Essays in Idleness


Month: December, 2014

Cor ad cor loquitur

It is the day of the year when I request a special Ave of gentle reader, because it is the anniversary of my own reception into Holy Church — in the chapel of the Fathers of the Toronto Oratory, here in Parkdale where I still live, purposely to be in their parish. Eleven years have […]

Six geese a-laying

The gold rings we have received in chorus, and the colly birds (“colly” means black), the French hens, the turtle doves and verily: the pear-tree’d partridge. Moreover, we look forward to the swans a-swimming, the maids a-milking, the ladies dancing, the lords a-leaping, the pipers piping, and in their due course, the drummers drumming upon […]

Vertu engendred

The gruffness of Thomas Becket (saint and martyr, 1118–1170; feast 29th December) is something that might appeal to the adherents of our Halbbildung. (This is a beautiful German word that means “half-education,” and so much more.) Thomas came from a good family, with some money, and was a good lad by all accounts. (Many, many […]


Herod was not a nice man. This is known to readers of the Bible, but also to those acquainted with general history. One gets something of his flavour in the Jewish Antiquities of Josephus, politic as he was. Rome’s client in Judaea, at the time of Christ’s birth, “Herod the Great” was megalomaniacal, paranoid, sadistic, […]

Shabkar revisited

One of my old Commentariat, who is not a Catholic, nor a “joiner” by disposition (a reticence I understand), writes to maintain his sympathetic aloofness. He window-shops religions, but never buys. (This also appeals to my old Adam.) He quotes from the Life of Shabkar, a Tibetan classic I apparently mentioned in passing, a couple […]

Feast of Stephen

The item below, draughted in a hurry, has since been revised and extended. It still doesn’t please me, but for the usual reason: that it leaves so much more to say. * I should like, if possible, to avoid being martyred. I don’t think I am unusual in this. I’ve thought it through fairly carefully, […]

On the new orthodoxy

Eerie sounds this morning, on the balconata of the High Doganate. It was the wind spinning in branches and eaves: dry chatter beneath a softening rainstorm roar. An old train-whistle moan blew through the crack of a loose sliding window. The city for its part remains unearthly quiet, the usual crash of traffic damped below […]

A sign

A few astute readers, rooting through my archives, have noticed not only the disappearance of Comments from old posts, but too, the gradual disappearance of the posts themselves. This is to some purpose, for I’ve begun to take old posts and trash them, if that’s what they deserve; or revise and re-post what I think […]


It is sad to see old churches being closed, such as Saint-Charles in Ottawa — once a blazing hearth of faith to French Canadians on this Anglo side of the Ottawa River, now dry bones. It is the latest in that benighted archdiocese to be sold to the developers, for the price of the land. […]

Dating Christmas

If there are thirty people in a room, the chances are good that two will share a birthday. Indeed, there is less than one chance in three that this won’t happen. Double the number in the room, however, and the chances against don’t halve; rather they fall nearly to zero. By the time seventy people […]

Peter Geach

But of course, we are all Jacobites up here in the High Doganate. (See here.) We do not allow this to distract us, however, from our loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen. While it is true, quite frankly, that she is not a Stuart, Elizabeth II is a very fine Queen: the bestest you could […]

In those days

Two articles by Tony Esolen, which appeared this week before my Internet-trawling eyes, strike me as having been entirely worth the attention of anyone who missed them, and good to consult for contemporary “background” on this last, first, and most holy of Ember Days. I cannot improve either by paraphrase, so shall direct gentle reader: […]

Ten Editions

On the northwest corner of Spadina and Sussex avenues, in Toronto, Ont., there remains a shophouse, from another era. There were once many like it, in that section of Spadina near Bloor; but the contrast today with sterile office and apartment towers makes this survivor stand out as an architectural enchantment. A smaller late Victorian […]