Adapted by Dan Leo (Assistant Professor of Comparative Religions, Olney Community College) from The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, by Rev. Alban Butler.
illustrated by rhoda penmarq.
FABIUS CLAUDIUS GORDIANUS FULGENTIUS was the descendant of a noble senatorian family of Carthage: but much decayed in its splendour by the invasion of the Vandals. His prudent circumspection in all the affairs he transacted, his virtuous conduct, his mild carriage to all, and more especially his deference for his mother, without whose express orders or approbation he never did any thing, caused him to be beloved and admired wherever his name was known.
He was chosen procurator, that is, lieutenant-governor, and general receiver of the taxes of Byzacena. But it was not long before he grew disgusted with the world; and being justly alarmed at its dangers, he armed himself against them by pious reading, assiduous prayer, and rigorous fasting.
His visits to monasteries were frequent; and happening, among other books of spiritual entertainment, to read a sermon of St. Austin on the thirty-sixth psalm, in which that father treats of the world and the short duration of human life, he felt within him strong desires of embracing the monastic state.
Huneric, the Arian king, had driven most of the orthodox bishops from their sees. One of these, named Faustus, had erected a monastery in Byzacena. It was to him that the young nobleman addressed himself for admittance; but Faustus immediately objecting the tenderness of his constitution, discouraged his desires with words of some harshness: “Go,” said he, “and first learn to live in the world abstracted from its pleasures. Who can well suppose, that you on a sudden, relinquishing a life of softness and ease, can take up with our coarse diet and clothing, and can inure yourself to our watchings and fastings?”
The saint, with downcast eyes, modestly replied: “He, who hath inspired me with the will to serve him, can also furnish me with courage and strength.” This humble, yet resolute answer, induced Faustus to admit him on trial. The saint was then in the twenty-second year of his age.
The news of so unthought of an event both surprised and edified the whole country; many even imitated the example of the governor. But Mariana his mother, in transports of grief, ran to the monastery, crying out at the gates: “Faustus! restore to me my son; to the people, their governor; the church always protects widows; why then rob you me, a desolate widow, of my son?”
She persisted several days in the same tears and cries. Nothing that Faustus could urge was sufficient to calm her, or prevail with her to depart without her son. This was certainly as great a trial of Fulgentius’s resolution as it could well be put to; but the love of God having the ascendant in his breast, gave him a complete victory over all the suggestions of nature; Faustus approved his vocation, and accordingly recommended him to the brethren.
The saint having now obtained all he wished for in this world, made over his estate to his mother, to be discretionally disposed of by her in favour of his brother, as soon as he should be arrived at a proper age.
Edited by Dan Leo, Assistant Professor of Philology, Olney Community College.
illustrated by rhoda penmarq
To write the Life of him who excelled all mankind in writing the lives of others, and who, whether we consider his extraordinary endowments, or his various works, has been equalled by few in any age, is an arduous, and may be reckoned in me a presumptuous task.
Had Dr. Johnson written his own life, in conformity with the opinion which he has given, that every man's life may be best written by himself; had he employed in the preservation of his own history, that clearness of narration and elegance of language in which he has embalmed so many eminent persons, the world would probably have had the most perfect example of biography that was ever exhibited. But although he at different times, in a desultory manner, committed to writing many particulars of the progress of his mind and fortunes, he never had persevering diligence enough to form them into a regular composition. Of these memorials a few have been preserved; but the greater part was consigned by him to the flames, a few days before his death.
As I had the honour and happiness of enjoying his friendship for upwards of twenty years; as I had the scheme of writing his life constantly in view; as he was well apprised of this circumstance, and from time to time obligingly satisfied my inquiries, by communicating to me the incidents of his early years;
as I acquired a facility in recollecting, and was very assiduous in recording, his conversation, of which the extraordinary vigour and vivacity constituted one of the first features of his character;
and as I have spared no pains in obtaining materials concerning him, from every quarter where I could discover that they were to be found, and have been favoured with the most liberal communications by his friends;
I flatter myself that few biographers have entered upon such a work as this, with more advantages; independent of literary abilities, in which I am not vain enough to compare myself with some great names who have gone before me in this kind of writing.
Since my work was announced, several Lives and Memoirs of Dr. Johnson have been published, the most voluminous of which is one compiled for the booksellers of London, by Sir John Hawkins, Knight, a man, whom, during my long intimacy with Dr. Johnson, I never saw in his company, I think but once, and I am sure not above twice. Johnson might have esteemed him for his decent, religious demeanour, and his knowledge of books and literary history;
but from the rigid formality of his manners, it is evident that they never could have lived together with companionable ease and familiarity; nor had Sir John Hawkins that nice perception which was necessary to mark the finer and less obvious parts of Johnson's character. Sir John Hawkins's ponderous labours, I must acknowledge, exhibit a farrago, of which a considerable portion is not devoid of entertainment to the lovers of literary gossiping, a very small part of it relates to the person who is the subject of the book; and, in that, there is such an inaccuracy in the statement of facts, as in so solemn an authour is hardly excusable, and certainly makes his narrative very unsatisfactory. But what is still worse, there is throughout the whole of it a dark uncharitable cast, by which the most unfavourable construction is put upon almost every circumstance in the character and conduct of my illustrious friend; who, I trust, will, by a true and fair delineation, be vindicated both from the injurious misrepresentations of this authour, and from the slighter aspersions of a lady who once lived in great intimacy with him.