Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Lives of the Saints: St. Canut 

From Rev. Alban Butler’s The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints; edited by Dan Leo, Associate Professor of Hagiography, Olney Community College; author of Jesus is Your Homey Too: 27 Dialogues for Troubled Teens; Olney Community College Press.

Illustrated by rhoda penmarq: a penmarq studios™ presentation.

Nihil Obstat: Msgr. Martin de Pours Duffy.

to begin the series, click here

for previous entry, click here

ST. CANUT, second son of Eric the Good, king of Denmark, was made duke of Sleswig, his elder brother Nicholas being king of Denmark.

Their father, who lived with his people as a father with his children, and no one ever left him without comfort, says the ancient chronicle Knytling-Saga, died in Cyprus, going on a pilgrimage to the holy land, in which he had been received by Alexius Comnenus, emperor, at Constantinople, with the greatest honour, and had founded an hospital at Lucca for Danish pilgrims. He died in 1103, on the 11th of July.

Canut set himself to make justice and peace reign in his principality: those warriors could not easily be restrained from plundering. 

One day, when he had condemned several together to be hanged for piracies, one cried out, that he was of blood royal, and related to Canut. 

The prince answered, that to honour his extraction, he should be hanged on the top of the highest mast of his ship, which was executed. 

Henry, king of the Sclavi, being dead, and his two sons, St. Canut his nephew succeeded, paid homage to the emperor Lothaire II and was crowned by him king of the Obotrites, or western Sclavi. 

St. Canut was much honoured by that emperor, in whose court he had spent part of his youth.

Valour, prudence, zeal, and goodness, endeared him to all. 

He was slain by a conspiracy of the jealous Danes, the 7th of January, 1130, and canonized in 1171.

next: St Apollinaris

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 9

Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Assistant Professor of Boswellology, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: Dr. Goldsmith’s Revenge, the Olney Community College Press.

Illustrated by rhoda penmarq; a penmarq/sternwall™ co-production.

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous chapter, click here

He now set up a private academy, for which purpose he hired a large house, well situated near his native city.

In the Gentleman's Magazine for 1736, there is the following advertisement:

'At Edial, near Lichfield, in Staffordshire, young gentlemen are boarded and taught the Latin and Greek languages, by SAMUEL JOHNSON.'

But the only pupils that were put under his care were the celebrated David Garrick and his brother George, and a Mr. Offely, a young gentleman of good fortune who died early.

As yet, his name had nothing of that celebrity which afterwards commanded the highest attention and respect of mankind.

Had such an advertisement appeared after the publication of his London, or his Rambler, or his Dictionary, how would it have burst upon the world! with what eagerness would the great and the wealthy have embraced an opportunity of putting their sons under the learned tuition of SAMUEL JOHNSON.

The truth, however, is, that he was not so well qualified for being a teacher of elements, and a conductor in learning by regular gradations, as men of inferiour powers of mind.

His own acquisitions had been made by fits and starts, by violent irruptions into the regions of knowledge; and it could not be expected that his impatience would be subdued, and his impetuosity restrained, so as to fit him for a quiet guide to novices.

The art of communicating instruction, of whatever kind, is much to be valued; and I have ever thought that those who devote themselves to this employment, and do their duty with diligence and success, are entitled to very high respect from the community, as Johnson himself often maintained. Yet I am of opinion that the greatest abilities are not only not required for this office, but render a man less fit for it.

While we acknowledge the justness of Thomson's beautiful remark,

'Delightful task! to rear the tender thought, And teach the young idea how to shoot!'

we must consider that this delight is perceptible only by 'a mind at ease,' a mind at once calm and clear; but that a mind gloomy and impetuous like that of Johnson, cannot be fixed for any length of time in minute attention, and must be so frequently irritated by unavoidable slowness and errour in the advances of scholars, as to perform the duty with little pleasure to the teacher, and no great advantage to the pupils.

Johnson was not more satisfied with his situation as the master of an academy than with that of the usher of a school; we need not wonder, therefore, that he did not keep his academy above a year and a half.

From Mr. Garrick's account he did not appear to have been profoundly reverenced by his pupils.

His oddities of manner, and uncouth gesticulations, could not but be the subject of merriment to them; and, in particular, the young rogues used to listen at the door of his bed-chamber, and peep through the key-hole, that they might turn into ridicule his tumultuous and awkward fondness for Mrs. Johnson, whom he used to name by the familiar appellation of Tetty or Tetsey, which, like Betty or Betsey, is provincially used as a contraction for Elisabeth, her Christian name, but which to us seems ludicrous, when applied to a woman of her age and appearance.

Mr. Garrick described her to me as very fat, with a bosom of more than ordinary protuberance, with swelled cheeks of a florid red, produced by thick painting, and increased by the liberal use of cordials; flaring and fantastick in her dress, and affected both in her speech and her general behaviour.

I have seen Garrick exhibit her, by his exquisite talent of mimickry, so as to excite the heartiest bursts of laughter; but he, probably, as is the case in all such representations, considerably aggravated the picture.


part 10

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Lives of the Saints: four unjustly obscure saints 

From Rev. Alban Butler’s The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints; edited by Dan Leo, Assistant Professor of Martyrology, Olney Community College; author of Word Up, Jesus! Sensible Advice for Today’s Teens, Olney Community College Press.

Illustrated by rhoda penmarq: a penmarq studios™ production.

Nihil Obstat: Msgr. Reginald Q. St. Pierre.

to begin the series, click here

for previous entry, click here

St. Nilammon, Hermit, near Pelusium, in Egypt

ST. NILAMMON, who being chosen bishop of Geres, and finding the patriarch Theophilus deaf to his tears and excuses, prayed that God would rather take him out of the world than permit him to be consecrated bishop of the place, for which he was intended.

His prayer was heard, for he died before he had finished it.


St. Peter, Abbot in England

DISCIPLE of St. Gregory the Great, and first abbot of St. Austin’s, in Canterbury, then called St. Peter’s.

Going to France in 608, he was drowned near the harbour of Ambleteuse, between Calais and Bologne, and is named in the English and Gallican Martyrologies.



St. Kentigerna, Widow, of Ireland 

SHE is commemorated on the 7th of January, in the Aberdeen Breviary, from which we learn, that she was of royal blood, daughter of Kelly, prince of Leinster in Ireland, as Colgan proves from ancient monuments.

She was mother of the holy abbot St. Fœlan, or Felan.

After the death of her husband, she left Ireland, and consecrated herself to God in a religious state, and lived in great austerity and humility, and died on the 7th of January, in the year 728.

Adam King informs us, that a famous parish church bears her name at Locloumont, in Inchelroch, a small island into which she retired some time before her death, that she might with greater liberty give herself up to heavenly meditation.


St. Thillo, Recluse

HE was by birth a Saxon, and being made captive, was carried into the Low Countries, where he was ransomed and baptized by St. Eligius.

That apostolical man sent him to his abbey of Solignac, in Limousin. St. Thillo was called thence by St. Eligius, ordained priest, and employed by him some time at Tournay, and in other parts of the Low Countries.

The inhabitants of the country of Isengihen, near Courtray, regarded him as their apostle.

Some years after the death of St. Eligius, St. Thillo returned to Solignac, and lived a recluse near that abbey, in simplicity, devotion, and austerities, imitating the Antonies and Macariuses.

He died in his solitude, about the year 702, of his age ninety-four, and was honoured with miracles. 

next: St Canut

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 8

Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Associate Professor of Boswell and Johnson Studies, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Case of the Stolen Snuffbox, the Olney Community College Press.

Illustrated by rhoda penmarq; a penmarq productions™ production.*

*”I have always found the words ‘a penmarq production™’ to indicate the hallmark of quality.” – Horace P. Sternwall, poet, novelist, host of The Old Gold Classics Playhouse on the DuMont Television Network.

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous chapter, click here

Johnson had, from his early youth, been sensible to the influence of female charms. 

His juvenile attachments to the fair sex were, however, very transient; and it is certain that he formed no criminal connection whatsoever. Mr. Hector, who lived with him in his younger days in the utmost intimacy and social freedom, has assured me, that even at that ardent season his conduct was strictly virtuous in that respect; and that though he loved to exhilarate himself with wine, he never knew him intoxicated but once.

In a man whom religious education has secured from licentious indulgences, the passion of love, when once it has seized him, is exceedingly strong; being unimpaired by dissipation, and totally concentrated in one object. This was experienced by Johnson, when he became the fervent admirer of Mrs. Porter, after her first husband's death.

Miss Porter told me, that when he was first introduced to her mother, his appearance was very forbidding: he was then lean and lank, so that his immense structure of bones was hideously striking to the eye, and the scars of the scrophula were deeply visible, and he often had, seemingly, convulsive starts and odd gesticulations, which tended to excite at once surprize and ridicule.

Mrs. Porter was so much engaged by his conversation that she overlooked all these external disadvantages, and said to her daughter, 'this is the most sensible man that I ever saw in my life.'

Though Mrs. Porter was double the age of Johnson, and her person and manner, as described to me by the late Mr. Garrick, were by no means pleasing to others, she must have had a superiority of understanding and talents, as she certainly inspired him with a more than ordinary passion; and she having signified her willingness to accept of his hand, he went to Lichfield to ask his mother's consent to the marriage, which he could not but be conscious was a very imprudent scheme, both on account of their disparity of years, and her want of fortune. But Mrs. Johnson knew too well the ardour of her son's temper, and was too tender a parent to oppose his inclinations. 

I know not for what reason the marriage ceremony was not performed at Birmingham; but a resolution was taken that it should be at Derby, for which place the bride and bridegroom set out on horseback, I suppose in very good humour. 

But though Mr. Topham Beauclerk used archly to mention Johnson's having told him, with much gravity, 'Sir, it was a love marriage on both sides,' I have had from my illustrious friend the following curious account of their journey to church upon the nuptial morn: 9th July:

—'Sir, she had read the old romances, and had got into her head the fantastical notion that a woman of spirit should use her lover like a dog. So, Sir, at first she told me that I rode too fast, and she could not keep up with me; and, when I rode a little slower, she passed me, and complained that I lagged behind. I was not to be made the slave of caprice; and I resolved to begin as I meant to end. I therefore pushed on briskly, till I was fairly out of her sight. The road lay between two hedges, so I was sure she could not miss it; and I contrived that she should soon come up with me. When she did, I observed her to be in tears.'

This, it must be allowed, was a singular beginning of connubial felicity; but there is no doubt that Johnson, though he thus shewed a manly firmness, proved a most affectionate and indulgent husband to the last moment of Mrs. Johnson's life: and in his Prayers and Meditations, we find very remarkable evidence that his regard and fondness for her never ceased, even after her death.

part 9

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Lives of the Saints: St. Syncletica, Virgin

From Rev. Alban Butler’s The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints; edited by Dan Leo, Assistant Professor of Theological Discourse, Olney Community College; author of My Bad, Big Guy: Further Conversations With the Man Upstairs (for Teenaged Readers), Olney Community College Press.

Illustrated by rhoda penmarq; a penmarq studios™ presentation.

Nihil Obstat: Rev. Brigham P. Brougham

to begin the series, click here

for previous entry, click here

SHE was born at Alexandria in Egypt, of wealthy Macedonian parents.
From her infancy she had imbibed the love of virtue, and in her tender years she consecrated her virginity to God.

Her great fortune and beauty induced many young noblemen to become her suitors for marriage; but she had already bestowed her heart on her heavenly spouse.

Flight was her refuge against exterior assaults, and, regarding herself as her own most dangerous enemy, she began early to subdue her flesh by austere fasts and other mortifications.

She never seemed to suffer more than when obliged to eat oftener than she desired.

Her parents, at their death, left her heiress to their opulent estate; for the two brothers she had, died before them; and her sister being blind, was committed entirely to her guardianship.

Syncletica, having soon distributed her fortune among the poor, retired with her sister into a lonesome monument, on a relation’s estate; where, having sent for a priest, she cut off her hair in his presence, as a sign whereby she renounced the world, and renewed the consecration of herself to God.

Mortification and prayer were from that time her principal employment; but her close solitude, by concealing her pious exercises from the eyes of the world, has deprived us in a great measure of the knowledge of them.   

The fame of her virtue being spread abroad, many women resorted to her abode to confer with her upon spiritual matters. 

Her humility made her unwilling to take upon herself the task of instructing, but charity, on the other side, opened her mouth. Her pious discourses were inflamed with so much zeal, and accompanied with such an unfeigned humility, and with so many tears, that it cannot be expressed what deep impressions they made on her hearers. 

“Oh,” said the saint, “how happy should we be, did we but take as much pains to gain heaven and please God, as worldings do to heap up riches and perishable goods! By land they venture among thieves and robbers; at sea they expose themselves to the fury of winds and storms; they suffer shipwrecks, and all perils; they attempt all, try all, hazard all; but we, in serving so great a master, for so immense a good, are afraid of every contradiction.” 

At other times, admonishing them of the dangers of this life, she was accustomed to say:

“We must be continually upon our guard, for we are engaged in a perpetual war; unless we take care, the enemy will surprise us, when we are least aware of him. A ship sometimes passes safe through hurricanes and tempests, yet, if the pilot, even in a calm, has not a great care of it, a single wave, raised by a sudden gust, may sink her. It does not signify whether the enemy clambers in by the window, or whether all at once he shakes the foundation, if at last he destroys the house. In this life we sail, as it were, in an unknown sea. We meet with rocks, shelves and sands; sometimes we are becalmed, and at other times we find ourselves tossed and buffeted by a storm. Thus we are never secure, never out of danger; and, if we fall asleep, are sure to perish.

We have a most intelligent and experienced pilot, at the helm of our vessel, even Jesus Christ himself, who will conduct us safe into the haven of salvation, if, by our supineness, we cause not our own perdition.” 

She frequently inculcated the virtue of humility, in the following words:

“A treasure is secure so long as it remains concealed; but when once disclosed, and laid open to every bold invader, it is presently rifled; so virtue is safe as long as secret, but, if rashly exposed, it but too often evaporates into smoke. By humility, and contempt of the world, the soul, like an eagle, soars on high, above all transitory things, and tramples on the backs of lions and dragons.” 

By these, and the like discourses, did this devout virgin excite others to charity, humility, vigilance, and every other virtue.

Three days before her death she foresaw, that on the third day she should be released from the prison of her body; and on it, surrounded by a heavenly light, and ravished by consolatory visions, she surrendered her pure soul into the hands of her Creator, in the eighty-fourth year of her age.

next: four unjustly obscure saints

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Boswell's Life of Johnson: 7

Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Assistant Professor of 18th Century Literary  Studies, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Case of the Missing Cask of Port, the Olney Community College Press.

Illustrated by rhoda penmarq; a penmarq international™ production.*

*”A ‘penmarq international™ production’ is a first-class production.” – Horace P. Sternwall , author and motivational speaker

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous chapter, click here


His father's misfortunes in trade rendered him unable to support his son; and for some time there appeared no means by which he could maintain himself.

In the December of this year his father died. 

The state of poverty in which he died, appears from a note in one of Johnson's little diaries of the following year, which strongly displays his spirit and virtuous dignity of mind.

'1732, Julii 15. I layed by eleven guineas on this day, when I received twenty pounds, being all that I have reason to hope for out of my father's effects, previous to the death of my mother; an event which I pray GOD may be very remote. I now therefore see that I must make my own fortune. Meanwhile, let me take care that the powers of my mind may not be debilitated by poverty, and that indigence do not force me into any criminal act.'

Johnson was so far fortunate, that the respectable character of his parents, and his own merit, had, from his earliest years, secured him a kind reception in the best families at Lichfield.

In these families he passed much time in his early years. In most of them, he was in the company of ladies, particularly at Mr. Walmsley's, whose wife and sisters-in-law, of the name of Aston, and daughters of a Baronet, were remarkable for good breeding; so that the notion which has been industriously circulated and believed, that he never was in good company till late in life, and, consequently had been confirmed in coarse and ferocious manners by long habits, is wholly without foundation.

In the forlorn state of his circumstances, he accepted of an offer to be employed as usher in the school of Market-Bosworth, in Leicestershire.

This employment was very irksome to him in every respect, and he complained grievously of it in his letters to his friend Mr. Hector, who was now settled as a surgeon at Birmingham. Mr. Hector recollects his writing 'that the poet had described the dull sameness of his existence in these words, "Vitam continet una dies" (one day contains the whole of my life); that it was unvaried as the note of the cuckow; and that he did not know whether it was more disagreeable for him to teach, or the boys to learn, the grammar rules.'

His general aversion to this painful drudgery was greatly enhanced by a disagreement between him and Sir Wolstan Dixey, the patron of the school, in whose house, I have been told, he officiated as a kind of domestick chaplain, so far, at least, as to say grace at table, but was treated with what he represented as intolerable harshness; and, after suffering for a few months such complicated misery, he relinquished a situation which all his life afterwards he recollected with the strongest aversion, and even a degree of horrour.

Being now again totally unoccupied, he was invited by Mr. Hector to pass some time with him at Birmingham, as his guest, at the house of Mr. Warren, with whom Mr. Hector lodged and boarded.

Mr. Warren was the first established bookseller in Birmingham, and was very attentive to Johnson, who he soon found could be of much service to him in his trade, by his knowledge of literature.

He continued to live as Mr. Hector's guest for about six months, and then hired lodgings in another part of the town, finding himself as well situated at Birmingham as he supposed he could be any where, while he had no settled plan of life, and very scanty means of subsistence.

He made some valuable acquaintances there, amongst whom were Mr. Porter, a mercer, whose widow he afterwards married.

In what manner he employed his pen at this period, or whether he derived from it any pecuniary advantage, I have not been able to ascertain. He probably got a little money from Mr. Warren; and we are certain, that he executed here one piece of literary labour, of which Mr. Hector has favoured me with a minute account.

Having mentioned that he had read at Pembroke College A Voyage to Abyssinia, by Lobo, a Portuguese Jesuit, and that he thought an abridgment and translation of it from the French into English might be an useful and profitable publication, Mr. Warren and Mr. Hector joined in urging him to undertake it. He accordingly agreed; and the book not being to be found in Birmingham, he borrowed it of Pembroke College.

A part of the work being very soon done, one Osborn, who was Mr. Warren's printer, was set to work with what was ready, and Johnson engaged to supply the press with copy as it should be wanted; but his constitutional indolence soon prevailed, and the work was at a stand.

Mr. Hector, who knew that a motive of humanity would be the most prevailing argument with his friend, went to Johnson, and represented to him, that the printer could have no other employment till this undertaking was finished, and that the poor man and his family were suffering.

Johnson upon this exerted the powers of his mind, though his body was relaxed.

He lay in bed with the book, which was a quarto, before him, and dictated while Hector wrote.

Mr. Hector carried the sheets to the press, and corrected almost all the proof sheets, very few of which were even seen by Johnson.

In this manner, with the aid of Mr. Hector's active friendship, the book was completed, and was published in 1735.

For this work he had from Mr. Warren only the sum of five guineas. 


part 8