Abbreviated Sources
and References

Annotations: title,
epigraph and

Part I

Part II

Part III
III.1 Synopsis
pp. 723-732
III.2 Synopsis
pp. 733-768
III.3 Synopsis
pp. 769-791
pp. 792-823
III.4 Synopsis
pp. 824-855
III.5 Synopsis
pp. 856-878
pp. 879-900
Epilogue Synopsis
pp. 901-937
pp. 938-956

A Reader's Guide to William Gaddis's The Recognitions


III.4 pp. pages 824-855

824.epigraph] If the sun [...] Blake: from his poem "Augeries of Experience," as quoted by ODQ:

He who doubts from what he sees
Will ne'er believe, do what you please.
If the Sun and Moon should doubt,
They'd immediately go out.
To be in a passion you good may do,
But no good if a passion is in you.

824.1] Blessed Mary went a-walking: see 768.11.

825.11] a shred of the True Cross [...] tears of the Virgin: the fraudulence and popularity of these relics in the Middle Ages are discussed by Mackay (EPD 696-97).

825.13] toenail parings of some venerable ecclesiastic: "The unscrupulous ecclesiastics of the Holy Land carried on a flourishing business in selling parings from their own toe nails, which they represented to the pilgrims who annually visited Palestine as coming from the nails of dead saints" (DDD 301).

826.8] a book [...] that invitation to mortal sin: identified later (829.14) as Milton's Paradise Lost.

826.14] For some fishes the sea is a big sky: a recurring image in Fort's Book of the Damned (81.10).

826.35] Assumption of the Virgin [...] Little Eva: see 913.30 and 922.44.

826.38] Saint Simeon Stylites [...] - Eat what God has given you: (390-459); Stylites means "raised on a pillar," and it was on a three-foot-wide platform on a pillar sixty-six feet high that he spent the last thirty-seven years of his life practicing extreme austerities. Gaddis's details are from Haggard (DDD 271):

St. Simeon Stylites furnishes a most remarkable picture of the desert anchorite. He bound a rope around his body so tightly that it became imbedded in the flesh, which putrefied around it. Worms found their way into the corrupt flesh of ulcers that covered his leg. For a year during which he stood on one foot he had an associate by his side who picked up the worms which fell from his body to replace them in the sores, the saint saying to the worms, "Eat what God has given you." At his death he was pronounced to be the highest model of a Christian saint and an example for the imitation of other anchorites.

826.41] Saint Mary of Egypt: again from Haggard (DDD 271-72):

The life of one of the anchorites of the desert, St. Mary of Egypt, throws light on the attitude of the early Christians toward prostitutes. The prostitute could atone for her past sins and become a Christian; Christ had forgiven Magdalene. Egyptian Mary was a prostitute, but she became penitent. She confessed to Zosimus that she had practiced her profession for seventeen years at Alexandria. Once converted, she took a boat for Jerusalem and paid her passage by exercising her calling on board. She expiated her sins by a life of penance in the woods. For forty-seven years she wandered, black with filth and covered only with her white hair; but she spoke to no man. To such acts of piety does perversion of sex lead.

827.2] Ana Taguza: in a discussion of fake mystics, Summers writes: "At Seville on 18th May, 1692, Ana Raguza, a Sicilian, was sentenced to seclusion in an enclosed convent, and two years exile. This is very lenient treatment since she denied the efficacy of Masses and Fasting. Moreover she termed herself the Bride of Christ, declared that she could detect sinners by the sense of smell, and prated of her visions and revelations" (PPM 205).

827.4] right foot of Santa Teresa de Jesús: location noted in PPM (192; the Spanish form of her name is taken from a book title that appears in the same paragraph).

827.6] pus of Saint John of the Cross: "The pus of St. John of the Cross and of the Blessed Didée [367.36] gave forth a strong scent of Madonna lilies" (PPM 175).

827.18] Nihil obstat and Imprimatur: official declarations that a Catholic book is free of doctrinal or moral error. The statement usually appears on the copyright page.

827.19] A Day With the Pope [...] the Court of San Damaso: featured on pp. 26-27 of Doyle's book (see 546.22).

828.30] The Vatican and Holy Year: a 1950 study of the history of the Holy Year by Stephen Fenichell and Philip Andrews. The slim book is noted for its many fine photographs.

828.37] Augustinian doctrine [...] man from his power: cf.: "In Irenaeus emerges the strange doctrine that the death of Christ was a ransom paid to the devil" (EB 7:284).

828.44] Margaret Shepherd's My Life in a Convent: published about 1892 when Shepherd was in her forties; its correct title is My Life in the Convent . Williams, who refers to it as Gaddis does, quotes from the publisher's ad copy (which Gaddis follows to the letter), then adds: “Evidence was produced to show that not only had Miss Shepherd never belonged to any religious order, but that she had a police record in the bargain” ( The Shadow of the Pope , 106).

829.6] the tale of Rosamond Culbertson: Rosamond; or, A narrative of the captivity and sufferings of an American female under the popish priests, in the island of Cuba, with a full disclosure of their manners and customs, written by herself (1836). She claims she was for five years the mistress of a Catholic priest. Williams refers to her in passing in The Shadow of the Pope (72).

829.7] Rebecca Reed's Six Months in a Convent: subtitled The Narrative of Rebecca Theresa Reed, who was under the influence of the Roman Catholics about two years, and an inmate of the Ursuline convent on Mount Benedict, Charlestown, Mass., nearly six months, in the years 1831-32 (1835). Williams describes this as “The beginning of the flow of literature from the pens of convent-jumping ladies [… that] contained the first tale of convent horror and formed the basis for similar works from that day to this” (69).

831.35] A Modern Virgin Martyr: A Modern Virgin Martyr: Saint Maria Goretti, by Alexander Gits, S.J. (London: Catholic Truth Society, 1949), a fifteen-page pamphlet, the source of the quotation at 828.32-33 (but not at 842.25-26, which seems to be a reference to the same work). The pamphlet can be found here.  {Mark Hale}

836.27] Semper aliquid haeret: see 336.32.

838.17] misereatur: the Absolution (from its opening words, "May [God] have mercy"), in which a priest or bishop absolves a penitent from potential damnation.

838.19] ship's bells and seven might be any hour: seven bells indicate 3:30, 7:30, or, as here, 11:30.

838.24] Per istam [...] Deliquisti per manus: from the Catholic rite of Extreme Unction, in which the parts of a dying person's body are anointed: "By this unction, and by his most holy sympathy [...] God forgives you [...] Whatever [sins] you committed with your eyes [...] Committed with your ears [...] Committed with your hands."

839.10] sciamachy: shadow boxing.

841.20] Angelic Salutation: that is, the Hail Mary (Luke 1:28).

843.26] hermit Paul: "The Christian practice of repeating prayers is traceable to early times: Sozomen mentions (H.E. v. 29) the hermit Paul of the 4th century who threw away a pebble as he recited each of his 300 daily prayers" (EB 19:551).

844.4] Holy Innocents: male children murdered by Herod's decree (Matt. 2:16). No documents, Jewish or otherwise, record this alleged massacre.

844.8] Marchioness of Brinvilliers [...] her ashes sought as a preservative against witchcraft: Marie Madeline, marquise de Brinvilliers (1630?-76). "She was convicted of poisoning several persons," Mackay explains, "and sentenced to be burned in the Place de Grčve, and to have her ashes scattered to the winds. On the day of her execution, the populace, struck by her gracefulness and beauty, inveighed against the severity of her sentence. Their pity soon increased to admiration, and, ere evening, she was considered a saint. Her ashes were industriously collected; even the charred wood, which had aided to consume her, was eagerly purchased by the populace. Her ashes were thought to preserve from witchcraft" (EPD 699).

844.25] Ma signorino, che . . .: It.: "But sir, what . . ."

845.37] the mother, last lover: cf. Swinburne's "The Triumph of Time": "I will go back to the great sweet mother, / Mother and lover of men, the sea" (ODQ).

846.11] O Christ, the plough [...] the laughter, of holy white birds: from English poet John Masefield's (1878-1967) long narrative poem The Everlasting Mercy (1911), about a drunk named Saul Kane who at a revival meeting tells of his vision of Christ and subsequent conversions. The quoted lines are from ODQ.

846.18] a man who [...] might have been described as of comfortable middle age: see 857.20.

846.24] broken-down bump doesn't look like a life-insurance ad: the Rock of Gibraltar, symbol of the Prudential Life Insurance Company.

847.9] Purdue Victory: see 4.10.

847.24] John Mansfield: that is, Masefield.

847.27] Sail on! [...] sail on!: from Joaquin Miller's (1841-1913) once-popular poem "Columbus."

847.28] Columbus [...] is keeping two sets of logs: these details, though somewhat garbled, are from EB's account of Columbus's voyage (6:80).

848.3] Columbus discovered [...] Syphilis: Haggard agrees with other historians that this does seem likely: see DDD 235-39.

849.6] Jealousy: originally a Danish instrumental by Jacob Gade entitled "Jalousie, a Tango Tzigane." The 1938 Boston Pops recording was one of the first records of light music to reach one million sales (as it had by 1952).

849.39] Coraggio: It.: "courage, heart."

850.34] high altar with a bishop and twelve priests [...] threw their candles down: from the ritual of anathema (excommunication), as described in the Pontificale Romanum, as related in EB (1:879-80, which furnishes the Latin used at 907.1-4 and 916.40-42).

851.41] Saint Hilarion: "The extent to which faith in faith cures may go is shown by the fact that St. Hilarion, of the fourth century, is said to have courageously confronted and relieved a possessed camel" (DDD 284).

852.18] "I exorcise thee [...] Let us pray": from the Catholic rite of exorcism as recorded in MM 183; cf. 200.22 ff.

853.7] Blessed Catherine Racconigi [...] Saint Veronica Giuliani [...] Saint Lutgarde of Tongres: see 634.14-15.

853.9] Blessed Stefana Quinzani: "The Dominicaness, Blessed Stefana Quinzani of Soncino (near Bergamo), who lived 1457-1530, on every Friday experienced the agony of the sweat of blood in Gethsemane and the pains of the Crown of Thorns which was often plainly seen encircling her head" (PPM 154).

853.11] that Poor Clare of Rovereto: "Joanna Maria della Croce (1603-1673), a Poor Clare of Rovereto (Italian Tyrol), received the Four Wounds and the Crown of Thorns, which latter she used to conceal beneath her veil" (PPM 154). The Poor Clares are a religious order, founded by Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Clare in 1212.

854.37] Pater noster [...] Qui tollis peccata mundi: see 768.25 and 643.39.

855.22] He had seen Naples: the old Italian saying "see Naples and die" implied that nothing more beautiful than Naples could be seen; but the proverb was often literally true because Naples was once a center of typhoid and cholera.


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