Category Archives: Republic of Letters


Spirit of Cecilia

A wonderful message that my friend Richard Munro shared about his grandfather, Thomas Munro: RULES FOR SURVIVING THE GREAT WAR (1914-1919).

He wore a kilt (with a canvass cover) every day for almost five years. He used to kill bugs that crawled up his legs with his cigarettes; he said it took practice to burn the bugs off with out burning yourself. He also said tobacco smoke helped keep the bugs away. Auld Pop was a quiet man but touch not that cat but with a glove. He had killed his first man at age 10 with a Martini-Henry rifle (a Sumatran Pirate); He and his mates killed so many Germans they literally lost count. Once they killed about 50 Germans in less than 10 minutes wiped out a whole platoon before they got off a single shot. It was not for nothing the Germans called them the “Ladies from…

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What if This Is the End? ~ The Imaginative Conservative

What if Chesterton was right, perhaps in some kind of Blakean fit of ecstasy? Maybe all of our worrying about The End is for naught. Perhaps it did happen long ago, and we live somewhere in the final days. The Apostles certainly believed the End of the Age was near to them, and the New Testament confirms and affirms this repeatedly.

Of course, I am only being half serious. Still, look at the news. The Coronavirus might as well be the Black Death. As I type this, the governor of Michigan has declared (unconstitutionally, it should be noted) a “stay at home”/lockdown order. Walking the dog (named, by coincidence?, Chesterton) this afternoon, my hometown of Hillsdale, Michigan, might very well have served as the set of some Twilight Zone episode, so quiet and abandoned does it seem. (This might be the ideal time to become close friends with a Mormon.) And, of course, this is just one view. China and Italy have already gone through hell, or continue to exist in it. With this viral threat, half of the world seems to have lost its collective mind.

Well, for the sake of argument, let’s say this is The End. It wasn’t nuclear war or an asteroid or a rogue planet or even some mystical force. But, merely—in a whimper—a damned bug. Would it really matter?
— Read on

A humble gael speaks on the many-headed hydra of IGNORANCE and prejudice.

Spirit of Cecilia

Moses Hades and Jacques Barzun circa 1940

Lionel and Diane Trilling

Gilbert Highet and Mrs Highet (Helen MacInnes). My uncle knew Highet at Columbia and my father corresponded with Professor Highet though they were not close friends by any means. Because of my uncle and father those Columbia University professors had a strong influence on me via their books even though I never attended Columbia like my two uncles. My father attended Brooklyn College and after the War NYU and I attended NYU for my undergraduate work. After the ROTC building at Columbia was bombed (my uncle Norman narrowly missed being killed) Columbia was off limits after the 1960’s. I visited briefly in the late 70’s to hear a talk by Diane Ravitch but otherwise avoided Columbia and Barnard as one would avoid a nest of vipers.

Dennis Prager has been a great influence on my faith life and in…

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Spirit of Cecilia


No one captures the tragic paradox of culture more poignantly than the twentieth century’s greatest poet, William Butler Yeats, who came away from the carnage of World War I fearing that we humans “are but weasels fighting in a hole”:

Civilisation is hooped together, brought
Under a rule, under the semblance of peace
By manifold illusion; but man’s life is thought,
And he, despite his terror, cannot cease
Ravening through century after century,
Ravening, raging, and uprooting that he may come
Into the desolation of reality:
Egypt and Greece, good-bye, and goodbye, Rome!

As our own civilization ravens and uproots, only to come into the desolation of false and lying illusion, so far more farce than tragedy, that’s my worry, too. Watching the hard-eyed troops surge by in Communist China’s 70th anniversary parade in October, the rank upon rank of fit young men and…

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Dave Gregory Departs

One of rock’s finest guitarists and a true gentleman, Dave Gregory, has decided to retire from his glorious time in Big Big Train. Here’s Gregory’s message on social media today:

I’d like to say how very touched I was to read the many comments and tributes from you folks, that flew in following the announcement of my departure from Big Big Train and the cancellation of the U.S. tour. Thank you everybody, I hope eventually I’ll be forgiven for letting the side down at this point. Events have reached a crossroads and it’s best that I make a move now to allow the band to re-group and make future plans.

The excellent Randy McStine will soon be occupying the vacant spot stage left, and I wish him and Big Big Train all the very best for the future. There’s a chance you may see, or hear me perform with them again somewhere down the line. I’d like to thank all the band members and road crew for their past brilliant work in helping put the band where it is today. Big thanks also to the behind-the-scenesters Sarah EwingKathy SpawtonSteve CadmanNiall HaydenNellie PittsGlenn CodereSue HeatherTobbe JansonGeoff Parks , Simon Hogg and all who assisted in making last year’s Grand Tour the success that it was.

Once again thank you all, we are sure to meet again at some point – Coronavirus willing – so please stay healthy, stay safe.

As sad as I am about this news, I can’t help but remember and remind myself that Gregory has given so much beauty and integrity to the world: in XTC, in Tin Spirits, and in Big Big Train.

What a blessing this man is.

From my perspective, the only living guitarist who rivals his soul and ability is Alex Lifeson. What a great time to be alive. Thank you, Dave!

A Little Hope From Mr. Morse

Neal Morse is giving away a collection of songs called Hope And A Future.

Here’s his letter explaining his motivation:

From Neal Morse:

“As we all crowd around our televisions and read our news feeds concerning the ever-changing nature of the coronavirus, I am sensing a wave of hopelessness, fear and uncertainty unlike anything I can remember.

“Many times there have been extreme difficulties in regions or nations, but this is a trial for all humanity…and, as in any time of testing, many will fall into the depths of hopelessness. When hope disappears, all seems lost.

“But it’s not.

“So I have been thinking…what can I do? How can I help? I shared that feeling with the Radiant team and we came up with this idea: a free collection of Neal Morse songs titled “Hope and a Future”.

“I’ve tried to interject elements of hope in my music for as far back as I can remember, so we have made a special album of songs from my entire catalogue, accenting the uplifting and affirming, to help you navigate these unchartered waters with peace and blessed assurance.

“Effective immediately, you can download this collection of songs free of charge from the Radiant website by clicking the button below.

“My deepest desire is that you will find something in these songs — a word, a phrase, a concept — that you can latch onto and will help you and your family through this season.

“Your download will also contain a document that we put together containing some great quotes regarding hope.

“In closing, let me encourage you with this. No matter the circumstances or how things appear, let “the love that never dies” fill your heart today and be the “wind at your back” that brings you to a “peaceful harbor” in the days ahead.”

With much love,


You can download the album (which comes with a very nice PDF booklet) here.