Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Such a sweet man

Somebody like myself who has a firm grounding in Chesterton - a feel for the rhetoric, a liking for The Man Who Was Thursday, The Flying Inn, the Father Brown stories, The Napoleon of Notting Hill - does have to rock back on their heels rather when reminded that his antisemitism wasn't simply a matter of being against a plutocracy he saw as Jewish, it followed every kink in a Catholic Church he felt himself bound to defend at every point, even when it came to the pogroms of the Blood Libel.

Here's a passage I've just happened across, from The Everlasting Man (1925);
This inverted imagination produces things of which it is better not to speak. Some of them indeed might almost be named without being known; for they are of that extreme evil which seems innocent to the innocent. They are too inhuman even to be indecent. But without dwelling much longer in these dark comers, it may be noted as not irrelevant here that certain antihuman antagonisms seem to recur in this tradition of black magic. There may be suspected as running through it everywhere, for instance, a mystical hatred of the idea of childhood. People would understand better the popular fury against the witches, if they remembered that the malice most commonly attributed to them was preventing the birth of children. The Hebrew prophets were perpetually protesting against the Hebrew race relapsing into an idolatry that involved such a war upon children; and it is probable enough that this abominable apostasy from the God of Israel has occasionally appeared in Israel since, in the form of what is called ritual murder; not of course by any representative of the religion of Judaism, but by individual and irresponsible diabolists who did happen to be Jews. This sense that the forces of evil especially threaten childhood is found again in the enormous popularity of the Child Martyr of the Middle Ages. Chaucer did but give another version of a very national English legend, when he conceived the wickedest of all possible witches as the dark alien woman watching behind her high lattice and hearing, like the babble of a brook down the stony street, the singing of little St. Hugh.
Nineteen jews died in Hugh's case - 
The nine-year-old Hugh disappeared on 31 July, and his body was discovered in a well on 29 August. A man called John of Lexington appears to have suggested that Jews were responsible.[1] Hugh's friends apparently claimed that Copin (or Jopin), a local Jew, had imprisoned Hugh, during which time he tortured and eventually crucified him. It was said that the body had been thrown into the well after attempts to bury it failed, when the earth had expelled it.[2] Copin was arrested and, under torture,[3] confessed to killing the child. He later appears to have implicated the Jewish community as a whole. He was executed, and the story would have ended there were it not for a series of events that coincided with the child Hugh's disappearance.[1]Some six months earlier, King Henry III had sold his rights to tax the Jews to his brother, Richard, Earl of Cornwall. Having lost this source of income, he decided that if a Jew was convicted of a crime, any money he had would then belong to the king. As a result, some ninety Jews were arrested in connection with Hugh's disappearance and death and held in the Tower of London, charged with ritual murder. Such accusations had become increasingly common following the circulation of the Life of Saint William of Norwich by Thomas of Monmouth, the hagiography ofWilliam of Norwich, a child-saint said to have been crucified by Jews in 1144. This story clearly influenced the myth that developed around Hugh.
Eighteen of the Jews were hanged for refusing to participate in the proceedings by throwing themselves on the mercy of a Christian jury.[4] It was the first time ever the civil government handed out a death sentence for a conviction of ritual murder. King Henry promptly expropriated the property of those convicted. The others were pardoned and set free, most likely because Richard, who saw a potential threat to his own source of income, intervened on their behalf.[citation needed]The chronicler Matthew Paris described the supposed murder, implicating all the Jews in England:
This year [1255] about the feast of the apostles Peter and Paul [27 July], the Jews of Lincoln stole a boy called Hugh, who was about eight years old. After shutting him up in a secret chamber, where they fed him on milk and other childish food, they sent to almost all The cities of England in which there were Jews, and summoned some of their sect from each city to be present at a sacrifice to take place at Lincoln, in contumely and insult of Jesus Christ. For, as they said, they had a boy concealed for the purpose of being crucified; so a great number of them assembled at Lincoln, and then they appointed a Jew of Lincoln judge, to take the place of Pilate, by whose sentence, and with the concurrence of all, the boy was subjected to various tortures. They scourged him till the blood flowed, they crowned him with thorns, mocked him, and spat upon him; each of them also pierced him with a knife, and they made him drink gall, and scoffed at him with blasphemous insults, and kept gnashing their teeth and calling him Jesus, the false prophet. And after tormenting him in divers ways they crucified him, and pierced him to the heart with a spear. When the boy was dead, they took the body down from the cross, and for some reason disemboweled it; it is said for the purpose of their magic arts.[1]
- and many more afterwards; but 
The Cathedral in Lincoln benefited from the episode, however, since, saint or not, Hugh was regarded as a Christian martyr; and sites associated with his life became objects of pilgrimage.[2]  

 - and a Catholic apologist had to believe.    I think I'm offended most by that line "not of course by any representative of the religion of Judaism" since of course the legend was exactly that it was an official Jewish custom and the body of the story makes no sense whatsoever without it. 

I also have to confess that I don't follow some of the dark hints at all. 
....that extreme evil which seems innocent to the innocent. They are too inhuman even to be indecent. 
Is that contraception?  It's close to a line about preventing the birth of children; but then he jumps straight to childmurder, and moreover at the time contraceptive advice was regarded as indecent and prosecuted for that. I'm stumped. Which is mildly humiliating: I thought I understood England in the twenties well enough to pick up even their dogwhistles. 

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