|A Reader's Guide
to William Gaddis's The Recognitions
III.2 pp. pages 733-768
733.epigraph] "Miss Potter [...] Hindoo Holiday: J. R. Ackerley's (1896-1967) Hindoo Holiday: An Indian Journal (1932) is a charming and often amusing account of Ackerley's stay in India in 1930 as private secretary to "His Highness the Maharajah Sahib of Chhokrapur." The epigraph records a short interview with Miss Potter, a missionary; her rejoinder to His Highness's query, if any, is unrecorded (1932; unexpurgated ed.: London: Chatto & Windus, 1952, 190 ["me" is italicized in the original]).
733.7] Saint Clare: Saint Clare of Assisi (ca. 1193-1253), a nobleman's daughter who became a religious (with the help of Saint Francis) and later founded the Poor Clares.
733.17] Portiuncula: a small church (also called Saint Mary of the Angels, as at 830.11) near Assisi, where on 24 February 1209 the Holy Spirit revealed to Saint Francis the Gospel of the Mass. It was at that chapel that Saint Francis gave the religious habit to Clare; cf. 830.10 ff.
734.12] The Destruction of the Philosophers [...] The Destruction of the Destruction: the first title is by Arab philosopher al-Ghazzali (Lat., Algazel, 1058-1111) and is a refutation of philosophies that oppose the teachings of the Koran. The second is by Averroes (see 382.29) and is a refutation of al-Ghazzali's anti-intellectual attack. Gaddis learned of both works from Gilson (Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages, 39).
734.29] Skull and Bones man:
that is, from Yale; Skull and Bones is the oldest of Yale's secret
738.6] The End of a Perfect Day: "The Perfect Day" (1910) by Carrie Jacobs-Bond.
738.41] Twenty-one: the 21 Club restaurant at 21 West 52nd Street.
741.6] It was roses, roses, all the way: the first line of Robert Browning's poem "The Patriot" (ODQ).
741.11] Cleopatra's gnathic index, or Nefertiti's cephalic index: measurements of the jaw and head, respectively.
741.37] The Bells of Saint Mary's: 1945 song by Douglas Ferber and A. Emmett Adams from the movie of the same name.
741.41] THE GHOST ARTISTS [...] Why Not Give an Exhibition?: Lindey reports that "recently [i.e., 1950] the American University in Washington announced a new course in ghost writing, and the Washington Post published an advertisement reading: 'The Ghost Artists--We Paint It--You Sign It--Why Not Give an Exhibition?'" (Originality and Plagiarism, 222).
742.33] en este momento: Sp.: "at this moment."
743.5] hope: the only thing left in Pandora's box (742.42) after she let everything else escape.
743.13] Paganini's Perpetual Motion: Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840), Italian violin virtuoso; his "Moto perpetuo: Allegro de concert" for violin and orchestra was published posthumously.
743.18] He was despiséd [...] and acquainted with grief: from the text of Handel's Messiah, based on Isa. 53:3.
743.20] a fable with an ant for its hero: Aesop's and/or La Fontaine's story "The Ant and the Grasshopper." (Crotcher appeared earlier at Esther's party in II.7.)
744.16] Beautiful Dreamer: well-known song by American composer Stephen Foster (1826-64), who died destitute in Bellevue's charity ward.
748.12] Saint Sebastian: one of the more renowned of early Roman martyrs and a popular subject with Renaissance artists (who would often depict their patron's "favorite" as the martyr). According to unreliable legends, he was tied to a tree, shot at by Roman archers, and finally clubbed to death (in the year 288 according to some martyrologies). Cf. BM 25-26.
749.28] little parts of me all over the place: cf. the dismembered Osiris, scattered all over Egypt and reconstructed by Isis.
750.6] Chrahst I mean, how long?: cf. the opening of Ps. 13 and/or Rev. 6:10.
751.15] verklärte Nacht: Transfigured Night (1899), Arnold Schoenberg's famous tone poem.
751.23] Walpurgis: Walpurgisnacht (30 April), the night on witches gathered in German folklore; two Walpurgisnachts figure in Faust.
753.31] Elmira: city in southern New York.
753.41] Sweet Betsy from Pike: old American folk song.
754.14] Ischia: see 584.28.
754.14] taking an ow-wel to A-thens: a proverb, like carrying coals to Newcastle, indicating an unnecessary effort.
754.42] priestess of Delphos
[...] women over fifty: from Kirchenhoffer’s introduction to
Napoleon’s Book of Fate (see
757.42] the great refusal: "Il gran rifiuto" from canto 3 of Dante's Inferno (ODQ), which Ciardi suggests is a reference to "Celestine V, who became Pope in 1294. He was a man of saintly life, but allowed himself to be convinced by a priest named Benedetto that his soul was in danger since no man could live in the world without being damned. In fear for his soul he withdrew from all worldly affairs and renounced the papacy. [...] Celestine's great guilt is that his cowardice (in selfish terror for his own welfare) served as the door through which so much evil entered the church" (17).
759.19] It is forbidden to enter the garden with flowers in the hand: this notice posted at the entrance to the public garden in Tarbes in southern France - to prevent people from stealing the garden's flowers and then claiming to have brought them - is the subject of an allegory that frames Jean Paulhan's Les fleurs de Tarbes (1941); Maurice Blanchot's review of this critical work led to an important debate in France on the status of literature. J R makes an unwitting reference to this practice (J R 661).
759.30] frabjously: a "portmanteau" word from Lewis Carroll's poem "Jabberwocky" (Through the Looking-Glass, chap. 1).
760.8] The Deserter [...] at Sadlers Wells in 1785: an opera by Charles Dibdin (1745-1814), based on Le deserteur by Monsigny and Sedaine.
760.29] Rue Gît le Coeur: "Street Where the Heart Lies," near Notre Dame. Henri IV, passing the street in his carriage on the Quai des Grands Augustins, remarked to his companion: "Ici gist mon coeur," for his mistress lived there.
762.17] the secret sharer: title of a famous short story by Joseph Conrad (1912) concerning a sea captain and his "double," a murderer.
764.3] The Four Noble Truths! and the Eightfold Path! Why, life is suffering: at the sermon at Benares the Buddha expounded the basic tenets of his philosophy. The "Four Noble Truths" can be summarized: (1) Life is suffering; (2) Suffering is caused by desire (i.e., selfish craving); (3) Desire can be eliminated; (4), it is eliminated by adhering to an eightfold path: (i), right understanding, (ii) right purpose, (iii) right speech, (iv) right conduct, (v) right vocation, (vi) right effort, (vii) right alertness, and (viii) right concentration. Cf. AN 22-23.
764.8] Bishop . . . Whutley?: Richard Whately (1787-1863), English theologian and logician, archbishop of Dublin (1831-63).
766.2] The Story of Barbara Ubrick: on p. 255 of The Shadow of the Pope (see 523.5), Williams reproduces an ad for Convent Horror, or The Hole in the Wall from the Protestant Book House (apparently first published in 1900); the ad copy begins “Story of Barbara Ubrick, who for twenty-one years was locked in a stone dungeon eight feet long and six feet wide in the basement of the convent because she refused to surrender her virtue to a Romish priest.” In another ad reproduced on p. 275, this Polish nun's name is correctly spelled Ubryk. There is also The True Story of Barbara Ubryk by Sideny F. Smith (London: Catholic Truth Society, 1915).
766.3] Smothering a baby … bolted doors : copy from another ad on p. 255 of The Shadow of the Pope , but for a different Protestant Book House pamphlet entitled Nunneries Must Be Abolished from the American Soil .
766.18] Or I shall wear a cockleshell [...] and he will know me well: from an unidentified ballad.
766.20] Santiago de Compostela: the church in Spain at which the relics of Saint James the Greater were enshrined after his corpse was miraculously transported from Jerusalem to Spain. During the Middle Ages it was the most famous place of pilgrimage after Jerusalem and Rome. In art Saint James is represented as a pilgrim in a cloak covered with shells.
766.22] Did mice eat Saint Gertrude's heart?: Lang records this belief in Custom and Myth (119). Saint Gertrude of Nivelles (626-59) was an abbess in present-day Belgium; her emblem is a pastoral staff with a mouse running up it.
766.41] ritu quadrupedis: used by Anselm earlier at 197.31.
768.11] Blessed Mary went a-walking: listing the seven conditions under which prayer and benediction may be employed to heal the sick, the authors of MM caution (181):
Thirdly, there must be nothing in the words that is untrue; for if there is, the effect of them cannot be from God, Who is not a witness to a lie. But some old women in their incantations use some such jingling doggerel as the following:
MARY went a-walking
768.25] Pater noster qui es in coelis: the opening of the Lord's Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13).