|From Walt Kelly's Pogo, June 8, 1953, featuring a certain "Simple J. Malarky," reprinted in The Complete Syndicated Comics, Vol. 3, Fantagraphics Books|
Saturday, January 12, 2019
Saturday, January 5, 2019
Kingsley addressed him principally as "Dr. Newman" in the attacks that led to the Apologia. Since his death he has more customarily been called "Cardinal Newman," raised to the Sacred College in his eighties by Leo XIII. During the pontificate of Benedict XVI he was recognized as "Blessed John Henry Newman." Many hope to see him canonized, and even named a Doctor of the Church--which would bring us back around, I suppose, to "Dr. Newman."
I recently came across and purchased a used copy of the University Sermons, in part because these various homilies on faith and reason, theology and science, conclude with an address entitled "The Theory of Developments in Religious Doctrine."
The achievements of Newman are many and varied. He was a leader in the Oxford Movement, the effort to return the Church of England to a more Catholic sense of order and doctrine, ending, notoriously, in his conversion to the Church of Rome. His English is remarkably beautiful, best known through the autobiographical history of his religious opinions, Apologia pro Vita Sua, and his hymn, "Lead, Kindly Light." The Idea of a University is a significant contribution to the literature of Christian humanism and a classic defense of the inherent value of liberal knowledge. And many consider his Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent an important analysis of the psychology of and justification for belief (though I have to confess I've never gotten much further than the first few pages).
But, in my view, Newman's greatest significance lies in the theory intimated in that last University Sermon, and set out most fully in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.
Now this sense of significance happens to turn on some personal circumstances. The development of doctrine was at the center of Newman's concerns at the very moment of his conversion. And as a convert myself from Protestantism I was, very conventionally, asking many of the same questions and turning over many of the same concerns addressed by the Development of Christian Doctrine. Given a life-long Protestant distrust of Catholic innovations, and to the undoubted Catholic additions to the Christian creed, how could those additions, always termed by Protestants "corruptions" or "traditions of men," be justified?
Newman begins with a forthright turning of the tables: "[W]hatever history teaches, whatever it omits, whatever it exaggerates or extenuates, whatever it says and unsays, at least the Christianity of history is not Protestantism. If ever there were a safe truth, it is this." Change happens, and always happens. Human beings can't help but think about their religion, and raise new questions, which leads to theology, which leads to disputes, and which therefore require a resolution (or a schism).
So the question is not change or no change. The question is appropriate change, what Newman calls a "development," as opposed to a "corruption." And this puts Newman in a peculiar place in regard to current Catholic wars between "traditionalists" and "progressives."
On the one hand Newman was always adamant that the touchstone of his life's work was opposition to theological "liberalism." As stated in the first appendix to the Apologia:
"Whenever men are able to act at all, there is the chance of extreme and intemperate action; and therefore, when there is exercise of mind, there is the chance of wayward or mistaken exercise. Liberty of thought is in itself a good; but it gives an opening to false liberty. Now by Liberalism I mean false liberty of thought, or the exercise of thought upon matters, in which, from the constitution of the human mind, thought cannot be brought to any successful issue, and therefore is out of place. Among such matters are first principles of whatever kind; and of these the most sacred and momentous are especially to be reckoned the truths of Revelation. Liberalism then is the mistake of subjecting to human judgment those revealed doctrines which are in their nature beyond and independent of it, and of claiming to determine on intrinsic grounds the truth and value of propositions which rest for their reception simply on the external authority of the Divine Word."
But if reason, criticism, judgment, cannot touch these first principles, the truths of revelation, they necessarily take them up and work with them. In his final University Sermon Newman takes his text from Luke's nativity account: Mary pondered all these things in her heart. Mary thereby becomes, not only a pattern of faith in her "Fiat," but a pattern of theology in her reflection.
In fact many traditionalist Catholics deeply distrust Newman, and see his theory of development as providing a back door for the entry of an earlier-disavowed theological liberalism. If the result of a development is a hitherto unarticulated doctrine, how is that any different from a direct critique of revelation using unaided human reason?
It is not an unreasonable question, but surely history and experience have shown that there is no workable point at which Christian doctrine can say, "Thus far and no farther." However much some have asserted that the closing of the canon, or the completion of the four common councils, or the seven common councils, have answered all questions, our experience is that there can be no ending of moral or theological or liturgical or ecclesiastical questions. That continuous ferment does not mean that all these remain permanently "up for grabs." But it does imply that these expressions will remain permanently subject to controversy, even with a commitment to the idea that the foundational revelation remains unchanged. How, then, is one to steer between the unrootedness of simple theological liberalism and the impossibility of honestly maintaining the existence, since the first century, of a static and unchanged dogmatic?
In his University Sermon Newman does little more than assert and defend the idea of development. In his later book-length Essay he goes further and tries to set out criteria (or "notes") for differentiating unjustified changes ("corruptions") from legitimate ones ("developments"). These are (1) preservation of its type, (2) continuity of its principles, (3) assimilative power, (4) logical sequence, (5) anticipation of its future, (6) conservative action on its past, and (7) chronic vigor.
The exposition of these notes provides an instructive and readable overview of and justification for the emergence of a variety of doctrines, some distinctly Catholic, others more broadly held across the professing Christian world. But, in my view, they provide little actual guidance for determining, today, whether a proposed addition is justified or unjustified, other than providing a vocabulary for controversy.
For example, in his exposition of the first note, Preservation of its type, Newman sets out three chapters reviewing Church history: the early ages, the fourth century, and the fifth and sixth centuries, ending each chapter with a series of characteristics plainly pointing to characteristics of the contemporary Catholic Church. Here is his conclusion to the third one:
"If then there is now a form of Christianity such, that it extends throughout the world, though with varying measures of prominence or prosperity in separate places;—that it lies under the power of sovereigns and magistrates, in various ways alien to its faith;—that flourishing nations and great empires, professing or tolerating the Christian name, lie over against it as antagonists;—that schools of philosophy and learning are supporting theories, and following out conclusions, hostile to it, and establishing an exegetical system subversive of its Scriptures;—that it has lost whole Churches by schism, and is now opposed by powerful communions once part of itself;—that it has been altogether or almost driven from some countries;—that in others its line of teachers is overlaid, its flocks oppressed, its Churches occupied, its property held by what may be called a duplicate succession;—that in others its members are degenerate and corrupt, and are surpassed in conscientiousness and in virtue, as in gifts of intellect, by the very heretics whom it condemns;—that heresies are rife and bishops negligent within its own pale;—and that amid its disorders and its fears there is but one Voice for whose decisions the peoples wait with trust, one Name and one See to which they look with hope, and that name Peter, and that see Rome;—such a religion is not unlike the Christianity of the fifth and sixth Centuries."
This is a marvelous example of Newman's rhetoric, as well as a very specific set of defenses against various contemporary attacks on Catholic claims in Newman's day. But a defense of specific positions, practices and shortcomings is not quite the same as a criterion for present controversies. Reading this passage, one can see how a similar conclusion, with different antecedents, could be made for the Orthodox Church, or various Protestant Churches. History consists of real and objective (if not always entirely ascertainable) events, but its enormity makes it a convenient source of justification for a wide variety of present courses.
That said, Newman remains an important theologian for tackling, head-on, the issue of change and continuity in theology. (The Reader is referred to an earlier post, dated August 17, 2012, "The More Things Change," in which I tried to summarize and contrast three nineteenth century models of historical change, Hegel's dialectic, Darwin's evolution, and Newman's idea of development.) The contemporary Church is, as usual, divided and in an uproar about various doctrines and practices which some seek to modify, some to change, and some to defend--all with the conviction that the fate of the Faith lies with the correct resolution.
From the evidence of the internet it is a source of anxiety for many--an unfortunate result, because such perennial controversies rarely touch the heart of the faith, and can provide a convenient rationale for our failing to do what, in fact, we know we ought to do (do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with God). Newman's "notes" are, I have suggested above, very little help in resolving these controversies. But Newman's work helps establish how the cycle of controversy is indeed ubiquitous, and he suggests that, even if one one plunges into it, all will nevertheless be well, and that, even if nothing is finally settled, beyond any further possibility of development, we need not be unsettled ourselves about that.
Thursday, December 20, 2018
You may have guessed from the title of this blog that I am a longtime fan of Erasmus' famous declamation.
Why? I think it captures and expresses a number of important truths, put in the guise of a lengthy jest, under multiple layers of irony, in a form common enough in its day, but rarely used in our own.
The title alone gets us started. "Moriae" is Greek, "Stultitiae" Latin, typically translated into English as "folly," "foolishness," "stupidity." The term "folly," perhaps party due to standard translations of Erasmus, has acquired a kind of polish; "foolishness" and "stupidity" less so. But however turned into English, moria is not normally praiseworthy.
And then there is that "ambiguous genitive." The title suggests that someone is praising folly. But, read another way, some encomium, some laudatory oration, is being made by folly, folly as the subject praising. In contemporary English we do not typically personify abstract moral and intellectual qualities--but not so among Renaissance humanists, who breathed the atmosphere of a revived paganism, and whose mental universe was full of gods and goddesses embodying abstract ideas, and for whom Folly was (or could be) a goddess.
(And Folly is a goddess rather than a god because "moria" in Greek and "stultitia" in Latin are both feminine nouns. Does this make Erasmus a misogynist, as some have asserted? Not necessarily, since Sophia--Wisdom--is also feminine, and hence also a goddess.)
So we either have someone praising the unpraiseworthy vice of folly, or perhaps the goddess Folly praising something. Or, in fact, we have both genitives working--the goddess Folly praising folly, making a speech praising...herself. This is in fact the situation, made plain in the very first lines.
So, how do we take it when Stupid praises Stupid? With an enormous grain of salt.
This set-up, it must be said, is first of all a protective device. Princes and prelates had various means at their disposal to punish those who wrote against them. Putting the whole declamation into the mouth of Folly gave Erasmus a little deniability. "Did I offend? Look at who's speaking!" As Erasmus writes in his dedication to More, "pulchrum esse a Stultitia vituperari." To be called a fool by Folly is surely great praise, yes?
And yet Erasmus is doing more than protecting himself. He is going to play with the various meanings and connotations of foolishness that may indeed be praiseworthy, but may be beneath the notice of the wise
So first he delves into the folly of love--erotic love, romantic love, the love of children. What is Erasmus' sternly dignified Stoic to do when he falls in love, when he wants children? It's not that mighty brain, Folly notes, with which one procreates children. What foolishness love is--but how worthless human life is without it.
Plato called love a divine madness, so Erasmus veers into the subject of whether the mad and the stupid are happier than the sane and the learned, and this gives Erasmus, the life-long student, who never in his whole life had a secure position, scope to expound on the miseries of the poor, neglected scholar.
There is then a long excursion into the various professions, the warriors, the lawyers, the philosophers, the theologians, the princes, the prelates. All are held up to merciless ridicule, again and again because their logic, their quibbling, their learned distinctions--in short, the various conventional demonstrations of their superior wisdom, show them in fact to be fools. What have a lawyer's subtile distinctions to do with justice? Or the unfathomable arguments of the theologians with faith, hope and love? Or the pride, display, and arrogance of bishops and cardinals with the humility and self-giving commanded by Jesus?
But as Erasmus approaches the end, he turns to an encomium on the foolishness of faith and devotion. Ranging through the scriptures, he repeats St. Paul's rhetoric about the foolishness of God, and the folly of the cross. He notes the praise of the child-like and the seemingly absurd condemnation of seeking after the world's rewards.
At this point, of course, things come quickly to an end--before the declamation becomes a sermon. We can't be too surprised. Erasmus is, after all, a cleric himself, and a professed religious (though a runaway who hated the cloister). He may have been the greatest scholar of his age, editing the ancient Latin classics, producing the first accessible printed Greek text of the New Testament in the Latin West, publishing guidebooks for improving one's style. And he was a theologian--just not a scholastic one. His Handbook for the Christian Soldier promoted a Christian philosophy for the devout laity, emphasizing the simplicity of the written gospels over the ceremonial devotion so characteristic of the later Middle Ages.
But then along came Luther. The Moriae Encomium was published in 1509. In 1520, Luther publishes his Freedom of a Christian, Address to the German Nobility, and Babylonian Captivity of the Church. The gauntlet has been thrown down--a gauntlet Erasmus never had any intention of throwing. His refusal to cast his lot with Luther was puzzling. Had they not said the same thing about the fat prelates, the corrupt abbots, the hypocrites, the time-servers and the wolves in sheeps' clothing? Yes, indeed. But it is part of Erasmus' foolishness to see that such folly is not going to end when new prelates are installed. "I have never entered their churches, but I have seen them return from hearing the sermon, as if inspired by an evil spirit, the faces of all showing a curious wrath and ferocity."
So the time of jesting came to an end. Erasmus was held in such esteem during his lifetime he was offered a cardinal's hat (he turned it down). Shortly after his death his Moriae Encomium was put on the newly-created Index of Forbidden Books. Europe was moving into a century of religious war.
It is ironic, perhaps, that the doctrine of original sin, so emphatic in Protestant theology in Luther's Bondage of the Will and Calvin's notion of total depravity, also grounds Erasmus' broad tolerance of human folly. Individuals can improve, but foolishness is part of the human condition, and attempts to wrench it out or tamp it down are doomed to failure. We can't eradicate stupidity, but we can laugh at it. That may be the best we can do.
It some ways Erasmus' exultation of folly mirrors the nineteenth century's Romantic Rebellion against the the eighteenth century's Age of Reason and Scientific Revolution. Reason and science are tremendous, but they cannot be the whole of human life. Neither, of course, can folly, even in its more benign forms. God knows we live in a time when ignorance is flaunted, science derided, and the great freedoms won in the Age of Reason under siege. Stupidity simple and unadulterated produces hatred as well as love, tears as well as laughter.
But, ultimately, the folly that Erasmus truly praises is like the wisdom of Socrates. The Delphic oracle proclaimed Socrates the wisest of all men. Unconvinced, Socrates spent the rest of his life seeking out those thought wise, and questioning them, and finding their reputations overblown (and making quite a few powerful enemies in the process). He concluded that he was the wisest man because he knew nothing, and knew he knew nothing, whereas those reputedly wise also knew nothing, but did not know they knew nothing. It was an ignorance won after study and reflection.
At the risk of multiplying examples, consider Newton, one of the few incomparable geniuses of human history, comparing himself to a child picking up seashells on the beach, with the great undiscovered ocean of truth before him. The more we know, the more we know that we don't know.
So the irony of Erasmus is never cynicism, or despair. There is a claimed worldly wisdom in becoming corrupt to fit into a corrupt world, a corrupt church. Erasmus suggests that the better way is the foolishness of love, friendship, faith, devotion and the pursuit of truth. The world is what it is, but we ourselves remain free to choose the good, the true and the beautiful, with God's help. It is for this vision of Christian humanism that I hold in such esteem the runaway monk of Rotterdam.
Friday, November 2, 2018
"Fascism might be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence, and without ethical or legal restraints, goals of internal cleansing and external expansion."
--Robert Paxton, 2009
Saturday, August 4, 2018
The battle of the sexes has gained an unprecedented prominence in our political and social life. According to convention we had a sexual revolution a few decades back, and in some respects this last election sealed the revolution's victory, with one candidate representing the Betty Friedan wing, the other the Hugh Heffner wing.
Be that as it may, the sometimes tumultuous relationship between men and women is one which our literature has long noted, and which has become, in the last century, a central concern of our politics. But I think it not inappropriate to observe initially that the relationship between the sexes, and the attempt to address some of the historic injustices it has entailed, stands in a category of its own. That's the point that Chesterton makes here, in his inimitable fashion:
Alone among all such institutions [the family]begins with a spontaneous attraction; and may be said strictly and not sentimentally to be founded on love instead of fear. The attempt to compare it with coercive institutions complicating later history has led to infinite illogicality in later times. It is as unique as it is universal. There is nothing in any other social relations in any way parallel to the mutual attraction of the sexes. By missing this simple point, the modern world has fallen into a hundred follies....A Prussian does not feel from the first that he can only be happy if he spends his days and nights with a Pole. An Englishman does not think his house empty and cheerless unless it happens to contain an Irishman....All the other revolts against all the other relations are reasonable and even inevitable, because those relations are originally only founded upon force or self interest. Force can abolish what force can establish; self-interest can terminate a contract when self-interest has dictated the contract. But the love of man and woman is not an institution that can be abolished, or a contract that can be terminated. It is something older than all institutions or contracts, and something that is certain to outlast them all.
This kind of observation has not gone unchallenged. In fact, the whole notion of marital love seems sometimes up for grabs. It is a commonplace, almost a contemporary dogma, that "marriage for love" is a new phenomenon. It's a point too broad for arguing here. At best I can point to what seem to be significant counter-examples. Shakespeare's comedies. Chaucer's Knight's Tale. Giovanni Pontano's Renaissance cycle on married love. And, quite apart from literary examples, the nagging feeling that surely human nature doesn't so radically change so quickly. Marital love is a complex emotion, compounded of sexual attraction, affection, friendship, and faithfulness, raised to a higher key (but also attended with new difficulties) by its ordinary consequence, the arrival of children.
The oft-repeated claim that our ancestors married for "dynastic" reasons, or for economic advantage, isn't so much false as incomplete. Of course material considerations entered into when and to whom people married. It often did in the past, and it often does now. Not everyone married for love then, nor does everyone now. And of course, ultimately, I don't know if it's possible to say why anyone marries, what motivations predominate, what interests and desires and expectations may be primary, whether in ancient China, or medieval Provence, or contemporary America. But the witness of literature--even if one can't parse out what factors may have, on average, moved our ancestors--does certainly testify to the reality and strength (if not necessarily to the ubiquity) of marital love.
Not that it's always easy. The Navajos have a legend that, long ago (I think in a prior world), men and women quarreled so badly that they separated, and lived entirely apart from one another. The results were not pretty, and one result was the birth of the monsters. The slaying of those monsters--after the men and women made up--forms, if I recall correctly, the next round of stories, and the plain implication was that, however difficult men and women find life together, that is immeasurably better than life apart.
Saturday, July 14, 2018
It's always a question whether a novel has been long enough in the world that its "twists" should be discussed without some sort of spoiler alert. Never Let Me Go is probably a novel best experienced with no expectations. But I didn't read it that way, and the gradual "reveal" of the novel's fundamental premise isn't, ultimately, what the novel is about. So I suppose I should say, "spoiler alert" for those who wish to read the novel (or see the movie) without preconceptions.
I've never read Ishiguro before this, except through the indirect medium of the film treatment of his Remains of the Day. I think you would call Never Let Me Go dystopian fiction. It takes place in the immediate past of the 1970's through 1990's, but in an alternative past, which began deviating from our own in the 1950's. In the world of the novel a number of medical breakthroughs after the second world war, centered on organ transplanting, led to a dramatic decrease in human mortality, and a considerable lengthening of human life-spans. Hand in hand is a precocious advance in cloning technology.
But the novel begins with with no references to these changes, or any clues, for quite some time, that it takes place in any but our own world. It begins as our narrator, Kathy, looks back on her childhood at a boarding school, Hailsham, and her story revolves around her best friends Ruth and Tommy, following conventional lines of friendship and jealousy among children and teenagers.
But fairly early we also begin to glean the meaning of Hailsham--it is a school for clones, who are given a happy and healthy childhood before, in their twenties, beginning their "donations"--the removal of increasingly vital bodily organs, so that the second or third donation is invariably fatal.
The details of this horrifying premise are only slowly sketched out, to the reader as to the characters. But, unlike the reader, the characters are brought up to accept their fate as normal. And quite differently from most dystopian novels, where the protagonists rebel and resist when they realize the true extent of their predicament, there is little more than sadness and regret among these young people as they approach the predestined ends of their lives.
It is this acceptance of their fate, and the acquiescence of those shamefacedly but unhesitatingly shepherding them toward it, that gives the novel, for me, its bitter bite. Ruth in particular expresses anguish, in one scene only, at first seeing herself as something to be used and thrown away, and is shocked and dismayed to find out that the outer world has occasionally taken a mild interest in whether the clones might possess souls. Much of the dramatic tension of the novel turns on the hope that those who show evidence of a soul might earn a temporary reprieve-- a year or two of adult happiness.
There is one convention that Never Let Me Go does share with other dystopian novels--the final scene where the protagonists ask their questions and receive explanations. Here, almost at the end, the young people learn from their now-retired headmistress something of the ambivalence of the outside world toward them, of the debates about--not the morality of what is done to them--but how they should be treated, what dignity should be accorded them, over their short lives.
But one consideration trumps all: "How can you ask a world that has come to regard cancer as curable, how can you ask such a world to put away that cure, to go back to the dark days?" This is how what, to the reader, is plain murder, the preying on the young for the gratification of the old, becomes unquestionable. The headmistress was one of the good people, founding Hailsham as an experiment in giving the clones happy lives, meaningful human lives--an experiment apparently in the process of being rejected. But even for these reformers, these tender good people, the students must, regrettably, give up their lives.
And that, to me, is the greatest horror of the novel, that apparent plasticity of right and wrong, the common acceptance of the once-unthinkable when some great benefit beckons, the ease with which a world murdering its young can't bear to return to what it thinks of as "the dark days," and the inability, ultimately, to distinguish the light from the dark.
These themes underly a quiet, subtle and thought-provoking story, which I heartily recommend.
I should add that the novel has been made into a movie, a pretty good one, but one, typically, falling far short of the book. The movie, not surprisingly, emphasizes the love triangle. That's there in the novel, but with a really more interesting "friendship triangle" going the conventional way only toward the end. But I also found in the movie's last scene a sort of pulling back, a substitute gee-don't-we-all-really-live-brief-lives meditation that unforgivably blunted the hard questions of the novel.
Saturday, April 28, 2018
I have just recently finished Hugo's Notre-Dame de Paris. Its title of course somehow got into English as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which is curious because, as I think I noted in an earlier post, Quasimodo, the poor deaf bell-ringer, though an important figure in the novel, is by no means the center of it. Surely that role has to be assigned to Esmeralda.
It is in many ways a mess of a book--lurid, garish, twisted and, in the end, wrenchingly cruel. When I first read it, in English translation, I found it awkward and melodramatic, almost embarrassing in its studious and unrelenting pursuit of the picturesque and grotesque. In French--perhaps because of my elementary grasp of the nuances of the language--I found it touching, and often moving (though I never caught myself on the verge of weeping, as I did at the conclusion of Les Miserables).
As I indicated above, there is less a protagonist that a central figure, Esmeralda. She is the sun around whom the other characters revolve: Pierre Gringoire, the poor student-poet with whom she makes a nominal marriage in the Cour des Miracles, to prevent his being hanged by the Truands; Claude Frollo, archdeacon and alchemist, seized by a relentless and murderous lust; Phoebus de Chateaupers, the callous young captain whose attempted seduction leads to her death sentence, and of course Quasimodo, to whom she shows mercy on the pillory, awakening a tender (and ultimately futile) care and a painful deepening of his isolation.
This is a narrative form that is echoed in other well-known French works. In Madame Bovary--in approach as different a novel from Notre Dame as imaginable--there is again a central female figure, Emma, married to the hapless Charles, seduced by Rudolphe and Leon, and financially ruined by Monsieur Lheureau Or in film, in Carne's great Les enfants du paradise, the courtesan Garance is pursued by the mime Baptiste, the actor Frederick, the thief Pierre, and the aristocrat, Edouard, compte de Montray. And at this risk of dragging this out even Bertrand Blier's mid-seventies farce, Preparez vos Mouchoirs comes to mind, the baffling melancholy of the beautiful Solange leading to increasingly desperate measures from her husband Raoul, his newly acquired Mozart-obsessed pal Stephane, and their unnamed neighbor, ending in the unforeseen machinations of a Mozart-like pre-teen prodigy, and seducer.
In all these stories the female central character is, to various extents, passive, arguably reflecting common stereotypes of the feminine. Hugo in Notre Dame is plainly aware of this essential passivity, but also extends it to all his characters, through a motif announced in the novel's preface: "Il y a quelque anneés qu'en visitant, ou, pour mieux dire, en furetant Notre-Dame, l'auteur de ce livre trouva, dans un recoin obscure de l'un des tours, ce mot gravé á la main sur le mur: ΆNANΓKH.”
In the Greek word for fate, necessity, compulsion, bondage, fatality, Hugo seems to anticipate Burkhardt's assertion that only after the Renaissance did the "individual," in the modern sense, appear. Hugo characters here are more "types" than individuals, some would say stereotypes, the puppets of a medieval mystery imagined by a humane progressive of the nineteenth century. In contrast to the theme of redemption in Les Miserables, these characters seem doomed from the start.
And yet they continue to live, even if in odd forms. Film has loved this story, and though I've seen bits and pieces of the classic treatments starring Lon Chaney and Charles Laughton, I've never been able to sit through either film in its entirety. Neither have I seen the cartoon musical put out by Disney. But, having read a plot summary, I'm afraid a lot of kids are going to be in for a shock when they decide to go on to the novel.
NOTE ON THE PICTURES: The exotic world of Notre Dame de Paris has always attracted illustrators. The edition I just completed was published by Collection Metamorphose and extensively illustrated by Benjamin Lacombe. I have already used a few of his images in this blog, a shot of the cover at the end of the post for October 14, 2015, another on July 7, 2017.The image at the top of this post is also from Lacombe. Very different, but equally arresting, is the set of illustrations made by Bernard Lamotte, taken here from an English translation published by the Easton Press. Three of those illustrations are reproduced below.