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By Guy Davenport

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Does the Rev. Dudley get his name from the fact that the first Newcomen engine was built at Dudley Castle, Staffordshire? The bonding of names would seem here to be footling and trivial. Does St. Agatha, patron of bell founders, interact with the great missionary St. Francis Xavier? St. Francis is there to disgrace and satirize Father Conrnee's shallow and smug meditations on the salvation of savages. Is St. Agatha there to match the swaying of bells with the swaying of the beam of a Newcomen engine: another image of things that seem to collide, the Age of Faith and the Age of Machines?

All emulation honors. We live in, or seem to live in, a century whose art summarizes, or explores to the limits of art, forms developed in other times. Opposing works of art, if only as original and parody, are as old as art itself, as witness Euripides and Aristophanes. Or Alain de Lilie and Bernardus Silvestris, with their two poems taking opposite sides in the mediaeval debate as to whether God wants us to fulfill ourselves in the world, or use it as a stepping-stone to Heaven. Jules Laforgue's Les @urs de bonne volontk answers Baudelaire's Les @urs du mal.

He is far more useful to study than the monsters and rascals who dirty the pages of history books. One glimpse of the man as you can see him over and over in this biography, to whet your curiosity. Once at Combe Florey in Somerset, he hung oranges in the trees, for the beauty of it, and fitted his donkeys with felt antlers, for the joke of it, and herded them under his orange-bearing cedars, and invited the neighborhood in for cider and fruitcake, for the fun of it. 'Alan Bell, Sydtiey Smith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980).

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