A Year in Review: 2015-2016

Hello, readers! Thank you for another academic year of following the John J. Burns Library blog. Over the summer we like to take a look back at what has been posted throughout the year both to thank our authors and to remember exciting highlights from the Burns Library’s collection. The 2015-2016 academic year was a busy year for Burns as various departments worked with multiple classes held at the library, processed new collections, reprocessed older collections to make them more accessible, and worked with patrons on various research projects.

The John J. Burns Library Blog was happy to host guest authors from two “Making History Public” classes this year: Professor Seth Meehan’s “Making History Public:

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The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia: After Lithographs by Louise Haghe from Drawings Made on the Spot by David Roberts by George Croly, David Robert III, and William Brockedon, NC115.R56 Williams Oversize, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Boston College” and Professor Dana Sajdi’s “Making

History Public: Historical Monuments, Monumental Histories”. The students in these classes used Burns Library materials to curate exhibits and exhibit texts that were displayed in Stokes Hall as part of an ongoing collaborative project between the History department and Boston College Libraries. Blog posts by Making History Public students included posts on the history of the Fulton Debating Club, the history of influential women at BC, the different architectural styles on campus, Big Ben’s architectural ancestors, the statue of Ramses II and Egyptian national identity, and the significance of Petra, among many others.


John LaFarge in Innsbruk, circa 1901

Christian Dupont, the Burns Librarian, wrote a post in September 2015 on John LaFarge, SJ and a rare manuscript version of his draft of a papal encyclical for Pope Pius XI condemning the racial injustices propagated by the Nazi regime.

The Burns Library commemorated the death of Irish playwright Brian Friel in October 2015 with a collection of photographs from the Bobbie Hanvey Photographic Collection.

Beth Sweeney, Irish Music Librarian, wrote a post announcing a recently processed collection of live Irish music recordings from the Muise family that is now available at the Burns Library. The post even included clips of the recordings as a taste of what is available in the Irish Music Center.

In November, Shelley Barber, the Burns Library Reference & Archives Specialist, wrote about the life and service of Boston College alum Frederick J. Gillis in memory of all of the men and women of BC who have served in the armed forces. Continue reading

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G. K. Chesterton: the Catholic Apologist

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was born on May 29, 1874, in London, the eldest son of Edward Chesterton and Marie Louise Grosjean. Chesterton had a happy childhood and his parents encouraged his interests in art and literature. Chesterton’s brother Cecil Edward was born in 1879.

As a child Chesterton attended Colet Court, Hammersmith, and St Paul’s School in London. Although he showed academic promise, he often appeared distracted and inattentive to subjects that were not to his liking. At the age of eighteen, Chesterton enrolled in the Slade School of Fine Art at University College London. He toyed with the idea of becoming a professional artist, but financial concerns and his great love of literature inspired him to pursue a career as a writer. He continued to draw and illustrated some books.

After leaving college in 1895 Chesterton worked as a publisher’s reader and soon became a reviewer and essayist for both The Speaker and the Daily News. In 1900 he published two collections of poems; one of them included his famous and often anthologized poem “The Donkey.” Later the same year he met Hilaire Belloc, who was to become one of his closest friends and literary allies.

Correspondence from Chesterton to Hilary Belloc

One of the many letters exchanged between Chesterton and Belloc. G. K. Chesterton Collection, MS 2005-02, Box 3, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

In the early 1900’s, Chesterton also produced several collections of essays. In 1903 he published a study of Robert Browning; the book received popular praise, but Browning scholars objected to its many biographical inaccuracies. Chesterton’s carelessness with factual details soon became habitual in his writing.

In 1901 Chesterton married Frances Alice Blogg (1869-1938), an acquaintance of a school friend. Also a writer, Blogg was happy to stay in the background and her works have only recently become the subject of serious scholarly study. A devout Anglican, she eventually led Chesterton to that faith on his spiritual journey to Catholicism.

In 1904, Chesterton published The Napoleon of Notting Hill, a fantastical novel dealing with serious themes that attracted much positive critical attention. Chesterton’s next novel, The Man who was Thursday (1908), told the story of a group of supposed anarchists plotting to overthrow established society in London, who are successively revealed to be police detectives. Although The Man who was Thursday went largely unnoticed at the time of its publication, today the novel remains among Chesterton’s most popular works. Subsequently Chesterton wrote several other novels including The Ball and the Cross (1910), Manalive (1912), and The Flying Inn (1914). Continue reading

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Graham Greene & Sherlock Holmes

Graham Greene’s private library contains various Victorian detective works. Of particular interest to Greene is the definitive Victorian detective, rather, the definitive detective, Sherlock Holmes. Greene possessed at least one copy of each case Holmes undertook with friend and biographer Dr. Watson. Greene’s fascination with these cases is evidenced by his annotations.


Greene’s index of annotations for The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes PR4622. A7 1974 Greene’s Library, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Greene’s annotations are neatly organized: a passage of interest is marked in the margins of the text often accompanied by a note on a blank page of the book, an index for Greene’s thoughts. The only instance where Greene breaks this pattern is in his notes regarding “The Boscombe Valley Mystery”, with notes in the margins of the text not cataloged in the index.

Greene’s annotations cover various features of interest, such as the tradition of The Game. The Game is the endeavor of scholars who attempt to explain various discrepancies; author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was careless when it came to plot consistency, creating confusion over the stories’ timeline. In “The Red-Headed League”, published in August 1891, Holmes refers to a case involving Miss Mary Sutherland. Her case was featured in “A Case of Identity”, published a month later. In his notes, Greene remarks that this case must have preceded “The Red-Headed League”.

Greene saw other inconsistencies, like the identity of Holmes’s housekeeper. She is referred to as Mrs. Hudson in the several stories, but in the story “A Scandal in Bohemia” she is referred to as Mrs. Turner. This discrepancy is noticed by Greene in “The Blue Carbuncle”, where he wondered if this was the first time Mrs. Turner is Mrs. Hudson.


Greene’s note of Doyle’s mistaken use of the character name Mrs. Turner. “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” PR4622. A7 1974 Greene’s Library, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

Greene made various notes regarding Holmes’s deductions. Greene marks a section in “The Yellow Face” where Holmes stresses that bootlaces determine one’s character. Greene additionally noted a passage in “A Case of Identity” where bootlaces were integral to deducing the emotional state of a client. Another indicator of character is one’s sleeves, annotated by Greene in the same story. In the later story “The Crooked Man”, Greene marked the passage where Holmes observes a handkerchief in Watson’s sleeve, an indicator of Watson’s military past.

Greene annotated several passages that describe particulars of Victorian society. In “The Blue Carbuncle”, Greene marked a passage where Holmes lists newspapers, writing there were ‘more than 7 evening papers in London’. “The Noble Bachelor” mentions the price of an expensive hotel is eight shillings, sarcastically said by Greene to be ‘“select” prices’. In the opening passage of “The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans”, Greene noted its description of ‘A London fog’.

Greene noticed passages concerning the great detective himself. Greene annotated a passage in “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box” where Holmes laments violence’s prevalence in society. Greene wrote that the sentiment made Holmes more a ‘theologian’ than a detective. Greene marked a passage in A Study in Scarlet detailing Holmes’s lack of literary knowledge: Holmes does not know Thomas Carlyle, a famous Victorian author, which shocks Watson.

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The Muggletonian Collection

A radical Protestant sect with a quirky theology and a wonderfully unlikely name, the Muggletonian movement emerged in 1651 from the chaos of the British Interregnum, when two tailors – John Reeve and Lodowick Muggleton – announced themselves to be the “two witnesses” foretold in Revelation 11:3. Despite likely never numbering more than 300 adherents, the Muggletonians gained notoriety from their lively sectarian debates and penchant for declaring curses upon their enemies (including, at one point, Sir Walter Scott). Thoroughly unconventional, the Muggletonians eschewed churches, Sunday services, worship in general, evangelization, sermons, and clergy of any kind, in favor of free, open, and informal discussions with one another, typically in taverns. For centuries they kept in print a body of distinctly Muggletonian works. The Burns Library holds a small but representative collection of Muggletonian publications.

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The Muggletonian Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

The thirty-five works in this collection largely consist of 18th and 19th century reprints of writings by the original Muggletonians of the late 17th century. These include topical tracts, Scriptural exegesis, a collection of letters by Reeve and Muggleton, a standard collection of songs, and an account of Lodowick Muggleton’s arrest, in 1676, for blasphemy. The texts themselves are, by and large, humble productions – the Muggletonian movement tended to attract working-class adherents, and the physical appearance of the collection’s constituent works reflects this. A few are bound in plain cardboard, and a good number have only blank, flimsy blue paper for covers. Interestingly, in several of the collection’s works, the pages were never cut, suggesting that they were never read.

The works in this collection attest to some of the more peculiar and theologically eccentric Muggletonian beliefs. Among these is a radical disavowal of any sort of soul-body separation. Certain necessary corollaries must follow, and the Muggletonians are rarely shy about embracing them. For example, an anonymous four-page pamphlet titled “A Treatise on the Mortality of the Soul” asserts the death of the soul along with that of the body: “So, as both body and soul are born together, so both must die together, for they cannot be separated one from the other” (1). Anti-Trinitarianism also follows – for, if there is no spirit distinct from the body, the believer cannot parse a “Father” or “Spirit” from the Son. And we find that the Muggletonians embraced this conclusion freely as well. As one song cheerfully expresses it:

“In the days of my ignorance I worshipp’d a God,
Without form, call’d persons three;
But since that I came to the knowledge of truth,
One God is enough for me.” (Divine Songs 352)



Lodowick Muggleton; from the frontispiece of A Transcendent Spiritual Treatise, Upon Several Heavenly Doctrines, 10-000003029 MuggletonianJohn J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Indeed, Lodowick Muggleton himself goes so far as to insist, in a work colorfully titled A Looking-Glass for George Fox the Quaker, and other Quakers; wherein They may see themselves to be right Devils, that “God is a single Person in the Form of a Man, a spiritual Person, and no bigger in Compass than a Man, and he was so from Eternity” (50). This belief underlies the general hostility the Muggletonians consistently expressed toward Quakers; the latter’s doctrine of the “Inner Light,” of having “Christ within,” stands in irreconcilable opposition to the Muggletonian view of a particularly and materially embodied God: “I never knew none that would avouch that Christ’s Flesh and Bone was in them… if they should do so, how then would all the Quakers do to get Christ within them? There could but one Quaker get Christ in him at a time, and when Christ comes out of one, he must go into another” (Looking-Glass 27).

Another key Muggletonian tenet may go a long way toward explaining why their arguments can seem so head-scratchingly bizarre at times – the belief that human reason is of the Devil. “Allow[ing] it [reason] its prerogative… of having Government as to all terrestrial affairs,” one Muggletonian writer nevertheless dismisses it as “unclean serpentine reason” when applied to matters of faith (Muggletonian Principles Prevailing 5-6). Lodowick Muggleton goes so far as to blame reason for humanity’s inaugural murder: “the Spirit of Reason in Man is the Devil that killed the Righteous and the Just, for Cain was [sic] a high Pitch of Reason when he killed righteous Abel (Looking-Glass 66). And an anonymously-authored lyric in Divine Songs of the Muggletonians doesn’t hesitate to attribute a holy lack of reason to Jesus himself:

“When God became man he’d no reason in him,
This must be allow’d, then how could he sin?
There’s nothing could sin but reason I’m sure,
Christ’s life was God’s life infinitely pure.” (304) Continue reading

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Peter Levi: the Priest Turned Poet

Peter Chad Tigar Levi was born in Ruslip, Middlesex, England, on May 16, 1931. He was the second son of Herbert and Mollie Levi.  Peter’s father came from Istanbul and descended from a family of Sephardic carpet merchants, and his mother Mollie was an Englishborn Catholic and intensely devout. Mollie converted her husband and raised all three of their children in the Catholic Church. Her strong beliefs eventually led all her children to take vows.  Peter and his older brother Anthony became Jesuits and their sister Gillian became a Bernardine nun.

Peter Levi began his education in the classics at a young age; at age six he and his older brother were enrolled as students at Prior Park in Bath. Though he appreciated his education under the   Christian Brothers there, in his adolescence he began to idolize Oscar Wilde. Because of Wilde’s praise of the New Testament in Greek, Levi insisted at age fifteen he move to Beaumont College to improve his Greek under the Jesuits. At seventeen, after leaving Beaumont, he entered the Jesuit novitiate. However, at sixteen he had contracted polio which left him bedridden and with much leisure time. He often attributed his love of reading and writing to the free time he had during his battle with the illness.

After recovering from polio and entering the novitiate, he began the elaborate fifteen-year process of training for ordination. In his memoir, The Flutes of Autumn (1983), Levi            describes the stages of training and education necessary for his ordination. First there were studies in medieval philosophy (1950–52) at Heythrop College, then teaching in south-east London and at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire. This was followed by four years of studies at the Jesuit institution of Campion Hall in Oxford, and ended with a return to Heythrop College to study theology from 1960-1964. This long classical education informed his versatile career as a poet, classical scholar, archaeologist, and Jesuit priest. It was also during this time that he made his first forays into the literary world, publishing some of his best-known works of poetry such as The Gravel Ponds (1960) and Water, Rock and Sand (1962).

MS1986-98 43, Pancakes for the Queen of Babylon, Collage

The original notebook containing the drafts and edits of Pancakes for the Queen of Babylon is just one of the many notebooks containing original manuscripts in the Peter Levi Collection. Peter Levi Papers, MS1986-98, Box 43, Folder 3, John J. Burns, Boston College.

After a delay in ordination and vacation to Greece in 1963, Levi served as a priest for thirteen years. During his time in the novitiate and as an ordained priest Levi wrote broadly. He published works of poetry, literary reviews, and translations of classics. His interests in Greece   and Greek, coupled with illness and migraines related to a car accident during his studies, lead him to Greece on numerous occasions. He felt relief from his ailments in the Aegean climate, and the trips afforded him time to research Greek history and build friendships with giants of Greek literature such as George Seferis and George Pavlopoulos. As a result of these travels and friendships he published Pancakes for the Queen of Babylon: Ten Poems for Nikos Gatos (1968), a collection of eclectic and vivid poems which mark a divergence from his earlier more subdued works. It was also due to his interest in the classical history of Greece that he joined Bruce Chatwin’s archaeological team searching for traces of Greek culture in Afghanistan. He eventually recorded the accounts of these trips in his travelogue The Light Garden of the Angel   King (1972). Continue reading

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Williams Ethnological Collection

The John J. Burns Library is home to the formerly named Nicholas M. Williams Ethnological Collection, now known at the library simply as the Williams Ethnological Collection. A large and important amount of material with especial strengths in Carribeana and Africana, the Williams Collection is made up of books, manuscripts, and maps covering a wide variety of subjects pertaining particularly to Jamaica and Africa. Previous blog posts and Flickr sets have provided insight into fascinating details of the collection including its sources on pirates, beautiful maps of the Caribbean, and travel guides. The history of the collection as a thoughtfully curated entirety helps pull these interesting pieces into a cohesive whole, providing insight into how the collection was put together, and the ways in which it might be useful to researchers.

The Williams Collection was developed by Joseph J. Williams, SJ, an anthropology lecturer at Boston College and a missionary to Jamaica. Williams was born in Boston in December of 1875. He was educated at home by his mother until he attended Boston College High School. He joined the Jesuit order in 1893 and was ordained at Woodstock College in 1907. He studied theology and served in several different positions including teaching at the College of Francis Xavier, Loyola School, and St.-Andrew-on-the-Hudson. Williams served as a missionary to Jamaica from 1912-1917 before returning to the States. It was during his time in Jamaica that Williams began gathering anthropological information on Jamaica and its inhabitants, a scholarly tradition that he would continue throughout his life. After his return, Williams continued amassing printed materials and

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Bra Anancy and Bra Turkey by James Reid of Frankfield School, Box 12, Folder 2, Williams Ethnological Collection, MS.2009.030, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

manuscripts on the Caribbean and Africa, including over four thousand versions of Anancy tales solicited from over one thousand schoolchildren in a contest in 1930-31. The tales, written on notebook paper or in school blue books, were put on microfilm in 2003 and are accompanied by a guide and concordance that identifies Williams as “a prominent ethnologist with a strong interest in religious beliefs and psychic phenomena in Jamaica and their links to West African culture” (5). An author as well as a collector, Williams wrote several books

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Bra Anancy and Bra Peadove by James Reid, Box 12, Folder 2, Williams Ethnological Collection, MS.2009.030, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

including Whispering of the Caribbean (1925), Whence the “Black Irish” of Jamaica (1935), Voodoos and Obeahs (1932), Psychic Phenomena in Jamaica (1935), and Africa’s God (1937) some of which are now included in the book portion of the collection. Williams gave anthropology lectures at Boston College and helped establish a now defunct anthropology department. He also participated in the spiritual life of the campus, serving as the director for student retreats in the late 1920s. Williams, whose health began failing in the 1930s, retired to Shadowbrook, a Jesuit residence in the Berkshires, where he died on October 28, 1940. The collection that he left behind remains a legacy of his support and passion for anthropology.

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Thomas Paine and the Dialogues of Early America

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Illustrated frontispiece from “A letter addressed to the Abbe Raynal : on the affairs of North-America” General Collection, JC177. A3 1791, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

One of the lucky privileges of being a conservation unit student assistant is the ability to walk through the Burns Library stacks containing over four hundred years of literary and scholastic history, ranging from the history of the Jesuits to studies of Irish agriculture. On one particular day, I happened to come across two books which immediately sparked my interest as a student of philosophy and political science. On a seemingly unremarkable box, I noticed the gold titling of the renowned English-American political author and philosopher Thomas Paine. Inside, I found one of his most famed works, in possibly its first French edition, Droits de l’homme, or Rights of Man.

Born in England in 1737, Thomas Paine emigrated to the United States in 1774 with help from Benjamin Franklin. It did not take him long to become one of the most influential thought leaders and political actors of the American Revolution—a trend he would replicate in his travels to France in the late 18th century. In 1776, Paine published his intensely influential pamphlet Common Sense in Philadelphia, defending the colonial aspiration and will for independence from the crown. Common Sense and Paine’s ideas about the Revolution and independence spread like wildfire through the American colonies, with some historians arguing that it was proportionally one of America’s best-selling literary works in history.

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Title page of “Droits de l’homme.” JC177 .G11 1791 General Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

Paine’s contributions to intellectual life in the late 18th-century did not stop with his widely published pamphlets, though. Sitting on the shelf next to the Burns’ copy of Droits de l’homme was  a volume containing a compendium of Paine’s other less-widely published letters and documents. Contained therein is a correspondence with a former Jesuit, the Abbé Raynal. Raynal left the Jesuit order as a young man to pursue a career of writing, focusing particularly on the history of Europe. His most famed work, Histoire des deux Indes (History of the East and West Indies), was a multi-volume historical polemic of European Colonialism published beginning in 1770. The work was widely read and was quickly condemned for the views it propagated, with Raynal being called one of the most seditious writers of his time by members of the Estates General. He was ordered into exile, and was not allowed to return to Paris until 1790. During this time, Raynal published Révolution de l’Amérique, his synopsis of the causes and path of the American Revolution of 1776, in which he argued that taxation was the general impetus of the American Revolution.

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Dedication to George Washington. “Droits de l’homme” JC177 .G11 1791 General Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

Paine forcefully responded to Raynal in a nearly-eighty page letter in 1782, critiquing Raynal’s understanding of the revolution and gleefully painting the revolution as a fight against English tyranny led by the valiant actions of George Washington—not Paine’s only example of his jubilant admiration of Washington. Indeed, in Droits de l’homme, Paine affectionately dedicates his work to George Washington, calling Washington’s work both ‘eminent’ and of ‘exemplary virtue.’ Continue reading

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