Jacques Maritain Center : Readings

Jacques Maritain's Notebooks

Appendices


Appendix to Chapter Five

I. Two Approbations

1. Letter of J.M. to Mgr. Gibier, Bishop of Versailles, and approbation of the latter.

Versailles, 21 rue Baillet-Reviron, April 10, 1922

Your Excellency,

Permit me filially to ask the approbation of Your Grace for a Study Circle whose members, preoccupied with the necessity of maintaining and of propagating in the world, and particularly among laymen, the doctrine of St. Thomas in its purity, strive to mutually aid each other in the knowledge of this doctrine by means of monthly meetings, while trying also to practice, each to the best of his ability, the life of prayer, without which they are convinced that the study would not bear its fruits.

With regard to the spirit of this group, it will suffice for me to tell Your Grace that Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, professor at the Collegium Angelicum, in Rome, consented, with the approval of the Fr. Provincial of France and of the Most Reverend Fr. General of the Dominican Order, to assume the chief intellectual direction of our studies.

In a spirit of absolute deference to ecclesiastical authority. we ask Your Excellency to kindly approve the director of studies he has chosen, who is the signer of this letter.

We also ask Your Grace to kindly permit us to ask Fr. Garrigou-agrange to preach a retreat for us at Versailles, between the 5th and the 10th of next October.{1}

We ask Your Excellency to grant us your paternal blessing, and to accept the expression of my veneration, of my gratitude and of my affectionate devotion for Your Grace.

[Beneath my signature, Mgr. Gibier wrote in his hand:]

I approve most heartily and I bless affectionately Monsieur Maritain and all those who will join him for the study of St. Thomas.

+ Charles Bishop of Versailles

2. Letter of Mgr. Mariétan, Abbé of Saint-Maurice d'Agaune

[In this letter, dated the 17th of April 1922, Mgr. Mariétan spoke to me first of another project for organizing the "new brothers," -- "those who are in the process of advancing" or "who have not yet found their way" -- a project which did not continue. He added:]

The project of the Thomist study group appears to me no less worthy of attention. It is assuredly one of the most necessary works. For truth alone, truth drawn from its authentic sources will deliver our sick souls. Those who come or will come to us, to our faith and to our Catholic life, have the right to require that we be men and Catholics who passionately love truth and desire nothing so much as to communicate it to the world which has such a pressing need of it.

And what surer means of conquest by truth than that of prayer? It is this which you have so admirably understood. The idea of the vow of prayer is full of the richest promises. And I greet with a particular joy this holy and fruitful daring. Is it not proper that the devotees of St. Thomas, in imitation of the Master, expect more from prayer than from study, more from the Crucifix than from the masters of human thought?

Believe therefore, my dear Sir, that I thank God for all that He has inspired in you and that I ask Him heartily to give you His divine grace. May the blessing which I send you so gladly be a deficient pledge of it!

Affectionately yours in Jesus Christ and in His divine Mother.

+ Joseph Mariétan Titular Bishop of Bethlehem Abbé of Saint-Maurice d'Agaune

 


II. Statutes of the Thomist Study Circles

+

O SAPIENTIA

"O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem fortiter, suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae."

THOMIST STUDY CIRCLES

I. -- General Principles

I. God, in making of St. Thomas Aquinas the common Doctor of the Church, gave him to us for leader and for guide in the knowledge of truth. The doctrine of St. Thomas is the doctrine which the Church recommends behond all others, and which she enjoins her masters to teach. It imposes itself on reason as a chain of demonstratively linked certitudes, and it accords with dogma more perfectly than any other. It has for itself the pledges of a holiness which is inseparable from the teaching mission of the Angelic Doctor, and which proceeds even to a kind of effacement of his human personality in the radiance of the divine light. Because he profoundly venerated the Fathers of the Church and the holy Doctors who preceded him, St. Thomas, as Leo XIII wrote, "in a certain way inherited the intellect of all." He so lost himself in truth that one must say of him, with one of his great disciples: Magis aliquid in sancto Thoma quam sanctus Thomas suscipitur et defenditur, "in St. Thomas it is something greater than St. Thomas that we receive and defend." Heir of the past and treasurer of the future, he alone can teach us to become, by his example and according to the measure of our weakness, transparent to truth, docile to the Spirit who gives understanding, open to the common and century-old wisdom with which the Church is divinely instructed. An active, progressive and conquering fidelity -- but absolutely pure and entire -- to the principles, to the doctrine and to the spirit of St. Thomas, is therefore the means par excellence of serving the Truth which is Christ, and it is specially required for the salvation of the intelligence threatened today on all sides.

II. We believe moreover that the human intelligence is so weak by nature, and so weakened by the heritage of Original Sin, and that on the other hand the thought of St. Thomas is of such a lofty intellectuality, from the metaphysical as well as the theological point of view, that in order for this thought to be given to us, all the supernatural graces of St. Thomas were needed. The eminent sanctity and above all the unique mission of the Angelic Doctor assured him of the help of these graces. We believe that in order for his thought to live among men, a special assistance of the Holy Spirit is and will always be needed.

In particular, in our epoch so full of errors, and especially where the discipline and the graces proper to the religious state are lacking, we believe that it is impossible for Thomism to be maintained in its integrity and in its purity, without the special aid of the life of prayer.

We know besides that this union of the spiritual life and of the life of study was not only practiced to an eminent degree by St. Thomas himself, but also by his most authoritative commentators, for example by Bannez, who was the director of St. Theresa, and by Gonet, who dedicated to the great contemplative his Clypeus thomisticae theologiae, and by the Salmanticenses, who remained so perfectly faithful on all points of Thomist theology, and who saw in it the foundation of the great spiritual doctrines taught by St. Theresa and by St. John of the Cross.

III. But Thomism, by very virtue of the powerful impulse given by Leo XIII, has already begun to win minds in the world and amongst laymen, and it is called to spread in this way more and more. Otherwise how could it win the modern intelligence? It surely must spread throughout the dough to cause it to rise. In order to penetrate the world, in order to renew philosophy, to assimilate the materials which it has acquired since the Middle Ages, to direct its progressive advance in all domains, in order to disengage the true significance of all the partial truths and of all the researches accumulated by the particular sciences, in order to animate and enlighten the intellectual renaissance which is preparing itself in the order of letters and of the arts, whose role can be immense, finally in order to inform common intelligence, which has more than ever need of a general theological and philosophical culture, it is indeed necessary that Thomism pass into the intellectual life of secular priests and of laymen, and that it find workers among them.

But its very diffusion can give rise to certain dangers. To the degree that it is studied by minds insufficiently prepared and armed, and more or less influenced by modern prejudices, it will run the risk of being studied without suitable light, and consequently of undergoing diminished, piecemeal and distorting interpretations. Experience shows that this danger of a materialization of Thomism is not imaginary.

IV. In order to promote in the world the doctrine and the spirit of St. Thomas, while guarding against the danger which has just been pointed out, and while maintaining the Thomist synthesis in the superior light which it requires, it seems useful and opportune therefore to associate the souls of good will who, through love of Truth and of the Church, desire to work for the diffusion of Thomism or to draw their inspiration from it, in study circles which would help them to improve in the knowledge of St. Thomas, and to make it better known, and which would aim to perpetuate in lay circles, through a lasting institution, the living tradition of the masters of Thomsim.

V. But since the principal element here is, as we have seen, the spiritual and supernatural element, and since such an association can only have value and effectiveness if those who compose it are dedicated as fully as possible to the action of the Holy Spirit, each of its members would bind himself by a private vow to practice the life of prayer. Thus this association of secular priests and of laymen would have at the base of its activity a very intimate and very profound gift of oneself to God, and would offer to souls who desire perfection while remaining in the world a very real help, without however encroaching at all upon the liberty of each, since the vow of prayer concerns only the absolutely personal relations of God and of the soul.

It happens that the usefulness of these study circles would be twofold: on the one hand, they would help to maintain the required integrity and purity of the renewal of Thomist studies in our time, through the means of prayer; and on the other hand they would also help to maintain the required rectitude and purity of the renewal of spirituality in our time, through the means of Thomism.

In a time when the majority of minds are interested in everything except in God, and seem to have lost the strength to reascend to the first cause, it seems desirable that, among their intentions, the members of these study circles include that of intellectual reparation. For if it is true that intellectuals especially have the duty of recognizing in God the supreme object of the intelligence and of scrutinizing with love and reverence the depths of natural and supernatural theology, it is equally true that God is in our day especially offended by them. It is important therefore that intellectuals apply themselves in a special manner to rendering to God the homage which the majority of modern philosophers refuse to Him, and to interceding at the same time for all those who are the voluntary or involuntary victims of error.

II. -- Organization

VI. There is constituted, under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Seat of Wisdom, Thomist study circles open to persons who, living in the world, wish to work for the diffusion of Thomism or to draw their inspiration from it, while remaining strictly faithful to the doctrine of St. Thomas and to his thought, which lives in his great disciples, such as Cajetan, John of Saint-Thomas, or the Salmanticenses.

These study circles will not comprise solely philosophers and theologians by profession; they are open to all those, whoever they may be, who desire to take St. Thomas for guide, and it is desirable that they bring together minds having the most varied cast, artists and scientists in particular.

Even persons who would not have the means of regularly studying St. Thomas, but who would offer their prayer in order that the influence of the Angelic Doctor might act on souls according to the will of God, could be a part of this grouping.

VII. The members of these study circles bind themselves to study St. Thomas as far as possible, and they make the private vow to practice the life of prayer, as much as their way of life and their practical duties permit.

The normal order which the members of the circles are invited to follow, with the approval of their confessor, is to carry out in practice the substance of this vow for one year before pronouncing the vow itself; then the vow is to be annual and renewed twice, and after these three years it is to give place to a perpetual vow.

This vow, either annual or perpetual, does not bear on a materially determined exercise, which must last a precise time each day. A time so fixed could only be a minimum, and all the persons whom the study circles will bring together generally give to prayer, in actual fact, much more time than could be fixed in such a commitment. If the object of the vow is not determined in a material manner, it is in order to have it bear on the essential, the vital, not to belittle things, and also not to give occasion in certain cases to all kinds of scruples. It bears therefore solely on the general orientation given to life, so that only the act of explicitly revoking the intention to practice the life of prayer can constitute the violation of it.{2}

The formula of this vow could be the following one: "In the presence of the Holy Trinity, of the Blessed Virgin, of St. Thomas, of my patron saints, desiring to tend, in spite of my weakness, to union with God and to the perfection of charity, without obliging myself to a daily exercise of a determined duration, I make a vow to devote myself (here the indication of the duration of the vow) to the life of prayer to the extent that my way of life and my practical duties permit."

VIII. The general director of the Thomist study circles will always be a monk of the Order of St. Dominic. The first general director chosen by the Very Reverend Father Provincial of France and approved by the Most Reverend Father General, will be Father Garrigou-Lagrange, professor of theology at the Angelicum, Rome. It is from him that the first members, who had the idea of forming a group, desire to receive the original directives, as much from the point of view of doctrine as from the point of view of spirituality.

The successor of the general director will be proposed beforehand to his Superiors by the latter, or in case of major impediment, by the directors of studies assembled for that purpose. Since the study circles comprise members in different regions of France and abroad, this general director will have to be approved by the Most Reverend Father General of the Dominicans.

IX. The general director guides and supervises the studies of the diverse groups by keeping in touch with the directors of studies; he also gives a general orientation concerning the spiritual life, thanks above all to an annual retreat preached, theoretically, by him, according to the approval of the Ordinary of the place. It would be good to profit from the annual retreat by having, outside of the exercises of the retreat itself, a general meeting presided over by the general director, who could then give instructions concerning the studies and the intellectual work of the year.

The study groups which can be formed in different places will each have a director of studies. It goes without saying that they will function only according to the rules of the Catholic hierarchy. The director of studies, who will have to give full evidence of knowledge, piety and competence, will be chosen by the general Director from among the members of the circle, and approved by the local bishop. He will occupy himself exclusively with studies, neither he nor the study group will need to interfere at all with what concerns an individual's spiritual life, a domain in which each person (especially in a group such as this which does not in any way have the character of a religious institute) depends only on God and has but to consult his own director or confessor. In this order the usefulness of the group will be limited to facilitating for each member the reading of the masters of the spiritual life.

The general Director being charged with maintaining the integrity and the purity of Thomist teaching, will have the right to depose or to replace as he wishes the directors of studies. He will see to it that the latter are in thorough agreement on the essential points of the doctrine of St. Thomas. If against all probability it happened that a group persisted in an intellectual direction judged by him as dangerous, he would also have the right to dissolve it.

Each year, the secretary or the director of each study group will send to the general Director a report on the activity of the past year. This report will have been previously read in a meeting of the group and approved by it. If a member has personal observations to be formulated, they will be added to the report.

Every follower of a study circle will have to be presented by two members of this circle, with the approval of the general Director and of the director of studies.

X. The Thomist study circles have in nowise the character of a Third Order. It is desirable that their members be a part, as tertiaries or oblates, of a religious family. But the most diverse religious families can be found in them.

XI. Each group will have at least a monthly meeting devoted to the study of St. Thomas or his commentators.

The members will occupy themselves in these meetings with strengthening themselves in the knowledge of Thomism and with helping each other to realize as far as possible an intellectual collaboration: for example, by sharing with one another information useful for each one's work, and by keeping each other acquainted with the movement of ideas. They will also occupy themselves with preparing the work which could be done for the diffusion of Thomism, above all by indicating to the various groups the points which it would be useful to concentrate on.

The members of the study circles will ordinarily be very burdened with occupations, since they live in the world. So care will be taken that the Association shall be an aid for them and not a supplementary burden. Thus, outside of the study meetings, there will be no other meetings, such as monthly Masses, however desirable in themselves, but which would occur in addition to the Masses and the meetings of the Third Orders to which the members of the circles might belong. Likewise in the study meetings, it is in general the director of studies who will do the principal work, by himself preparing the topic of the meeting.

Each group will have a secretary who will keep note of its activities, will act as liaison among the members of the group and between it and other groups, and will devote some time to organizing the intellectual collaboration just mentioned.

XII. It will be necessary to assure regular communication among the groups.

XIII. It will be necessary also to envisage the creation of a library for each group: above all books and periodicals concerning the doctrine of St. Thomas and the spiritual life.

It would be advantageous for each group to meet its general expenses through regular contributions, establishing the amount according to the necessities.

XIV. In the study meetings, each member will strive not to rest content with an elementary initiation, but to reach a truly intimate knowledge of the highest principles of Thomism. In particular a great effort will be made to deepen at one and the same time the knowledge of the philosophy and theology of St. Thomas, and to develop in all members the superior light of theology. This insistence on theology is all the more necessary for the formation of minds since in external works and publications, on the contrary, it seems more useful to disregard the theological point of view in order to show in the face of modern ideas the value and strength of Thomist philosophy as philosophy.

In the study meetings not only the members can take part, but any of their friends who on any grounds whatever are sincerely interested in the thought of St. Thomas.

XV. In addition to the vow of prayer, and the commitment to study St. Thomas as far as possible, the members of the study circles are only required, in order to strengthen the spiritual bond which unites them, and to ask for the graces which they need, to recite each day the prayer of St. Thomas: Deus, qui Ecclesiam tuam, etc., preceded by the antiphon: Collaudetur Christus Rex Gloriae, qui per Thomam lumen Ecclesiae mundum replet doctrina gratiae, and by the verse: Ora pro nobis, beate Thoma, ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi, and to add to the Angelus the invocation: Doctor Angelice, ora pro nobis.

 


Appendix to Chapter Six

Apropos of Gwendoline and Augustus John

Augustus John was one of the most brilliant among the English painters of this time. As enamored of silence as he was of notoriety, his sister Gwen (1876-1939) is far from having the same celebrity, but it seems that justice has not been done to her, and it appears probable that the researches of the historians of art will make, with time, her value better recognized.{3} At any rate she certainly had an exceptional talent. In this appendix I shall give some somewhat more detailed indications concerning her than in the chapter.

Sir John Rothenstein devoted a chapter to Gwen John in Modern English Painters;{4} Augustus John spoke of her in his Memoirs{5} and in his Foreword to the Memorial Exhibition of 1946, Wyndham Lewis in an article written on the occasion of this exposition.{6}

The date of the conversion of Gwen John to Catholicism is not exactly known. Sir John Rothenstein thinks that after about a year of inner struggle and meditation she was received into the Catholic Church at the beginning of 1913. She already lived in Meudon at that time.

Our relations with her and her friendship with Vera began in 1926, just after the death of Rilke,{7} whom she knew well, and to whom she was very attached. I recopy here the reply that Vera made in 1951, from Princeton, to a letter in which John Rothenstein, then director of the Tate Gallery, asked me for information concerning what we knew about Gwen John, for the work on Modern English Painters which he was preparing. (It was Vera who replied to him, for it was she -- and not Raissa or myself -- who had been the friend of Gwen John and had received her confidences. But as she feared to commit a breach of discretion, she wrote in the briefest possible manner).{8}

"Miss Gwen John," Vera wrote, "came to see us for the first time the day after the death of Rilke, who was one of her friends; she was very anxious concerning the soul of Rilke, wanted to aid it by her prayers, and wondered whether she could do so while remaining in Meudon, where she lived, or whether she had to go to pray where he had died.

"I know nothing about her conversion, but she was great friends with the Superior of the Soeurs de la Présentation, in Meudon -- this Superior is dead -- but perhaps the present Superior could give some particulars regarding Gwen John.

"Gwen John was a very practicing Catholic, she received Holy Communion every day. She was very reserved and secret. She suffered a great deal in her life, she was extremely sensitive and touchy.

"She did not wish to look at paintings, she told me that she did not know the Louvre Museum and did not wish to visit it.

"She lived in a very penurious manner, she saw no one, yet she showed me much sympathy. She told me that she had known Rodin."

Sir John Rothenstein said more concerning the relations between Gwen John and Rodin, who, while being affectionately concerned about her health (of which she took absolutely no care) seems, after she had entered into his friendship, to have quite rapidly treated her with the condescending superiority peculiar to men of genius (and who know it).

Vera spoke to us very little of her conversations with Gwen John, because of the discretion to which she felt herself bound with regard to what had been said to her in confidence. It was after Mass that Gwen John talked with Vera. She wrote her a great number of letters, many drafts of which were found in her papers. I reproduce two passages of these letters among those which Augustus John published in Chiaroscuro. "Dear Mademoiselle, I need your eyes, but mine do not wish to look at them. I told them to look at them but they do not wish to do it. I love you as I love flowers." -- "One has tenderness for the little animals which one has saved from death, does one not? You must have tenderness for me because you saved me from death. . . ."{9}

After the visit in which she spoke to us of her anxieties concerning the soul of Rilke, Raissa and I saw Gwen John only very rarely. (Having taken only Vera into her confidence, she seemed to avoid us as much as possible, and slipped away quickly when she happened to meet us.) She had appeared to us from the outset as both timid and fierce. She spoke only by murmuring in a low voice. One felt that the solitude in which she enclosed herself -- with an unheard-of passion for her art, to which she sacrificed everything -- sheltered tempests.{10} We knew that she had only her cats for companions and the endless reverie on which she nourished herself, in such a manner that it was doubtless difficult for her always to distinguish fiction from reality. Sir John Rothenstein tells us that among the mass of papers which she kept, there were not only copies made by her (sometimes several copies) of prayers and of meditations, of extracts from the writings of Catholic authors and of the saints, "as well as from Bertrand Russell, Baudelaire, Dostoievski, Oscar Wilde and Diderot,"{11} but also drafts of her own letters and, in addition to a certain number of autographic replies received by her, many copies of replies of which the originals are missing.

To judge according to what Vera let one guess, and according to what Augustus John and Sir John Rothenstein say, one must admire in Gwen John a rare natural magnanimity joined to a passionate violence from which she was the first to suffer. But her affection was intolerably engrossing, and it was because of this, as also because of the impossibility of remedying the need she had of torturing herself, and the tyranny of her sentiments, that Vera finally had to recognize the necessity of ceasing to see her. Such a decision surely cost her very much, and was not taken without the certitude that it was in Gwen's own interest that she must act thus. At what date did this rupture take place? As far as I remember, in 1932, but after two years, I believe, of difficult and fruitless efforts to pacify the situation.

I see in the book of Sir John Rothenstein that Gwen John had attended the courses of the Whistler School in Paris, but had retained from them only an extreme concern for science and for technique in her palnting methods, and had quickly freed herself from all influence. He writes also -- following Augustus John{12} -- that she was "familiar with the National Gallery and the Louvre."{13} She herself however told Vera that she did not wish to see anyone's paintings and had not even visited the Louvre. Is it necessary to take this assertion literally, and to think that Augustus attributed to his sister what he himself considered as going without saying? It appears more probable that in speaking to Vera Gwen John somewhat exaggerated things, in her desire to affirm her ideal of absolute solitude and of absolute independence. The assertion in question remains however significant, and shows that she was so attached to her own vision that she forgot the works which she had formerly seen, and certainly refused, at the time in which we knew her, to visit any museum and any exposition of contemporary painters.

In the article which he devoted to the Memorial Exhibition of 1946 Wyndham Lewis tells us that "one of her great friends was Jacques Maritain" (which is entirely incorrect), and that she belonged to the "Catholic Revival in France" (which, considering her total solitude, is senseless). He says also (which has all the appearance of an absurdity) that this alleged friendship with me and this alleged belonging to a cultural movement of her time partially explain why she succeeded so well in "isolating herself from the influences of her time."

The Foreword and the Memoirs of Augustus John have much more interest. What he writes about Gwen shows that there was in her a great deal of authentic grandeur, of nobility and of courage, an ardent instinct for the absolute,{14} and a lively and fervent faith. When however he comes to speak of us, his Preface contains errors{15} which I must point out.

Thus, for example, he does not doubt that I am the author of a letter (in English) found among his sister's papers, in which the most imperious counsels are dispensed to her with a ridiculous arrogance. But at the time in which Vera (and indirectly Raissa and myself) were in relations with Gwen John, I did not know a word of English (I learned it later), and would have been incapable of writing to Gwen John even in the kitchen English of the letter in question. Whether I wrote once or twice to Gwen John, after the visit in which she spoke to us of her anxieties concerning Rilke, I have no recollection. At any rate the letters which Augustus John cites are certainly not from me.

A supplementary proof of this (supposing that one wants one) is furnished by the researches of an art historian who is particularly interested in Gwen John and is preparing a work on her. Mrs. Mary Taubman kindly wrote to me -- I am grateful to her for having thought of doing so -- that in examining the papers of Gwen John she had found in them, not the letter quoted by Augustus John, but several others which are exactly in the same style and in the same English, and whose handwriting has no resemblance to mine. The author of these letters, whom she has not yet succeeded in identifying, but of whom some idea can be formed according to what he writes, was, it seems, a bit cracked, and considered himself to be "the Master" to whom obedience was due. Some of the letters in question are, it appears, signed, Y.M. (Your Master),{16} and these, initials are easy to confuse with J.M. All of this (including the tone of absurd authoritarianism which one must expect, must one not, from a "neo-Thomist") explains why Augustus John did not hesitate to attribute to me the letter he quoted, as also the other letters of the same type, with a lack of reflection which was doubtless candid but doubtless also not very cordial.

But what I am anxious above all to point out is the entirely unjust, and, to tell the truth, quite vulgar manner in which Augustus John expressed himself concerning Vera (whom he took for my niece). How moerover, let us say in his excuse, would he have been able, not being at all acquainted with Vera, and in the presence only of a few poor lifeless papers, to have the slightest idea of the affection and of the devotion with which, in order to aid the soul which had appealed to her, she had taken under her responsibility a friendship very heavy to bear? How would he have been able to understand the reasons for the ungrateful role which she had assumed in striving to put a little peace in a heart so sensitive and so constantly exacting and constantly troubled? He supposed (and I confess that for me, who knows that Vera's compassion, her clear-sightedness with regard to souls and her limitless understanding never failed, these lines are not easily tolerable) that she was "what we call a 'sensible' girl" -- a reasonable petite bourgeoise seeking "to keep her admirer's conduct within the bounds of reason and propriety." Concerning which he declared not without pride: she might as well have tried to restrain a whirlwind. In actual fact Vera spoke to a Christian; and when she told her to turn her sensibility towards the Lord, not towards creatures, she was not stating a rule of propriety.

As to Gwen John's habit, which greatly shocked the parish priest of Meudon, of bringing her sketchbook to church and of sketching people there, Vera found it very innocent. And if she refrained from contradicting Gwen's confessor, she did so, along with the wisdom which was fitting, with a tinge of humor, and a smile, which it is not, all the same, so difficult to perceive. "You told me," Gwen John wrote to Vera, "that you do not think that it is a very great sin to work in spirit at my drawings during the High Mass. I told you the Curé told me that it is a sin. Then you said gently, If he said that, it is a sin.

"When the Curé said this to me, I felt neither contrition nor fear . . . but I shall draw only at Vespers, Evening Services and Retreats. I like to pray in Church like everybody else, but my mind is not capable of praying for long periods at a time. . . . The orphans with those black hats with the white band and their black dresses with the white collars charm me, and other creatures charm me in Church. If I cut out all of this, there would not be enough happiness in my life."{17} One can be very sure that Vera loved that letter.

 


French Text to Poems

Page 11:

	O les steppes; les déserts.
	La contemplation.
	Mourir à Jérusalem.


Pages 12-13:

	Le pauvre infirme
va.
	Il est laid et dégoûtant à voir.
On a pitié de lui et on lui laisse croire qu'il est
aussi beau que les autres hommes.
	Il est méchant sans le savoir.
On a pitié de lui; on lui laisse croire qu'il est bon,
qu'il aime et qu'on l'aime.
	Il boite et trébuche à tous les ruisseaux.
On a pitié de lui; et on lui laisse croire qu'il marche
droit, comme les autres hommes marchent droit.
	Il est aveugle et ne voit que des hallucinations folles.
On a pitié de lui; on lui laisse croire qu'il voit
comme voient les autres hommes.
	Il est sourd et n'entend que des hallucinations folles.
On a pitié de lui et on lui laisse croire qu'il entend
de belles harmonies, et que telles sont les harmonies
qu'entendent les autres hommes.
	Il est muet et ne profére que des sons inarticulés.
On a pitié de lui; on lui laisse croire qu'il parle,
et que telle est la parole des autres hommes.
	Il est malade.
On a pitié de lui et on lui laisse croire qu'il est sam
comme sont les autres hommes.

	Il est mort.
On a pitié de lui; on lui laisse croire qu'il est vivant,
et que telle est la vraie vie.
Mais parfois n'entend-il pas, au loin,
comme un rire?


Page 13:

Vois, le jardin se meurt lentement sous la pluie;
Vois-tu se creuser les grands trous?
Nous enterrerons lé notre âme et notre vie,
L'ombre dormira près de nous.
Vois les fleurs se faner lentement sous la pluie.
Vois, l'eau coule à travers les chemins défoncés
Entrainant des feuilles pourries.
Tel sera bien le fleuve où nos félicités
Vogueront aux villes bénies.
Vois nous passer parmi les chemins défoncés.

Vois nous passer parmi la jeunesse gâchée.
Les fruits du verger sont tombés.
Le soleil s'est couché au fond de la va1lée.
J'entends courir des vents glacés
Et j'ai peur de partir vers l'aurore gâchée.


Page 19:

Il faut porter la mort avec gaieté. Il est heureux
à jamais; veut danser toujours.

Et peut-être il y aura des beaux jours; les jeux de
la vie voudront-ils imiter le souvenir.

Sa douleur est à lui, c'est le néant de l'oeuvre,
pour le passé, le présent et l'avenir.

Sa douleur infinie, c'est la fureur des servitudes,
qui venues depuis les temps, font pleurer Dieu 1ui-même.

Sa volonté est à Dieu. Sa liberté est totale.

Tout ce que donne Dieu, ii le reçoit avec bonheur.
Si Dieu le croit un jour à sa ressemblance et l'appelle,
alors, il viendra.


Ainsi il est mort, et presque rien n'est changé à sa vie,
ni à son action, ni à son bonheur. C'est comme un homme
qui continuerait la veille par le rêve, et y ferait
les mêmes choses. Il rêve pourtant.

En voilà assez pour lui.

Il faut que Dieu soit libre.


Page 54:

Comme un navire fortuné
Qui s'en revient au port sa cargaison intacte
J'aborderai le ciel le coeur transfiguré
Portant des offrandes humaines et sans tache.


Pages 194-195:

Le boeuf escortant la tortue
songe au paradis perdu.
Entendez-vous le carillon des Antilles,
les essaims des fleurs trépassées?
Le long des mares des licornes chantent
l'histoire des brebis.
Toutes les pierres de l'univers sont attendries
et les larmes coulent le long des cratères.
O mes amies ce sont des chants
d'amour et d'agonie.


Page 195:

Agneau aux yeux bleus -- poussière impossible,
diamants lumineux -- tête dure, serrée comme la
vérité, douceur des anges, tendresse implacable,
goutte d'eau qui creuse les rocs, imprenable, paisible,
tranquille.

Protège ton bonheur par des actions de grace
Entoure-le d'une haie de roses,


Et l'Esprit qui le suit dans son pè1erinage
Pleure de le voir gai comme un oiseau des bois.


Page 199:

L'être étonne dans les yeux de l'enfant
et refuse de voir le monde.


Page 282:

Et puis, Quelqu'un paraît que tous avaient nié,
Et qui leur dit.
Reconnaissez Satan à son fire vainqueur,
Enorme et laid comme le monde . . . 
Je vais vous emporter à travers l'épaisseur,
Compagnons de ma triste joie,
A travers l'épaisseur de la terre et du roc,
A travers les amas confus de votre cendre,
(C'est cette strophe-là qui avait frappé le physicien)

Dans un palais aussi grand que moi, d'un seul bloc
Et qui n'est pas de pierre tendre,
Car il est fait avec l'universel Péché,
Et contient mon orgueil, ma douleur et ma gloire!

Cependant, tout en haut de l'univers juché,
Un ange chante la victoire
De ceux dont le coeur dit: "Que béni soit ton fouet,
Seigneur! que la douleur, ô Père, soit bénie!
Mon âme dans tes mains n'est pas un vain jouet,
Et ta prudence est infinie."

Le son de la trompette est si dêlicieux,
Dans ces soirs solennels de célestes vendanges,
Qu'il s'infiltre comme une extase dans tous ceux
Dont elle chante les louanges.


{1} In actual fact, at the request of Fr. Garrigou, this date was advanced, and the first retreat took place from the 30th of September to the 4th of October (1922).

{2} If moreover this vow, even so worded, became an occasion for difficulties of conscience for certain members, they could have themselves dispensed from it by their confessor.

{3} "I believe her to be one of the finest painters of our time and country," wrote Sir John Rothenstein (Modern English Painters, Grey Arrow, p. 180).

{4} Modern English Painters, Vol. I, Sickert to Grant, Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1952; Grey Arrow (paperback), 1962.

{5} Chiaroscuro, Fragments of Autobiography, Jonathan Cape, 1952, Grey Arrow (paperback), 1962.

{6} The Listener, October 10, 1946.

{7} Rilke died on the 29th of December 1926.

{8} The draft from which I copy this letter of Vera is not dated; it is certainly of 1951 (the reply which John Rothenstein made to it is dated the 15th of June, 1951).

{9} Chiaroscuro, Jonathan Cape, p. 253.

{10} "Nobody suffered from frustrated love as she did," writes her brother (Chiaroscuro, p. 248). And again: "Gwen John's apparent timidity and evasiveness disguised a lofty pride and an implacable will. When possessed by one of the 'Demons' of whose intrusions she sometimes complained, she was capable of a degree of exaltation combined with ruthlessness which, like a pointed pistol, compelled surrender: but the pistol would be pointed at herself (Ibid., p. 256).

{11} Modern English Painters, p. 162. -- Augustus John mentions also Schopenhauer and William James (Foreword, p. 8).

{12} Foreword, p.3.

{13} Op. cit., p. 163.

{14} He relates for example that one day when his son Henry Elfin, who had been converted to Catholicism, was having a try at an attempt at proselytism with regard to Augustus himself by expounding to him the diverse advantages which he would find in embracing the true faith, "my sister Gwen appeared, and hearing this argument, at once contradicted her learned nephew with the statement that one accepted the truth, not as a business transaction, but for the love of God, even if it meant disaster or death itself -- 'As if that mattered,' she added contemptuously and left the room." (Chiaroscuro. p. 212)

{15} Taken up again in Chiaroscuro, pp. 251-252.

{16} I suppose that Gwen John, in writing to him, also called him "Cher Maltre, -- this is doubtless why Augustus John does not hesitate to affirm that she always gave me this name. "Jacques Maritain was a neighbour at Meudon. Gwen always addressed him as 'Dear Master'." He affirms likewise that "the brilliant Neo-Thomist adopts a highly authoritative style in his communications with Gwen and enjoins complete obedience which his pupil is only too eager to render." (Foreword, p. 4) All these assertions are, in that which concerns me, pure invention.

{17} Foreword, p. 5.

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