labwriter reads Death Comes for the Archbishop

Converses75 Books Challenge for 2011

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labwriter reads Death Comes for the Archbishop

Aquest tema està marcat com "inactiu": L'últim missatge és de fa més de 90 dies. Podeu revifar-lo enviant una resposta.

1labwriter
Editat: nov. 16, 2011, 10:28am



I'll repeat here what I put on my public 75 thread:

I'm planning a re-read of Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop. I'm not exactly sure when I'm going to get to this book, but I'd like to get it started as soon after Thanksgiving as possible. Anyone who would like to read it along with me is welcome. Or if you just want to follow along here, that's great too, and feel free to comment.

I imagine I'm going to be reading this pretty slowly, since I'm going to be using the scholarly edition published by the U of Nebraska Press in 1999. This edition has a historical essay about the writing of the book and also contains quite detailed explanatory notes, written by a prominent Cather scholar, John J. Murphy. I've always wanted to read this book along with those notes. I highly recommend this edition, which can probably be found in most university libraries.

One note on the scholarly edition: it has also been published in paperback. The knock on the paperback editions of this series is that they leave out the photographs that were published in the hardbound edition. So if you're interested in going this route (of the scholarly edition), I recommend that you find the hardbound version.

2sjmccreary
nov. 16, 2011, 10:53am

Becky, I've put a hold on this book at the library - the same edition you've described, with illustrations (according to the catalog notes). I doubt I'll be able to hold my own with you in terms of being able to see and discuss themes and literary devices, but I've only recently discovered Willa Cather and am enjoying working my way through her books. Probably I'll just read the book and follow along with the discussion.

3labwriter
Editat: nov. 16, 2011, 11:16am



The book was originally published in 1927. It was serialized in a magazine called the Forum, January through June of that year and then was published by Alfred Knopf in September. This was at a time when Cather's life was in something of an uproar, since she had to move from her apartment on Bank Street in Greenwich Village where she had lived since 1912. The building where she lived was being torn down to make room for a new subway. Oddly, she moved to a room in the Grosvenor Hotel, where she lived for five years.

4labwriter
nov. 16, 2011, 11:14am

>2 sjmccreary:. Hi Sandy! I'm so happy you're going to join. I hope everyone will do what they want to with this--read along, comment, or not. I just want to have some fun with it. I think this is one of Cather's best books, one that is worth spending some time on. Frankly, the notes are a little bit on the crazy side--v.v. detailed, and I think they also assume the reader pretty much knows nothing about anything--which is good, since I don't have much background in the Catholic missions of the Hispanic Southwest--haha.

5labwriter
Editat: nov. 16, 2011, 10:15pm



This is Willa Cather in Santa Fe, in 1925 or 1926. The cathedral in the background was built by Archbishop Lamy, prototype for Cather's Father Latour in the novel. She traveled to New Mexico in 1925 and 1926 to do research for her book. She began writing in the fall of 1925 and finished in the fall of 1926.

Hey! I just noticed her hat looks a lot like mine. Heh.

6sibylline
nov. 16, 2011, 4:23pm

Seems to me the cathedral is sort of around back of the town square or to the side? ..... I've been to SF twice now but do I remember accurately? And she must be standing up on some sort of porch or balcony. The nice big old hotel in the center of the city has a great balcony, so maybe she is standing there?

7labwriter
nov. 16, 2011, 5:12pm

She was standing on the balcony of the La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe. Good eye, Lucy.

8sibylline
nov. 16, 2011, 7:43pm

Wow!!!!!!! That's it the La Fonda. I did attend a wedding there, years and years ago, and I spent a lot of time out on the balcony! It was more like a huge outdoor verandah.

9Donna828
nov. 16, 2011, 7:47pm

I'll be following the discussion, Becky. I love this book - as I do everything else by Cather that I've read. I know you are a Cather scholar and will have some insights that I probably missed when I read it.

10labwriter
Editat: nov. 16, 2011, 7:52pm

Well, thanks Donna, but "Cather scholar" sounds too la-dee-dah for what I used to do with Cather. I did belong to a wonderful group of about 200 people, many of whom were Cather scholars and some of whom were just "citizen readers" who loved Cather's works and scholarship. I was somewhere in between, since I was in grad school and learning about how these sorts of groups work. I was very lucky to attach myself to this great group of people who were always welcoming to anyone who had an interest in Cather. We had some very fun times.

Lucy, how very cool that you recognize that spot.

11phebj
nov. 16, 2011, 8:05pm

Becky, I will definitely be following your comments and maybe even rereading the book. (Lately, I have been easily distracted.) My library unfortunately doesn't have this edition but I'm considering buying a copy as an early Christmas present to myself. :)

12labwriter
Editat: nov. 16, 2011, 10:26pm

Pat, I'm thrilled you're going to join, whether reading, following comments, or whatever suits you. The Scholarly Edition is expensive (somewhere in the neighborhood of $60). Sometimes you can score a decent used copy for a reasonable price at Amazon.

I'll just say to the group that it's perfectly OK to read some other edition of the book. The notes are interesting but certainly not critical to the reading, especially if you have the internet close by to look up things. Another way to go might be to get the Library of America edition: Willa Cather: Later Novels which includes A Lost Lady, The Professor's House, Death Comes for the Archbishop, Shadows on the Rock, Lucy Gayheart, and Sapphira and the Slave Girl. The paperback edition is less than $12.

13sjmccreary
nov. 17, 2011, 9:10pm

I picked up Archbishop at the library this afternoon and goggled a bit at the size of it. But then I noticed the things you pointed out - large font, wide margins, many pages on notes - and realized that this book isn't much, if any, bigger than her other books I've read. 315 pages of text followed by 300 pages of supplemental materials - surely not many books have so much padding added!

Probably, since this is my first time with this book, I will save the notes until after. Especially if they aren't marked in the text, I usually only turn to end notes when something particularly interesting or confusing comes up. If I enjoyed a book, I'll often browse the end notes after finishing. Plus I expect that you'll be mentioning some of the points made in notes, so I won't be totally ignorant of them.

14ronincats
nov. 17, 2011, 9:27pm

I found a copy at the library sale for 25¢ a couple of months ago--you tempt me greatly. It's a Vintage Classic edition, 297 pages.

15labwriter
nov. 17, 2011, 9:48pm

I've heard the Vintage Classic ed is v. good. I hope you join the read, Roni.

16Copperskye
nov. 17, 2011, 10:21pm

I'd love to listen in on this discussion, Becky. I've had Death Comes for the Archbishop on my nook for at least several months but I don't know when I'll get to it. Maybe this will be the push I need to get going on it! I loved both My Antonia and O Pioneers!.

17labwriter
nov. 18, 2011, 7:46am

Hi Joanne. Glad to see you here. It's been years since I've read Cather's Archbishop, so I'm really looking forward to it.

18AMQS
nov. 18, 2011, 1:26pm

I'll probably lurk if that's alright. Death Comes for the Archbishop is one of my favorites. I don't think I'll have time for a reread, but I'll enjoy reliving it through your comments. Thanks!

19markon
nov. 25, 2011, 1:41pm

Hope everyone is having a good Thanksgiving. I'll probably follow along with whatever edition I can get quickly at the library. I've read this once before, but am looking forward to a chance to explore the history of the place and story while reading it. I'm sure with several people commenting I will learn a lot.

20labwriter
nov. 25, 2011, 2:00pm

Glad to have you here, Ardene. I'm still thinking about Dec. 1 for a start date.

21labwriter
Editat: nov. 30, 2011, 3:16pm

I don't have much to say--I just wanted to post something here to resurrect the thread from page 4 or wherever it was. I'm going to start this on December 1 (tomorrow). Expect the pace to be slow--maybe something like 20 pages a day. Obviously the holidays will interfere, but at 20 pages, I expect to be able to keep reading through XMAS and New Year's.

This is Cather in 1925 when she was writing Death.

22phebj
nov. 30, 2011, 3:37pm

20 pages a day sounds like just my speed! Looking forward to this.

23labwriter
Editat: nov. 30, 2011, 4:23pm

When she was almost 30, Cather visited France for the first time. Later, when she traveled to the American southwest, she compared that world to Europe, and especially to France--"even finer than the Rhone Valley." She wrote about the Southwest in two books before the book about the archbishop: The Song of the Lark (1915) and also in The Professor's House (1925).

Elizabeth Sergeant (Katharine Sergeant Angell White's sister--Katharine was long-time fiction editor of the NYer) was a friend of Cather's and wrote about her in Willa Cather: A Memoir, and said that the southwest was "some great spiritual event" to Cather. In the historical essay found in the scholarly edition of Death Comes for the Archbishop, John Murphy writes that Cather's French and Southwestern experiences "formed an alternating pattern in her life and art, each adding to and influencing the other."

In 1915, along with her companion Edith Lewis, Cather spent a month in Taos, New Mexico, noting "all the contours of the land, all the detail; the streams, flowers, trees, rocks, and any trace of human habitation." Then in 1916 the two women spent an even longer time in Santa Fe, NM, the Espanola valley, and Santa Cruz. In the early 1920s, Cather and Lewis spent every summer and late fall that they could in the south of France, particularly Aix-les-Baines.

Thus Cather's travels informed her writing, but her reading influenced her writing just as much. Who knows how many times as a young girl she read The Pilgrim's Progress; also, while living in Red Cloud, Nebraska, she studied the Bible with her grandmother and read the Iliad, Virgil, and Ovid with the "town failure." In one of her trips through Denver on the way to Santa Fe, she came across a book in which she would find her fictional prototypes for Death Comes for the Archbishop: The Life of the Right Reverend Joseph P. Machebeuf, by William Joseph Howlett, a priest who had worked with Father Machebeuf in Denver. It was Howlett's book that helped Cather connect the country around Albuquerque, NM as it compared to southern France.

24labwriter
Editat: des. 1, 2011, 8:46am

John J. Murphy, author of the notes for the Scholarly Edition, is Professor Emeritus, Brigham Young University.

Murphy says that more than any other Cather narrative, DCFTA is a fusion of an astounding array of sources: U.S. military and political history; Roman Catholic Church history, tradition, and liturgy; Mexican and Indian myth, legend, and history; biography; biblical scriptures; Southwestern flora and geography; accounts of Spanish conquest and exploration of the Americas; philosophy and theology; French history and geography; architure; and others.

I don't intend these notes to be a summary of the text, but rather an embellishment and discussion. Please, everyone, feel free to jump in with comments, etc.

Prologue: At Rome, p. 3-15.

The year is the spring of 1848, the place the Sabine hills, mountain country east of Rome. Three Cardinals and a missionary Bishop, Father Ferrand, are meeting to discuss the formation of an Apostolic Vicarate in the new territory of New Mexico. {An Apostolic Vicarate is an area administered by a vicar of Rome with a bishop's powers.}

I've been working on some genealogy lately; among several in my family who fought in the war, my 3rd great grandfather, Jeremiah Campbell of Sangamon County, Illinois, was a captain in the War with Mexico, commanding a company at the seige and capture of Vera Cruz. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) concluded the Mexican War and annexed present-day New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada.

The Bishop to the three Cardinals: "Here you can scarcely understand what it means that the United States has annexed that enormous territory which was the cradle of the Faith in the New World" (7). {An Episcopal See is an established diocese ruled by a bishop.} "The Bishop of that See will direct the beginning of momentous things."

So Father Ferrand is lobbying for a young man, a French Jesuit, to be the new Vicar of this large, forbidding new territory. {The Jesuits were originally founded to preach the Gospel in non-Christian lands.}The candidate's name: Jean Marie Latour, a 35-year-old parish priest from the Bishop's diocese near the Province of Ontario.

One of the Cardinals asks the Bishop, what will your new Vicar Apostolic drink and eat--serpents a sonnettes? {rattlesnake}.

BOOK ONE: The Vicar Apostolic

Chapt. 1: The Cruciform Tree. {in my edition this first chapter is p 16-25}

Jump forward to autumn of 1851. A solitary horseman has lost his way, "somewhere in central New Mexico" (16). The scenery is mile after mile of uniform red hills topped with juniper trees. {Murphy's note: In Isaiah 41:19 and 55:13 the juniper is associated with messianic prophecies; it is also Elijah's sheltering tree in the desert.}

We learn that the young priest is no ordinary man--of gentle birth--brave, sensitive, courteous (18). He is lost and out of water, and he is "sorrier for his beasts than for himself" (20). This was Jean Marie Latour, newly consecrated Vicar Apostolic of New Mexico. His route from Cincinnati had been: down the river to New Orleans, then by boat to Galveston, across Texas to San Antonio, and then into New Mexico along the Rio Grande valley (20), and that route, plus his misadventures, had taken him nearly a year.

See you tomorrow.

25phebj
des. 1, 2011, 9:24am

Hi Becky, I have a busy two days ahead of me so may not get to post any thoughtful comments until the weekend but I'm planning to start the book tonight. It's a reread for me so your comments did jog my memory and I'm really looking forward to doing this with a group. I remember it taking me awhile to get into the book because I've never been to New Mexico and don't know much about this time period or the Catholic church. So it's very helpful to have your background comments to start us off.

26labwriter
Editat: des. 2, 2011, 9:15am

>25 phebj:. Hi Pat! Good to see you here.

Lost in the sand hills, the young Bishop remembers his initial view of Santa Fe and entering the town with his boyhood friend, Father Joseph Vaillant, who had made the long pilgrimage from Cincinnati with him. Cather tells us how Father Latour came to leave Santa Fe and consequently be lost: he would need to speak directly to the Bishop of Durango, since the Mexican priests of Santa Fe refused to recognize his authority. "So, having travelled for nearly a year to reach Santa Fe, Father Latour left it after a few weeks, and set off alone on horseback to ride down into Old Mexico and back, a journey of full three thousand miles" (23).

Chapt. 2: "Hidden Water" (25-33)

"Benito did not know in what year his grandfather had settled here, coming from Chihuahua with all his goods in ox-carts. 'But it was soon after the time when the French killed their king. My grandfather had heard talk of that before he left home, and used to tell us boys about it when he was an old man'" (27). {Murphy: the year would have been 1793.}

Jose, the elder grandson: "'They say at Albuquerque that now we are all Americans, but that is not true, Padre. I will never be an American. They are infidels'" (27). {Murphy: The term infidel would have applied at the time to non-Christians rather than to professed atheists or agnostics, but Latour realizes that these people interpret non-Catholic as non-Christian.}

Murphy's notes are quite extensive, more so than notes by other scholars in the other Scholarly Editions of Cather's books. Obviously I won't be repeating all of the notes here, but I'll give an example that shows these copious annotatations.
"angoras . . . . pagan lewdness" (found on page 32): The chapter referred to is Revelation 7; those washed in the blood of the Lamb are the Christian martyrs in Nero's persecution (Jerusalem Bible, NT 437). Cather's passage also involves the judgment described in Matt. 25:31-46, in which sheep represent the virtuous and goats represent the damned who failed to give succor to the needy; however, in Latour's "mixed theology" goats both clothe and feed the little ones. In the Old Testament (Lev. 17:7; 2 Chron. 11:15; Isa. 13:21, 34:12-14), satyrs (beings that are part goat) are associated with false gods and sinful places; in classical mythology such beings are attendendants of Bacchus and symbolize lechery.
You get the idea. So if anyone comes across something in the narrative that they would like me to look up in Murphy's notes, please give a shout.

I love the end of this chapter where Latour is contemplating this settlement: this "refuge for humanity. . . . was his Bishopric in miniature; hundreds of square miles of thirsty desert, then a spring, a village, old men trying to remember their catechism to teach their grandchildren" (33).

That's all the time I have for this today, at least for now.

27markon
des. 2, 2011, 12:42pm

I have a modern library edition from the library that I will start tonight. This is a re-read for me also, but I'm expecting to learn more of the historical and religious background this time around. The first time through, I did not realize that Cather had loosely based the novel on the life of Lamy.

28labwriter
Editat: des. 4, 2011, 12:04am

Book 1, Chapt. 3: The Bishop Chez Lui

Father Latour is back in Santa Fe after his 3,000-mile trek to Durango; back in Santa he has found "amity instead of enmity awaiting him" (34).

I love Cather's description of Latour's study on page 35: the thick clay walls "had that irregular and intimate quality of things made entirely by the human hand" (35). His silver candlesticks were given to him by a beloved aunt when he was ordained.

Father Joseph Vaillant has sent away the Mexican cook and is making the Christmas dinner while Father Latour writes a Christmas letter to his brother.

"If the Bishop returned to find Santa Fe friendly to him, it was because everybody believed in Father Vaillant--homely, real, persistent, with the driving power of a dozen men in his poorly built body" (40).

Ah--dark onion soup. People who know me know that I love soup--love to make it, to collect recipes for it, to eat it. I think Cather's little business here about the soup and what she has the Bishop say about it is brilliant: "when one thinks of it, a soup like this is not the work of one man. It is the result of a constantly refined tradition. There are, perhaps, a thousand years of history in this soup" (41).

Poor Father Vaillant--no leeks, no lettuces. And he's thinking of his vineyards back along the shores of Lake Erie: "Ah well, that is a missionary's life; to plant where another shall reap" (41).

I'm surprised she doesn't mention bread. Surely the Father made bread with the meal. My own bread-making is going well. I always try to have dough sitting around in the refrigerator. It's meant to keep for 2 weeks, and the longer it sits, the more of a sourdough flavor it has. Good stuff.

29sibylline
des. 4, 2011, 8:38am

Hi B -- I'm reading along and remembering the book and savoring (or is that slavering?) reading this last entry...

30labwriter
Editat: des. 4, 2011, 10:01am

>27 markon:. Yes, Ardene, Cather's character of Bishop Latour is based on Jean-Baptiste Lamy (1814-1888), a French Roman Catholic priest and the first Archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico. She also based the character of Joseph Vaillant on Joseph P. Machebeuf, the first Catholic Bishop of Denver. She found a biography of Machebeuf's life that was filled with Machebeuf's letters to his sister living in a convent in France. From the Historical Essay: "Through these letters Cather 'found out what she wanted to know about how the country and the people of New Mexico seemed to those first missionary priests from France'" (343).

Book 1, Chapt. 4: A Bell and a Miracle (45-54)

Ha--after returning home from Durango the Bishop slept in--"did not awaken until six o'clock" (45) when he heard the Angelus ringing. The details Cather gives about the bell found by Father Joseph are fascinating. The two men have a spirited discussion about the Moorish silver in the bell and the history of the first bells (47, 48).

Vaillant and Latour have a conversation about a native priest, Padre Escolastico Herrera, who has just been on a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe (48). Murphy's note: The shrine was located in a Mexico City suburb where in 1531 Our Lady appeared five times to an Aztec peasant. "This is one of the principal shrines of Christendom." The Padre tells the story of the miraculous appearance (49). Murphy's note says that Cather's version of the legend is substantially that used in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Here is the painting of the Blessed Virgin which appeared on the inside of the poor man's cloak:



"'Doctrine is well enough for the wise, Jean; but the miracle is something we can hold in our hands and love'" (53).

~~end of Book One~~

31labwriter
Editat: des. 4, 2011, 12:40pm

>29 sibylline:. Hi Sib! I love Cather when she gets "HOMEY" this way. She loved good food, beautiful clothes, and artistic surroundings. She got stuck in that stupid middy blouse and tie in the portrait by Steichen for Vanity Fair, and that was pretty much her public persona from then on, one that didn't honestly fit the woman. The photo was meant to suggest her "forthright" style--as Michael Schueth has written in "A Portrait of an Artist as a Cultural Icon": the photo was meant to go after a particular image--Cather is "not regal like Edith Wharton, nor is she so stylish and 'fast' as the younger Jazz Age writers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald." But honestly, I think this image worked against her in a way, because she couldn't get it behind her, even when she wanted to.

32labwriter
Editat: des. 4, 2011, 12:16pm

This is how I picture Cather. She had a sophisticated friend from Philadelphia who I'm pretty sure helped her with this outfit. This is the professional woman magazine editor that she moved to New York to become. The necklace she's wearing was given to her by Sarah Orne Jewett. The date of the photo is 1912. That "peach basket" hat was very much the style that year. I have a photo of Gertrude Stein in Paris wearing one; I also have a photo of my very unsophisticated young grandmother in Sheldon, Iowa wearing one. They were all the rage.



33sibylline
des. 4, 2011, 12:50pm

Marvelous hat!

34labwriter
Editat: des. 4, 2011, 1:41pm

BOOK TWO, Missionary Journeys

Chapt. 1: The White Mules (55-67)

Now it's mid-March and Father Vaillant is on the road, returning from a missionary journey to Albuquerque. He stopped at the rancho of a rich Mexican, Manuel Lujon.

I like to think Cather was thinking of a man she knew when she wrote this, the husband of Mabel Dodge Luhan, Tony Lujan/Luhan. It's always dangerous to equate fictional characters with people known to a writer in his/her life, because to think that a writer creates a character out of whole cloth from someone they know is naive. However, the Lujon/Luhan connection is compelling for us Cather gossips. Cather knew Mabel and visited her when she went to Taos, although the truth of the matter is that Cather wasn't known to get along well with most other women, particularly other women writers. I don't think she had much use for Mabel, but the gossip is that she enjoyed very much the company of Mabel's fourth husband, Taos Indian Tony Luhan.

Well, I guess John Murphy doesn't read the notes from Cather's letters, since he doesn't mention this one in his notes. In 1945 she wrote to a friend that she used Tony Luhan's last name for the owner of the mules in Archbishop but changed the spelling so it wouldn't be obvious. Really, Willa? If Cather admits that much, then there was probably more to it. I don't believe what she tells people about her writing. She held her cards very close to the vest. There was "gossip" about her and Tony Luhan.

But I digress....Father Joseph Valliant is trying without success to baptize the infants at the Indian pueblo of Santo Domingo: "The Spaniards had treated them very badly long ago, and they had been meditating upon their grievances for many generations" (55, 56). Sounds like my family--haha.

This is good: Father Joseph tells Manuel Lujon: "the marriages first, the baptisms afterward; that order is but Christian. I will baptize the children to-morrow morning, and their parents will at least have been married over night" (58). Hilarious. For the marriage ceremony, the women put on their best shawls; some of the men had even washed their hands (59).

Oh, I like this. Father Joseph has eaten too much stewed mutton along the way, so he asks Manuel Lujon if he may cook his portion in the kitchen his own way. Of course Lujon has nothing to do with the kitchen--too many women, but his attitude is, My house is your house. The women are horrified that he eats his gigot rare (61).

They are drinking Manuel Lujon's grandfather's brandy. Oh my.

Lujon shows Father Joseph two white mules named Contento and Angelica. "They are always ridden together and have a great affection for each other" (63). Father Joseph proves to be a good negotiator, and he rides away with both mules: "Every time you think of these mules, you will feel pride for your good deed" (66).

35labwriter
Editat: des. 7, 2011, 1:23pm

I am loving this book all over again and remembering why I like Cather so much. I'm also enjoying John Murphy's notes. They are useful when I want them, and I can also ignore them if that's what I want to do. Murphy was the target of a lot of good-natured ribbing from the Cather people about these notes. At times they seem almost absurdly complete.

BOOK TWO, Missionary Journeys

Chapt. 2: The Lonely Road to Mora (67-83)

The Bishop and his Vicar are riding in the rain through the Truchas mountains (67). Murphy says this would be the south end of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, about 25 miles northeast of Santa Fe. Truchas (Trout) Peak is the second highest in New Mexico and takes its name from a creek that has its source there.

One of Cather's strong points in her writing, consistently, is her description of place.

Latour and Vaillant stop for the night at a "wretched" adobe house. The occupant is an American who has a "positively malignant look" (71). The Mexican woman they find inside the hut seems half-witted and abused by the man. Out of the man's sight, the woman pantomimes an intense warning that they should leave (72).

The Bishop meets Kit Carson: "This was the beginning of a long friendship" (80). Latour and Father Joseph ride together with Carson to his ranch. "The great country of desert and mountain ranges between Santa Fe and the Pacific coast was not yet mapped or charted; the most reliable map of it was in Kit Carson's brain" (82).

At the end of the chapter, we hear that after attending the Plenary Council in Baltimore, the Bishop returns with "five courageous nuns, Sisters of Loretto," who will found a school for girls in Santa Fe (82).

~~~end of Book Two~~~

36sjmccreary
des. 6, 2011, 8:39am

Becky, I've just been skimming your entries until I get caught up on my reading. Finally began the book yesterday - but only finished the prologue. Hopefully, I'll be able to pick up the pace soon. I'm excited about this book. Love the pictures - especially the one with the hat!

37labwriter
des. 7, 2011, 11:45am

Hi Sandy. No worries. Like everyone around here, I'm reading several other books, so I'm sure I'll continue to get through this one pretty slowly. One thing I've noticed is that it "reads fast," even with all the notes.

38labwriter
Editat: des. 7, 2011, 2:26pm

BOOK THREE, The Mass at Acoma

Chapt. 1: The Wooden Parrot (p 84-92)

Bishop Latour's route from Santa Fe to Baltimore to attend the Pleanry Council: on horseback over the Santa Fe Trail to St. Louis, nearly a thousand miles; by steamboat to Pittsburgh; across the mountains to Cumberland; and on to Washingto by the new railroad (84).

After his long travels to the east and back, Bishop Latour was eager to get to know his diocese.

This chapter gives a good example of the corruption found in some of the parishes and how Father Latour worked to reform them. It is contrasted by a parish run by a priest who had won the confidence and affection of the Indians.

An interesting discussion of parrots: "In ancient times its feathers were more valued than wampum and turquoises" (90). {Murphy's note: Because parrots were associated with the sun, fertility, and growth, it follows that the death of a revered bird would plunge a village into gloom.}

Chapt. 2: Jacinto (p 92-99)

Father Latour and Jacinto, his Indian guide, ride through the dry desert plain west of Albuquerque (92). Cather makes reference to the patches of wild pumpkin. Murphy says that these plants were commonly known as buffalo gourd, or Cucurbita foetidissima. If this sort of thing interests you, there are fascinating accounts of this plant on the internet--medicinal uses, photos of hand-painted gourds, etc.



"The kindly Padre at Isleta had sent his cook's brother off on foot to warn the Laguna people that the new High Priest was coming, and that he was a good man and did not want money. They were prepared, accordingly" (93, 94).

Page 94, the description of the church: why I love Willa Cather's writing. Actually, as is this entire chapter.

A description of Jacinto (98, 99).

39labwriter
Editat: des. 10, 2011, 9:28am

Aquest missatge ha estat suprimit pel seu autor.

40labwriter
des. 10, 2011, 11:07am

I never got beyond the chapter title in #38, so I deleted the post. I'll try again.

Chapt. 3: The Rock (99-109)

Father Latour and his guide ride to Acoma. He remembered the ride forever as his introduction to mesa country

If you've ever been out West, particularly in the four-corners area, you'll know what Cather means when she writes, "One thing which struck him at once was that every mesa was duplicated by a cloud mesa, like a reflection" (100). One of the things I miss the most about the West is the sky--the huge expanse of sky and clouds and the way you can see forever into the distance--the "long sight" of Annie Proulx's Wyoming. You can watch and be entertained by the changing clouds all day long. A mesa is an elevated area of land with a flat top--"table"--and steep cliffs. They are characteristic of the arid environment of the southwest U.S.

Here's a mesa near Grand Junction, Colorado...



Latour and Jacinto arrive at the pueblo of Acoma (101).

Jacinto: "Navajos on the north, Apaches on the south; the Acoma run up a rock to be safe" (102). Murphy's note: Murphy cites Ralph Emerson Twitchell, a New Mexico historian writing in about 1910, someone Cather would have been familiar with.
Twitchell groups the Navajos and Apaches as hostile, the enemies of the Pueblo Indians, and migratory--'the Arabs of the plains.' The name Apache was derived from the Zuni word apachee (enemy), which was also the Zuni name for the Navajos. Twitchell sees the Apaches, the Navajos, and the Commanches as effecting the 'abandonment of many of the great {communal} habitations.' Jacinto is accurate in locating these tribes relative to Acoma.
That's all I have time for this morning--gotta go cook. Bye for now.

41labwriter
Editat: des. 11, 2011, 8:17am

Chapt. 3 The Rock cont.

This is the plant, noxious datura (jimsomweed) that Father Latour sees (104).



Murphy says it can grow to a height of 3 feet and spread over an area of 50 feet. The blossoms open at night and close on contact with sunlight. The ground-up roots, leaves, and blossoms have been used as a narcotic for inducing visions.

The top of the mesa: "there was not a tree or a blad of green upon it" (105).

Father Latour says Mass in the Church of Acoma: "That spacious interior depressed the Bishop as no other mission church had done" (106). He was inclined to think that the church was built by some Spanish priest "for their own satisfaction, perhaps, rather than according to the needs of the Indians" (107).

"Where did they find the timbers to build such a church?" Murphy's note: The wide roof required timbers 45 feet long and more than a foot square . . . brought up by men--not horses from what is now Mount Taylor, the 11,301-foot peak about 25 miles north of Acoma.



The church was built in early 1600. Murphy says that Cather visited Acoma and was able to describe the church firsthand.

Chapt. 4 The Legend of Fray Baltazar (109-122)

Friar Baltazar Montoya, a priest at Acoma, sometime in the early years of 1700. "He was of a tyrannical and overbearing disposition and bore a hard hand on the natives" (110).

~~end of BOOK THREE~~

122/315, so almost 40% of the book is finished at this point.

42labwriter
Editat: des. 13, 2011, 5:19pm

BOOK FOUR: Snake Root

Chapt. 1, "The Night at Pecos" (123-131)

Father Vaillant takes charge of his own parish at Albuquerque (123).

Bishop Latour sends Father Vaillant on urgent business to Las Vegas. He is late in returning; the news is, Father Vaillant has fallen ill with black measles. Murphy: Black measles is a name for Rocky Mountain spotted feaver referring to the rash. The disease is caused by a rickettsia, a microorganism in biting insects, in this case ticks.

Father Latour sets off by pack mule to find Father Vaillant (124) and spends the night at the pueblo of Pecos at Jacinto's house.

{If you're interested, go to the Pecos National Park website for more information.}

Jacinto's baby is ailing, but Father Latour knows it is no use to ask to see the baby or to give advice (128). "The tribe was dying out; infant mortality was heavy, and the young couples did not reproduce freely, --the life force seemed low" (128, 29).

Probably it was contagious diseases brought by white men that were the cause of the shrinkage of the tribe--measles, scarlatina, and whooping cough (130).

43labwriter
des. 13, 2011, 6:11pm

BOOK FOUR: Snake Root

Chapt. 2, "Stone Lips" (131-144)

It's sort of amazing, when you think about it, what these people were able to subsist on. When Father Latour was traveling: black coffee and a round loaf of Mexican bread--"With bread and black coffee, he could travel day after day" (132).

Latour and the guide Jacinto set out the next morning, and after midday run into a great snowstorm: "The wind was like a hurricane at sea, and the air became blind with snow" (133). They took shelter in a cave, "common in the black volcanic cliffs of the Pajarito Plateau, where they occur in great numbers" (136).

Later Latour's thoughts returned often to the ceremonial cave: "He was already convinced that neither the white men nor the Mexicans in Santa Fe understood anything about Indian beliefs or the workings of the Indian mind" (141).

~~end of Book Four~~

I'm at 145/315, which is 46% of the way through the book.

44labwriter
des. 15, 2011, 9:23am

BOOK FIVE: Padre Martinez

Chapt. 1, "The Old Order" (145-167)

Bishop Latour and Jacinto ride to the Bishop's first offical visit to Taos--"after Albuquerque, the largest and richest parish in his diocese" (145). The powerful old priest, Antonio Jose Martinez.

"Father Latour judged that the day of lawless personal power was almost over, even on the frontier, and this figure was to him already like something picturesque and impressive, but really impotent, left over from the past" (147).

The monk Trinidad: "The student gave the impression of being always stupefied by one form of sensual disturbance or another" (152).

At the home of Padre Martinez, the housekeeping is slovenly, the food poor, despite the many servingwomen, young and old. If you can't control your own household, you have no hope of controlling an entire parish. "Father Latour was told to consider the house his own, but he had no wish to" (150).

Martinez and Latour disagree about celibacy being an essential condition of the priest's vocation. Latour says he vows to reform the practice throughout his diocese as rapidly as possible (153). The Padre laughs in his face and tells him, "Rome has no authority here . . . . The Church the Franciscan Fathers planted here was cut off; this is the second growth, and is indigenous. Our people are the most devout left in the world. If you blast their faith by European formalities, they will become infidels and profligates" (154).

Martinez to Latour: "If you try to introduce European civilization here and change our old ways, to interfere with the secret dances of the Indians, let us say, or abolish the bloody rites of the Penitentes, I fortell an early death for you" (155). Murphy's note: Penitentes: A lay religious brotherhood of Catholic men of Hispanic descent. "Whereas contemporary history emphasizes the role of the Penitentes in preserving the language, lore, customs, and faith of especially the poor Hispanic population and providing religious leadership during the so-called Secular Period (c. 1790-1850) of clerical corruption and ecclesiastical deterioration in New Mexico, earlier historians considered the Penitentes highly suspect, even a barbarous influence."

Padre Martinez advises the Bishop to study the native traditions before he begins his reforms.

Bishop Latour finds himself "well pleased" with the church of Taos: "The building was clean and in good repair, the congregation large and devout . . . . The Bishop had never heard the Mass more impressively sung than by Father Martinez" (157). Latour thinks that with right guidance, Martinez could have been a great man.

They visit a pueblo that had been continuously occupied by the same tribe for more than a thousand years (158). "The mountain and its ravines had been the seat of old religious ceremonies, honeycombed with noiseless Indian life, the repository of Indian secrets, for many centuries" (159).

Upon leaving Taos, the Bishop calls on Kit Carson at his ranch house (161). Carson is away buying sheep, but Latour speaks to his wife, Senora Carson. She gives him the local low-down on Padre Martinez.

Then he travels to Santa Fe and visits with Father Vaillant, whom he hasn't seen since Easter. Father Latour has an "urgent request" for his presence at the Vatican (164).

Father Latour and Father Joseph spend the evening discussing the situation at Taos: "'For the present,' Father Latour remarked, 'I shall do nothing to change the curious situation at Taos. It is not expedient to interfere'" (164). "For the present I shall be blind to what I do not like there" (165). He says that he doesn't want to lose the parish of Taos in order to punish its priest, and he has no priest strong enough to put in his place. He would give the parish to Father Joseph except that he is at Albuquerque. He thinks that only a Spaniard will be welcomed there.

Father Joseph will be transfered to Santa Fe while the Bishop travels to the Vatican (166).

End of Chapt. 1. This is about halfway through the book.

Next, Chapt. 2, "The Miser."

45labwriter
Editat: des. 19, 2011, 9:02am

Chapt. 2, "The Miser" (167-182)

In this chapter, we find a schism in the church. Father Latour brings four young priests back with him after his year away in Rome. One of them, Father Taladrid, he sets up in the parish in place of Padre Martinez. However, the padre continues to say mass and marry and bury his parishioners, which sets up an open war between him and Father Taladrid. The result is mutiny and schism; Father Martinez and his cohort Father Lucero organize a church of their own, which they declare is the old Holy Catholic Church of Mexico, while the Bishop's church is merely "an American institution" (168).

~~end of Book Five~~

46labwriter
des. 19, 2011, 10:26am

BOOK SIX: Dona Isabella

Chapt 1, "Don Antonio" (183-196)

Bishop Latour's one keen worldly ambition: to build a cathedral in Santa Fe "which would be worthy of a setting naturally beautiful" (183). Latour began setting aside funds for the cathedral, and was assisted in the endeavor by certain rich Mexican rancheros, by most of all by one named Don Antonio Olivares whose wife is Dona Isabella: "She spoke French well, Spanish lamely, played the harp, and sang agreeably" (184). It was a "great piece of luck" for Father Latour and Father Vaillant to be able to converse in their own tongue now and then with a cultivated woman. Gossip: "This gossip did not mean that her servants were disloyal, but rather they were proud of their mistress" (186).

Their one child, a daughter, the Senorita Inez, "born long ago and still unmarried" (187).

"Olivares was the sort of man who liked to help a friend accomplish the desire of his heart" (188). It was the Bishop's hope to begin work upon the cathedral in 1860, ten years after his appointment to the Bishopric.

Cather's description of the gathering of these frontier people--Cather at her best. "Observing them thus in repose, in the act of reflection, Father Latour was thinking how each of these men not only had a story, but seemed to have become his story" (192).

47sjmccreary
des. 19, 2011, 11:36pm

Have finally had a chance to read in this book. Once I sat down with it, it really reads very quickly. I've read through book 3, chapter 1. Here are some of my comments so far:

Book One: The very first page of chapter one contained a sentence that made be smile. When the priest is travelling through New Mexico and fears he has lost his way and is trying to get back to the trail. "The difficulty was that the country in which he found himself was so featureless - or rather, that it was crowded with features, all exactly alike." (pg 16)

Chapter 2, I also enjoyed the ending about the "old men trying to remember their catechism to teach their grandchildren."

Chapter 3 - loved the talk about the Christmas dinner. Of the soup, Bishop Latour is praising Father Joseph and says, "...'in all this vast country between the Mississippi and the Pacific Ocean, there is probably not another human being who could make a soup like this.' 'Not unless he is a Frenchman,' said Father Joseph." (pg 40) And the wine, which Father Joseph provided, "This I begged for your dinner at the hacienda where I went to baptize the baby on St. Thomas's Day. It is not easy to separate these rich Mexicans from their French wine. They know its worth." (pg 42) The entire chapter, it was like being a fly on the wall - the descriptions of the two men, their conversation, their meal, their gestures - everything was so clear, so real. Cather really does have an amazing ability to put the reader right into the room, doesn't she?

Chapter 4 - I was confused by the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, beginning on pg 51 with her command of "go up on the rocks yonder, and gather roses" when Brother Juan asked for a sign for his bishop who needed proof that it was the Mother of God who directed that a church be built on a certain spot. I checked the notes but did not find any explanation about it.

Book Two. Chapter 1 - I also loved that line about the marriages coming first so that the parents can spend a night together before the children are baptized. And before that, when Lujon is trying to stall Father Joseph from doing the marriages right then, "The men are all in in the field, Padre. There is no hurry." And he responds "Send out to the fields for your men, Senor Lujon. A man can stop work to be married." (pg 57) And the reaction of the women, "My God, but he is ugly, the Padre! He must be very holy." (pg 58) And the way Father Joseph tricked Lujon into giving him both mules - a very clever man!

Chapter 2 - I am liking Father Joseph better and better. He was the one who talked the Bishop into pushing on just a little further on the road to Mora in the freezing rain. "The Vicar had been praying steadfastly while they crossed the meadows, and he felt confident that St Joseph would not turn a deaf ear." (pg 70) Of course, then they came to the "wretched" house where the American man offered them hospitality and his Mexican wife managed to warn the priests of the danger. Immediately after they left, she also escaped and followed them. Resulting in the authorities becoming aware of the true nature of the man's past deeds. All as a direct result of Father Joseph, and his "relying upon the protection of St Joseph". (pg 74)

So far, I've found this book to be easier reading than either O Pioneers or My Antonia. Not sure why that is. Maybe I've become more familiar with her style and pacing, or maybe this is just a different book. Has anyone else found this one to be different from the other two, that were so similar to each other? Becky, thanks for all the notes and photos you've posted - very interesting. And thanks for recommending the book. I'm thoroughly enjoying it.

48labwriter
Editat: des. 21, 2011, 10:24am

>47 sjmccreary:. Hi Sandy! I really enjoyed reading your comments. I definitely agree with you about this being a different book than the others and as well as easier reading--it reads so surprisingly fast. It is very different than the two others of hers you mention, maybe because it was based on historical characters rather than the kinds of people she knew when she was growing up in Nebraska. I think in one of her letters she told someone that she considered it to be not a novel, but instead a narrative. The book lacks a conventional plot, but is instead a string of somewhat casually linked events, quite discontinuous.

One way that it seems the same to me, very Cather-like, is the way she draws the characters of these people in Death Comes for the Archbishop. She wrote a short story in 1930 titled "Neighbour Rosicky" (collected in Obscure Destinies (1932) where she writes about a 60-something Czech farmer, one of those immigrant farmers she would have known from Nebraska, and another one, collected in the same book, titled "Old Mrs. Harris." I hugely recommend Obscure Destinies for people who are fans of Cather's work--or as an introduction to Cather for those who don't know her.

For those who might be interested, John Murphy, the same Cather scholar who wrote the notes, has an interesting article that compares her Archbishop to Dante's Divine Comedy. I don't always have a lot of patience for this sort of reading-things-into-the-work criticism, but Murphy does a nice job of arguing for Cather being influenced and inspired by Dante's work.

49labwriter
des. 27, 2011, 10:00am

I had planned to finish this book before the end of the year, but it occurs to me that if that's going to happen, I need to get cracking.

BOOK SIX: Dona Isabella

Chapt. 2, The Lady (196-206)

Senor Olivares dies; Madame Olivares becomes a widow. Senor Olivares leaves his considerable fortune to his wife and daughter, but the Olivares brothers contest the will. Interesting that Cather has a young Irish Catholic Boston lawyer to manage Olivares' estate. Cather's Boston connection is a story in itself. For anyone who's interested in a biography of Cather, the standard remains the one by James Woodress, Willa Cather: A Literary Life, 1987. There are many others, but Woodress's biog was the first major full-length biography of Cather and IMO it remains one of the best.

The crux of the problem was that the daughter was contested as being "too old" to be the daughter of Madame Olivares, and she was too vain to admit her real age. Father Latour and Father Vaillant are pressed into service to get the lady to admit in court to her real age. This is an issue that Cather would have known something about; her gravestone is carved with the wrong birthdate, the one she used all her adult life, shaving several years off of her age. Heh.

I like this line: On their way home, Father Joseph says that "he would rather combat the superstitions of a whole Indian pueblo than the vanity of one white woman" (203).

~~end of BOOK SIX~~

50labwriter
des. 27, 2011, 10:55am

BOOK SEVEN: The Great Diocese

Chapt. 1, The Month of Mary (207-220)

The Gadsden Purchase, the territory that forms southern New Mexico and Arizona. From Murphy's note: This was a treaty between the United States and Mexico concluded by diplomat James Gadsden in 1853, which moved the U.S. border southward from the Rio Grande, north of El Paso, and westward to the mouth of the Gila and, for $10 million, settled Mexican claims for damages committed by Indians living in U.S. territory. The estimate of new territory transferred by Rome to Lamy's vicarate comprised more than 45,000 square miles.

Parish business due to the new territory would necessitate a journey of nearly 4,000 miles, and Father Vaillant was sent on this journey to arrange the debated boundaries with the Mexican Bishops. Father Vaillant becomes ill during his travels, and goes to stay with Father Latour where they both had the opportunity to enjoy the garden they had laid out six years before when they first came to Santa Fe.

Cather wrote of gardens quite often in her books. She has been adopted by ecological literary studies, ecocriticism, and environmental literary studies. Part of this is because Cather the writer is profoundly identified with the places that shaped her and that she wrote about. What is ecological criticism? Simply put, from Susan J. Rosowski, Cather scholar extraordinaire from the U of Nebraska: "An ecological critical method addresses the interconnections between human culture and the material world, between the human and the nonhuman." It asks the question, What is the right relation between human beings and nature? During the time she was writing her novels, the conservationist debate raged between utilitarians (who urged reserving land for profitable use) and preservationists (who sought to preserve natural resources for aesthetic, recreational, and spiritual reasons).

Sue Rosowski continues: "Ecological criticism's interest in the relation between language and nature invites reading literature alongside the botanist's field guide, the gardener's plot, the architect's plan, and the composer's score." Cather carried a copy of F. Schuyler Mathews's Field Book of American Flowers (1902) with her on nature walks from 1917 to 1938; her copy of the book is "heavily annotated" in her own hand, and has proved to be a treasure for scholars looking to understand Cather's "observant eye" for nature found in her books.

Cather has Father Joseph and Bishop Latour "boldly" planning for the future: "the ground behind the church, between the Bishop's house and the Academy, they laid out as a spacious orchard and kitchen-garden. Ever since then the Bishop had worked on it, planting and pruning. It was his only recreation" (209).

I love what Cather does with the tamarisk tree in this chapter (210).

Unfortunately, this non-native tree (also called saltcedar) has now become so invasive that it is degrading the desert southwest wetlands. The tree is opportunistic and can grow 9 to 12 feet in a single season.

The month of Mary, the month of May: "when this sinful and sullied world puts on white as if to commemorate the Annunciation, and becomes, for a little, lovely enought to be in truth the Bride of Christ" (213).

~~End of Chapt. 1~~

51labwriter
des. 27, 2011, 1:50pm

BOOK SEVEN, The Great Diocese

Chapt. 2, December Night (220-230)

The story of Sada, an old Mexican woman.

"The snow had stopped, the gauzy clouds that had ribbed the arch of heaven were now all sunk into one soft white fog bank over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The full moon shown high in the blue vault, majestic, lonely, benign. The Bishop stood in the doorway of his church, lost in thought, looking at the line of black footprints his departing visitor had left in the wet scurf of snow" (230).

~~End of Chapt. 2~~

Chapt 3, Spring in the Navajo Country (230-242)

Bishop Latour gets word of the death of a beloved only son of Eusabio, a Navaho Indian chief (230).

Murphy's note. Edith Lewis, Cather's companion for most of her adult life, speculates that Eusabio's prototype was the Taos Indian husband of writer Mabel Dodge Luhan. Murphy writes that the Luhans hosted Cather and Lewis at Taos for two weeks in the summer of 1925, and Tony drove them to "almost inaccessible Mexican villages where the Penitentes still followed their old fierce customs" (quote from Lewis). What Murphy doesn't say in his note was that Cather was half in love with Tony Luhan. Whether or not the character of Eusabio was taken entirely from Tony Luhan is probably unimportant; the emotional tone of her writing about the character Eusabio is what interests me--and I tend to think that those who say Eusabio was in many ways was Luhan are on the right track.

Mabel Dodge Luhan: New Woman, New Worlds, by Lois Palken Rudnick is a biography I own but haven't yet read. Mabel Dodge was a fascinating character and was always surrounded by interesting people of her era, whether she was living in NYC or Taos, NM.

Again, in this chapter, Cather does a lovely thing with trees, this time cottonwoods (233). Cather grew up in Nebraska on land where every tree that grew there, except the cottonwoods, was planted by someone. Somewhere in her writings she says that the people used to go visit the trees on their land. People who live in the East probably can't understand what trees mean to someone living on the plains.

I like this line: "Navaho hospitality is not intrusive. Eusabio made the Bishop understand that he was glad to have him there, and let him alone" (234).

Father Vaillant is in Tucson where he was restoring the old mission church of St. Xavier del Bac, "the most beautiful church on the continent" (234). Also called the "White Dove of the Desert," you can google the church and find a website that details the newest restoration project.

The Bishop was having a difficult time without Father Joseph; the new priests were all good men, but they were strangers to the country, timid about making decisions, and referred every difficulty to their Bishop.

Father Vaillant was like the saints of the early Church, literally without personal possessions. He owned nothing in the world but his mule, Contento (239).

~~End of Chapt. 3~~

Chapt. 4, Eusabio (243-248)

The Bishop decides to recall Father Joseph.

"he heard the deep sound of a cottonwood drum" (243). A cottonwood drum uses the hollowed trunk of a cottonwood tree for the drum core and has heavy cow hide heads and lacing. The cottonwood trunk is very strong which allows the drum to have a great voice.



Eusabio rides back the 400 miles to Santa Fe with the Bishop. "The weather alternated between blinding sand-storms and brilliant sunlight" (245).

Oh, I love this, and anyone who has spent any time in the southwest will understand: "Elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world; but here the earth was the floor of the sky. The landscape one longed for when one was far away, the thing all about one, the world one actually lived in, was the sky, the sky!" (245).

And this: "Travelling with Eusabio was like travelling with the landscape made human" (245).

A beautiful chapter.

~~end of BOOK SEVEN~~

52labwriter
des. 27, 2011, 2:53pm

I was putting some books back on the shelf after painting the sunroom, and I ran across this book. I haven't yet read it, but I think it definitely needs to go onto the towering TBR pile: A History of Having a Great Many Times Not Continued to Be Friends: The correspondence between Mabel Dodge & Gertrude Stein, 1911-1934. Ed. by Patricia R. Everett.

53labwriter
Editat: des. 29, 2011, 9:19am

BOOK EIGHT, Gold Under Pike's Peak

Chapt. 1, Cathedral (249-256)

Father Vaillant is back in Santa Fe. I love Cather's description of the Bishop's dining room. Cather herself cared about beautiful things, and it shows in her writing.

The Bishop shows Father Vaillant that he has found just the right stone for his cathedral (252), and he is hoping to have his cathedral finished before he dies: "I wish to leave nothing to chance, or to the mercy of American builders. I had rather keep the old adobe church we have now than help to build one of those horrible structures they are putting up in the Ohio cities" (253). And the Bishop has found someone to build his church--the first Romanesque church in the New World.

This is the type of church the Bishop has in mind:



I was wondering how the Bishop would get the stone to the building site, but he has that figured out as well: "This hill is only about fifteen miles from Santa Fe; there is an upgrade, but it is gradual. Hauling the stone will be easier than I could have hoped for" (254).

Cather sets us to wondering through Father Vaillant why a poor missionary bishop should care so much about a building.

Chapt. 2, A Letter from Leavenworth (256-262)

Bishop Latour hears by letter from the Bishop of Leavenworth concerning events that were happening in Colorado, "in a part of the Rocky Mountains very little known" (256). Wandering prospectors had found large deposits of gold along Cherry Creek, "and the mountains that were solitary a year ago were now full of people" (257-58). And although among all the wanderers and wastrels were hundreds of good Catholic men, there was not one priest. So the Kansas Bishop was writing Bishop Latour to tell him that this new populous community must, for the present, be counted under Father Latour's jurisdiction. He must send a priest there as soon as possible--one who would be at ease with all sorts of men. Of course, Father Vaillant is the obvious choice to send: "it was the discipline of his life to break ties; to say farewell and move on into the unknown" (260).

Chapt. 3, Auspice Maria! (262-275)

Auspice Maria! Murphy's note: translated as "With Mary as Helper"

Father Joseph Vaillant prepares for Colorado by constructing a wagon--capable of carrying a great deal but light enough to wind through the mountain gorges.

Both Latour and Vaillant seem to know that when Father Joseph leaves for Colorado, that will be the final break between them; as a Bishop, Latour is glad to see his priest's enthusiasm, but as a man, he is saddened that his friend can leave him without regret (263).

There's a poignant moment concerning the two mules, Contento and Angelica (267).

Father Vaillant sets out for Colorado: "'Auspice, Maria!' he murmured as he turned his back on these familiar things" (267).

There's a wonderful piece then about loneliness vs solitude (268).

Cather gives us the story of Father Vaillant's life in the "cold, steely Colorado Rockies": he would come back to the blue mountains of the South that he loved for short intervals, but his life's work would be the rugged granite world of Creede, Durango, Silver City, Central City, and over the Continental Divide into Utah (270).

One of his trips back to Santa Fe was to raise money. "The church in Denver was under a roof, but the windows had been boarded up for months because nobody would buy glass for them. In his Denver congregation there were men who owned mines and saw-mills and flourishing businesses, but they needed all their money to push these enterprises. Down among the Mexicans, who owned nothing but a mud house and a burro, he could always raise money. If they had anything at all, they gave" (272).

Father Vaillant tells the Mexican women a sad story of his life in Colorado: "Nobody in Colorado planted gardens. . . . nobody would stick a shovel into the earth for anything less than gold. There was no butter, no milk, no eggs, no fruit. He lived on dough and cured hog meat" (273). Of course within a few weeks, gifts were sent to the Bishop's house for Father Vaillant.

~~end of BOOK EIGHT~~

One more book to go: BOOK NINE, Death Comes for the Archbishop

54labwriter
des. 30, 2011, 8:00am

BOOK NINE, Death Comes for the Archbishop

Chapt 1, no chapter headings in Book Nine (276-280)

Cather uses a letter found in Mother Superior Philomene's papers (she is Father Vaillant's sister, the one he writes to all his life) to further the story, dated December 1888, "only a few months before his death" (276). The Bishop has retired to his little country estate, four miles north of Santa Fe, chosen for its suitability for growing fruit. Cather's description of a 200-year-old apricot tree.

The work of Father Latour's retirement was the training of new missionary priests who arrived from France. He urged his new priests to plant fruit trees wherever they went: "He often quoted to his students that passage from their fellow Auvergnat, Pascal: that Man was lost and saved in a garden" (279).

Seminarian Bernard Ducrot, who became like a son to Father Latour. Latour believed that God himself had sent the young man to help him through his last years.

Chapt 2 (280-285)

Father Latour catches a chill while traveling in the rain. Young Ducrot tells him not to be discouraged, one does not die of a cold. "The old man smiled. 'I shall not die of a cold, my son. I shall die of having lived'" (281). He goes back to Santa Fe to occupy his old study at the new Bishop's residence, presumably to die.

He sees once again the Cathedral he had spent so many years building: "the open, golden face of his Cathedral. How exactly young Molny, his French architect, had done what he wanted" (283).

Chapt 3 (285-288)

Father Latour knows he has accomplished an historic period: he had come with the buffalo and had lived to see railway trains running into Santa Fe (286).

Cather has woven together a beautiful chapter, comparing the French countryside of Father Latour's home with New Mexico.

Chapt 4 (288-296)

During his last days, Bernard would read aloud to him: St. Augustine, or the letters of Madame de Sevigne, or his favourite Pascal.

Murphy's note: Madame de Sevigne: Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, marquise de Sevigne, perfected the art of correspondence in letters written to her daughter and friends between 1664 and 1696. In some fifteen hundred surviving pieces she describes daily happenings in Paris, evaluates personalities, and reflects on life.

Latour wished to, but didn't have the strength, to put down all the old legends and customs and superstitions that were already dying out (289).

The story of Father Junipero's Holy Family.

Chapt 5 (296-304)

"the Bishop was living over his life" (297). He remembers how he and Father Joseph planned to leave France without telling their families, since they would "strongly oppose their purpose" (298) yet Joseph was distraught: "I cannot break my father's heart, and I cannot break the vow I have made to heaven. I had rather die than do either" (299).

We learn that Father Vaillant himself was made a bishop, the first Bishop of Colorado, who in real life, according to Murphy, was based on Bishop Machebeuf.

Bishop Latour attends Father Joseph's funeral (302).

Chapt 6 (304-307)

Father Latour's "intellectual curiosity about dying" (304). "He was soon to have done with calendered time, and it had already ceased to count for him. . . . He could see {those around him} thought his mind was failing; but it was only extraordinarily active in some other part of the great picture of his life--some part of which they knew nothing" (305).

The visit of Eusabio.

Chapt 7 (307-313)

The story of the Navajos. "The expulsion of the Navajos from their country, which had been theirs no man knew how long, had seemed to him an injustice that cried to Heaven" (307).

Chapt 8 (313-end)

I hugely enjoyed reading the book along with John Murphy's notes, and I would recommend this Scholarly Edition to anyone reading the book. The scholarly editions are expensive, even used copies, but I imagine that they can be found in most large libraries or university libraries. Many of her works can be found in the Scholarly Edition, published by the U of Nebraska P. Each volume contains an extensive scholarly apparatus, featuring textual commentary, explanatory notes, and a Historical Essay on the genesis of a particular text. Several of these are available online at the Willa Cather Archive.

55sjmccreary
des. 31, 2011, 12:19pm

I finished the text of the novel yesterday, and want to spend a little time going back and commenting on the parts that impressed me most. And then comparing my comments to yours. I'm largely skipping all the scholarly material, but I did check an occasional end note and studied the photos several times. Thanks for posting the picture of the church - that stone looks exactly like Cather described it.