A "divine" mystery, a compelling blend of historical fact and fiction!
|| Fugitive Slave Act || Longfellow's Study in Craigie House ||
|| Atlantic Monthly ~ 1865, 1866, 1867, 1868|| Dante & the Death Penalty - Matthew Pearl||
Electronic text - Longfellow's translation
LOWELL - horeselover||BURNDY & CAMP - Jo|| LONGFELLOW & HOLMES - Marvelle||
|| MANNING - Jo|| TEAL/GALVIN - JoanP||
FAITH, The Dante Club may be at your local library. My library has it but I was #48 on the waiting list. I finally opened my piggy bank & bought the book (B&N has a super price).
JOAN, JO and PAT, love the heading.
Welcome, Matthew! We are all looking forward to hearing from you when this discussion gets started.
"As a writer of historical fiction, I believe you don't want to
fictionalize gratuitously, you want the fictional aspects to prod and
pressure the history into new and exciting reactions."
Is that not what Dante was also attempting in his writing of Inferno 600+ years ago?
He equates being a vegetarian with being non-violent! I must think on that one and if I were him I would expect Stephen King to purchase the book not borrow it.
always get my $$$ worth when I purchase a book. I've read
the preface by Watkins. Maggots have long been used in medical treatment
for decomposing of rotten tissue. As mentioned, CSI frequently has
Grissom examining maggots because they grow at constant rates and their
dimensions lead to clues in regard to time & conditions of death.
In fact, the forward is all that I did read yesterday. After work I shall make my descent.
Dante's contrapasso concept - punishment always arises from the crime itself, not from the amount of damage it has caused to someone else; therefore it is always appropriate for the offense.We'd better keep this in mind from the start. We are discussing a murder mystery. Some of us have not finished the book. Some couldn't put it down and already know who-dun-it. Can you think of a worse crime than to reveal the culprit? We ask only one thing of you ~ that each week you check the discussion schedule in the heading and refrain from referring to anything beyond these pages in your posts. Now don't forget...
Punishment for your crime will arise from the crime itself, not from the amount of damage it causes to another. It will be appropriate to the crime...and swift!It sounds to me like the Golden Rule, in reverse. Let's abide by BOTH of them, and we're sure to have a grand time on so many different levels. I loved the way we are pulled into the thriller aspect of the novel from the very first page, didn't you?
Longfellow didn't write all sweetness and light as I once assumed. His first wife Mary accompanied him on his language-prep trip to Europe in 1834. During the trip they discovered she was pregnant. She was in ill health but they kept travelling; she miscarried and died.
Imagine the grief and guilt of Longfellow! This shows in his first volume of poetry Voices of the Night, in the poems "Prelude" about grief, "Hymn to the Night" about reuniting at night with spirits, and "A Psalm of Life" about the need to continue with life and its occupations. You see a gradual gathering up of Longfellow's strength as he copes with grief.
By the start of this novel in 1865, after the 1861 death of his second wife Fanny Appleton, Longfellow hadn't reached the comfort found in "Hymn to the Night" nor the affirmation of life in "A Psalm of Life." Some of the lines I find most moving and telling of Longfellow are in the 17th stanza of:
This is pure grief and guilt following the death of Mary, his first wife. Not at all the "Village Blacksmith" of the bouncing rhythm and optimism.
Joan & Horselover: I'm not sure
I agree with Dante on his contrapasso concept. Punishment
should not be meted out in accordance with the crime alone
but in conjunction with the anguish, misery and agony that is inflicted
There are many unlawful crimes, many unrightous acts but what about the perpetrator of an a shocking felony- the vicious, unethical scoundrel that abandons all morals and ethics? These guys are not merely repulsive but they are offensive, amoral offenders of justice.
Yes, I felt drawn in right from the get-go as Chief Kurtz investigates a terrible, nauseating , days old murder of a high official. (What an oxymoron that is.) Are there any other kind? The details as mentioned by Nell Ranney seem most important in the solving of this murder, particularly as she describes the teeth, caked blood and flies massing about the body in the yard. The maggots enshrouding the corpse were of particular importance. His widow tells the Chief that Boston has eaten him alive. NOW that is an important assertion, I'd say. Remember - maggots can determine the approximate time of death, depending on their sizes and configurations.
For once I have not read ahead of the assigned pages, so I will remain unaware right up to the end. I love murder mysteries and will keep guesssing who this culprit is throughout the story. Quietly of course.
MMe: I am thrilled
that you have joined up with us on our mystery tour. It is always
a pleasure to follow your insights.
Regarding quest. 7 and Mrs. Healy's suspicions about her husband. At this point I think she thought his death might be linked to perceived mistakes made as a judge forin her conversation with Rey she exonerates the judge's deeds as being required by law. Rey's story let her know that her husband "did the right thing" when he could. As for the judge's other mistakes, it will be interesting to see. They must have been doozies, according to some.
This is going to be a fun book to read -- to pick out what's true and what's not, to find out more about these literary folk. (Thanks for the link to Longfellow, Marvelle.) I already have lots of questions, so will be lurking at least, for sure, and maybe you will answer them.
We know from the conversation between Nicholas Rey and Mrs. Healey that the judge was a kind man. He helped fugitive slaves himself until the Fugitive Slave Law (FSL) was enacted in 1850 and then, as a judge, he chose the law over his personal morals...or should I say morality? Was this choice right? Did the judge 'abandon all morals and ethics?' -- to use Andy's words spoken in a different context. If Healey did abandon morals and ethics for the law, should he have? Healey sent a free man into slavery (a life sentence) and most certainly to an ugly retribution for escaping initially.
Puritans, intensely antipapal, were the prevailing influence in early Massachusetts history. Under that influence, Harvard College was established in 1636 "lest an illiterate ministry might be left to the churches" and "to provide for the instruction of the people in piety, morality and learning."
Before Harvard College was established, all education was relgious. The Harvard Corporation -- which wasn't from the college but acted as overseer of the college -- was limited to state officials and a specified number of Congregational clergymen. The last public grant to Harvard College was in 1814. It wasn't until 1843 that other than Congregationalists were eligible for election as overseers of the College. This information gleaned from www.newadvent.org, the Catholic Encyclopedia.
From the above it appears that the Harvard Corporation, and Manning, was anti-Catholic and only after 1843 would there be a process set up for change.
Today the more well known group of anti-Catholics belonged to the Know-Nothing Party. They kept their organization fairly secret and if a member was asked about the Party Organization they would reply I Know Nothing! , hence the popular name for the Party. For a short and clear rendering of the anti- feelings of the times, see Anti-Immigrant Sentiment which has some cool and telling graphics.
The Reverend Lyman Beecher is known today as the father of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Henry Ward Beecher, and as being against slavery. His anti-Catholicism, including his incendiary sermons against the Catholic Church, are little remarked on (even in this linked biography).
”The insect….gurgled loud as a train’s engine…...about twice the size of a housefly and had three even black stripes across its bluish green trunk…..bulging eyes, of a vibrant orange color….something between the two, something yellow and black too. Copper: the swirl of fire."
Morality vs duty or morality vs. law is still an issue today even if the topics change. Is justice a question to be decided by morality or law? The unrest of today is just a mirror of the unrest of the past. We see it in Dante's beloved Florence, in Boston of the 1800s, wars of the 20th and 21st Century....morality is still an issue.
Need to take a break for dinner. More later.
Would the murderer have deliberately placed the maggots on the judge in some way as a way of signifying his sin?
It occurs to me that the judge was already being "eaten alive" by his decision, as Ednah Healey described it. Sounds like a Dantesque punishment to me. The murder wasn't a necessary punishment...overkill. (I thought it really interesting, but not too surprised) that Oliver Wendell Holmes was FOR the decision to return runaway slaves! We need to watch him!)
Here's Pat's page of clues to date (Thanks, Pat!)
Clues leading to the Culprit
Did you notice the little worm she added? Cute! She must be following this! More on that particular blowfly/maggot in a minute...
Remember, too, his goal of becoming America's most famed novelist.
Longfellow WAS the greatest of translators and this process must have afforded him companionship in his own isolation as he had pretty much declined most social obligations by this point. He said, " I have done this work when I can do nothing else." They also needed his name to sell the Dante book when completed.
The confident, scholarly Lowell was compelled to join them as he understood Dante's Inferno. I love this line of Matthew's:
"Dante's Hell is part of our world as much
as part of the underworld and shouldn't be avoided, but rather confronted.
We sound the depths of Hell very often in this life."
Alf I don't see how Lowell understands the Inferno, he seems so calm and self-possessed, but apparently there's something more to Lowell if he can "understand" in the way I take to mean he has been there or is there in Hell. Is this true of Lowell? What about the depictions of the rest of the Dante Club members? There may not be answers until later in the book.
Horselover, excellent point about the Nuremburg trials and the ordinariness of the defendants who committed unspeakable crimes. And Joan, yes I loved Fields active defiance to Manning's threats too! Right on!
Maryal, according to the Collins Dictionary "dinanzi" is translated to mean: (verb) ahead; In this case I think it might mean 'dinanzi a~' or in front of. The Longfellow translation reads 'before me' and the passage in Canto III that you've quoted is translated as: Marvelle
(prep) as in 'dinanzi a': in front of; and also in the presence of, before as in al presento ~ a me, or ~ad una tale situazione, faced with such a situation.
In this case I think it might mean 'dinanzi a~' or in front of. The Longfellow translation reads 'before me' and the passage in Canto III that you've quoted is translated as:
The words on the Gate to Hell reminds me of a reverse-Genesis.
Longfellow - Thanks for helping me to understand better what draws him to Dante after the death of his wife. Jo, the idea of "translating unspeakable emotions into representational form"...(the process sounds very much like Lowell's "Proof of poetry".) Sounds.really beneficial - therapeutic. By the time Dante reaches Paradiso, he finds his Beatrice waiting for him there (Longfellow has already translated Paradiso and Purgatoria - saved Inferno for last, must opposite from the way Dante wrote the Comedy) I can see Longfellow gaining strength and hope from translating Dante's despair, yet courage and fortitude in the face of his pain. Wasn't it Lowell who talked him into the project? Was Lowell trying to help his friend out of depression when he suggested the translation?
Lowell - Jo writes of his energy. I see that. He seems to be the energizing force in the Club...the decision maker. Does he have the temperament of a poet, Marvelle? It would be interesting to look at some of his poetyr. Why is he not concerned at the threat to his position at Harvard? He is a recognized poet, a professor of the Living Languages - and conducts the Dante Seminar, taking Longfellow's place...he knows Harvard's views on the classics/vs.living language. (Jo asked an interesting question the other day about the way Harvard regarded its curriculum, its students. Makes you wonder what they thought about the controversy.) Matthew P.puts these words into Lowell's mouth (did research provide you with this, Matthew?:"The proof of poetry was in Lowell's mind that it reduced to the essence of a single line the vague philosophy that floated in all mens' minds, so as to render it portable and useful...ready to the hand."I love that. Can see better how transposing the poetry of Dante would be a help to Longfellow - reducing his emotions into useful, portable concepts.
Actually this sounds like Lowell - a no-nonsense approach to viewing inner feelings, vague philosophy. I NEED to look as his poetry again!
Oliver Wendell Holmes - as Andy puts it...is so "full of himself"...but is he? Jo brings up the "fear" factor. What do you think? Does he really believe latest is the great American novel? Even his wife does not. What we do know is that he doesn't want to see the Dante translation published, taking the spotlight from the publication of his own book. He must have less than thrilled at Fields leak to the NY Tribune about the about-to-be-published translation.'Yes, tension within the group...and yet they are certainly friends. We need to keep an eye on him...his ambitions make him weak, open to moral lapses, perhaps? Have you ever read Autocrat at the Breakfast Table? I have not. Do you recommend it?
What I find interesting...Holmes is a writer, a poet and a man of science too. What sort of a doctor was he? He taught medicine, didn't he? He was applauded when he entered the "arena"...Horselover, why do you think he was not successful at what he did?
Longfellow was in the next room when his second wife Fanny's light summer dress caught fire. He put out the flames with a rug and by folding her in his arms but she died the next day. While Longfellow suffered burns on his face and hands (he couldn't shave anymore), he eventually recovered.
I think Longfellow might have left the translation of the fiery Inferno to the last moment because he needed to heal (through visions of Paradiso and Purgatario) before writing about a place he'd visited physically and emotionally.
In answer to a question about Lowell, he doesn't have the temperment of a poet. "The proof of poetry was in Lowell's mind that it reduced to the essence of a single line the vague philosophy that floated in all mens' minds, so as to render it portable and profitable ... ready to the hand."
Poetry is neither philosophy nor ideas but words that string together and strike at the listener for a gut reaction (not an intellectual nodding of the head; or detached approval of the poem's 'idea'). I looked at Lowell's poetry and was severely disappointed:
The poem "Present Crisis" was written in 1844. In 1910 when the leaders of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) had to choose a name for their new publication, they agreed that it should be The Crisis.
I'll look into Lowell and Holmes for a bit more info.
Lowell graduated from Harvard with a law degree in 1840 but decided that he could reach the public with his messages better through poetry and became a writer. He was a scholar, editor, and essayist on writing. A long poem of Lowell's that was popular in his day is "Vision of Sir Launfal" on the brotherhood of man.
He's definitely one of the Boston Brahmins, more so than either of his friends. Lowell's father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were graduates of Harvard. In 1780 Lowell's great-grandfather introduced into the state's Bill of Rights the clause abolishing slavery in Massachusetts. "All men are created free and equal."
The town of Lowell MA was named for the family. An uncle was the founder of the Lowell Institute in Boston. Lowell's father was the pastor of West Church in that city.
Lowell himself was an abolitionist. All the sources I've read about Lowell calls him a conservative. More than anything else, I see Lowell as a politician and lawyer who wrote.
Of the poems in the above link, "The Last Leaf" is considered a nice example of Holmes poetry. For Joan (?) who asked about the Autocrat, I've included a link. Two prefaces are interesting -- To the Readers 1882; The Autocrat's Autobiography 1858. A charming writer although not a great poet.
Matthew Pearl has inspired me to look for copies of the Breakfast-Table series (3 books). I know they're popular in antiquarian book circles but hope they aren't too costly.
The upper region of holmes'es classroom was known as the MOUNTAIN? Is this a reference to the MOUNT of joy?
We're only 55 pages into the novel and have barely meet the characters so I'm not able to judge any of them but it was funny Alf, about Holmes and that episode with Lowell. Thanks for mentioning it.
Its nice to see all the characters developing, with their peculiarities, weaknesses and strengths like the flesh-and-blood people they were. Despite the differentiation in characterization though I don't know that we've met the murderer yet. Will look over these first 55 pages and see what else is there. We still have until Monday to discuss this section of The Dante Club.
He taught at both Dartmouth and Harvard, and according to Gale Publications, "his ability to hold his students' attention was legendary." Maryal, interesting your comment about so many young wives dying in childbirth during that period. In the early 1840's Holmes, along with the medical community, was very concerned about childbed fever which spread through maternity wards. Holmes deduced it was spread by doctors carrying it from patient to patient, and recommended vigorous hand-washing and other sanitary measures. Unfortunately, his advice was largely ignored.
Up till now I've never been a fan of "historical mysteries ," but am thoroughly enjoying The Dante Club and this discussion. I just finished reading the MP on Historical Fiction link in the heading -- what a fantastic picture, Joan, and lucky you to be there. Was that the Barnes and Noble acros from the Harrington?
-- His personality drew him to medicine and poetry
-- Supported the Fugitive Slave Law (he wasn't pro-slavery) to avoid the conflict
-- Worried about Jr. going to fight in the Civil War
-- Imaginative (good for his poetry)
-- Intuitive and compassionate
-- Timid & easily stressed
-- Not argumentative?
--Tries to be optimistic & to ignore the bad things of life (how he fights stress & he has stress-induced asthma)
-- Sociable and loves to talk, talk, talk (does he listen though?)
-- Craves approval (students, son, public, other writers, friends); feels inadequate?
-- Worries about the success of his next book because of possible backlash on his support of the FSL; his wife Amelia worries too; his recent works published just before and during the War were not well received.
-- May need money and to keep his Harvard position (not earning enough as writer because of the FSL backlash?)
-- A better writer than James Russell Lowell but not as good as Longfellow
-- His personality draws him to the study of the Law
-- Lays down the law to his father (not vice versa)
-- Was wounded three times in the Civil War; a decorated hero
-- Is proud of his wartime service
There will hopefully be more in the pages to come about Junior and certainly more about Senior. From the link George posted it seems that Matthew Pearl had a lot of documents at hand to flesh out 'his' writers. I enjoy learning about them and about Boston.
Lots of interesting items about Longfellow in the above link. Click on the stair picture to enlarge.
The portrait of Dante at Longfellow's Craigie House (courtesy of Matthew Pearl) is a litho copy of the fresco by Giotto, discovered in 1842 under a layer of whitewash at the Bargello in Florence. For the "freely" restored fresco see:
This is a cozy room dedicated to books and friendship. There are books everywhere in this reading room -- in the cases and haphazardly scattered, obviously being read and set down for another book, then picked up again. The round table is loaded with books. Lots of chairs for friends to sit and chat about books. Artwork and personal bric-a-brac for interest and a crackling fire in the winter. This study is the heart of the home and invites all of us to have a seat and share our thoughts about Dante, literature, and writing and learn from each other.
SN Books is a virtual re-creation of Longfellow's study where we all find a chair and sit and talk Books. Just like the members of the Dante Club, we're all individual personalities, with special interests and sometimes differing opinions, but we're brought together by our abiding love of Books. Longfellow's study is one of the most inviting, welcoming, and comfortable rooms I've seen. Even if we don't have a separate study in our 'real' homes, we can find one here at SN Books.
I'm going tack a copy of this study photo on my wall as a reminder of our shared love of books -- a love shared among SN members, and Dante, Longfellow, Holmes, Lowell, Fields and Greene. Couldn't find better company!
Holmes believes Judge Healey ruled properly, according to the law and not popular opinion. "He knew the best of himself....He knew his place was the courthouse, not the barbaric arena of politics." (Holmes 54) Whereas Lowell believes that Healey, who believed in abolition, should have ruled on Sims based on current beliefs and morality rather than enforcing the law; to do otherwise was cowardly. "Would you ever have ruled as cowardly as Healey, Wendell? If I had proposed that it had been your choice, would you have sent that Sims boy back to his plantation in chains?" (Lowell 54) Can State judges rule contrary to law? Did they in the 1800's and do they today?
Matthew, what is the difference between the mask of the law and pragmatism in law? Is there any?
Joan asks "Are you sensing at all that the murders are somehow connected with slavery, racism or the war. Or with the publication of the Dante translation?"
Yes. I think the first part of The Dante CLub shows those issues; and not just racism either but bigotry of many sorts -- anti-Catholic, anti-Irish, anti-Immigrant, anti-Black. There's a common thread that runs through Dante's Inferno and The Dante Club which is crime and suitable punishment. We keep hearing of justice and the first victim is Judge Healey, a jurist, who sent the fugitive slave Thomas Sims back to slavery in 1851(?). Healey is against slavery but he supported the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 in order to avoid conflict. It was an inflammatory issue before and after his death so it obviously was an infamous case.
Thomas Sims was a real person; Judge Healey is fictional
-- but Healey's trial decisions on Sims and the Webster murder trial are based on the career of an actual person, Lemuel Shaw, the chief justice of the judicial court of Massachusetts, serving from 1830-1860. Shaw died a natural death; he wasn't murdered; it's his decisions in Sims and Webster (rather than the judge personally) which are included in this novel.
Lemuel Shaw (1791-1861), graduated from Harvard Law in 1830. He was Herman Melville's father-in-law. Shaw was an eminent jurist and his rulings still are cited today in briefs (obviously not the FSL). He was the son of a Congregational minister in MA and was educated at home. (Are all Boston Brahmins the sons of ministers? We keep running into these sons!)
For a photo of Shaw CLICK HERE
Then click on the second blue heading on left side of page, identified as Lemuel Shaw, ca. 1850.
This was a ground-breaking murder trial because there was no clearly identifiable victim. There was only circumstantial evidence. Chief Justice Shaw set some precedents regarding evidence, and forensics played a pioneering role. Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, in an early application of forensic evidence, testified regarding the condition of the body parts as well as to the character of Webster. Nathan Cooley Keep was the expert witness on Forensic Dentistry
Justice Lemuel Shaw's charge to the jury has been debated (and cited) up to the present time.
"What is reasonable doubt? It is a term often used, probably pretty well understood.... It is the state of the case which after the entire comparison and consideration of all the evidence, leaves the minds of the jury in that conviction that they cannot say they feel an abiding conviction to a moral certainty, of the truth of the charges."
"The true rule respecting probative value to probative character ... the capacity of the evidence to establish a fact, to prove something of circumstantial evidence is well settled. It is that the circumstances must be said to produce a moral certainty of guilt and to exclude any other reasonable hypothesis, that the circumstances taken together should be of a conclusive nature and tendency leading on the whole to a satisfactory conclusion and producing, in effect, a reasonable and moral certainty that the accused and no one else committed the offense charged."
"When the existence of all the facts necessary to establish the fact to be proved -- and the fact to be proved here is the identity of the person who was responsible for the death of [the victim] -- when the existence of those facts necessary to establish a chain of circumstances to prove that it was this defendant who committed the act has been established to your satisfaction, when you are satisfied to a moral certainty on each of those facts, then that circumstantial evidence has established the evidence of the main fact to be proved."
People still debate Webster's guilt and I understand that PBS is airing a program on the Webster Murder Trial in July.
If no one else wishes to pursue this theme of justice and to keep strictly to the plot then that's acceptable to me.
I'd decided to limit posting of links to any I didn't think affected the solving of a mystery. That meant I had to read ahead in the novel which I did this weekend. I'd like to know what Matthew thinks about the links. I'm quite content to research and not share them if that's for the best.
The case of Farwell v. Boston & Worcester Railroad Corp. was decided in 1842, It involved a dispute of the liability of an employer for an employee's injuries received during the course of work. Farwell, a railroad engineer, had one of his hands crushed and destroyed because a switchman negligently allowed a train to run off the track. The employer argued in part that the injury was caused by another employee and it was that employee who should be sued, not the Railroad.
Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw wrote the majority decision. Shaw argued that Farwell was largely responsible because he had chosen to take a more dangerous job and was well paid for that job, and that there was an unwritten contract between employer and employee. This case decision demonstrated the increasing support of the government for the burgeoning corporations. It limited the liability of employers for work-related injuries and was a loss for labor. The following link on this decision is rather lengthy which is why I summarized the case for those who don't want to read the entire link (but I may have left out something important).
The AOL decision is more for comparison and a reminder that such issues are still with us today.
-- in this section of the book (56-97). So I've posted the link again in connection with the murder of the fictional Reverend Elisha Talbot and to note that Lemuel Shaw was the chief justice at the trial of the accused leaders of the burning.
"The Irish immigrants in Charlestown and Boston had often felt the extent to which they were unwelcome. The convent may have been welcomed by the upper class New Englanders who could afford to send their daughters there [for their education], but it was also an object of suspicion and dislike, especially on the part of the lower classes, and the Congregationists...."
"In early December the accused leaders of the mob were brought to trial [for arson and burglary], Justices Shaw, Putman and Morton presiding. The Attorney General protested the early date of the trial, because general approval of the attack...made it difficult to get witnesses. All those he approached had received threats.
Court decisions: "The justices did not allow the Prosecution to question jurors on their anti-catholic sentiments. The Defense Attorney was allowed to state that the convent did not have charity as its object and that the nuns who came to testify were pretending to have colds as a result of the riot [and having to escape at night across a damp field]. ... The bishop and the mother superior were cross-examined on the morality of convent life."
"The leaders of the riot were found not guilty after a 10 day trial. John R. Buzzell, the prime defendant, was quoted in the newspaper: 'The testimony against me was point black and was sufficient to have convicted twenty men, but somehow I proved an alibi, and the jury brought me victory of not guilty, after having been out for 21 hours.' "
About the Webster Murder Trial? I'm not sure why its included except that it was an exceptional trial involving Boston Brahmins. It doesn't relate directly to any 'punishment' by the vigilante that I can see, and its for this reason -- its unique unrelatedness compared to the other cases which are loosely tied to the fictional murders -- that I want to keep the Webster Murder Trial in mind as we continue to read and discuss The Dante Club. So there has to be some reason the Webster is included and I bet Matthew isn't telling!
In the book Voices of the Night there's the "Prelude" which is Longfellow's introduction into Hell with his first wife's death. Then comes the "Hymn to the Night" where he feels his wife's presence and is comforted. Only later in "A Psalm of Life" does the poet get on with living and working. In The Dante Club, however, after the death of Fanny, his second wife, he's stuck in the comfort of the night and cannot proceed emotionally.
The night then is Longfellow's heaven and peace while day brings back reality and absence and Hell. "...sometimes, in the pale nimbus of the night lamp, Longfellow thought he could see her gentle face staring at him from the corner of the bedchamber, here in the room where she died. At these times, he would jump with a start. The sinking of the heart that followed his half-formed joy was a terror worse than any nightmare Longfellow could remember or invent, for whatever phantom image he might see during the night, he would still rise in the morning alone." (86)
Lovely, expressive writing!
"It seems plausible that the Greyhound represents Can Grande della Scala, the ruler of Verona from 1308-1329...whose 'wisdom, love and virtue' were known to Dante."So, that's who Can Grande was, a virtuous ruler who might someday overcome whatever the beasts represented, greed, fraud, etc... Here is a revealing letter Dante writes to Can:
"The subject of this work must first be considered according to the letter, then be considered allegorically. The subject of the whole work, then, taken in the literal sense alone, is simply "the State of souls after death," for the movement of the whole work hinges on this. If the work be taken allegorically, the subject is "Man- as, according to his merits or demerits in the exercise of his free will, he is subject to reward or punishment by Justice..."Does his letter shed light on Dante's reasons for writing this work?
The title of the work is "Here begins the Comedy of Dante Alighieri, Florentine by birth, not by character."
You're not terribly late; the book is a compelling page-turner and you'll catch up in no time. I particularly like being "introduced" to some American authors whose works I haven't read often enough -- not just their works though but feeling like I'm getting personally acquainted. Enjoy!
Simoniacs in Canto XIX of the Inferno are the evil churchmen. My Webster Dictionary defines simony: the sin of buying or selling ecclesiastical preferments, benefices, etc.; named supposedly after Simon Magus who tried to purchase apostolic powers.
I'd say a simoniac was 'someone who sells/buys religion, and religious favors.' Simon Magus saw the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles John and Peter and he tried to purchase this power for himself. Peter berated Simon for thinking he could buy the gift of God.
Canto XIX (Longfellow translation) says it all:
The punishment is described further on in the canto:
The pilgrim Dante addresses one sinner who is Pope Boniface VIII and Boniface tells him that there are others under him and when new simoniacs arrive he too will be pushed down further into the hole and "after him shall come of fouler deed / from tow'rds the west a Pastor without laws."
The Christian Jubilee of 1300 was a time of rejoicing and of pardon for sins for those who made a pilgrimage to the city of Rome. Dante re-centers his poem on the terrestrial Rome to include the spiritual journey of the soul to celestial Jerusalem.
In the Middle Ages 24/25 March was the date of creation, of the fall of Adam and Eve, of the Annunciation and of the Crucifixion. While Boniface set the Jubilee Year as beginning January 1st, Dante chose 24/25 March as the beginning of his poem to align with the traditional dates and also because Florence, his beloved city, was the city of the lily and the Annunciation.
"Longfellow often thought of the two things Dante must have yearned for the most as he wrote the Divine Comedy while sitting in exile from his beloved Florence.I agree with you horselover, Longfellow was finding the same connection with his Fanny as he threw himself into the translation, vicariously experiencing a reunion with her as Dante with his Beatrice. No wonder his insomnia didn't have an ill effect on him! His late night translations were therapeutic for him.
The first was to win a return to his homeland, which he would never succeed in doing;
* the second was to see his Beatrice again, which the poet never could."
"Ëdnah Healey now imagined specific machinations by which the villain might suffer and repent. Her favorite brought the murderer to Gallows Hill, but instead of hanging he was stipped bare of clothes and set on fire, then permitted to try (unsuccessfully of course) to put out the flames."Now what in the world did you make of this? Were his feet burning? Does this connect in any way to the Talbot murder/punishment? Keep in mind that this is said BEFORE the Talbot murder even takes place?
Both Lowell and Holmes are dilettantes (sp?) who write poetry outside of their jobs. Both are lecturers (Holmes more successful) and Lowell is highly successful as an editor and essayist.
From what Matthew writes of them, I'd say that Lowell, the poet-editor with a law degree, is analytical and sees through to the center of issues. Holmes, the poet-lecturer with a medical degree, is emotional and empathetic and sees through to the center of people.
I think Lowell has submerged his feelings -- such as not remembering his first wife's face; while Holmes subverts his feelings -- "be happy." IMO these are two men coping with reality in very flawed and extreme ways.
Both are egotistical: Lowell's depression and need to control is a form of self-centeredness; Holmes preening into mirrors and constantly jabbering is another form of self-centeredness. Holmes is aware of his conceit; I would think that Lowell, as with most depressives, is also aware.
I like the description of Longfellow as spacey. The second tragedy seems to have left him with a certain fragility and saintliness which he shows in many ways, including being both father and mother to their children. Longfellow fills the void left by Fanny's death through his attempt to understand and translate the Inferno. He's treated more like Virgil by his poets, isn't he? He's their guide and touchstone.
I think Holmes' fear for his reputation and income stems from the damage done by his support of the Fugitive Slave Law. Obviously, he's worried (rightly I imagine) about money and losing his job. He didn't end up on the 'winning' side of the FSL and he's in a fragile position because of this.
Wonderful insights on feet! Hope someone with the technical know-how posts Matthew's information into the Inferno discussion.
I like the Mark Musa edition of the Inferno which is the Indiana Critical Edition. Not for Musa's poetry -- I prefer Ciardi, Pinsky, and Longfellow for the beauty of their translations -- but for the little footnotes and synopsis which clarifies each canto and makes it an easier read. There are essays too which I plan to dip into near the end of the discussion. I'm reading the Musa translation in tandem with the Longfellow.
try another translation - two are recommended here, John Ciardi's and Mark Musa's. Longfellow's is historically significant as it was the first American translation and also written by a beloved American poet, but the more modern approach may be easier to decipher.
have patience - believe those who tell you that the "cod liver oil" goes down with scarcely a notice, once you get past Limbo...
read the poem as "everyman" - put yourself into it, rather than regard it as something that may have been relevant in 1300. Look for relevance today.
The feet! Thank you Matthew! Let's all take care of our feet or pay the price! I'm reminded of Matthew's description of Holmes - "shifting from one foot to the other as though standing on hot coals"- wonderfully put! Think about it! I wonder whether we are so intent on turning the pages to solve the mystery if we are appreciating Matthew's writing, his use of simile and metaphor...so appropriate to the Inferno. As you "stumble" over them, will you share them with us?
I see Longfellow as Virgil, as a guide, a "touchstone" for the Clubbers as you noted, but now I am seeing strong semblances to Dante himself. Both wandering, searching and a guide to others at the same time. Hmmm...do we all play this dual-role in our own lives?
I'm looking at the punishments in the Inferno...beginning with Canto V and am not seeing a vengeful, exacting God - but rather "poet Justice". The punishments appear to be the logical results of the excesses. I guess what I'm saying, is whatever your beliefs in a personal God, an afterlife, the existance of Hell, you will find the message that you will get yours, one way or another. Someone here put it earlier...the "what-goes-around, comes around" syndrome. It's when you come to this realization, that you stop looking so closely at the sin of the individuals in the Inferno and start looking at your own shortcomings for which you will eventually have to pay the price. It's when you reach this self-examination stage that you really get into Dante, as EVERYMAN.
I've been thinking a lot about Lowell's students. Surely there must be several former members of his Dante classes still in the Boston area, and at least one has devoured the Inferno. I don't think we've met the murderer yet, unless it turns out to be Augustus Manning. I'm not reading the Inferno along with you, but do appreciate the parallels and comparisons that you all bring to this discussion.
The characterization and lives of the poets are what have been interesting me most in this discussion, especially Holmes. Have we been picking on him? I've been trying to find out more about him, and offer up this quote about him by William Dean Howells, a contemporary of the poets and a later owner of the Atlantic.
"He was not a man who cared to transcend; he liked bounds, he liked horizons, the constancy of shores. If he put to sea, he kept in sight of land, like the ancient navigators."
Howells met with Holmes at meetings of the Dante Club, as he mentions in the essay found here: http://howells.underthesun.cc/holmes/holmes1.html
The words of Tennyson that 'stunned' Holmes were:
I think this, the first part of the quote, is what convinced Holmes. He had to think about it a minute but he was the one person of the group who'd really need to be moved to act; to place himself outside his safety zone. Holmes is moved IMO into thinking that he could still act and be honorable and wipe out any mistakes of the past or at least diminish the mistakes. The idea of being detectives to stop the murders and save Dante needed Holmes cooperation for it to succeed. And both poets continue with:
In The poem "Ulysses," Tennyson based the personality of Ulysses on Dante's description of him in Canto 26. In Homer's "Odyssey" none of Odysseus' companions make it back to Ithaca but in the Inferno, Dante keeps the companions alive so that Odysseus/Ulysses will be the "evil counselor" who urges the mariners on to disaster. Tennyson celebrates Ulysses' restless quest while Dante condems it as a "mad flight" (folle volo). The poem picks up at the peaceful close of Ulysses life.
The above link has an unusual, but short, heading. I chose this website because the double-spaced lines were easier to read than some of the other links.
Anybody who wants to read the Tennyson poem but who prefers another format, please let me know. I have a few others links of the same poem and I can post one of them.
(horselover, I think we have established that these insects which infected Judge Healey are NOT the type of flies who produce the screwworm maggots found in Judge Healey's body. These are the foreign-to-these-parts insects which enter into a wound and feed on living tissue. So, these flies would have to have been "transported" into the country from abroad. They were first discovered in New Guinea in the 1850's. We need a suspect who has been seen down at the docks, perhaps?)
Manning - he's dead-set against the publication of the Dante translaton. Why is this? He holds the strings to the money bags...which support all of Harvard's publications. Why should he OR the Harvard Corp. be concerned about this publication. Lowell asserts that the powers that be are intent on closing down his Inferno seminar. (hell, there are only two students in there! Why make a deal over this? Surely not commit murder over it!)Jo those are marvelous images, examples of Matthew's writing you bring here! One of the best - "Dante writes like Rembrandt, with a brush dipped in darkness and a gleam of hellfire as his light." Matthew has described elsewhere the research work that goes into writing historical fiction. That includes reading what his characters have written, published works, letters, etc. Sometimes I can't distinguish between what Matthew has expressed and what the poets have written. In any case, there is much to admire here.
Manning and the Harvard Corporation seem to want to limit any foreign invasion of its ivory tower of learning. That would explain why they would wish to maintain the status quo...teach the classics and "burn" any book that would dilute the curriculum in any way.
* Prof. Tichnor - he is Manning's polar opposite. He would have liked to have been the one to introduce Dante ...not to the students of Harvard exclusively, but to the Italian immigrants as well. He would like to change Harvard's complection as strongly as Manning would like to preserve its ivory white tower.)
Poe had been criticized for plagarism himself and when he took Longfellow to task, he deliberately committed errors in his essays, and then someone named Outis angrily replied exposing those errors. Most people assumed -- and rightly I believe -- that Poe was Outis.
Poe conducted his own literary war with himself in a few essays on the "plagiarism" of poets and the questioned intelligence of the critic (Poe) and the doubtful reliability of Longfellow's defenders (also Poe) in their outraged replies to Poe's essays. Longfellow would have been aware of this I think.
The Longfellow war was more an inquiry on poetics as well as a way to spur readership for Poe and his magazine. One of the ideas in Poe's essays about this matter is that poets talk to one another through their poems; they converse over the centuries in their poems. We've seen that already with Homer's Ulysses/Odysseus in his works, Dante's reply with his Ulysses in Canto 26 and a further reply in Tennyson's poem on Ulysses.
I simplied -- perhaps over-simplified -- the Longfellow war. This particular war was a hoax, double-talk was the norm, and all the battlng correspondents were probably Poe himself. (But it doesn't mean hat Poe wasn't trying to nudge Longfellow for "being asleep on velvet" -- I interpret this remark of Poe's to mean not striving, and instead taking his ease.)
Healey could possibly have been awake and took off his own clothes but highly unlikely since the blow to his head was done in the bedroom and not at the river with his false teeth left along with his clothes. I'd say some clues then are:
Clue 1 -- strength of murderer
Clue 2 -- Murderer finds it necessary for victims to have a semblance of death before torment (the victims were rendered senseless while the murderer prepared them for the torment; rather like the Inferno when the body dies first and then the soul is tormented in Hell).
Clue 3 -- Premeditation and planning (the murderer knew when the victims would be alone and when there'd be enough time for him to stage the torment before and after the 'semblance of death')
Horselover, great question! Why wouldn't the poets fear death?
I think HOW the murderer knows who's sinned (and how they've sinned) may not be in front of us right now. First we had the murder of a legal man; now the murder of a church man. I can't assume at this point that the victims have actually sinned.
Preachers like Talbot were immensely famous and I think he'd be talked about. Rousing preachers in 1800s America were the Rock Stars around whom the "fans" congregated. Talbot's sermons against Catholicism -- in reality the sermons of Rev. Lyman Beecher -- may have incited a mob to burn down the Ursuline Convent. Talbot accepted consultation fees from the railroad for recruiting workers from Europe. Can these actions symbolize simony, using one's position in the Church for profit and influence? [the buying and selling of Church favors]
The particulars of Talbot, his actions, and the Second Church allude to historical events. Are those events also acts of simony, or not?
Two preachers with immense followings in Boston were Rev. Lyman Beecher, a Congregationist and Theodore Parker, the Unitarian minister. Both were made famous by using their pulpits to speak against slavery and intemperance and for women's right. Both were charged with heresy.
LYMAN BEECHER, from newman.baruch.cuny.edu: "He was a prominent opponent of the growing 'heresy' of Unitarianism, though as early as 1836 he was accused of being a moderate Calvinist [for his stance on abolition and temperance] and was tried for heresy and hypocrisy but was acquited.....[paraphrase] He gave six famous sermons on intemperance which greatly added temperance reform. When his church in Boston, Hanover Church, burnt down it was discovered that a merchant who rented the basement of the church, used it to store jugs of liquor. It was then that Beecher realized he wasn't as popular as he'd thought and he eventually moved West." (The unspoken words before this last sentence indicates public disapproval and censure I believe.)
From Lyman Beecher we have mention of scandals in the basement/underground, sermons for causes which made him famous, preaching against Catholicism and the Ursuline Convent is burned.
But are LYMAN BEECHER AND/OR ELISHA TALBOT guilty of simony? Can a preacher use his pulpit for political or social purposes and not be guilty of simony? There was a special investigation committee formed after the Ursuline burning and their report hinted that a larger conspiracy was behind the burning instigated by prominent men of the community. Could BEECHER be blamed for the merchant's liquor in the church basement? And couldn't the consultation fees that TALBOT received from the railroad just be a reasonable payment for services rendered; but that Talbot is so zealous in his beliefs that he personally feels some guilt?
From womenshistory.about.com (part of Julia Ward Howe's bio): "Parker, a radical on women's rights and slavery, often wrote his sermons with a handn on his desk, ready, if necessary to defend the lives of the runaway slaves who were staying that night in his cellar on thir way to Canada and freedom." Parker was part of the Underground Railroad but had come to believe that violence was the only way that would end slavery. He was one of the "Secret Six" who financed John Brown's raid at Harper's Ferry, Virginia.
When the raid failed and Brown was hanged, many of the Secret Six fled the country, fearing prosecution for their involvement. Parker went to Europe where he died of tuberculosis and was buried there in Europe. The next link has additional photos of the grave near the bottom of the page.
The connection of Parker to the simony and punishment of Rev. Elisha Talbot is the Underground Railroad, preaching against slavery from the pulpit, financing the 'War' of John Brown, and the grave in Florence. The Harper's Ferry incident was a short fuse that influenced the start of the Civil War -- it isn't the primary or only factor because wars are not that simply begun.
Again, I don't believe we're given certain inarguable proof of any church man's guilt. IMO the allusions guide us into questioning our perceptions of history and justice.
Horselover, I think you're right when you say that a madman need only perceive a wrong or a sin. It doesn't actually have to be there.
And someone asked, "How did the murderer know about these so-called sins and those who had committed them?" This is Boston, Cambridge really, in the days before TV, radio, telephones, etc. The educated elite spent their leisure conversing, discussing, and no doubt, gossiping. I can't imagine that it was an overwhelmingly large group, so there were probably few secrets. As has been mentioned before, those in the public eye were talked about considerably. Good heavens, am I saying that our murderer must be a Boston Brahmin?
Marvelle, I liked your input about Lyman Beecher. Throughout this discussion you have had an uncanny knack for putting us in touch with information that can only enhance our reading and discussion. It is appreciated, for sure.
Murderer's strength - does this clue eliminate anyone? I am thinking of the Nell Ranney's strength when she dragged the maggot-infected body of Judge Healey into the house. Can you imagine doing that? Wouldn't your first move have been to call the police? How would you explain or understand her bringing him into the house?
Premeditation and planning - This HAS to include a detailed knowledge of the Inferno, doesn't it? Maryal notes that there were other translations available in Europe/England at this time. Does anyone know how widely read or how available they were? I remember reading somewhere that interest in Dante declined between the 1700's and the mid 1900's. Am wondering why the renewed interest and where and the extent. I guess, I'm still inclined to believe the murderer is getting his/her information from the Longfellow translation proof sheets, or from the Dante Seminars at Harvard.
The leaper's behavior - knowledge of Dante's words in Italian..Jo, you bring up the leaper as a suspect. He speaks Italian, he quoted Dante as he leapt to his death. Yes, he did see something. Was he involved somehow? He died BEFORE Rev. Talbot...but he could have been involved with Judge Healey's death. This suggests again, more than one culprit. I still like "evil counselor" and accomplices to carry out the acts. But I also believe the accomplices had their own reasons for agreeing to commit murder
Walt Whitman, among others, attended the trial, waiting to set Sanborn free if necessary. The courtroom was packed. The arrest ended in Shaw's court because Sanborn had petitioned his arrest. In F.B Sanborn vs. Silas Carleton, Shaw had to determine if the arrest by Carleton was legal.
From walden.org: "The arrest was made by Silas Carleton, a citizen and inhabitant of Massachusetts; and in his answer, under oath, he shows a warrant to Dunning R. McNair, sergeant-at-arms of the Senate of the United States, and says that the sergeant-at-arms entered an order upon it, delegating the power to Carleton to make the arrest. [Carleton's defense says that] there is no conflict in this case between the authority of an executive officer of the United States and an officer of this Commonwealth."
Shaw's decision on April 4, 1860 reads in part:
"Suppose that the Senate had authority, by the resolves passed by them, to cause the petitioner [Sanborn] to be arrested and brought before them, it appears by the warrant issued for that purpose that the power was given alone to McNair, sergeant-at-arms, and there is nothing to indicate any intention on their part to have an arrest made by another person. There is no authority, in fact, given by this warrant to delegate the authority to any other person.
"It is a general rule of the common law, not founded on any judicial decision or statute provision, but so universally received as to have grown into a maxim, that a delegated authority to one does not authorize him to delegate it to another. Delegata potestas non potest delegari. Broom's Maxims (3d ed.) 755. This grows out of the nature of the subject.
"A special authority is in the nature of a trust. It implies confidence in the ability, skill or discretion of the party intrusted. The author of such a power may extend it if he will, as is done in ordinary powers of attorney, giving power to one or his substitute or substitutes to do the acts authorized. But when it is not so extended, it is limited to the person named.
"On the special ground that the respondent [Carleton] had no legal authority to make the arrest, and has now no legal autority to detain the petitioner [Sanborn] in his custody, the order of the court is that the said Sanborn be discharged from the custody of said Carleton."
I'm aggravated -- as my notes just have a "question Matthew about the Hyperion." Was this modled after Fanny? I'm sorry Matt, I can't find the reference in the novel at this point,
Babi: You spoke of intuitive and I've wondered throughout if Fields was so bloody intuitive in his ability to predict what books/authors would be popular with particular customers then WHY can't he get a better handle on the perpetrator?
JO: I loved the way that Holmes hung, suspended, sweating and panting with only Longfellow to brace him. I could feel his fear and revulsion, couldn't you? At least his feet were being held by a beloved, trusted friend. The Rev didn't fare so well, did he? (The Simoniacs within the pitra livida, the "livid stone." Wonderful writing- didn't you love that?)
When it comes to police forces, not much has changed since the 1800s.
Let us not forget the OJ debacle and the Rodney King mess, the brutal beating
that was administered by the NYPD to a Haitian (?)etc.
Please, Joan, Jo, Maryal, someone tell me how far into the book (page please) should I be in this discussion?
EVERYONE - there is a schedule published in the HEADING that gives you the page numbers and the chapters beyond which it is strictly forbidden to comment! This is a murder mystery...we are making every effort NOT to comment ahead for fear of spoiling things for those who have NOT read beyond the discussion schedule pages! Already THREE of our group has gone beyond these pages and posted new-found clues and information here. What to do? We are coming into the home stretch. Chances are so great that one of us will give away the ending. Foul! No fair! What to do? Will write a letter to our entire "club" this afternoon and beg for folks to adhere to discussion schedule.
If you look at schedule above you will see that until Monday we are discussing no further than Page 138. Please consider other readers here who have not read beyond these pages!
BALLS O FIRE!
What I generally do if reading ahead of the schedule, is put a post-it in the book which alerts me to not go beyond the marked post-it. I also write brief notes to myself of what I can discuss within the schedule.
The notes have an additional benefit since I'm a visual person who needs to write things out in order to know what I'm thinking. With the notes,
Even if I've read a book to the end I learn so much from the other participants, from the questions DLs ask, that I wouldn't want to miss the discussion and being a part of it. What I think I know from reading the whole book often turns out to be only a portion of what I learn from actively participating in a discussion.
Please keep posting, George, because we'd miss you.
VI-VIII ~ pgs.98-138 |
IX, X ~ pgs.139-205 |
I learned from experience about keeping track of the schedule yet I like to read the entire book -- novels, not mysteries -- in one sitting for pure pleasure prior to a discussion. Something else I do to stay with the schedule, I pencil in the schedule on the post-it I use to mark the last page of the current section we're discussing. And before the week's discussion begins, I also take 10-15 minutes and thumb through the section to refesh my memory.
If you think I must have a lousy memory because of all my reminders to myself -- well, you're right!
Alas, the discussion dates are also visible at this point. I'm redeemed, thank you Joan, thank you Dante. Oh now I am getting carried away. I fear I shall be with all of you in the depths of his Inferno for a long time to come.
I enjoyed so much reading all the posts today. Really impressive...and hilarious too. Don't you know this is a serious poem? Alright, Holmes-in-the-hole was comical. Kicking his feet in the air. It did seem so out of character, didn't it? It shows how far these poets will go for Longfellow.
Lowell is able to identify the sandy spot where Healey was found - from these lines describing the Neutrals environment in Canto III-"...a tumult that goes on forever in that dark and timeless airWouldn't you agree that the killer has to be a translator of Lowell's or Longfellow's caliber...and not only translate, but really comprehend Dante's meaning? I'm not sure Manning is of this caliber. Who is? Professor Ticknor for one...
Even as the sand doth when the whirlwind bkiws" How much of a clue is that? ...Even Fields who has been part of the Dante Club all this time is not familiar with this ...Lowell has to spell it out for him. When rereading this section, I must say I am concerned about the blowfly bite that Lowell sustains...and wondering if Mme. Healey is being eaten alive by maggots, the way she is clawing at herself...
Longfellow tells Holmes to dig beneath where Talbot's head was buried because of this line:"Stay here for though art justly punished,OVER your loot. It has been said that Holmes is NOT an extraordinary translator, but it took a Longfellow to take that one word "over" and consider that with words we are told Peter Magus said to Simon in the Acts of the Apostles - "May thy money go to destruction with thee."
and keep safe guard over your loot."
Question 6 asks "what of the bit of paper with the letter "h" on it that is ground underfoot into the dirt in the underground vault? Is this clue lost forever? Does it bring to mind some lines from the Inferno?"
Answer: the bit of paper is more than likely a clue BUT it has 2 letters on it, "a" and "h". (See page 127, about 1/3 down the page.) Can we list this as a possible clue? Does the fact there are 2 letters change or eliminate the last question about lines from the Inferno?
Also, Joan(?) mentioned the newspaper's misprint of the judge's name as 'Artemus S. Healey' when his middle name was actually Prescott. Our Poets discounted that typo but I agree with Joan that it could be a clue of some sort. She mentioned (if I remember correctly) that the judge's initials would be ASH.
These two clues, as well as the ones we've already listed, may be red herrings but we can't know that at this point. Were there other clues people mentioned that aren't on the list? I'm trying to remember but am drawing a blank except for the typo of the judge's name.
Dante's pilgrim and Virgil enter the gates of Hell over which is the warning inscription. As they enter:
This is the place of the Neutrals and sounds a lot like the Babel that the otherworldly Longfellow enters with Holmes as his guide:
"It was strange for Oliver Wendell Holmes being out with Longfellow like this, to see him pass among the common faces and sounds and wonderful, terrible scents of the streets, as though he were part of the same world as the man driving a horse team with a sprinkling machine to clean the street. Not that the poet had never left Craigie House the last few years, but his outside activities were concise, confined. Dropping off proof sheets at Riverside Press [the Malebolge, the Evil Pockets?], dining with Fields at an unpopular hour at the Revere or Parker House. Holmes felt ashamed for having been the first one to stumble on something that could so inconceivably break Longfellow's peaceful suspension. It should have been Lowell. He would never think to feel guilt at forcing Longfellow into this bricked-up, soul-confusing Babylon of the world. Holmes wondered whether Longellow resented him for it -- whether he was capable of resentment or whether he was, as he was with so many unsavory emotions, immune." (123)
Now this following is mere conjecture and may have nothing to do with the message of the mixed-up letters. I don't think are we talking solely of Longfellow but of literature and the life of literature. Are all writers Neutrals? -- that is, not really living in this world. Can you safely be a Neutral if 'words bleed'? Is literature effective and safe? Writers want to communicate, to converse with readers, but perhaps what each brings to a work means what is spoken and heard is like the Tower of Babel in Babylon.
Then again, perhaps the mixed-up letters are red herrings and are meant to confuse? And all the thoughts on literature and the literary life are totally wrong.
From The Dictionary of Classical, Biblical, & Literary Allusions, eds. Abraham H. Lss, Kiremjian & Goldstein:
"The story of the tower of Babel in the land of Shinar (Babylonia) preserves confused memories of the Babylonian ziggurats, great towers in the shape of stepped pyramids, used for ancient sanctuaries. [Genesis' Tower of Babel] is a symbol of man's aspiring arrogance, rebuked by God. The name Babel (literally, 'the gate of God') is a Hebrew rendering of the name BABYLON. In modern English, Babel simply means a noisy confusion."
We're seeing how words can bleed in the Boston murders as well as the influence of judicial words on the unrest within Boston in the 1800s. I still think the bits of paper can be considered a physical clue but they also relate to the theme of "words can bleed" with the mixed-up letters signifying miscommunication of a dangerous sort.
Boston was a sleepy town pre-1843 until the influx of fugitive slaves and immigrants and other influences. By 1865 Boston was a babel of different languages, religions, cultures, races, and classes -- hence the streets of Babylon in which Holmes and Longfellow walk.
Communication is always a writer's concern and in this book we have the additional one of translation. Someone in Boston has misinterpreted Dante's Inferno and believes s/he can assume the power of meting out 'justice' which Dante only attributed to God. Chief Justice Shaw's ruling in the Harper Ferry's arrest comes to mind: "A special authority is in the nature of a trust. I implies confidence in the ability, skill or discretion of the party intrusted. The author of such a power may extend it if he will .... But when it is not so extended, it is limited to the person named."
e - di-ca-t-I-vic-B-as-im-n--y-e Then there are the letters a and h which are still down in the vault, ground into the dirt.
The "B"is capitalized, so I started there. Being a graduate of Benedictine schools, I spotted Benedic first thing...but stop there. In latin, the Benedic comes real close to blessed. Could the letters spell Italian or Latin words? I don't know that there are references to the "Blessed" in Hell, but there are in Heaven. How are you on your Beatitudes (Sermon on the Mount?) - made to the chosen people, promising the Kingdom of Heaven:What do you think of Rey as Everyman? And the BENEDIC ...the message of the Beatitudes? Blessed are the POOR in spirit found in the vault? All I can say is that this made perfect sense at midnight...
"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake" (Matt 5:3-11 KJV).
Bachi came to Boston to seek his fortune, one of 300 Italian immigrants in the area at this time. He gets a pretty good job teaching Italian at Harvard, marries an Irish lass...who finds "supplementary passions" after their marriage, takes off, taking everything he has - except for her "hearty keeness for drink."What of Phineas Johnson? He admires the poets...thinks that some of their respectability will rub off on him, but do you understand why he warns Lowell to beware of Manning? What could he know? I think we need to reread this section again. Are you reading the Inferno? Do you remember Minos warning Dante not to trust what the denizens of Hell tell him along the way? Is Phineas including Manning, et al as worthy hell-bound? I'm wondering if Manning will be next...
As far as I can tell, Harvard fires him because he is both a drunk and poverty-stricken. (I don't fault them for this, do you?) Anyway, he's desparate...to support himself, he is teaching Italian to spoiled, disinterested merchant's daughters. We are told that little Arabella's father had "a yellow-stained smile, as though he washed his teeth with gold." Now, I'm wondering if this merchant, whom Bachi views with such distain...is not the same merchant prince, Phineas Johnson. Hmmm...have we removed Bachi from the list of suspects too soon?
In what ways are the changes in Boston's social climate between 1843 and 1865 important to the story?Do you think these changes have any relationship to the crimes? Do you think the killer will turn out to be from the academic or from the unpriviliged of Boston/Cambridge?
Agassiz was an active abolitionist. He was famous for his innovative teaching methods, encouraged learning through direct observations of nature; revolutionized the study of natural history in the U.S.; was an outstanding promoter and fund-raiser. He opposed Darwin's theory of evolution and was distressed that most proponents of Darwinism were not naturalists.
Agassiz defined "species" as thoughts of God and believed that the geological record showed a series of independent creations separated by eually divine exterminations that cleared the decks for the next divine creation. His Essay on Classifications divided the animal kingdom into 4 branches: Vertebrata, Insecta, Vermes (worms) and Radiata (radially symmetrical animals); within each embranchement the classes could be ranked from lowest to highest; the orders in each class could be similarly ranked, and so on down to the species level, with Homo Sapiens sitting at the very top of the scale of life.
Question 5A -- Why is Professor Agassiz' explanation of the cochliomyia hominivorax important to Holmes & Lowell? Because they feed on live tissue which means that, as Holmes put it "The insects were not ornament, they were his [murderer's] weapon!" (199) Healey didn't die from the blow to the head but as a slow torture from the insects and this fits closely to a Dantean eternal punishment. _________________________________________ Question 5B -- Why does Holmes suspect that his conclusion that these insects have died out might be wrong? Agassiz recounts that he's seen these types of insects in Brazil and Mexico, in warm climates and that they could not live long in the colder North such as Boston. "They are native to this hemisphere ... But only in hot, swampier climates.... How they got here I cannot speculate. Perhaps accidentally on a shipment of cattle or ....No matter. It is our good fortune that these critters cannot live in a nortern climate such as ours, not in this climate and surroundings." (199) Holmes believed in the Darwinian theory of evolution which Agassiz did not. The theory is that organic life sprang forth from non-organic matter, exclusively through a natural mechanistic process on a pre-biotic earth. That original life form then evolved into more complex life forms through a natural process of random mutations and natural selection. Agassiz did not believe that the insects could evolve and adapt to the Boston environment. Agassiz approached his scientific studies with a priori knowledge, knowing in advance what he would find because that was what he was looking for -- he discounted what did not fit his theory of the divine creation. (As he dismissed how the insects got to Boston in the first place. 'No matter.') As a Darwinian, Holmes questions Agassiz' assumptions that the insects could not adapt and evolve. Marvelle
Because they feed on live tissue which means that, as Holmes put it "The insects were not ornament, they were his [murderer's] weapon!" (199) Healey didn't die from the blow to the head but as a slow torture from the insects and this fits closely to a Dantean eternal punishment.
Question 5B -- Why does Holmes suspect that his conclusion that these insects have died out might be wrong?
Agassiz recounts that he's seen these types of insects in Brazil and Mexico, in warm climates and that they could not live long in the colder North such as Boston. "They are native to this hemisphere ... But only in hot, swampier climates.... How they got here I cannot speculate. Perhaps accidentally on a shipment of cattle or ....No matter. It is our good fortune that these critters cannot live in a nortern climate such as ours, not in this climate and surroundings." (199)
Holmes believed in the Darwinian theory of evolution which Agassiz did not. The theory is that organic life sprang forth from non-organic matter, exclusively through a natural mechanistic process on a pre-biotic earth. That original life form then evolved into more complex life forms through a natural process of random mutations and natural selection.
Agassiz did not believe that the insects could evolve and adapt to the Boston environment. Agassiz approached his scientific studies with a priori knowledge, knowing in advance what he would find because that was what he was looking for -- he discounted what did not fit his theory of the divine creation. (As he dismissed how the insects got to Boston in the first place. 'No matter.') As a Darwinian, Holmes questions Agassiz' assumptions that the insects could not adapt and evolve.
Holmes wrote an article on the stereoscope which said in part: "The mind feels its way into the very depths of the picture. The scraggy branches of a tree in the foreground run out at us as if they would scratch our eyes out. The elbow of a figure stands forth so as to make us almost uncomfortable. Then there is such a frightful amount of detail, that we have the same sense of infinite complexity which nature gives us."
The anatomist Richard Owen, he of the dinosaur terminology, was one of Darwin's more famous opponents.
Oliver Wendell Holmes seemed to be receptive to new ideas since he seems to have accepted Darwin's theory while many scientists were still debating the issue. It was such a hot issue for a long time. In the second link here, there's information on Captain Fitzroy of the Beagle who'd allowed Darwin on his ship as the ship's scientist. From the years he was onboard the Beagle, Darwin collected and studied species and developed his theory. Captain Fitzroy couldn't forgive himself -- felt he was partly responsible for this new evolutionary theory -- and he killed himself.
This sort of passion over evolution, today so universally accepted, is stunning to me.
I read a biography on Longfellow prior to this discussion and there was a brief paragraph or two on Pietro Bachi. Harvard was reluctant to hire him because they didn't approve of Modern Languages yet they had to appease Longfellow. On Ticknor and Longfellow's recommendation, Harvard hired Bachi. Bachi was eminently qualified but he was an immigrant, Italian, Catholic, and teaching Modern Languages. Harvard paid him next to nothing compared to their other professors. One more example of prejudice and discrimination in our 1800s Boston.
I found the below link (the first few paragraphs interested me) about George Ticknor and also Pietro Bachi who taught at Harvard for 20 years despite being a 'foreigner.' He was born in the late 1700s and died in 1853.
From the link: "Bachi ...was paid a pittance and then dismissed when he filed for bankruptcy in 1844."
On page 152 we find out the leaper's name was Grifone Lonza. I suspect the leaper represented the three beasts that the pilgrim encounters on the beginning of his journey in the Inferno.
Lion -- The leaper was already identified on page 27 as a sphinx and Grifone is Italian for Gryphon/Griffin, the mythical beast that is part lion, part eagle. So there's a deception or riddle to the leaper. And he's shown to have the strength of a lion.
Wolf -- His drunkenness shows the dangerous rapaciousness (incontinence) of the she-wolf.
Leopard -- Lonza is the name Dante gave to his cat, the lean, bony creature with spotted pelt. The leaper's (Grifone Lonza) chessboard teeth, black scarf and egg-coat imitate the spotted coat of the leopard (changing colors from black to yellow) which signifies deception/fraud.
We've noted the man in the black bowler hat and yellow-checkered waistcoat, a gaunt figure with rather a wasted set of features -- intimations of the leopard and deception (and perhaps incontinence). Is there any lion in the man? I think we're supposed to realize either that he's involved in deception/fraud or he's there as a red herring. Bowler hat shows up on pages 34 and 68 but there are other passages too.
I haven't connected my thoughts on Grifone Lonza to Longfellow, re question 7 about exile; too tired tonight. I hope someone can tackle this question.
There are two stone griffins crouching on my library shelves.
Here's one last thing about Grifone Lonza. Lonza killed himself which is a sin according to his religion, Catholicism. In Dante's Inferno there is a strange forest of sucides:
Dante "snapped the tiny branch of a great thorn [off a branch and] the blood turned dark around the wound." By this action Dante finally is convinced it is a soul and asks how it came to its punishment. It answers:
Compare Dante to Grifone Lonza, the leaper: "He crashed through the thick plane of a bay window. One loose shard of glass, shaped perfectly like a scythe, swiveled out ... slicing cleanly through his windpipe .... He dropped hard through the shattered mass onto the yard below."
"The body unfurled over a thick cushion of autumn leaves, and the lens of the window's shattered glass cut the body and its bed into a kaleidoscope of yellow, black, hectic red. The ragged urchins [harpies?], the first down to the courtyard, pointed and hollered, dancing around the splayed body." (29)
Question 8A -- "What do you know about Ralph Waldo Emerson?"
Emerson too was an abolitionist. Today he still has a world wide reputation as an original (and the first totally American) philosopher/writer. I recommend the biography "Emerson: The Mind on Fire" by Robert D. Richardson and any edition of Emerson's writings.
Question 8B -- "What does he think of Dante? Does he sound like his old teacher, Professor Ticknor on this subject?"
Ticknor says that Americans must understand foreigners and have them conform to the American national character or else "the multitudes of outside people will one day conform us." (Ticknor 73) Professor Ticknor feels that despite Longfellow's enthusiasm and the acceptance of Dante by scholars, it is folly to hope that Dante will be widely read by 'the masses;' that Dante's sphere is "forever severe and unforgiving." (Ticknor 73-4) Basically, he's saying Dante is dangerous and can only be understood by scholars.
Emerson implies that Dante is similar to a rare collectible rather than a commonly available item -- Dante isn't produced for the masses: "I think sometimes of the days I read Dante under Professor Ticknor's direction, as you did, [this is the scholar's approval of Dante] yet I cannot help but feel Dante is a curiosity, like a mastodon -- a relic to put in a museum, not in one's house." [lack of popular appeal and relevancy to Americans] (Emerson 169)
Both men are saying that Dante isn't for the public. Here, I disagree with Emerson in that I feel Dante is relevant to the human condition. The Catholicism of the work was a deterrent to many in Emerson's time and is less so today. I do believe that the Inferno's severity will hold back many readers.
Question 8C -- "Is his sphinx-like response to Holmes question on the translation project, complimentary to Longfellow?" No, not complimentary.
It is a riddle of an answer. The comment on a palace is jarring, as well as servants and a well-stocked wine cellar -- all of which implies a privileged life apart from the common man -- and doesn't fit the American image which is part of Emerson's criticism of Longfellow, of being removed from the everyday life of America and that he is cocooned in his study. Emerson says that a scholar must be a man of ideas and action. "When I read Longfellow, I feel utterly at ease -- I am safe. This shall not yield us our future." (170)
In his 1837 lecture, "The American Scholar," Emerson talks of the influences affecting the spirit of the scholar: first in time and importance is Nature, then the Past (literature, art, institutions), Action, and finally a sense of duty as Individual Man. "The American Scholar" is Emerson's call for a national identity in literature. The lecture is long but I'll post it here if anyone wants to read it in its entirety:
In this lecture Emerson says "Action is with the scholar subordinate, but it is essential. Without it he is not yet man. Without it thought can never ripen into truth.... Inaction is cowardice, but there can be no scholar without the heroic mind. The preamble of thought, the transition through which it passes from the unconscious to the conscious, is action. Only so much do I know, as I have lived. Instantly we know whose words are loaded with life, and whose not."
Emerson on the changing literature of America where he says we use the past but live in the present in America. "I read with some joy of the auspicious signs of the coming days, as they glimmer already through poetry and art, through philosophy and science, through church and state. One of these signs is the fact that the same movement which effected the elevation of what was called the lowest class in literature, assumed in literature a very marked and as benign an aspect."
(Emerson continues in The American Scholar) "Instead of the sublime and the beautiful, the near, the low, the common, was explored and poeticized. That which had been negligently trodden under foot by those who were harnessing and provisioning themselves for long journeys into far countries, is suddenly found to be richer than all foreign parts. The literature of the poor, the feelings of the child, the philosophy of the street, the meaning of household life, are the topics of the time. It is a great stride. It is a sign -- is it not? -- of new vigor when the extremities are made active, when currents of warm life run into the hands and feet. I ask not for the great, the remote, the romantic .... I embrace the common, I explore and sit at the feet of the familiar, the low."
Emerson says that Longfellow's writing puts him at ease and that isn't what he wants in the new literature. He wants a man of the streets, of the American streets, and that's why I believe he sees Dante as not fitting into the American identity of the masses. I disagree with Emerson when looking at the subject from today's vantage point. But in the 1800s we didn't have a national literature and needed a strong identity in order to absorb Dante and other great works of the world without losing our unique identity.
"Shakespeare brings us to know ourselves; Dante with his dissection of all others, bids us know one another."Is this what the Brahmins fear, then...getting to know OTHERS, OTHER IDEAS and DISCOVERIES that threaten the status quo?
Influence of Emerson The library owes its existence to a chain of events that began to form when the aging Ralph Waldo Emerson lectured at Amherst College in 1879 and stirred the interest of a student named Henry Clay Folger.
Folger, who was to become president and chairman of the Standard Oil Co., paid 25 cents for a ticket to hear Emerson speak. What the philosopher had to say about Shakespeare caught fire in the student's mind.
Years earlier, Emerson, summing up the influence of Shakespeare on the 300th anniversary of his birth, wrote a sentence that Folger was to take to heart:
"Genius is the consoler of our mortal condition, and Shakespeare taught us that the little world of the heart is vaster, deeper and richer than the spaces of astronomy."
The she-wolf represents sins of Incontinence, lust, gluttony, anger...ps. Maryal - Famous dog breeds
The lion represents the Violent.
the leopard, LONZA, represents the lowest of the low...the Fraudulent, which are further divided into 10 rings, which include the Simonists, (Rev. Talbot was punished as a Simonist), AND the SOWERS OF DISCORD, which includes the Schismatics. (Jennison received the punishment of the Schismatic. What discord did he sow???)
"Here were the Schismatics, those who had divided nations, religions, and families in life and now find themselves divided in Hell-bodily-maimed and cut asunder."p.192Then, I remembered a description of Jennison on the day of his assault -
"Phineas Jennison often laughed to himself in this way while rambling through Boston, the city he had conquered. There was one world remaining to obtain, one where money had severe limits, where blood determined much of ones's status, and this conquest he was about to fulfill, in spite of recent hindrances." p.186Do you remember reading that? What did you make of it? Is there a young Phineas Jennison Jr. we have not yet met? How can P. Jennison break through the blood barrier? We've read much of fathers and sons in these chapters...but I don't remember associating P. Jennison with any of these. BaBi might be right...maybe we have not been introduced to the Schism yet. Remember Healey and Talbot? It wasn't until after their deaths that we learned the reason for their "punishment". I'm going to bet that his punishment will be the result of causing a perceived rift in a family...either his own, or in another.
Joan, I didn't know you worked at the Folger. I've never been there, but want to go when in DC again. Thanks for the Emerson info. And I'm glad we finally met him in the novel. I was wondering how he was in LC's "cataloging in print" and Longfellow wasn't.
Must confess, I've read a good bit ahead -- just couldn't put it down, so I'm a bit afraid to comment. But I agree with Jo, that Holmes has had the worst of it and has seen the most gruesome aspects of the case. He's still my favorite character, poor guy. I know he likes to blow himself up, but I've thought for a long time that he is low on self-esteem. He seems to doubt himself so much.
I love the way Matthew is putting this puzzle together -- everything fits superbly. You think there is a piece that doesn't belong and all of asudden it fits.
Is the murderer trying to break up the Club? To prevent the translation from ever getting into print? Couldn't Longfellow finish the translation on his own?So many many questions going on in my head as I go through the paces of the day...
Are you surprised at the determination of the poets to speed up the work? What is their motive? Do they think they will be able to thwart further killings? What's the connection?
Do you think there is any connection between the killings and the Italian Celebration of Dante's birth?
Do you think that Ticknor is involved in any way?
Maryal, are you still maintaining that Rey is involved in the murders? What of the rest of you? Your short list of suspects?
In post 158 I included information on the Webster Murder Trial with Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw presiding and Oliver Wendell Holmes as both a witness for John Webster's character and as an expert on anatomy. At the time I wasn't sure how the trial related as a theme to The Dante Club but I'm fairly certain now that it's the relationship to the trial (and its various aspects of murder) that troubles OWH rather than the Fugitive Slave Law. Some examples follow of what's preying on Holmes' mind:
-- Manning considers Holmes' vulnerability to pressure: "The panic on the little doctor's face as he watched what befell Professor Webster those many years ago -- not even the murder conviction or the hanging, but the loss of his place, which had been earned in society by such a good name, by training and career as a Harvard man...." (24)
-- Putnam to Holmes: "...your future will be hitched to Dante. I fear what shall happen to your poetry, your name, by the time Manning is through, in your current situation." (27)
-- Holmes considering the Webster case and his part in it: "It was during the heart of a trial so many years before that Wendell Holmes witnessed the ponderous, grueling style of speech by which Artemus Healey surrendered his legal opinions....The murder of Dr. Parkman had transpired in the laboratory below Holmes'slecture room, while Holmes was lecturing.... At least the customary rolling laughter of Holmes's students had drowned out Professor Webster's hacking of the body into pieces." (38)
-- The Poets consider what to do about the Dantean murders and their possible culpability: "....'we are men of great standing in Boston, men of society!' " (Fields 104) " 'As was Professor Webster. The gallows tell us there's no law against stringing up a Harvard man.' " (Longfellow response 104) "Dr. Holmes grew whiter yet. Although he was relieved that Longfellow had taken his side, this last comment pierced him [and he comments] 'At first, every teacher and staff in the school was a suspect -- even a poet like me.... I was put on their list of possible assailants.' " (Holmes 104-5)
-- Holmes thinks of the Parkman murder and the trial and conviction of John Webster: "Could not the janitor... [fearful of losing his job through Webster's knowledge of his gambling] have secured bone fragments from the Medical College's large supply and positioned them throughout Webster's rooms to appear hidden? Could it not as easily have been he [Holmes] who had found himself in the middle of damaging circumstances?" (247)
More to follow....
For the section on OWH attending the Webster hanging see pages 246-254. Here's a distrubing, strange poem from the normally positivist Holmes (you may have to scroll down the bartleby.com link for a few spaces; Paphian Queen is Aphrodite, goddess of love):
OWH (1809-1894) graduated Harvard in 1829 with a BA and in 1836 received his M.D., during which he spent 2 years in medical schools in Europe, mainly in Paris. He began his medical career as a G.P. but shifted into the academic field, becoming professor of anatomy and physiology at Dartmouth (1838-40), and then moved on to the the Harvard Medical School as dean and was the Parkman professor of anatomy and physiology to 1882 when he retired. He never was comfortable with dissection and generally had prosectors, students who did the actual dissections for him. Here are some important timelines.
1828 -- Burke & Hart discovered (see following post)
1830 -- Massachusetts Anatomy Act. Dr John Collins Warren persuades the MA State Legislature to allow limited anatomical dissections -- usually bodies of the poor and hanged murderers. (Harvard Medical School moved its campus from Cambridge to Boston, expecting to get bodies from an almshouse there.)
1831 -- Mount Auburn Cemetary established in Cambridge MA, after a series of devastating epidemics, outside the city limits.
1831 -- Knox resigns post
1836 -- OWH receives M.D.
1838 --OWH leaves general practice for academia
Conclusion of this to follow...
The Massachusetts Anatomy Act of 1830 provided legal means for dissection, but not religious sanction. This is where OWH's conscience may come into play and perhaps why he'd always been uncomfortable with dissection. For instance, when he and Longfellow go to the Second Church [play on the words Second Coming?] to see Talbot's murder scene, the two must enter the catacombs of the city's poor -- the very people that Holmes would have dissected (126-130). The catacombs is filled with broken bones and coffins. It seems the broken bones mean resurrectionists have been there too. In the midst of this (disapproving?) silent audience, Holmes is lowered head-first into the punishing-hole of the Simoniac. No wonder Holmes "kicked his legs frantically" before Longfellow hauls him out -- mimicing the Simoniac in Dante's punishment:
Stories on American resurrectionists (aka body snatchers and grave robbers) who supplied the medical profession with materials by which they could study, research, and learn:
Matthew reminds us of the problem of grave robbing: "A wire had been received at the Central Station, detailing an attempt, in the middle of the night, to steal Artemus Healey's remains from his coffin .... Mount Auburn Cemetery had now put the body into a steel coffin and hired another nighttime caretaker, this one armed with a shotgun." (154)
The most infamous case was that of Dr. Knox and Burke and Hare in Edinburgh, Scotland. Dr. Robert Knox (1798-1862) was an anatomist, as was OWH, and he taught anatomy at the University of Edinburgh's Extramural Anatomy School.
The school in Edinburgh was so popular with students that the pressure to find bodies for dissection was immense. In 1827 Burke and Hare (both Irishmen) sold to Dr. Knox's anatomy school a cadaver of an indigent lodger who died of natural causes. This easy money led B&H to start murdering old vagrants and other homeless people whose deaths would be likely to pass unnoticed and whose bodies could be sold to Dr. Knox. During the following year they murdered at least 16 people, very likely more, until their crimes were discovered in 1828 which created a public outcry. Burke was hanged and his body used for dissection. Dr. Knox was never convicted of wrong-doing -- the question being, did he know or suspect the true provenance of the bodies for which his school paid money to Burke and Hart? However, Knox was publicly vilified and narrowly escaped mob violence.
In 1831, under pressure, Knox resigned his position and moved to London. The general public's feeling were well expressed in rhyme which circulated widely at the time, and which OWH (and all anatomists and Medical Schools) would be aware:
"One to destroy is murder by the law, And gibbets keep the lifted hand in awe; To muder thousands takes a specious name, War's glorious art, and gives immortal fame."
When he sees Jennison 'dissected' so barbarously and the body's involuntary movement, he loses courage and quits the DC. Then Lowell visits and compares OWH to Dante. It is here he realizes the one difference, Dante was a soldier and he was not; but they both understood suffering because OWH was a doctor. The Lowell visit is similar to Virgil encouraging a fearful Dante to commence the journey in Canto II which OWH remembers:
Day was departing, and the embrowned air
Released the animals that are on earth
From their fatigues; and I the only one
Made myself ready to sustain the war,
Both of the way and likewise of the woe,
Which memory that errs not shall retrace.
-- Longfellow trans, Canto II lines 1-5
It's near the end of life for OWH (day was departing) and he alone, the only one, was fittest for this war of murder because of his personal war with life/death and involvement in dissection, and his pity (woe).
Lowell had told him that doing the right thing though the heavens may fall is difficult and OWH remembers Jennison's body 'broken and shredded' and the consequences of failing this [pilgrimage into his soul and the Poets investigation to stop the murders]....and Lowell replies "It could be the greatest calamity but one, Wendell. And that is being afraid of it." (252)
After Lowell leaves, OWH sees the likeness between Lowell's words of encouragement and Virgil's words to Dante and he remembers the quoted lines in Canto II. This is when he decides to continue with the DC and the murder investigation. It's a combination of Lowell's and Dante's words that influences him to continue.
I was interested in discovering what drove Holmes -- guilt over dissection & not quite so much over the Fugitive Slave Law -- to be a part of the Dante translation and investigation. Now I see why he had to confront so many dead bodies and why the brutally cut in half Jennison temporarily drove him away from the other Poets. Dante and Lowell brought him back.
As a soldier our Lucifer would be an exile which fits one of Matthew's themes. And the fear/guilt/furor over dissections would have made Doctor Holmes an exile, hence the pressing need for his pilgrimage.
I only addressed the words and points in Question 11 and haven't read ahead to know what is in the future; but perhaps Jo/others assume, without knowing, that certain events will happen.
I'm very interested in the thread woven into the plot. The thread, of actual events and persons and the judicial decisions of Chief Justice Shaw, explores themes of justice, law and morality. More on this later....
I just saw the revised schedule in the heading. As of Monday the 19th we're discussing pages 258 to the end for the next two weeks.
Trouble: Mabel goes to the trouble of informing Rey because she wants to have an active part in protecting her father and in helping to catch the murderer (She hints that her father's a cranky distracted poet, not a murderer.) She doesn't trust her father's ability to catch the murderer.
Afraid: She's afraid that Rey might suspect Lowell of being the murderer or conspirator and she tries to divert suspicion by saying that others (Mead, Sheldon) also know Dante's Inferno.
Resentment: Like many women of the period, she feels she's an outsider, left out of the events swirling around her. Her initial approach to Rey is one of 'we outsiders should stick together.' She mentions his being a mulatto, a New Man in a New Society, different from the Old pre-war society. She insists that he call her Mabel which he finally does. However, when she tries to push her offer of assistance in the investigation to help her father, Rey reverts to calling her 'Miss Lowell,' effectively distancing himself. Mabel resents being placed on the outside of Rey's world and outside his confidences. Even if Rey as a mulatto is outside most of the world of Boston society, Mabel resents the knowledge that she is outside of both Rey's and Boston's worlds. She resents her exclusion as a woman from active involvement especially since she cannot avoid her personal involvement.
"Ticknor and Longfellow both praise Dante, but for opposite reasons: Longfellow for his capacity to bring man to God, Ticknor for the punishments he metes out to the sinners."If we dwell on the punishments of others, we miss "Dante's capacity to bring man to God".....introspection. Thanks for that post, Jo.
The following quotes are some of the odious attitudes confronting New Man Officer Rey in 1865 Boston. They aren't obscure or isolated ideas; abolitionists like Louis Agassiz, as well as Theodore Parker and Samuel Howe (both of Harper's Ferry notoriety) held such beliefs.: "Nature produces no mules, no hybrids, neither in man nor animals. When they accidentally appear they soon cease to be, for they are either non-productive or one of the pure breeds speedily predominates, and the weaker disappears.", -- Dr. Robert Knox, Scottish anatomist in the 1828 body-snatching scandal, from his book "The Races of Men," 1850 "The production of halfbreeds is as much a sin against nature, as incest in a civilized community is a sin against purity of character .... No effort should be spared to check that which is abhorrent to our better nature, and to the progress of a higher civilization and a purer morality.... [the government aught to] put every possible obstacle to the crossing of the races and the increase of halfbreeds .... Conceive for a moment...if instead of the manly population descended from cognate [similar] metis, the United States should hereafter be inhabited by the effeminate progeny of mixed races, half Indian, half Negro, sprinkled with White. In whatever proportion the amalgamation may take place, I shudder at the consequences." -- Dr. Louis Agassiz,1863 correspondence to Samuel Howe From multiracial.com: The well-known physician and surgeon, Dr. Josiah Nott of Alabama, took mortality statistics from an 1840 census and developed the mulatto frailty theory to explain the reason this group of "Free Colored" appeared to be dying at twice the rate of "Slaves." He also developed a mulatto sterility theory [both theories repeated by Dr. Knox] to explain his 'observation' that mulattoes were less prolific than either whites or blacks. Nott reasoned that "just as the horse and donkey are different species and produce a sterile mule as hybrid offspring, so too [with] Whites and Blacks...." Concerning the offspring of mixed marriage, Nott's sterility theory asserted that fertility deteriorated through subsequent generations with sterility being the inevitable end. "The more white admixture mulattoes had, the greater their physical problems." Hence, the extermination of two races. -- Dr. Josiah Nott's article "The Mulatto a Hybrid -- the probable extermination of the two races if the Whites and Blacks are allowed to intermarry" published 1843 in the American Journal of the Medical Sciences; reprinted shortly thereafter in Boston Medical and Surgical Journal There is a sundering apart in society -- religion, generations, class, race, culture, ideas, and emotions -- and I think it's important to have the mulatto Officer Rey to keep that history and those issues in front of readers. Rey himself is aware of his exile based on his mixed race, but I think we readers need that hope of unity, waiting in the background, that Rey symbolizes while much else in the novel has been divided. This is my theory anyway. One more post to follow... Marvelle
"Nature produces no mules, no hybrids, neither in man nor animals. When they accidentally appear they soon cease to be, for they are either non-productive or one of the pure breeds speedily predominates, and the weaker disappears.", -- Dr. Robert Knox, Scottish anatomist in the 1828 body-snatching scandal, from his book "The Races of Men," 1850
"The production of halfbreeds is as much a sin against nature, as incest in a civilized community is a sin against purity of character .... No effort should be spared to check that which is abhorrent to our better nature, and to the progress of a higher civilization and a purer morality.... [the government aught to] put every possible obstacle to the crossing of the races and the increase of halfbreeds .... Conceive for a moment...if instead of the manly population descended from cognate [similar] metis, the United States should hereafter be inhabited by the effeminate progeny of mixed races, half Indian, half Negro, sprinkled with White. In whatever proportion the amalgamation may take place, I shudder at the consequences." -- Dr. Louis Agassiz,1863 correspondence to Samuel Howe
From multiracial.com: The well-known physician and surgeon, Dr. Josiah Nott of Alabama, took mortality statistics from an 1840 census and developed the mulatto frailty theory to explain the reason this group of "Free Colored" appeared to be dying at twice the rate of "Slaves." He also developed a mulatto sterility theory [both theories repeated by Dr. Knox] to explain his 'observation' that mulattoes were less prolific than either whites or blacks. Nott reasoned that "just as the horse and donkey are different species and produce a sterile mule as hybrid offspring, so too [with] Whites and Blacks...." Concerning the offspring of mixed marriage, Nott's sterility theory asserted that fertility deteriorated through subsequent generations with sterility being the inevitable end. "The more white admixture mulattoes had, the greater their physical problems." Hence, the extermination of two races. -- Dr. Josiah Nott's article "The Mulatto a Hybrid -- the probable extermination of the two races if the Whites and Blacks are allowed to intermarry" published 1843 in the American Journal of the Medical Sciences; reprinted shortly thereafter in Boston Medical and Surgical Journal
There is a sundering apart in society -- religion, generations, class, race, culture, ideas, and emotions -- and I think it's important to have the mulatto Officer Rey to keep that history and those issues in front of readers. Rey himself is aware of his exile based on his mixed race, but I think we readers need that hope of unity, waiting in the background, that Rey symbolizes while much else in the novel has been divided. This is my theory anyway. One more post to follow...
In 1850 Agassiz attended a southern conference and there he used Morton's 'scientific' results: "The brain of a Negro is that of the imperfect brain of a 7-months infant in the womb of a white." He put forth his theory, known as polygenesis, that the races had come from separate creations.
From thoemme.com: Polygenesis was the theory that races were created separately -- they are of different species -- and that they are endowed with different attributes and unequal aptitudes from the start. Races didn't evolve and they were absolute. Nothing could alter their relations with one another. The political lesson of polygenesism was not that Whites had a right to oppress the members of other races; it was that the races had never been intended to interact at all. Black people had been forcibly resettled (slavery) in a part of the planet where God had intended only White people to live. (Here polygenesists preferred to ignore the embarassing presence of Native Americans and of the White encroachment in the Americas.)
Dr. Josiah C. Nott (of Alabama) and George R. Gliddon published the book Types of Mankind in 1854 and Agassiz supplied a short article and drawings for the book of European and Native American types in humans and animals.
These "scientific theories" took hold of the national consciousness among abolitionists and slavers alike. Rey as a mulatto faced great difficulties of which he, of all people, would be aware, more so than Mabel Lowell could realize. So far Rey hasn't met (does he ever?) Agassiz or Emerson (who repeated Knox's belief in Anglo-Saxon superiority in an essay called "Race").
Samuel Howe, the abolitionist, was appointed by President Lincoln to head the American Freedman's Inquiry Commission, charged with formulation policies for dealing with slaves freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. Howe wrote to Agassiz to ask his scientific opinion on whether the "African race...will be the persistent race in this country, or, will it be absorbed, diluted, and finally effaced by the white race...." Based on his existing beliefs which Agassiz' confirmed, Samuel Howe, one of John Brown's Secret Six, was to conclude that
I believe it was Knox's book which proposed the superiority of Anglo-Saxons over all other groups (such as Irishmen like Burke and Hare). I wonder if its from Knox's book Races of Men that the popular differentiation of blue-eyes versus black-eyes shows up so much in literature of the day, such as Dr. Holmes poem "Dilemma"?
This is the atmosphere in which our Poets and Officer Rey must function.
If you have been waiting for this moment to reply to questions from previous weeks, know that they are ALL in the heading, the last link at the bottom.
I haven't read this last section of the book yet. Shame on me! I also haven't read your new posts or the heading so that way I'll be surprised by the book's ending. I'm furiously, furiously, furiously reading and hope to catch up on the posts and to add my own thoughts later today.
I just found other definitions for moke which in America was used to mean mule or sometimes Negro. The scientists wrote their distorted theories and people like the ruffian police and Peaslee (I think Peaslee said moke) used a theory's words to injure.
"I took that to be a reference to the profits that many people made from the war. There have always been those who profited greatly from wars. It makes me wonder now if one of these war profiteers might be a future victim."I did see the echo...the young idealistic Teal who went to war with a loft goal, forced to murder, point-blank. I felt so bad for him. And it wasn't just one time. Can understand how he developed a caloused attitude toward murder in the line of duty. It was interesting to see how the war turned into such a Hell where the enemy was wearing blue and gray.
So first there's Prescott changed to S. Then there's the spit out bits of paper with the letters h and a at Talbot's murder scene. Holmes trampled them into the ground. So that spells SHA..... Then I think there's Fort Warren which is mentioned but not as a clue and that might be the W -- which spells SHAW. Etc etc. Would like to know if these disembodied letters were clues to the theme of justice and Lemuel Shaw.
Moke as mule = a mule is a sterile hybrid bred from a horse and donkey. Also, I looked up MULATTO in my dictionary: offspring of one white parent and one black parent; a person whose racial ancestry is mixed; and -- now get this -- it derives from the Spanish mulato which means a young mule.
Race is only a legal definition and has nothing to do with science or medicine. It's really made up and so I think any word that's used -- white, caucasian, black, negro etc -- is as artifical as the term race itself.
Found some cool stuff on printer's devils! The identification became popular around 1763 and designated an apprentice in the print shop who did all the messy jobs of setting type, running the press, putting type back in the cases, cleaning up. An underpaid, unappreciated Gofer at the bottom of the heap.
The second website is stunning. I loved it! Check out the titles on "Printer's Devil," "Pick and Click," "A Poem of the Black Art," and "The Great Cat Massacre." Absolutely amazing stuff. The cat massacre gives a feel for the mistreatment and resentment in the printing trade.
Coming from a working class and outsider background (Native American and Eastern European) I found the section on Colby, the printer's devil, both hilarious and heart-rending. His firing was a tragedy for him but only an interlude to the Poets and Houghton.
I'm almost finished reading the book and have got to the part where everyone suspects Daniel Teal as the murderer. Will be on the lookout for the part about his war experiences. Just another hour or so of reading and I'll have got to the ending!
I approached The Dante Club as a work of literature rather than a detective story. The surface story of "whodunit" was resolved but not the deeper meanings of the shadow-story. The numerous allusions to Shaw and our history and issues keeps me intrigued.
I thought the images of deceit and fraud, especially with Lonza and Camp, were authorial warnings about misdirections so I rather expected the FSL to be a red herring. Lots of red herrings here, perhaps to get us to think of issues (past and present).
I still think Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw was a key figure and now I can mention some "refusals" related to Shaw although I don't know if they fit into the novel. First there was a non-refusal when Shaw agreed to argue for the impeachment of Prescott, a fellow judge. Then Judge Story refused the Chief Justice position and Shaw reluctantly accepted it. Then in 1860 Shaw refused nomination in the Presidential race. I don't see how any of these are part of the "Great Refusal" even the one in 1860. Shaw had retired that year from the bench and died a year later. I imagine he knew in 1860 that he wouldn't be able to fulfill the presidential duties. Perhaps the "Great Refusal" is related to Shaw in some other way.
I was interested in Dan Teal's near illiteracy and chewing on books, especially Beecher Stowe's famous 'cause for the Union' book, only to spit them out. Heck, I basically do the same with books I don't care about. Anyone want to compare Teal and books to Rey's post-War lack of literary interest because books were 'ideas.' Are the reactions of Teal and Rey to literature the same or very different?
Horselover, there's a well-known theatre in the U.S. called "The Printer's Devil" too. Funny, but when we start looking for devils we see them everywhere! I think Colby/printer's devil is the industrial age 'free' replacement for the slave system. Colby's lot shows that there's little improvement in the lives of the have-nots. Someone had asked about the term so I posted a couple of links on it and had lots of fun doing the research. I found the vt.edu website fascinating with its three theories on the origin of the term 'printer's devil', including one African influence; and the poems.
Lots to discuss yet. I'll post later tonight.
Here's some information on the theme of the schismatics.
The first segregation case in U.S. history was ruled on by Lemuel Shaw.
Shaw's ruling on segregation introduced the concept of separate-but-equal to American law and upheld the constitutionality of Jim Crow schools so authoritatively that it was cited as precedent by the U.S. Supreme Court in its epic Plessy v. Ferguson decision in 1896 which made the separate-but-equal concept the law of the land until 1954.
In Roberts v. The City of Boston, Shaw ruled in favor of the right of the school to set education policy as it saw fit.
From the above link: Shaw's focus was the "question of whether separation by race in public schools violated Roberts' rights to political, social and civil equality . . . . [Shaw] reasoned that separation of the races does not perpetuate class distinctions since existing prejudice in society
A large number of Bostonians refused to accept Roberts as the final word and their opposition paid off in 1855 when the Mass. legislature outlawed school segregation on the basis of "race, color, or religion." Thus, through social pressure and politics, rather than judicial efforts, Boston became the first city in the nation to desegregate its public schools; even as, nationally, the Shaw 1850 ruling was repeated state by state until 1959.
This book was so impressive. It was a "good read" but also thought-provoking. I have never cared for historical mysteries, but am recommending this to many. Actually, I don't think of it as a mystery, but more a thinking man's book. This is definitely not what one would expect from a recent college grad. Thank you for not pandering to the best seller crowd. There was violence, it was bloody, yes, but with a purpose, and did not include the unecessary stuff found in many current novels.
I liked the way everything had a purpose -- this character, this event, and how everythng fell into place. An example would be Lonza -- where did he come from -- and we later find out he was helping Bacchi translate. You put all the pieces together without making us think you were doing a quick wrap-up. (With one exception, maybe, but I'll have to go back and read that --Fields and Lowell paying of Camp?) Loved your characterization and am spurred to learn more about Dante, the club members, and the Inferno.
Lastly, although retired, the school librarian in me says, "the kids'll want to know . . . ." So:
Since I'm not supposed to list the questions, will make two quick posts.
Did you intend to portray that, have you had experience with a learning disabled person?
"I think a major tenet of historical fiction is to posture the story as NOT being fictional. Of course, that's what Dante does! When things are most fantastic, he insists he really took his journey."Perhaps it was because of his approach...that the story did have a factual basis...sent us off to find out more of those facts. Yes, Marvelle was dynamite! What was your profession in your 'other life', Marvelle? I am so curious. Did it involve the research skills you exhibit here?
Anyone want to compare Teal and books to Rey's post-War lack of literary interest because books were 'ideas.' Are the reactions of Teal and Rey to literature the same or very different?
What a relief to know that CJ Shaw was a thematic inspiration! I kept worrying, what if I'm wrong and I've taken up people's time spouting off about something irrelevant to the novel? Then again, too many of his cases had been referenced (and I haven't mentioned all of the references either).
Shaw believed that words do not bleed. At least in the 1847 Webster trial, the great controversy about the proceedings was over Shaw's definition of "malice aforethought" (MA). MA does not mean a planned action; the thought can occur a nanosecond before the act. Parkman was verbally abusive towards Webster and Webster then took up a handy wood log and killed Parkman with it.
Shaw ruled that words cannot cause someone to act, therefore, Webster was responsible for his actions. (This is a major simplification of the ruling.)
Oh dear, our Joan finds it cozy in Hell! Joan, please don't put up curtains or redecorate there. We need you back in SN Books so I hope you're only a tourist in the Inferno? The DC and Matthew did make Dante's poem more knowable and intellectually attainable (but just on a visitor's pass).
I don't have a special background in research but I do have a need to know and my education and employment always reflected that side of me.
Horselover, I was just sick about missing the show "Race: The Power of Illusion." You can bet I'll be on the lookout for it when it repeats. Often PBS repeats a show within a few days of the original airing so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
I find it fascinating how each of us has approached the DC; how we read and interpret. I liked Ann's definition of DC as being a "thinking-man's" work. And it's also a mystery and historical fiction. And Matthew introduces the concept of the religious mystery or sacrament; a religious ceremony in which one closes one's lips and eyes. I like that. I like that a lot. Thanks Matthew.
What an interesting question Joan, was there a contrapasso? I'm thinking of Teal here which may not have been the person on your mind (Brundy?) I'll read the last section again to clairfy my thoughts first before I say anything more.
Fields published the Atlantic Monthly, Holmes named the magazine, and Lowell was the editor-in-chief for many years.
More later tonight on Teal --- oh, any ideas for an actor playing Teal?
Before he went to war, Teal met Harriet who fell in love with the poor boy. "She had never met anyone so simply certain of the rightness and wrongness of things without a corrupting concern for politics or influence." She taught him the alphabet so that he could write his name. She read to him...Longfellow's Evangeline - Evangeline and her beau were separated only to find each other when he was dying. When at war, Galvin would hear her musical voice reading that poem.
He would forward her letters from dead Rebel soldiers (sinners in Hell, like Dante wrote about).
When the war was over, he dreamed of returning to her. But the war as he sees it is not over yet. The slaves have been freed, but the enemy has not changed, has not been punished. Only when that is accomplished will he be able to leave hell behind to be with his Harriet/Beatrice.
I certainly see Galvin/Teal as a Dante....but who is Lucifer? Can Teal play both roles? Is he Lucifer? Manning? ...Greene?
WHO IS YOUR CANDIDATE FOR LUCIFER?
Atlantic Monthly - 1865
Atlantic Monthly - 1866>
Atlantic Monthly - 1867
Atlantic Monthly - 1868
~ Cambridge, anyone? Yes, Jo...it would be fun, I agree. But we need to find a Leo House-type accomodations first, don't you think?
It would be great if you would take Manning, Jo and whoever else. I haven't been to the frozen bottom of hell yet...had been expecting a formidable Lucifer, but read in Dante Club that he is a defeated, broken Lucifer in Dante's work. So I would expect the same here. Does anyone remember where that description of Lucifer occurs in Dante Club?>
Marvelle, we seem to be going back and forth with Teal/Holmes/Longfellow. Will you tell me what we finally decided? ahahaha...I'll get to my "assignment" this afternoon after work...
Have a lovely day, everyone. Is it raining where you are?
Babi -- the Chief Interrogator, firing off as many questions as she can think of once the detectives had made their reports.
The detectives so far are:
Jo -- Manning, Camp, Burndy
Horselover -- Lowell
Joan -- Teal
Marvelle -- Holmes, Longfellow
Did I miss anyone? We still need volunteers for Greene and Rey. If no one volunteers this afternoon I'll take at least one more.
Lucifer was mentioned by the Poets -- I'm going to check the book now and will come back very very soon and post some page references. I'm curious as to when the name Lucifer was first used and who used it.
The Poets call the murderer "our Lucifer" because, with these murders that imply Dantean punishments, "our Lucifer" puts the Poets at risk and the publication of Dante at risk.
The Risk: If the Poets went to the police with their information "... we would be under suspicion until the killer is caught. And then, even with the killer caught, Dante would be tainted with blood before Americans say his words, and in a time when our country can bear no more death .... [This} would be an iron coffin. Dante would fall under the same curse in America he did in Florence, for a thousand years to come....We tell no one." (Longfellow 105)
Our Lucifer: The first use of the term 'our Lucifer' that I can find is by Holmes when he and Longfellow are at the scene of Talbot's murder in the underground: "So how did our Lucifer gain entry here?" (Holmes 127) The Poets discuss Bachi as a potential suspect and Holmes mused "The mention of Longfellow's work on Dante did touch him off like a lucifer match." (Holmes 171) and Fields wonders "Could Bachi be our Lucifer?" (Fields 171). Etc etc.
The man the Poets are worried about is "our Lucifer" the one who would put them and/or Dante at risk. To me it seems that there could be multiple Lucifers.
By the way, according to my dictionary
"You are not after Lucifer - that is not the culprit you describe. Lucifer is pure dumbness when Dante finally meets him in frozen Cocytus (the bottom of Hell), sobbing and mute. We long for Lucifer to be astounding and clever so we may defeat him, but Dante makes it more difficult. No. You are after Dante - it is Dante who decides who should be punished and where they go, what torments they suffer. It is the poet who takes those measures, yet by making himself the journeyer, he tries to make us forget. We think he too is another innocent witness to God's work."Shall we ask Matthew if he intended to portray Teal as the sorry Lucifer, the dumb and imprisoned Lucifer of the Inferno?
Horselover, thanks for the link. Such great reading! Lowell's literary reputation rests with his essays which are clear-thinking and erudite. Joan, will horselover's posts on Lowell be added to the heading for easy reference, along with the rest of ours when we report? Or should I write down the post numbers so I can refer back to them?
The frozen pit is where Lucifer ended up but that is only the ending of his story. There are different phases of Lucifer. And in The Dante Club one character thinks someone is Lucifer -- such as the Poets calling the murderer 'our Lucifer' -- and another character sees someone else as Lucifer, and another character takes on the role of Lucifer at some point. Lucifer can be anywhere. (Thankfully, so is God.)
I'm working on my input on Holmes and Longfellow and hope it can wait until Monday? My typing is slowed down -- hopefully temporarily -- by a weak right arm/hand. (Yes, even a weak right leg and foot, shades of Dante!) Plus, the way my mind works I constantly reconsider and rewrite.
Joan, a strike match is forever identified in my mind now with Lucifer.
The Road goes ever on and on Down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can, Pursuing it with eager feet, Until it joins some larger way Where many paths and errands meet. And whither then? I cannot say.
The article on Dante and capital punishment was super. Thanks Matthew for giving us that and thanks Joan for the heading links to article and the detectives' reports. Yeah! Techie Jo solved her computer problem! Way to go, Jo.
I'll be back later today when back from a short trip and will post my own report then.
Matthew Pearl was featured on the nationally aired PBS program Jim Lehrer Newshour on 5/26/03 as part of a segment on current trends in the publishing industry. (5/27/03)
When we first meet Longfellow in 1865 he's twice-widowed and raising his children himself with great patience and love. His poetry and persona have made him beloved in the America. His nights are the best time for him for that's when he dreams of Fanny; the days, when he must function in the world, are without her. Longfellow limits his day's activities, rarely leaving his house, not noticing the changes that have occurred in Babylonian Boston, out of touch with reality except with his children and protective friends -- almost as if Longfellow is a shade himself. He no longer writes poetry and instead is translating Dante's Inferno.
He's considerate of others -- such as remembering a waitress to whom he bows in the street and he offers to Rey that same respect. But that consideration is from a disance as if Longfellow is on another plain of existence from others.
Longfellow is a leader of others because of his ability to listen, his consideration, and his quiet (not silent) wisdom. Because Longfellow listens, people feel they can talk to him and that their opinions matter; they feel better about themselves and wiser which they reflect back onto Longfellow. There is a tenderness in Longfellow, maternal rather than paternal, which people notice and also return back to Longfellow.
Despite his grief over Fanny's death, Longfellow seems to have considered taking up a full life again. There's a sense of sadness when he realizes that another romance will not be for him; yet it's his living in the night with Fanny -- his distance -- that was the probable cause.
Then in another section, at another time
Hovering over these two sections about Mary Frere is the image of Dante/Longfellow's Beatrice. The first letter makes Longfellow think of Fanny's death. With the second letter in the study, comes Dante's Beatrice and Longfellow's Fanny, the inspiration for poem and translation:
Mary Frere never had a chance? With Longfellow's distance -- emotionally wedded to dead Fanny, committed to his children, settlement of age -- there was no room for Mary Frere who became engaged to another. He sends a copy of his Dante translation as an engagement present with the note
I think it's the last of Longfellow's unexpressed hopes that gets pulled down but he could not commit to another woman and it would be difficult for another wife to accept Gemma's role.
OWH hasn't had any tragedy in his life. He married once and happily to Amelia and that happiness hasn't been sorely tested. How deep is OWH's love? It is different from that of Dante for his Beatrice, Lowell for his dark lady, Longfellow for his Fanny -- women that are unattainable; out of reach; absent. OWH's Amelia is his only love and is with him still in the novel.
OWH as a doctor is fearful of death; not for himself but seeing it in others and being blamed for a death: causing or not being able to avoid or stop the death of others. As head of Harvard's Medical School, OWH had students do the actual dissecting. There was the scandal of the body-snatchers in England and in Middlesex Country (which includes Boston/Cambridge) the purpose for dissection at schools such as Harvard. There was the Webster trial for the murder of Parkman where Holmes' lecture hall was above the room where Webster carved up/dissected Parkman's body; where Holmes was a direct suspect and indirect suspect because of his history as a doctor who did dissections and his friendship with a murderer -- Holmes feels emotionally guilty for the death of both Webster and Parkman. He can even understand why Webster would kill to preserve his good name for didn't Holmes think he did the same with dissections? A doctor had to dissect bodies or he had no reputation as a scientist.
Yet part of being a doctor is seeing someone die and in having to face criticism for not saving a life. Holmes' pilgrimage is facing his fears with seeing the murdered bodies and traveling to the 'tomb' in the Second Street Church underground. He finally overcomes his fears first by throwing himself towards Pliny Mead and trying to revive a cold, lifeless body even though it seemed hopeless, and was indeed hopeless. He also made a life-and-death decision in the confrontation with Teal/Galvin -- aka Teal -- at novel's end.
Teal has confused together in his mind God, Dante, Lucifer and Man. He remembers the wartime episode in the woods when an officer ordered him to shot a deserter, a man from his own troop. The officer commands:
Teal remembers the punishment for those who don't obey orders -- officer, "Private, now! ... You want your punishment with them?" and Teal shoots. This is what Teal plans for the Dante Club. Teal thought he was carrying out Dante's punishments in Boston with the aid of the Dante Club. But the Dante Club (sans Holmes) turned against him, Longellow was Lucifer, the turncoat, the rebel against God who would be punished by having to punish other arch-traitors. Teal had thought Holmes (Michael the Archangel?) would help him. "Two of your men must be punished. You must make Longfellow understand, Dr. Holmes." (350) But Holmes rebels also and Teal places a weapon in the unreacting Longfellow's hands and tells him to punish Holmes. He repeats his officer's words:
Holmes at first thinks to shoot Teal but Teal is not afraid and Holmes "did not know whether he had sufficient reserves of ... zeal to stop Dan Teal from the destiny he had caught himself in." (356) Holmes, however, found the resolve and turned his weapon on Longfellow, knowing that then Boston's Inferno could not continue, at least in Teal's mind, with Longfellow/Lucifer gone.
This stops Teal. Holmes, the doctor afraid of death, is semingly willing to disobey and to take a life to end the Inferno. In the aftermath, Holmes is stronger emotionally. He's more confident in himself -- after all he faced his fears -- and doesn't need universal approval as he once had.
Longfellow is saved by Manning? Hadn't Teal already abandoned the punishment of Longfellow by Holmes, running away, when neither poet would obey his orders? What is the deeper reason for Teal running away from a punishment he'd carefully devised; running to meet his own end through Manning? Maybe Joan, our Teal detective, will know the reason for the running away.
Was Miss Frere a "Beatrice" for Longfellow in real life? Was there really a Miss Frere or someone like that in Longfellow's life having a different name?"
"What is the deeper reason for Teal running away from a punishment he'd carefully devised; running to meet his own end through Manning?"I think it is an important question. and would like to hear what you all think about it too. What is Longfellow's usually reserved, unflappable reaction to the crisis? Doesn't he appear almost ghost-like in these scenes?
Joan, I think the word FORCE is potent here. Teal couldn't force Holmes and Longfellow to do that which they felt was morally wrong. H&L had a choice just as Teal did. Teal chose his own safety and shot the Union deserter and was ultimately responsible -- as he saw in the end -- for that choice. H&L could not be FORCED to murder each other or other members of the DC. The words "Ready ... aim ... fire..." don't force anyone to kill; it's a choice. Sorry, I'm rambling in this post and have run out of time to tighten up the thoughts. I apologize for the wordiness.
QUESTIONS FOR MATTHEW
I realize that I may be waaaaay off in trying to fit CJ Shaw's rulings into the theme of justice. Matthew, please don't hesitate to tell me if I'm off the mark.
The wartime officer ordered/delegated to Teal the shooting of the Union deserter; then Teal assumed on his own that he had delegation from the DC/Dante/God to punish others; Teal delegated authority to Longfellow & Holmes to punish each other which they refused; even the DC assumed a delegation of authority in investigating the murders themselves rather than notifying police.)
(In the Webster murder trial, CJ Shaw ruled regarding reasonable doubt, preponderance of circumstantial evidence and malice aforethought. Malice aforethought, meaning a nanosecond of intent to harm, can be assumed in Webster's murder of Parkman and the murder was not caused by Parkman's words (ie 'words do not bleed').
I swear I looked it up in the dictionary and jacinth means hyacinth with the color being either blue (blue hair?), or white (most popular color), or reddish-orange?!!?
Rey also remembers the shooting of deserters in the war but he considers the actual purpose behind the execution of a deserter and the immediate burial without an identifying marker for the grave. "The public performance was to show us [soldiers] that the deserter would be abandoned, just as he abandoned his ranks .... The fact that Healey and Talbot were murdered might be secondary. First and foremost, we are dealing with punishments of these men. We are meant to fall in line and observe." (140)
Rey understands the intended purpose in wartime and with the Boston murders but it is not his calling. Rey's calling is to save rather than punish.
SAVING: The first mention of Rey in the novel, he pulls Chief Kurtz out of the path of Mrs. Healey's thrown vase. He soothes Mrs. Healey with the story of how the Judge helped him gain his freedom in Boston; he helped her even after she called him an 'ungrateful nigger police.' He worries about public safety in Boston, the safety of the poets and unnecessarily feels responsible for the leaper's death.
"He heard the [leaper's] whisper as he listened to Widow Healey fall asleep; he heard it in the bareness of his shivering rooming house. He awoke each morning with the words on his tongue .... He sat with his pen at all hours, using up inwells, writing it out, and the nonsense looked worse than it sounded. He could see the whisperer, reeking of rot, shocked eyes glaring at him before the body carried itself through the glass. The nameless man had been dropped from the sky from a faraway place, Rey couldn't help thinking, into Rey's arms, from where he had dropped him again .... How clearly he would see the plummet onto the courtyard, where the man became all blood and leaves, over and over again .... He had to stop the fall .... He had to find some meaning for the words left hanging on the dead air." (51)
I thought of Holden Caulfield's image of the 'catcher in the rye' when I read this passage. Rey is a catcher in the rye.
At the Governor's Ball, Rey captures Blight but fears he isn't the murderer andthat time is running out. Rey "saw the faces of the persons throughout Boston who had brought him to this pursuit" -- the innocents such as Chief Kurtz with a possibly ruined career, Ednah Healey, Sexton Gregg, and the leaper Grifone Lonza. When Rey is jailed by the corrupt officers he tries to convince one to allow him his freedom because "Innocent people are in danger, for God's sake!" (352)
Teal's relationship to words, spitting out bits of lettered paper, is different from Rey's, who saves the bits of paper. At the site of Talbot's murder "Rey ... saw the trail of letters like remorse left unspoken." (120)
More on the bits of paper and Rey's likeness to Longfellow in the following post.
This is Rey taking loose bits of paper with letters on them and trying to make sense of them; while Teal took preformed thoughts from the book Uncle Tom's Cabin and chewed them up and spit them out indiscriminately, discarding them as it were. These men have two very different approaches to words and literature yet Rey is aware of the power of literature. Before the war he read a great deal.
"He had not read a book since before the war. He had once consumed literature with alarming avidity especially after the deaths of his adoptive parents and sisters: He had read histories and biographies and even romances. But now the very idea of a book struck him as offensively contained and arrogant. He preferred newspapers and broadsides which had no chance to dominate his thoughts." (225)
Rey had read literature for ideas and also as a way to escape loneliness(?) after the deaths of his adopted family. IMO he experienced so much during the war that he wants to avoid any more ideas or dreams. He throws himself into his work now