Philobiblon: The perils of Ebay's antiquarian section

Friday, September 03, 2004

The perils of Ebay's antiquarian section

May latest Fall arrived this morning, a two-volume set, Sacred and Legendary Art by Mrs Jameson, 1890 (third edition). For £8 including postage, how could I resist? (In fact there's a really nice 18th-century book going tomorrow for £45, when on abebooks it's hundreds of pounds; very tempting.)

Get there behind me Satan! Whoops, you can tell that I've been reading, or at least browsing, Mrs Jameson.

Apropos my earlier discussion of how powerful and scholarly women get slandered, here I've been seeing how the saints are all beautiful, fair and modest, which is usually what gets them into trouble.

I particularly liked St Filomena, whose remains were found in 1802 in the catacomb of Priscilla in Rome. "The remains, reasonably supposed to be those of one of the early martyrs for the faith, were sealed up and deposited in the treasury of relics in the Lateran; here they remained unthought of. On the return of Pius VII from France, a Neopolitan prelate was sent to congratulate him. One of the priests in his train, who wished to create a sensation in his district, where the long residence of the French had probably caused some decay of piety, begged for a few relics to carry home, and these remains were bestowed on him.... another priest ... was favoured by a vision in the broad noon-day, in which he beheld the glorious virgin Filomena, who was pleased to reveal to him that she had suffered death for preferring the Christian faith and her vow of chasitity to the addresses of the emperor, who wished to make her his wife ..." (vol II, pp. 672-3)

Finally, Mrs Jameson records, "in the last twenty years" she has become of the most popular saints in Italy. She says dryly: "it is difficult to account for the extension and popularity of this story". I think I might have to find out more about Mrs Jameson.

I was going to provide a sample of the line drawings of the art in the book, which I assume are also Mrs Jameson's, but having downloaded "Hello", as recommended by Blogger, I haven't got very far. Another day.


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