REVISITING PIA DESIDERIA By Sandra Dermark Hermann Hugo, son of Willem and Katrine Hugo, studied Art at the

University of Louvain after getting through Jesuit boarding school. To the Hugos, like many other clans in the Habsburg Empire, the choice of the pen or the sword was presented to their sons. And the pen was picked for Hermann, born in 1588. He graduated the year that saw Othello’s world premiere and the Gunpowder Plot (1604). In 1621, while the Thirty Years War was ravaging Europe, he accompanied his master the Duke of Aarschot to Philip IV’s court in Castile. Whether he became acquainted with Velazquez and/ or Quevedo is a mystery to me, but I do not discard the hypothesis that he met them. Pretty soon, he was on the battlefields of Saxony as a regimental chaplain, on the Catholic side with Descartes and Wallenstein. In winter quarters in 1624, he wrote the emblem book Pia desideria to instruct the Jesuit order: a nifty little book that combines the pictorial skill of the Flemish masters (van Dyck, van Eyck, Bosch and Brueghel) with Counter-Reformation propaganda and lots of vivid baroque purple prose. In short, a forgotten pearl of illustrated literature that displays the seventeenth century’s zeitgeist. After the author’s death in 1629 (three years before the decisive battle of Lützen), the Pia was published for the first time. And the Peace of Westphalia (1648) saw it become a bestseller (though not toppling Don Quixote, that still ranked first), spread into the foremost nations of Catholic and Protestant Europe translated into said nations’ mother tongues, and VIPs like Christina of Sweden and Charles II have one in their libraries. For you see, Hugo wrote in Latin, the official language of Catholic clergy. The Charles II-era Quarles translation is less literal than the Arwaker, that saw the light decades later in the wake of the Enlightenment. After Westphalia, religion is seen as destructive: fanaticism has laid waste to Central Europe in the guise of “holy war”. Reason should prevail over faith, science shall guarantee the truth through empirical evidence. Liberalism is born in this context of new order. England and all of the UK are recovering from the sequels of a civil war that briefly revived in 1688, after regimes that segued from parliamentary monarchy into absolutism (Charles I), republic (Cromwell), military dictatorship (Cromwell), absolutism (Charles II), for a final and decisive return to parliamentary monarchy: the last ruling Stuarts. Empiricism develops within both the Cavalier (Hume) and Puritan (Locke) sides of the conflict, and so does liberalism, and emotivism, in stark contrast to the continent’s rational and logical thinkers (Descartes). 1702. Arwaker takes his Pia to a London printer. He is an important person and acquainted with nobility, perchance with Queen Anne herself. The poet has chosen to English the Pia and adapt its verses to a Protestant eighteenth-century audience. The English language is a rather musical one, as demonstrated by the works of Shakespeare and Carroll. A Saxon dialect peppered with Latin (font), Old Norse (thrust), French (lieutenant), Urdu (cummerbund), Italian (pasta), Aborigine (didgeridoo), Spanish (siesta), Dutch (deck), German (schnitzelbank), and many other influences, as well as coined words minted by geniuses the size of Shakespeare (dauntless). The musicality of the English language, and its eclecticism, have added to its universality. Edmund Arwaker, an Anglican clergyman of the late Stuart / early Georgian era, smitten with the Enlightenment. He must have worn a Charles II wig, with long curls cascading down his shoulders. Dressed in velvet and satin, and dazzling with baroque elegance (it was the

gentlemen’s fashion of those days). At least, that’s how I imagine his appearance. The illustrated genre was only dawning. Etchings accompanied little pocket books for the young and the “young at heart”. A decade after Westphalia, Czech schoolteacher Jan Komensky (otherwise known as Comenius) wrote the first children’s encyclopedia, the Orbis Pictus, in Latin, German, Czech and Hungarian. It became another best-seller, equally diffused and translated. Letting us see what games Stuart-era children played (stilts, swing, spinning-top), I realized they haven’t changed much from Komensky’s days, and also how vulnerable and endangered they have become in today’s Information Age. It shows the flora, fauna and human anatomy known to then-living Europeans along with tradespeople at work and moral lessons. During the Regency (Napoleonic era in the continent), German writer J.E. Gailer updated the work with all discoveries and debunkings made during the Enlightenment as well as with the new technologies of the nineteenth century. It also contains a more scientific approach to reality than its predecessor. Gailer did to the Orbis what Arwaker had done to the Pia. A modernized adaptation altering, adding and subtracting when necessary. Thanks to this effort, the Pia has persisted into our days. Three years ago, while surfing the Net in Sweden, I discovered the Pia by chance. And by curiosity, like Alice when she entered Wonderland. The year after my discovery, I was giving a speech on my project, wearing eighteenth-century clothes and displaying my illustrations for all middle school to view. The project, centered around the Pia and the persistence of its literary commonplaces in the 2000s (the decade), revisited both Hugo and Arwaker, replacing the etchings with colorful collages similar to tarot cards. I still have these illustrations enshrined in my room, next to a graphic version of Heart of Darkness where I pay tribute to both anime (mostly magical girl and adventure anime) and European comic series. At 20, having finished school and before university, I still felt the urge of rereading that comingof-age trial that was the Pia Desideria Project. A tribute to the Counter-Reformation, to the Flemish painters, to the English language, to the House of Stuart, to literature and illustration in general, and to my own creativity. Therefore, I couldn’t resist the urge to write this article, itself a reflection of the effort I have made during these three academic years. An effort that started in Queen Christina’s motherland, over the Web and through the limits of time and space, into an era of secularisation and peace (and even love) between Catholics and Protestants, but that has not rendered the Pia’s issues obsolete.

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