• Email
  • Print

The Scholarly Life

In response to:

Wandering in Wayes Unknowne from the June 23, 1977 issue

To the Editors:

I would like to try to answer specific questions about persons and things in my book, The Analogy of ‘The Faerie Queene‘, as put by your reviewer, R.M. Adams, in your June 23 issue. Professor Adams has every reason to concern himself with my failures of clarity and accuracy, and I shall speak to his objections in what I suppose to be the order of their importance to my scholarly pretensions.

1) The motto—“Virginitas Amoris Frenum“—for the medal I mention (Analogy, p. 479, fn. 101) should have been rendered as “Virginity [is] the Bridle of Love.” I blush for my folly in not recognizing that a foolish and wild guess had survived unchecked and unchallenged into the final text of my note. The resulting “howler” Adams justly exclaims over; and this error, unfortunately, is not the only one of its kind.

2)”Captain” Undershaft should indeed be Andrew (the martial-vulcanic Captain in Shaw is named, analogously, Shotover).

3)Mr. Craig Davis, as Adams objects, is not properly identified. I cite Davis (Analogy, p. 184, fn. 222) for the idea that Sir Galahad owes his name to the healer, balm, or consolation Biblically associated with Gilead (Vulgate Galaad). Mr. Davis is the author of a presently unpublished paper, submitted in the University of Virginia’s Graduate English Department, which I use in support of a description of the grail mythos and the St. George legend cited from Northrop Frye in my preceding note (Anatomy of Criticism, pp. 186-195)—a reference Adams was unable to locate. A single-line footnote squeezed in at the last moment by means of a substitution on page proof was not the best way to amplify my point, but upon reflection Adams will probably concede that Jeremiah 8:22 is the best text (since it is the traditional one) to associate with the Christianizing of the medication from Gilead.

4) The Latin title I quote, in a footnote, from Alciati’s emblem on the “bound Cupid” subject (Analogy, p. 479, fn. 103) is not—contra Adams—the source of the unfootnoted title translated in the body of my text. The title which I translate is rather from the French version of Alciati in the “Latinogallic” text cited and partly quoted in the note succeeding the one from which Adams takes the Latin. My English is a correct translation of the French, which doubtless ought to have been indicated as my source.

5) My multiple references for the phrase, “the book of life,” are all relevant to the point being made in the paragraph which they conclude. Contrary to the reviewer, I expect my reader to find these Biblical citations useful: however badly they clutter my text’s appearance, they illustrate the occurrence of the phrase in terminal texts of the Scriptural canon, the possible transfer of the phrase to the canon itself (canon being, by definition, closed canon), the use of the phrase in eschatological contexts, its reference to Biblical election, and its being a link between Old Testament righteousness and New Testament sanctification or sainthood. The reviewer’s suggestion that one might merely transcribe these references from a Biblical concordance ignores the content of the paragraph they provide authority for.

6) My translation of Luther from the Weimar edition of the Werke (Analogy, p. 172) is from that German text, precisely as my footnote thereto implies. I was unable to consult the “English translation” from which Professor Adams confidently asserts that I took my “reference,” and I had not seen such a translation until after reading Adams’s review. If Adams means to suggest that I did not use the German text for my translation (and for my reading of Luther on the subject of the brazen serpent in John), he is not ungenerous, as he allows, but mistaken.

7) The reviewer’s general strictures on the use of analogy seem sound enough, but, contrary to the implications of the fantasia that concludes his remarks on my study of Spenser’s legend of holiness, my employment of Biblical parallels is typologically controlled. After all, it is Hosea, and not I, who prophesied that God’s people would have to return to Egypt. In defense of my reading of analogy in The Faerie Queene apart from Book I, I allude to the analogical mode as a kind of magical thinking surviving among Renaissance habits of mind: “An analogy is an assimilation,” Luther writes on Romans 12:6, “in virtue of which one thing agrees with another in its peculiar characteristics and becomes like it.” Analogy is thus instrumental in creating that universal bond of sympathia that Pico’s Apologia names as the subject of magic; for, as Pico says in one of his Conclusions, “to work magic is nothing other than to marry the world.” (Cf. Analogy, pp. 777-780, 785.) One need not fully endorse such invitations to hermeneutical license to perceive their force as principles for interpreting the “Pan” and “Proteus” of The Faerie Queene.

I am obliged to your reviewer for his indications of my errors (especially 1 and 2 here), and to your journal for the opportunity to explain those places where I am compelled to abide by my text. The Fall 1977 issue of Spenser Newsletter, edited by Donald Cheney (c/o English Dept., University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Mass. 01002), will carry a list of my more substantive corrections.

James Nohrnberg

Charlottesville, Va.

Robert M Adams replies:

Fortunately for Professor Nohrnberg and for your reviewer, the day is now past when for a single false quantity a student could be thundered out of literate society by men like Bentley, Mahaffy, and Housman. Still, a few primitive standards remain. When a learned professor in a distinguished university publishes an imposing book in which he spells the name “Apuleius” eight times wrong to four times right, readers should be warned.

That the Spenser Newsletter will publish a list of the author’s “more substantive corrections” is good news indeed. Why a book that retails for forty American dollars should have to be instantly supplemented by a periodical-listing of the major errata—not to speak of tumbrils full of so-called minor ones—will continue to bother a few readers.

  • Email
  • Print