of considerable eminence, being seized by a troop of soldiers, and refusing to renounce his religion, they hung a great number of little bags of gunpowder about his body, and then setting fire to them, blew him up" (BM 114 - "Further Persecutions in the Valleys of Piedmont, in the Seventeenth Century").
372.15] Martin Luther was struck by lightning: "Walking out into the fields one day, he was struck by lightning so as to fall to the ground, while a companion was killed by his side; and this affected him so sensibly, that, without communicating his purpose to any of his friends, he withdrew himself from the world, and retired into the order of the hermits of St. Augustine" (BM 159).
372.21] Blessed Catherine de Racconigi: documenting those who "endured the Wound of the left shoulder caused by the weight of the Cross and the friction of the wood when Our Lord carried His Rood on the way to Calvary," Summers instances "the Dominicaness, Blessed Catherine de Racconigi, one of whose shoulders was so notably lower than the other thereafter that she seemed hunch-backed" (PPM 172). See also 634.16.
372.31] Spelled backwards [...] profaning the Eucharist: traditional elements of the Black Mass. Valentine paraphrases Michelet's S&W (102, 106):
The Black Mass, in its primary aspect, would seem to be this redemption of Eve from the curse Christianity had laid upon her. At the Witches' Sabbath woman fulfills every office. She is priest, and altar, and consecrated host, whereof all the people communicate. [...] By her prostrate body and humiliated person, by the vast silken net of her hair, draggled in the dust, she (that proud Proserpine) offered up herself as a sacrifice. On her loins a demon performed Mass, pronounced the Credo, deposited the offertory of the faithful.
Michelet speculates the Eucharist used in a Black Mass consisted of the same confarreatio used as a love potion. The witch would oblige a female customer thus: "On her loins she lays a board, and on it a miniature oven, in which she bakes the magic cake. . . . 'Sweet friend, I can bear no more. Quick, quick, I cannot stay like this!' 'Nay, madam, [...] 'twill be heated of your very body, the hot flame of your passion!'" (97).
372.41] Willie: William Gaddis, who makes a few cameo appearances in the novel.
373.1] The Recognitions: though traditionally ascribed to Clement of Rome, the original author of this "theological romance" is unknown; it probably came to be attributed to Clement as a result of confounding the first-century pope and martyr (see 23.25) with Flavius Clement, a kinsman of the Roman emperor Domitian. Others have attributed it to Bardesanes. Internal evidence suggests the first quarter of the third century as a date of composition.
Gaddis may have first learned of the Clementine Recognitions from Graves, who writes: "According to the Clementines, whose religious theory is popularized in a novel called The Recognitions, the identity of true religion in all ages depends on a series of incarnations of the Wisdom of God, of which Adam was the first and Jesus the last." He adds in a note: "Voltaire modelled his Candide on it; and it has the distinction of appearing in the select list of books in Milton's Areopagitica, along with John Skelton's Poems, as deserving of permanent suppression" (WG 132 and note; but Milton's reference is to the books of Clement of Alexandria - see next annotation).
Frazer and Lethaby also refer to the novel, as does James, who gives this convenient summary (ANT xxiv-xxv):
The setting is derived from secular romance; it is the ancient theme of the members of a family parted from one another by a series of accidents for many years, and in the end reunited: in this case it is Clement's family. His parents, his brothers, and himself are brought together by the agency of St. Peter. This setting is filled in, and indeed completely overlaid, by the matter which conveys the real purpose of the book, namely, the discourses of Peter; partly his debates with Simon Magus, and partly his unopposed expositions of doctrine. ["Mostly talk, talk, talk," as Valentine correctly observes.]
The body of the doctrine thus set forth is not orthodox. It is, in fact, eccentric. At one time it was contended that these books were precious monuments of a condition of the Church in primitive times, when the Twelve were in opposition to Paul; it being doubtless the case that Simon Magus in these books is to some extent Paul under a mask. But it is now recognized that the books are not only rather late in date (not earlier than the end of the third or beginning of the fourth century), but also that they do not represent the views of a large school of thought, but of a small and obscure sect.
The Greek form of the romance consists of twenty so-called Homilies - the Clementine Homilies. The Latin is a version of another form, expurgated and translated by Rufinus in the fourth century. It is in ten books, and is called the Clementine Recognitions.
An English translation by the Reverend Thomas Smith appeared in 1886 in vol. 8 of The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (New York: Scribner's).
373.1] Clement of Rome: as opposed to Clement of Alexandria (?. 150-217), head of the catechetical school of Alexandria and author of numerous works (see 315.35).
373.3] he goes to Egypt: in 1.5 Clement announces his intention to go to Egypt to "cultivate the friendship of the hierophants or prophets, who preside at the shrines. Then I shall win over a magician by money, and entreat him, by what they call the necromantic art, to bring me a soul from the infernal regions, as if I were desirous of consulting it about some business. But this shall be my consultation, whether the soul be immortal." But shortly thereafter he hears of Christ and abandons his plans for Egypt.
373.5] beginning of the whole Faust legend: Clement's father is named Faustinianus, and Clement has a set of young twin brothers named Faustinus and Faustus (9.5). But it is Clement's initial assumption that the magicians of Egypt (rather than God) can lead him to salvation and his plan to summon "a soul from the infernal regions" that anticipate Faust's pact with Mephistopheles and thus originates the Faust legend. Gaddis's source for the connection between the Clementine Recognitions and the Faust legend was probably The Sources of the Faust Tradition by Philip Mason Palmer and Robert Pattison More (NY: Oxford Univ Press, 1936), who devote most of their second chapter to this topic.
373.25] "suck": sycophant (used thus in Joyce's Portrait in a similar Jesuit setting).
373.42] Much I ponder: see 255.28.
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