PMGenesis: Chapter 25


Peter Milward's Autobiography: Genesis of an Octogenarian (2008)

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Who is Peter Milward?
0. About PM Genesis of an Octogenarian
1. Attempt at an Autobiography
2. 
Pre-conscious World
3. 
Local Patriotism
4. 
Wimbledon in Wartime 
5. 
Pastoral Peace
6. 
Pastoral Philosophy
7. Life at Oxford
8. 
Between England and Japan 
9. A New Language and Culture
10. Rural Japan
11. 
Pastoral Theology
12. Teaching Shakespeare in Japan
13. A Missionary in Japan
 
14. 
Student Revolt  
15. 
A Floating University  
16. Literary Pilgrimages  
17. 
A Scholar's Paradise  
18. 
To and Fro in Japan  
19. 
Words, Words, Words  
20. 
Annus Mirabilis  
21. Renaissance  
22. 
Lost Years  
23. 
Two Papal Pilgrimages  
24. 
Two Peninsular Pilgrimages

25. 
More American Adventures
26. In the Footsteps of Hopkins and Newman  
27. 
Two International Conferences  
28. 
Junshin  
29. 
Catholic Shakespeare  
30. 
Last Words  
31. 
Bibliographical Afterword  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Folger Shakespeare Library

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Squirrel near Capitol

 

 

 

 

 

 

LINKS

Blog Brittonia

All About Francis Xavier

BriFra

Who are the Jesuits?

Joining the Jesuits in Japan

About

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  A Lifetime with Hopkins  by Peter Milward

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

   

     Jacobean Shakespeare
by Peter Milward

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shakespeare the Papist by Peter Milward 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 Mystical Journey, the autobiography of William Johnston, S.J., author of Mystical Theology and many other works on mysticism

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Arise My Love by William Johnston, S.J.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All About Francis Xavier (Articles on Japanese Catholic History and Jesuits) 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LINKS

Blog Brittonia

All About Francis Xavier

BriFra

Who are the Jesuits?

Joining the Jesuits in Japan

About

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

25. More American Adventures

 

  My next sabbatical came up in 1988, not for a whole year but only half a year.  This time, however, that was more than enough for my purpose, which was to spend a semester, according to prior invitation, teaching Shakespeare and Hopkins at Loyola College, Baltimore.  It was the ideal season of the year for that part of the world, the season of the fall in the North-East of the United States.  I had no intention of spending all my time on the campus of Loyola, for all its charm.  I wanted to spread the good word about my two fellow countrymen at as many colleges as were willing to hear me speak, and I had personal acquaintances in many of them to offer me the required invitations.  Only, I had the same problem as I had already encountered in California, namely my inability to drive a car.  Wherever I went, therefore, whether by train or by plane, I had to be met by friends with their cars on my arrival.  Still, as we say, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”  And even if there isn’t a way, something turns up for me in the strange plans of divine providence.

  

   Let me begin by speaking of my home on the Loyola campus.  The Jesuit residence there was a cosy place, and the fathers were all most kind to me, even to the extent of inviting me to come and see a “movie” once a week or so.  In Japan I rarely go to see movies more than once a year, but here my life-style seemed to be turned upside-down.  What was more, there were additional movies shown to the community every week, and I was given a TV set in my room.  While I was there, the word-processor was coming into common use, but there was always something going wrong with the machines.  So coming from such a mechanically advanced country as Japan, I was asked if I knew how to fix them, but I didn’t know.  As we say in English, I wouldn’t touch one of them with a barge-pole!  If they wanted to know anything about Shakespeare or Hopkins, I would be more than happy to oblige, but for anything mechanical, they had come to the wrong man.  What I particularly liked about the campus, as I crossed it to my classes, were the squirrels, who were playing and eating their favourite acorns under the many oak trees.  So when I was subsequently interviewed by a group of students for their school newspaper, and they asked me what had most impressed me during my stay at their college, I said, “Please don’t laugh at me, but it was the squirrels.  They are such cute little animals!”  I might also have said, “The window of my study,” since the whole of one wall was made of glass and it gave onto a nearby wood, where the maples that autumn were really gorgeous.  I have never seen such impressive scenery in Japan, though the autumnal tints of momiji, or Japanese maple, are famous.  Japan may be more delicate in her beauty, but America is more gorgeous.

 

  As for my journeys outside Baltimore, the natural place for me to go might have been Washington, with all its memorable buildings, not to mention Georgetown University, a sister school to Sophia, and the Folger Shakespeare Library.  But I had already been several times to those places, and they held less attraction for me in the fall.  Rather, I was drawn to New England, as being the home of the sugar maple, particularly to Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts.  In Vermont I had several friends at Middlebury College, so it wasn’t difficult for me to get invited there for a lecture on “Wordsworth and Basho”.  There I was put up for a couple of nights at a charming cottage on campus, recalling the best in the Old World.  At the same time I couldn’t help associating the scenery of Vermont (literally, the green mountains) with the naïve art of my favourite Grandma Moses.  So when I was brought to the cottage and the door was opened by a dear old lady, I exclaimed, “Why, you must be Grandma Moses herself!”  She rightly took my exclamation as a compliment, or if she didn’t, she skillfully concealed any displeasure beneath an indulgent smile.  She was the widow of a former professor at Middlebury, and she was so genteel, just the right caretaker for just the right house.  As for what I said in my lecture, I forget it, as I always do, and I suppose my audience do, but what most impressed me during my stay there, apart from the cottage, was the night sky with all its stars.  Back in Tokyo we never see stars, they are always obscured by the smog, but here I might well exclaim with Hopkins, “Look at the stars! Look, look up at the skies!”  The only drawback to my visit wasn’t anything natural but something mechanical.  When I was driven to the airport and my friends had left me, I found that my plane back to Baltimore had been cancelled.  That was all.  There was no explanation, no apology, and no replacement.  So I had to take another plane by way of Newark and change to yet another for Baltimore.  There I was so late that the Jesuit who had come to meet me had given up waiting and returned home.  As chance – or divine providence – would have it, he was leaving just as I came out of the airport, but it was too late!  I had to take a taxi, but I was at least in time for my evening lecture on Shakespeare.

 

   Another place I found gorgeous in autumnal colour was Mount Holyoke in West Massachusetts, when I spent one night with friends just off the campus.  One of my friends was a Hopkins scholar and the other a specialist on the age of Shakespeare, and so I devoted my lecture to the influence of Shakespeare on Hopkins.  This time I had no problems with airline connections or transport by car, but everything went so smoothly that I find myself with nothing to speak about apart from the scenery, especially up the winding hill behind the college.  On the other hand, I have more to say about Canada, when it seemed as if almost everything that could go wrong went wrong.  First, I went to the University of Rhode Island for a Thomas More conference, but after I had put Baltimore well behind me, I began to have misgivings, “Would I need a passport to get into Canada, or not?”  I had left it behind in my room at Loyola, and I had planned to go straight from Rhode Island to Montreal by way of Boston.  On arriving at Kingston, Rhode Island, I was met by a lady professor and driven to the university.  On the way I put her my question, but she reassuringly replied, “No, I don’t think so.”  So I left it at that.  Various minor problems occurred between Rhode Island and Boston, but I needn’t go into all their excruciating details, since the worst came to the worst on my arrival at Boston airport.  There to the lady at the counter I showed my Delta ticket for Montreal, and she asked me if I had a certificate of citizenship or a driving licence to prove my identity, but I said I hadn’t and she left it at that.  Only, when the time came for me to board the plane, the official told me he couldn’t let me on board without my passport.  What was I to do?  I could hardly go all the way back to Baltimore, as a friend of mine was waiting for me at Montreal, and I had a lecture to give at Ottawa University.  All I could do was to phone one of my Jesuit colleagues at Loyola, and tell him where to find my passport, asking him to bring it to Baltimore airport and entrust it to a kind stewardess on the next plane from Baltimore to Boston.  Then I had to wait for eight hours inside the airport, while plane after plane came in from Baltimore without my passport.  So I had to phone my friend at Montreal to explain my desperate situation.  At last, a stewardess arrived with my passport, and I was so overjoyed I could have hugged her!  In such a situation I recalled the definition of perfect joy given by St Francis of Assisi, also the saying of Shakespeare in King Lear, “Nothing almost sees miracles but misery.”  Anyhow, I had to wait till the following morning for a plane to take me to Montreal, while spending the night at a Jesuit house in Boston.  Then on at last reaching Montreal and meeting my friend, I only had time for lunch with him there before taking the express bus to Ottawa.  Even so, I found myself at the end of a long queue, and on coming to the end of the queue I was told there was no more room on the bus.  Fortunately, the person who had just got on the bus would have had to leave her companion behind, and so she got out and I got on.  Then, by the time I reached Ottawa, I was only just in time to give my Shakespeare lecture.  And so, I may add, according to the apt title of Shakespeare’s play, “All was well that ended well.”

 

   Another adventure of mine involved visits to two American universities, one in Indiana and the other in Texas, where I might again rely on friends to meet me at the airport and look after me.  Only, I hadn’t calculated on the unreliability of travel agents or the difference in pronunciation between British English and American English.  When I had requested a ticket from Indianapolis to Dallas, what they heard was “Dulles”, the international airport for Washington DC.  Fortunately, I spotted their mistake just in time, and I was able to rectify it also in time.  At Bloomington, Indiana, before taking my plane for Dallas, Texas, I had the opportunity of watching a game of American football between the university teams of Indiana and Iowa – I had already given my lecture on Shakespeare the previous day – and my friend was beside me to explain the mysteries of the game.  Then I realized that, though he was a great Shakespearian scholar, in another part of his mind he was wholly engrossed, like so many Americans, in their version of “football” – the word we use in England for the game of “soccer”.  What I found most mysterious about the game, however, wasn’t so much the behaviour of the all-male players as that of the all-female cheer-leaders.  They were so fantastic, especially as their cute antics seemed to bear no relation either to the game or to cheering on their side.  Their only function was to entertain the spectators, like chorus-girls.  Then I had to go on to Texas, where I had two appointments, one with a friend at the University of North Texas.  There what chiefly interested me wasn’t, needless to say, my own lecture but a stained-glass window in the local Episcopalian church celebrating my former teacher, CS Lewis, as a saint!  I was so surprised!  Next, my friend drove me all the way to Waco, for a lecture at aylor University.  After my lecture was over, I was invited by another professor to speak to his CS Lewis Society on my memories of the great man.  And so I did.  While I was with him, there came a knock at the door and my friend invited me to go and open it.  They were children who had come for what is known in America, but not in England, as “Trick or Treat” on Hallowe’en, or what we would call the Eve of All Hallows.  The children, however, wore nothing special for the occasion.  They weren’t even children but teenagers, so I asked them, “Why aren’t you looking scary?”  Anyhow, I gave them the “cookies”, or what we English call “biscuits”, they were expecting, and they went away contented.

 

   One special memory of mine from that stay in America was on the great feast of Thanksgiving.  I had thought of it as just a day’s holiday, when I would have no classes.  But then I found it involving a whole week of festivities for the students.  I also found it was no less a family feast than Christmas, or rather, though it was celebrated towards the end of November, it seemed to be the beginning of the Christmas season.  So the decorations that were put up both inside and outside the houses remained there till the end of Christmas.  When Americans do something, I reflected, they really do it in big style!  For the feast of Thanksgiving I was invited to the home of one of my Jesuit colleagues in Japan, who was at present back in Baltimore for his sabbatical.  Together we went to his brother’s house, where a large family gathering was taking place, including all ages from grand-parents to grand-children.  It was a grand occasion!  Here I could feel the mighty heart of America, not in the wild scenery or the gigantic buildings, but in the family and the home.  Indeed, I again reflected, the ideal of home is all the more treasured by the Americans, most of whom are either immigrants or descendants of immigrants, as they have come so far from their original homes in the Old World.

 

   On a particularly memorable week-end in early December I ventured into the State of Pennsylvania.  I had already been to the capital, Philadelphia, or City of Brotherly Love, for a lecture at the Jesuit university of St Joseph.  Now I was on my way to the far end of the state, to the other, industrial city of Pittsburg.  On the way I was driven through Amish country, the land of a strange, old-fashioned Christian sect that had preserved the customs of the eighteenth century, in spite of all the changes in the outside world in the direction of modernity and moral corruption.  I deeply sympathized with them, and I was happy to see two of their women-folk in their old-fashioned dress sitting in a horse-drawn buggy.  It looked as if they were participating in a historical movie.  Sadly, that was all I could see of them, since they preferred to keep out of the public eye and “far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife”.  My way first led me to the Jesuit noviciate of Wernersville in the heart of the countryside.  There what I most vividly remember was a long wait for a friend of mine, who had promised to come and meet me there that Sunday afternoon.  Owing to engine trouble with his car he was over two hours late.  It was a large house and, there being no one at the entrance to direct him to my room when he came, I sat outside the entrance in the late autumn sunshine.  For early December it wasn’t so cold, and I enjoyed sitting there and enjoying the autumn scenery.  Below me in the valley there was a railroad, and the slow puffing of a train as one after another passed from time to time added to the autumnal atmosphere.  By the time my friend eventually turned up in his car, I had already enjoyed one of my most treasured memories of America, the divine blessing that is awarded to patience.

 

   At Pittsburg I had two lectures to give at Duquesne University one on Shakespeare and the other on Hopkins, the very subjects on which I had come to lecture in this country.  The previous evening I was invited to speak at the Institute of Formative Spirituality, which was connected with the university, and there, without any previous announcement of the subject but as the upshot of a conversation with the father director, I chose to speak on my favourite topic of “Nothing in Shakespeare”.  I have always found that there is no more inspiring topic, whether in relation to Shakespeare or to Hopkins, than Nothing.  Simply one begins with Nothing, and then, as Shakespeare so aptly puts it, “Nothing brings me all things!”  It isn’t just that there is so much in Nothing, but there is, I dare to maintain, everything in Nothing.  Only, notice that I spell Nothing with a capital N, as distinct from that other nothing which is spelt with a small letter.  Out of that nothing, as Lear tells Cordelia, nothing will come and, as Macbeth emphasizes, it merely signifies nothing.  It is surprising how few Shakespeare scholars are aware of this deep mystery which lurks in almost all the plays, and yet not so surprising seeing how few of them really understand their subject.  It is precisely what the Japanese traditionally say of the Analects of Confucius, that “The expert on the Analects has no understanding of the Analects.  It is also what Jesus says about those professionals of the Law, the scribes and Pharisees.  What did they know of the Law?  Nothing.  If only they knew how little they knew, amounting to nothing, they might have come to know everything about “the law and the prophets”.  That would have been of much more importance than anything I had to tell my university audience, yet it somehow entered into what I had to tell them, and they were somehow convinced.

 

   This wasn’t all the lecturing I had to do in the region.  I still had to cross the river Ohio into the neighbouring State of Ohio, where I was to give a lecture on “Shakespeare and Catholicism” to the students of the Franciscan University of Steubenville.  As usual, I forget what I said in my lecture, except that Shakespeare had been a “hidden Catholic”, like the hidden Christians in Japan.  Only, in our conversation at dinner we somehow got onto the theme of “the Web of God’s Grace”, which hadn’t been my phrase, though it fitted in very well with what I had been saying about Nothing.  God is indeed always availing himself of Nothing to bring about an outcome according to the design of his divine providence, which may well be termed “the Web of Grace”.  What particularly impressed me on the campus was a small chapel named after the famous Portiuncula of St Francis of Assisi.  It was surrounded by trees, and inside I found many students at prayer.  What an unusual university!  Among the trees there was a little altar with a fire kept perpetually burning in memory of the millions of infants whose little lives had been terminated within their mothers’ womb.  In today’s world they aren’t wanted, even by their mothers, and so they are killed in what may well be called a massacre of the innocents.

 

   The American way was symbolized for me not only by the plane but also by the train, which goes under the name of Amtrak.  From Baltimore I would make my way by railroad to many a station along the Eastern seaboard – to Washington, Philadelphia, Trenton (for Princeton), New York, Rhode Island and Boston.  Still, I had to admit, I wasn’t particularly fond of it.  For the all-important announcements at each station the authorities felt it incumbent on them, in their all too trendy reaction against any kind of “discrimination”, to choose an announcer whose pronunciation of English, according to the customary euphemism, left much to be desired.  So I never knew if I was on the right train or not.  Such boasted absence of “discrimination” all too often involves an accompanying lack of common sense!  On one of these occasions my destination was New York.  Not that I felt any attraction to that great metropolis with its madding crowd, but there I had received two special invitations.  One was to address a Catholic Forum at a palatial building on Riverside, a place where millionaires tend to congregate.  In former years it had been the New York residence of the movie actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and now it was owned by the Chinese Cardinal Yu-Pin.  My lecture there was on “Shakespeare’s Catholic background”, but my memory of it was more closely connected with the Metro underground, or what Americans call “the subway”.  Fortunately, I had no unpleasant experiences on the Metro, though at the Penn station for Amtrak I was approached by a young man who asked me for money to get home.  I was only too happy to give him what he wanted before he produced a knife or a gun and forced me to do so.  The other occasion came close to the end of my American sojourn, when I was invited to give a memorial lecture at the church of St Thomas More on “More and Shakespeare” – the very subject on which I had spoken at the More conference in the tiny State of Rhode Island.  This time I remember my lecture a little better than other times, as I almost repeated what I had said at Steubenville, that the plays of Shakespeare collectively constitute “a lament for the tragic passing of Catholic England”, as it were a continuation of the lament that had been initiated in the days of St Thomas More.

 

   I had just one more day at Baltimore, and it happened to be December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady.  That day, at a special Mass offered on campus in her honour, I happened to be talking with one of the fathers in the sacristy after Mass.  Then I mentioned my previous remark about “squirrels” being my most treasured memory of Loyola.  When he expressed disappointment at my failure to mention the hospitality I had received from the faculty and students of the college, I assured him that I was indeed most grateful to them, but the squirrels had the advantage over human beings in having been conceived, like Our Lady, without original sin.  Anyhow, it is easy enough to say “squirrels”, in much the same tone of voice as one might say “Jack Robinson”, but it takes time and consideration to say, “The deep and abiding presence of Christianity in this New World, for all the seeming secularization that has crept in from the Old World.”  But that is what I would have meant.

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