-:-:-the spiritual life of :-daniel martin-: -:-:-

Discussions relating to John Fowles' novel Daniel Martin.

-:-:-the spiritual life of :-daniel martin-: -:-:-

Postby drkellyindc on Fri Apr 03, 2009 7:28 am


    how does it move your spirit

    into what joy sorrow anger fear loss does it lead

    what path toward

    what path from

    what presence invoke

    what absence

    what new way of laughing (at yourself, at the world)

    what late-discovered glad-to-be-alive

    what charge of irony, enigma, secret purpose

    what redemption, making-whole


    is your lot cast with these characters

    is your fate separable

    have you failed as they have

    does your disappointment rival jane’s

    marrying that man while loving this man, with all the world going for her, privilege, brains, good looks, promise

    throwing an unopened champagne bottle in the river

    instead of throwing herself

    she will not take her life

    doing so would give a kind of victory to the man she married

    whom she does not love now, nor perhaps ever

    her discontent began well before she met him

    setting her on a veering course

    ceaseless ebb and flow of a woman

    kept going by a lifeline

    now surfacing, now submerged

    known as right feeling


    do your misdeeds rival dan’s

    writing a tell-all play about your once-best friends

    deserting your wife your daughter your girlfriend

    your nation, your talents

    the whole concept of loving wholly

    your best instincts, deepest sense of truth

    lying to everyone in your life

    yourself most of all

    making it all about you

    a selfish man camouflaged by the age of self

    whence cometh your salvation

    not in your father’s faith, not in oxford reason

    nor, apparently, in chastity or fidelity

    will it be the next girlfriend, screenplay, overseas call about nothing

    will it compel you to the ends of the earth

    to new mexico italy syria

    to the farthest recesses of your english heart

    to a hospital bedside in oxford

    to your mother’s headstone

    to the ends of distraction

    to the memory of aunt millie, whose forgiveness has no measure

    to a couture shop-window in beirut, of all places, where you stand now wanting to say to the woman beside you that you need her beyond all your verbal capacity of defining need

    instead you figure exchange rates, playing man-of-the-world debonair

    you will have to do better than that

    nothing less than the story of your life

    your boyhood, your privileged hapless generation, your country, century

    the story of existence itself

    promethean, sensuous, magnificent, haunted

    the very nerve of it!

    the sinews and soul as well (plus dialogue)

    a yes from the heart of reality


    find a form equal to the strange reversals of time

    allowing the man who sings hymns while stuck in l.a. traffic

    to hold silent counsel with a bored preacher’s son who wanted rid of hymns

    all those years ago

    resurrect the artist you once imagined and still can be

    animate the boy within the man

    and what became of

    and what could still become of

    and what is becoming of him now

    in those whose memories

    and sensitivities

    you awaken

Posts: 172
Joined: Sun Dec 09, 2007 12:43 pm

Re: -:-:-the spiritual life of :-daniel martin-: -:-:-

Postby drkellyindc on Fri Apr 10, 2009 9:06 am


What is the spiritual life of Daniel Martin?

I assembled the list below (and wrote the poem above) with this question in mind. To me the list reveals Fowles’s command of religious history and his dedication to bringing numerous traditions to bear on his “whole sight” project. I hope this list and discussion thread inspire others to notice the novel’s spiritual content, or their own relation to it, in new ways.

Fowles once described Daniel Martin as “intended as a defense and illustration of an unfashionable philosophy, humanism.” Without disagreeing with him, I’d nonetheless say that there's a great deal more going on in the novel than would strictly be needed for such a defense. In other words, the novel doesn’t defend a by-the-numbers version of humanism. Any secular humanists looking for a straightforward endorsement of their worldview will encounter more than they bargained for.

While gathering this list, I was struck by how much the spiritual life of Daniel Martin doesn’t inhere in these terms per se; rather, the novel declares a seriousness about spirituality through them. The novel doesn't just express spirituality but serves as a forum in which spiritual expression may be tested. Many of the novel’s references to spirituality are ironic or deflating; others find new metaphorical use for long-outdated spiritual practices (for instance, hair shirts, self-flagellation, the Crusades). Interspersed in the pages of this novel one can see Fowles’s overview of the world’s main spiritual pathways, practices, and histories; his stance on how well they have served us, and on which practices have become outmoded or superseded; and his suggestions for the most promising spiritual directions forward.

Christian terms, particularly from the Anglican and Catholic traditions, figure heavily in the list. This reflects the characters and their backgrounds, and the emblematic ways that Fowles treats major Western spiritual legacies through them: Daniel is born four generations into the Church of England, and spends a lot of energy trying to put this tradition behind him; Jane briefly converts to Catholicism as she marries Anthony, and later complains about having spent most of her life “listening to Catholic double-talk” (214). As disparaging or ironic as many of the Christian references are, the novel still represents a full-fledged attempt to acknowledge the spiritual traditions that have led Daniel and Jane (and others) to where they are, and that continue to inform them, regardless of their present beliefs. Here are two moments late in the novel that show the heroine and hero finding new uses for old spiritual practices or ideas:

  • Prayer:
    A scene late in the novel finds Jane pausing to gather strength before a decision; Dan asks what she’s been doing, and she says, “When I was a Catholic, we used to call it praying.”

  • The Christian concept of agape (God’s love for humanity, or altruistic love):
    The book’s two references to this concept are subtly linked. As Dan and Nell’s marriage disintegrates, the loss of trust between them is termed “agapicide” (140). Decades later, the concept of “agape” is used in an opposite way, in the context of Dan’s spiritual awakening, and of a trust that is tentatively re-emerging between him and Jane: “. . . Dan saw, or felt, abruptly, for the first time in his life, the true difference between Eros and Agape” (600).

Other passages (especially the reference to God and “secret paternal purpose” on p. 504, near the end of the “Pyramids and Prisons” chapter) suggest a new state of grace that Dan comes to in middle age, more than 30 years after waging an angry rebellion against his father and his father’s religion.

Here’s a brief outline of Daniel’s spiritual development in the novel: he is raised by a third-generation Church of England pastor and an aunt he later describes in saintly terms; he dutifully attends services in his youth and bears various burdens connected with being a rural pastor’s son; he absorbs the “pagan” influence of writers he encounters in his early literary passions; he becomes a fully-fledged atheist by age 17; in later years he moves toward an earth-based spirituality linked to his encounter with the ancient sacred cultures of Tarquinia (Etruscan) and Tsankawi (Pueblo); with the ruins at Palmyra; with the Thorncombe region and the people he knew growing up there; and with moments of God-consciousness linked to his re-encounter with Anthony in Oxford.

The list below isn’t complete, but it does cover the vast majority of the novel’s references to religion and spirituality. Page numbers refer to the 1977 Signet paperback. I located a total of 718 references: six general references to the Bible as a document, 49 references to the Old Testament, 70 references to the New Testament, and 593 other religious or spiritual references.



The Bible (114, 368, 526, 569), gospel (327, 352)

Old Testament:
God (66, 157, 174, 221, 261, 287-8, 402, 632), Creator (288), godliness (287), godlike (331), godless (161)
Garden of Eden (124, 290, 345, 379, 572, 612), the apple of knowledge (612)
Adam and Eve (124, 642), Adam (86), Eve (386, 447), primeval shame (396)
Cain and Abel (124)
Genesis (124)
Genesis 2: 23: “. . . flesh of my flesh . . .” (283)
Sodom (247)
Benjamin, the son of the right hand (200)
Samson and Delilah (144)
Tower of Babel (506, 562)
Holy ground (346)
Solomon (8)
Nimrod (8)
Job, Job’s comforter (418)
Jeremiah (328)
Manna (569)
The Flood (121)
Olive branch (358)
Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities,” “The earth abideth forever; and there is no new thing under the sun” (526, 542)
Flesh on bones (667)
Pit of iniquity (470)

New Testament:
St. John the Apostle and Evangelist (658)
Christian God as father and son (504), the Christ story (287-8), Jesu Christ (85), Christ (425, 437), Jesus (459)
John the Baptist (148, 271)
Immaculate conception (215)
Myrrh and frankincense (102)
Christ tempted in the wilderness (293)
Temptation from Satan (437)
Baptize (461, 509), baptism (231)
Beatitudes: the pure in spirit (185)
The Lord’s Prayer: “Our daily bread” (6)
Jesus Christ and the woman taken in adultery (215)
Salt of the earth (366)
Man of little faith (418)
Parable of the Prodigal Son (93, 235, 409)
Parable of the Tares: sowing on stony ground
Throwing pearls before swine (331, 595)
Story of the Gadarene swine (613)
Good Samaritan (194)
Stumbling-block (523)
Straining at gnats while swallowing camels (185)
Prayer (189, 211, 316-7, 385-6, 388, 401, 639, 654)
Pontius Pilate (338, 454)
Bearing a cross (183)
Crucifixion (65), crucifix (226)
Resurrection (179, 197, 592)
Holy Trinity (336)
St. Paul’s conversion: blinding light on the road to Damascus (431)
Scarlet Woman of Babylon (59)
Heaven and Judgment (34), heaven (85, 181), heavenly (20, 102, 423), Judgment Day (77, 634), “iudgment day” (329), eternal damnation (180)
Satan (331, 414, 425, 437), Lucifer (174), devil (7, 55, 83, 85, 193, 364, 511, 522), demon (317, 335, 363), horns and cloven hoof (236)


Second sight (2, 16, 18, 35, 48-9, 65)
Ritual (3, 9, 227, 306, 448, 641)
Divine: ancient and quasi-divine presence (7), divine “customs-and-excise” (183), divine parallel (288), divine process of creation (293), divine (226)
Jewry (13, 67-8, 73, 98, 131, 247-8, 499-500, 503, 555, 569, 575, 618), shiksa (67), Israeli sabra (460)
Immortality (13, 104, 672), immortalize (266), mortality (106)
Sibyl (16, 341)
Abbaie de Thélème (Rabelais) (27, 268)
Converting heathens (28)
Christian (29, 34, 83, 192, 363, 400-1, 421), Christianity (504, 523)
Faith (29, 80, 86-7, 161, 185, 189, 194, 214, 226, 308-9, 319, 322, 366, 369, 500, 540, 617, 649, 667)
Conversion to Catholicism (29, 75, 109, 111, 403, 412, 420, 653)
Catholicism (41, 48, 57-8, 75, 112, 114, 154, 156, 161, 171, 175-6, 201, 214-5, 233, 285, 306, 309, 325, 425, 523, 639, 649), lapsed Catholic (322), Catholic doctrine (325)
Church (29, 34, 78-9, 87, 89, 113, 185, 190, 215, 226, 308, 353, 369, 377, 379, 385, 403, 421, 438, 446, 606, 615, 653)
Hymn-singing (34), hymn-tunes (85)
Priest (34, 172, 183, 640), crows (slang for Catholic priest) (161, 225, 308), contribution to the local priest (34), priest-cult (552)
Mantra (36, 463)
Nun (39, 403), nunnery (627, 649, 653), mystical marriage to a Christ-figure (649)
Catholic confession (41, 640-1)
Soul (58), vicar praying for a man’s soul (317), the soul (588, 649), immortal soul (634), soul-mates (668)
Theologian Søren Kierkegaard, in The Concept of Anxiety and Fear and Trembling: stepping in the dark despite one’s fear (58, 94, 420, 600-1)
Gabriel Marcel (Christian existentialism) (58)
Jesuit (58, 191), Jesuitry of Rome (289), Jesuitical (171, 425)
Heresy (58, 418, 648), Arian heresy (79), heretic (168)
Exorcism (61, 94, 140, 268, 408, 431, 462, 586)
Hell (67), limbo and hell (621)
Spirit (70), spiritual (183, 370)
Miracles: reputed stigmatization in Italy, belief in miracles (70), miracle cure (261), the miraculous (447), miracle (315)
Self-flagellation (75, 436), self-mortification (75)
Church of England (77-8, 86, 274, 369), Anglican church service (392)
The belief that a deceased person has “gone to heaven” (77)
Preacher (78-9, 85), preach (327, 421)
Theologian (78, 288), theology (83, 289)
Sermon (78, 190, 385, 400-1)
Doctrine (78), credo (74, 325, 634)
Saintliness (78, 89), saint (75)
Congregation (78, 434)
Pulpit (78, 387, 392, 433)
Chaplain, piety, revivalist (79)
Tribal chief (80)
Pastor, pastoral duty (80), pastoral care (667)
Ecclesiastical (80), clerical (86)
Cross (80)
Angel (80, 250), harp and angel (580)
Vicar (81, 92, 316), vicarage (87, 226, 368, 394, 403, 438, 610)
Clerical headquarters in Exeter (81)
Bishop (81, 92, 271), Daniel’s Episcopal great-grandfather (80, 408, 414, 452, 479)
Parsonical good taste, parish (81)
God watching over creation (82), “The Lord watches over all” (446, 455), Christ’s eyes following you everywhere (673)
Doctor of divinity (84)
Paganism (84, 88, 114)
Votary (84-5)
Religious ballads (85)
Sunday School (85, 91, 373, 380)
Quaker (86, 135)
Hymns, prayers, collects, psalms, corpus of beliefs and routines (86)
Chapel (86-7, 377, 392)
Imagined punishment from God: heavens opening, thunderbolts raining, divine anathema (86, 386)
Atheism (86-7, 526), agnosticism (429)
Grace (87, 370)
Charity (87, 236, 453-4)
Guilt, sin (87, 210, 267, 615, 640, et al), guilty conscience (286), mortal sin (96), cardinal sin (139)
Belief (87, 190, 261, 325, 417, et al), religious beliefs (300), conformity of religious belief (185), the statement “I believe in God” (66), belief in the supernatural (560)
Blasphemy (86-7, 387, 551)
Taking Communion (87), communion, states of grace, absolution (45, 177, 210, 215, 632)
Roodscreen (87, 438)
Apostles and Elders, churchyard (88, 438)
Pew (88, 386)
Church tower (88)
Orthodox (88)
Consecrated ground (88)
Sanctity (89)
Monastic life at “one of the colonies” (89), monk, monastery (485, 586-7, 617), Mt. Athos (485), monastic (623)
“My redeemer cometh” (from Handel’s Messiah, “I Know My Redeemer Cometh”) (91)
Awful (in Dr. Johnson’s sense) (94)
Penance (96, 214, 307, 575, 633)
Catholic marriage (96)
California-style proto-New Age spirituality: Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, therapy centers, deep-meditation ranches, astrology, ESP and drug mysticism (101)
Mysticism (101, 194, 293, 560, 649)
The god of coincidence (101)
Eunuch (109)
Madonna (112)
Sunday Mass (114)
Religious moments (116), religious side (58), religious man (116), religion (80, 89, 101, 504, 617), religious (88), religiosity (195, 403)
Desecration (135)
Baptismal godparent (141), godfather (235, 443), godmother (231)
Martyr (144, 192, 415, 425, 474), martyrdom (261), Saint Sebastian (painting by Mantegna) (180, 191-2, 195)
Last rites, Sacrament of the Sick (161)
Eternal verities (162)
Ash Wednesday, commination, “God’s curse on all sinners” (177)
Saint Peter, self-abasement before the eternal throne (183)
Apostate (183)
Seminary, superior, cross of guilt and shame, absolute faith in Christ (183)
Reverend father (183), Father (227)
Unbeliever (183), throwing disbelievers to the lions (350), feeding Christians to hungry lions (541)
Tarot, tarot pack of cards (184)
Medieval theological query: how many angels can stand on a needle’s point? (184, 191-2)
The conundrum of God (193)
The problem of evil (193, 287)
St. Thomas à Becket (193)
Benediction (195)
Salvation (196, 214, 240), savior (196)
Joan of Arc (200, 474)
Kissing the cross (215)
His holiness (226)
Christian burial (226)
Funeral Mass (227, 308)
John Knox (clergyman, religious reformer) (227)
Legend of Philemon and Baucis (228)
Guru (230)
Wake (vigil over a corpse) (235, 306)
Papal infallibility (241)
Deus ex machina (“God in the machine”) (244)
Gods (198, 245, 595, 651), goddess (665), Godot (243)
Creation myth (245), story of creation (287)
Oracle (261)
Life after death (261, 508-9, 547, 634)
Methodist doctrine (273), Methodist (274), the God of Methodism (365)
Puritan fallacy (278), Puritanism (167, 258, 347, 358, 424, 621), depuritanize (529)
Schism (285)
Sanctuary (286, 412, 542, 572, 593, 636)
Shrine (288)
Religious retreat (288)
Oxford Movement’s theory of reserve (289, 319)
Sacred combe (290, chapter 25)
Book of Common Prayer funeral service: “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” (306)
Desanctification rite (307)
Christian name (308, 380, 405)
Christmas (316, 394, 402-3)
Midweek Evensong (316)
Universal love (318)
Dogma (319, 615, 651)
Minerva, goddess of wisdom (322)
Hair shirt (323)
Repentance (329)
Paradise (336, 396, 434)
Numen (345)
Jungian mandala (348)
Mt. Olympus, home of the Greek gods (351)
Sacrilege (353)
Pythia, high priestess of the oracle of Apollo at Delphi (360, 419)
Senior churchwarden (368), “ancient upright soul of Old Mr. Reed” (434)
Vicarage Mothers’ Union (369, 371, 400)
Holy Laws (369)
Tithe (369)
Easter (371, 373, 403)
Ceres, Roman goddess of architecture (384)
Purgatory (385, 438)
Stained-glass windows (385)
Kneeling in church (387)
Voice of the righteous and deceived, accusing young lovers of their wickedness (392)
John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress: the Slough of Despond (402)
Brotherhood of the church (421)
Halo (427)
Beatification (429)
Irish keener (429)
Sage (442), Indian sage (546)
Apotheosis (456)
Coptic Church (488, 513, 517, 544), Coptic Patriarch (499), Coptic Christian (536)
Islam (488, 496-7, 499, 527, 536, 544, 572, 622, 634)
Muslim priesthood (494), Muslim prayer, facing Mecca (579), Mecca pilgrims, pilgrimage (581, 613), Muslim polygamy (612)
Indian prayer (494)
Allah (499)
Funeral cortège (500), wailing (500)
Cloister (503)
Temple (507, 518, 563, 573, 584-7, 592, 647-8, 650)
Isis and Osiris, male and female divinities (508, 536), Egyptian divinities (536, 541, 566)
Ancient curse (517)
Chapel, resurrection, Persephone legend (536)
Religious censorship (536)
Omnipotent god (541)
The Crusades (541, 619)
Soul, spirit (Egyptian symbolism for “bird”) (543)
Qadim and kayf (fellaheen terms for ancient holding-power and poised waiting) (544-5)
Ka and ba, terms from ancient Egyptian religion and mythology (546-7, 550, 589)
Ptolemaic temple, and the sub-god Horus (551-2)
“Ave Maria” (Latin for “Hail, Mary,” from the Catholic prayer to the Virgin Mary) (575)
Zen philosophy (585)
Altar (585)
Saint Simeon (586, 600)
Daimon (Greek divinity) (590)
Augury (590)
Eurydice ascending from the underworld (593)
Agape (600), agapicide (140)
Christian self-denial and celibacy as the road to good works (607), incelibate (94)
Maronite Christian (617)
Catafalque (619)
Macabre (evoking 2nd c. B.C. Maccabeean purgatory and prayers for the dead) (624)
Chalice (cup for Holy Communion) (647)
Baal (647)
Totem (648)
Omen (648)
Parable (649)
Vestal virgin (Roman mythology) (665, 670)
Ikon (665)

Posts: 172
Joined: Sun Dec 09, 2007 12:43 pm

Re: -:-:-the spiritual life of :-daniel martin-: -:-:-

Postby drkellyindc on Mon Apr 13, 2009 5:48 pm


The story of Daniel Martin traces a number of spiritual trajectories. Here are some that I've found:

  • Daniel’s efforts to disavow the patriarchal Christianity of his father, a third-generation Church of England preacher;

  • Jane’s efforts first to avow and then to disavow the Catholicism she embraces in her marriage to Anthony;

  • Jane’s reawakening in middle age after the long years of a difficult and stultifying marriage;

  • Daniel and Jane’s efforts to disavow the Oxford-based intellectual influence of Anthony (who is a father-substitute to Daniel);

  • Daniel and Jane’s rejection “of the future-oriented Christian and Marxist philosophies” (Patricia V. Beatty, 1982);

  • The 17-year journey Anthony takes from bitterness and condescending silence toward Daniel to forgiveness, grace, and reconciliation with him; a parallel journey that Anthony takes regarding Jane, from bullying her into the church, to suppressing the instinctual side of her nature, to feeling and demonstrating an altruistic concern for her well-being;

  • Daniel’s gradual awakening to the “lyrical genius” and “pagan humanity” of writers such as Robert Herrick, and to the ancient earth-based wisdom emanating from sacred sites such as Tsankawi, New Mexico, and Tarquinia, Italy;

  • Daniel’s growth from the “clever-clever” knowledge of his early years to the more spiritually-invested wisdom gained through his various encounters, especially with the Herr Professor and with the late Rembrandt self-portrait;

  • Daniel’s growth as an artist from the immature playwright who pens The Victors to the mature autobiographical novelist who pens Daniel Martin;

  • Daniel’s willingness to face up to “the terror of the task” of artistic creation; his confronting the paradoxes, warring mentalities, and symbolic oppositions involved in writing “the story of his life”;

  • Daniel’s growth from the “agapicide” that marked his disintegrating marriage with Nell, to a new awareness of the difference between Eros and Agape in his re-encounter with Jane in middle age; his efforts to stop treating Jane as a function of his own needs and desires, and instead to see her as she is, on her own terms;

  • Daniel’s efforts to grapple with loss he feels at the personal, generational, and national levels, and to chart a spiritual path through loss toward redemption;

  • Daniel’s efforts as a writer and thinker to disavow “cultural fashion . . . elitist guilt . . . existentialist nausea” (432) and to arrive at a position from which to express, through his imagination and art, “the real,” “the sacred combe,” and “the orchard of the blessed”;

  • Daniel’s efforts as a writer to give autonomy and vitality to all his characters—including those that the character Daniel doesn’t happen to like—to give them “a felt presence, a reality . . . the freedom to exist” (Thomas Docherty, 1981);

  • “the ancient myth of exile and return . . . drawing its deepest sustenance from a landscape steeped in memories that are not only personal but rooted in literary tradition and in the collective unconscious” (Ina Ferris, 1982);

  • the symbolic journey from death to rebirth, culminating at the ruins of Palmyra (Michael O. Bellamy, 1979);

  • a civilizational journey paralleling the hero and heroine’s journey: “As Daniel and Jane search out where their lives went wrong, so the novel as a whole seeks an understanding of where our Western civilization went wrong and how we who carry the burden of history can redeem our age, find a future worth living.” (John Gardner, 1977)

Last edited by drkellyindc on Fri Jun 12, 2009 8:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
Posts: 172
Joined: Sun Dec 09, 2007 12:43 pm

Re: -:-:-the spiritual life of :-daniel martin-: -:-:-

Postby drkellyindc on Fri May 01, 2009 4:20 pm


The Dissembling and the Devout

Fowles shows a recurring interest in the gap between people’s official religious affiliation and what they actually practice or believe in private. In Daniel Martin he points out this gap in a generous and humane way, instead of standing in judgment over people as being spiritually inconsistent or hypocritical.

Fowles admired many things about Christianity historically, but he knew that its power as an explanatory myth has been in decline for a long time (despite the rise of evangelicalism). In The Aristos he describes ecclesiastical Christianity as a “badly-flawed utility.” In Daniel Martin he illustrates this at the individual level, not just with Daniel and Jane dropping their faith, and Daniel writing the play The Empty Church, but with characters who still attend church and/or identify as Christian. They may publicly espouse religious belief, but in private they need to find more vital ways of generating purpose and order. In the Devon vicarage of Daniel’s youth, many attend church, but most who do--from the pastor on down to his parishioners—are shown as dissembling in one way or another. Here are the key examples:

    On Parson Martin (Daniel’s father): “He was not at all a religious or a saintly man, even by the modest standards of the Church of England” (78); he believes in his role as the “de facto social and symbolic tribal chief . . . His real faith was in order; and in his mildly privileged place in it” (80); Parson Martin seems to come fully alive only where gardening is concerned: “My father had one real passion . . . a mania for gardening.” (82)

    On Aunt Millie: “Her real religion was not in church, but in her view of other people’s motives, of the import of village scandals and tragedies.” (89)

    On Dan’s housekeeper Phoebe: “She was long-lapsed chapel, but her devil remained dirt.” (364)

    On the parishioners at Parson Martin’s church:
    On another wartime occasion a Negro chaplain from the American camp nearby came and preached to a packed church—drawn not by piety but by curiosity to see how this mysterious chimpanzee would perform. He had a fine voice and presence, and a touch of the revivalist in manner; and he stunned us, he was so warm and good.” (79)

Outside of Devon county and the vicarage, here are three other examples of the gap between public and private religious practice:

    - Anthony Mallory is a practicing Catholic, but we never see him practicing, and it’s clear that, professionally and in other ways, he’s more invested in the mind than the spirit. During their hospital conversation, he tells Dan that faith and theology didn’t help “one damn little bit” when he learned he had cancer (182). Anthony tries especially hard during that conversation to “get down to an unbeliever’s level,” resorting to dismissive metaphors (“divine customs-and-excise man,” “a clean pair of spiritual underpants”) in a way that no truly devout man would do (183). Anthony tells Dan that he doesn’t have “absolute” faith in Christ, but rather just “Enough to call myself a Catholic still” (183). As with Parson Martin, in Anthony there’s a gap where true religious sentiment might be, and some of it is filled with his passion for plants—in Anthony’s case, with orchid-hunting and amateur botanizing.

    - Jimmy Assad, Daniel and Jane’s film-world liaison in Cairo, is identified as a Copt (488), but between his political cynicism and probable financial corruption (489), his professional investment in the film industry and in fawning over Western celebrities (498), and his probable extramarital affairs (612), it’s hard to imagine when he might fit in time for attending church or otherwise observing his faith.

    - Labib, Daniel and Jane’s driver to Palmyra, is a Maronite Christian—“But it soon emerged that his real religion was the machine he was sitting in” (617), a nearly new Chevrolet.


There are, however, a number of truly devout characters in Daniel Martin. Here are my candidates for the most pious or devout:

    - Old Mr. Reed, who recites great passages of the Bible by heart, with a simple conviction that Daniel never sees in his father; Daniel says that Old Mr. Reed is “excepted for eternity from all I have ever hated in the Church of England” (368-9)

    - Babe, the gypsy in “The Harvest,” “an ancient presence, and quasi-divine, of a time when men were hunters, not planters; he honors fields at cutting time” (7-8)

    - Aunt Millie, “much nearer sainthood than anyone else in my life,” and whose forgiveness “outreached all time and space” (89)

    - The war-time Negro chaplain from the American camp (79)

    - Barbara, Dan’s middle-class cousin from Carlisle, and brief love-interest, who later “causes a great family to-do by ‘turning’ Catholic . . . and soon after becoming a nun” (403)

    - Omar, the boatman who takes Dan and Jane to Kitchener’s Island, and who embarrasses them with his simple faith when he kneels in the boat to face Mecca (579)

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Re: -:-:-the spiritual life of :-daniel martin-: -:-:-

Postby drkellyindc on Sun Jun 19, 2011 12:38 pm


Re-reading the Nancy Reed chapter “Phillida” recently, I noticed a pattern connected with its religious references. What emerges is a variation on the “devout and dissembling” polarity I mentioned in the May 1, 2009, posting above.

Fowles introduces the chapter’s most positive religious reference early on, in Daniel’s description of Old Mr. Reed, the senior churchwarden: “He is excepted for eternity from all I have ever hated in the Church of England” (369). Daniel tells us that Old Mr. Reed “knew many of the great passages of the Bible by heart” and recited them “with a simple conviction I never heard in my father” (368). True piety, as we know from an earlier chapter, is not found at the Vicarage but elsewhere.

From this point onward, virtually all of the chapter’s religious references, seen from a traditional Judeo-Christian standpoint, are either ironic, irreverent, or derogatory. The official local religion is an encumbrance that Nancy and Dan have to escape from in order to spend time alone and validate their feelings for each other.

This theme dovetails with one I identified earlier, in the “devout and dissembling” posting: people pay lip-service to the church but find their real meaning and vitality elsewhere. Later in the novel, Dan describes this as an opposition between “souls and absolutes,” on one hand, and “skins and common sense,” on the other (649). In “Phillida,” Fowles sets up the separation between Nancy Reed and Dan Martin not just in terms of social class but as a conflict between the impossibly lofty masculine spiritual reality of the Vicarage and the invitingly earthy, warm, tangible, feminine spiritual reality of Thorncombe.

In these examples from the “Phillida” chapter, Fowles shows two forms of spirituality in contention--one Christian-based, the other earth-based—and usually reveals the latter as more vital and engaging than the former:

    . . . my father shook his head at such scandalous defiance of the Holy Laws of Rationing (369)

    This refers to the “surreptitious trade” of food all across Thorncombe during the war. Though the village is technically bound by the same austerity measures governing the rest of England, Thorncombe finds its way around these measures; by referring to them as “Holy Laws,” Fowles plants the idea that this practice is not merely illegal but sacrilegious. Further, Pastor Martin, the town’s highest religious authority, outwardly shakes his head at the black market’s defiance of the law, but in fact he benefits from it more than most others in the village.

    I knew I had entered the Garden of Eden. (379)

    This garden is situated near Thorncombe’s old quarry, and is governed not by God the Almighty but by a teenage girl named Nancy, and a boy helplessly smitten with her.

    I was not interested in the church. (379)

    This is Dan’s silent response after Nancy points out the church to him, from a promontory above the village. For me, this drily understated line is one of book’s funniest. Dan is not “interested” in the church for many reasons:
    • Dan has sexual feelings for Nancy, and the church has no place for Dan’s sexual desires;
    • besides this, the whole topic of religion is a turn-off;
    • the church links Dan to his sexually repressed father, and is the reality Dan wants most to repress, both for himself and for Nancy;
    • Dan, as a parson’s son who lives and breathes church round-the-clock, does feel genuine guilt about his pursuit of Nancy (see 386).

    Suddenly she smiled back at him, a little flash of mischief, of her old Sunday school self (380)

    Fowles leaves us to work out why Nancy’s taunting, teasing side comes out at church. No young person who has endured traditional staid religious services will need an explanation (see 91).

    [Dan:] “You never call me by my Christian name.”
    [Nancy:] “Nor do you.”
    [Dan:] “Yes I did. Only yesterday.”
    [Nancy:] “Not when we’re alone.” (380)

    Consistent with the theme I’m pursuing, Dan and Nancy can use their Christian names only when they’re with others, not in the more intense reality of when they’re alone. (See a similar moment in Dan’s meeting with Nancy in 1969, p. 405)

    And the lovely guilt, the need to lie, he took singing home. (384)

    Dan, overjoyed after his first kiss from Nancy, goes home as a newly liberated man. For him, lying and guilt have just been transformed from Christian sins to pagan pleasures.

    At last the purgatory was over. (385)

    The “purgatory” referred to here is a church service; to Dan it feels “the longest of his life, his father’s sermon the most boring.” The service is endless to Dan partly because of his prospect of meeting Nancy afterwards. But Fowles underscores a wider Christian/pagan contrast by noting the “motes of dust” inside the church and the “lovely living sun outside” (385).

    Daniel said his first genuine prayer of that morning. (386)

    During the church service, Dan’s prayer has nothing to do with the internationally pressing and “worthy” subject of the Allied troops landing in Sicily—to him “all that was a world away” (385). Instead, his prayer involves whether Nancy will be able to meet him afterwards.

    She had kissed lots of other boys (it never occurred to him that Eve can also lie), she was much closer to the natural, the animal. (386)

    Here Fowles explicitly links Nancy and Dan with Eve and Adam; however, unlike the pair in Genesis, Fowles’s teenagers are both lying to each other about their carnal knowledge.

    . . . he now knew better than divine lightning and the instant thunderbolt, but not much. (386)

    Dan has outgrown his dread that masturbation would bring “heavens opening, thunderbolts raining, divine anathema” (86); in this passage, it appears that he’s also let go of the assumption that sexual intercourse would involve the same punishment. He still considers himself a Christian (until age 17, at least), but he’s freeing himself by degrees from his own impressionable adolescent notions about the Christian deity.

    A large flat-topped limestone rock stood there, the ‘Pulpit,’ isolated in the sea of bracken. (387)

    Dan finds this natural outdoor pulpit infinitely more compelling than the one from which his father preaches sermons.

    He sank facing her and they kissed properly, erect on their knees, clasped, in a blasphemous imitation of that morning’s kneeling in church. (387)

    No commentary needed!

    They heard the voice cry again, half a mile away down beyond the beechwood; the voice of the righteous and deceived, accusing their wickedness. (392)

    Nancy’s mother calling from the farm serves an allegorical function in this passage, and comes as a reminder that no matter how much Dan savors the feelings he has about Nancy, he cannot fully sever himself from village mores.

    So endeth the first lesson. (392)

    The “lesson” in this instance is Dan’s first experience with extended kissing and touching a girl’s breasts; the phrasing is a naughty echo of the Anglican church service liturgy.

    We lay there so long afterward, we were so silent, we knew we had done something terribly wicked, something new to both of us, and we felt the primeval shame. (396)

    In another allusion to Adam and Eve, Fowles depicts Dan and Nancy’s apparent simultaneous orgasm as a parallel for the action that banishes the couple in Genesis from the Garden of Eden.

    16. The Reeds’ gift to Daniel, after his summer of “slave labor” (371), is a book titled The Young Christian’s Guide to English History (400).
    This is bitterly ironic, since the gift signals the exact moment that Dan’s romance with Nancy becomes “history.” It serves as another reminder of how “tied down” (382) Daniel is--by being young, Christian, and English, not to mention a preacher’s son.

    Something seemed to have gone out of the Reeds’ religiosity with the old man’s death. Mr. and Mrs. Reed still appeared in church, but the girls were never with them now. (403)

    The passing of Old Mr. Reed brings a shift in spiritual affinities to the family. The youngest generation, having never been much invested in the first place, bows out of church duties. In his depiction of Mr. and Mrs. Reed, Fowles suggests that they attend church more out of convention than piety.

    Five years later she was to cause a great family to-do by “turning” Catholic (not Anthony and Jane’s sophisticated kind) and soon after becoming a nun. Her distaste for the flesh was already apparent beneath a very timid desire for young male friendship . . . (403)

    Cousin Barbara is what might be called Dan’s “rebound girlfriend” after Nancy. In the context of this novel, Barbara’s conversion to Catholicism and taking the veil, expressions of her “distaste for the flesh,” are coded as human losses. (On Jane’s parallel interest in the Catholic church, and the question of what life in a convent might mean for her, see pp. 606, 627, 649, and 653)

In the larger scheme of the novel, the symbolic journey Dan takes from ecclesiastical Christianity toward earth-based spirituality has its foundation in this chapter’s opposition between the Vicarage and Thorncombe. Dan’s later purchase of the Thorncombe estate is part of his conscious effort to return to the summer of ’43, when “the world was all Ceres and simplicity, green early sunlight in the tunneled lanes, and Nancy” (384).

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Re: -:-:-the spiritual life of :-daniel martin-: -:-:-

Postby drkellyindc on Mon Jul 07, 2014 5:59 pm

I put together this list as I was considering spiritual themes that emerge from The Aristos, The Magus, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, and Daniel Martin.


- How Fowles enables us to expand our sense of time, and overcome the limits by which we ordinarily perceive it; Fowles invites us to “sense time in terms of depth, not sequence” (the critic David Higdon).

- At key points in his novels Fowles offers interactive puzzles whose solutions rely on readers accessing a deeper sense of self. The open ending of The Magus, the multiple endings of The French Lieutenant’s Woman, and the “Mobius strip” link between the first and last sentences of Daniel Martin—these and other elements of Fowles’s fiction are not mere literary brain-teasers but rather spiritual enigmas that serve as imperatives to evolve.

- Fowles promotes “myth literacy” by forging myths for contemporary readers to live by, and also by cautioning them about the potential misuse of myth.

- Fowles articulates key ethical questions for our time, and is especially attuned to the need for “a self-questioning, ethical elite” (The French Lieutenant’s Woman, 306); “the elect . . . have introduced a finer and fairer morality into this dark world. If they fail that test, then they become no more than despots . . .” (The French Lieutenant’s Woman, 409).

- Mirth, wit, jokes, and laughter are integral to Fowles’s outlook, as well as the notion of humor as “a manifestation of freedom” (The Magus, 445).

- Fowles promotes a “mature environmental aesthetic” (Thomas Wilson, The Recurrent Green Universe of John Fowles) and encourages readers to personalize their sense of the earth’s sacred places. In rich passages set on Mt. Parnassus, in the undercliff at Lyme Regis, England, amid the Pueblo ruins of Tsankawi, New Mexico, amid the Etruscan ruins of Tarquinia, Italy, and elsewhere, Fowles creates the literary equivalent of wildlife preserves, as well as antidotes to the effects of overpopulation and conformism on the human spirit.

- Fowles advances fiction’s ability to encapsulate the cultural history of entire eras and centuries (the 19th century in The French Lieutenant’s Woman, the 20th century in The Magus, and a panhistoric view in Daniel Martin).

- Fowles challenges the artistic pessimism linked to existentialism, with its emphasis on angst and alienation, and re-authenticates the human propensities for hope and wonder (“the human mind is more a universe than the universe itself”- The Magus, 134).

- The microcosms that Fowles creates in fiction are enticingly sensual; Fowles himself speaks of the novelist’s art as “being able to caress the imagination” (“Language is like shot silk; so much depends on the angle at which it is held” – The French Lieutenant’s Woman, 470).

- To the three-part Freudian schema of id, ego, and superego, Fowles adds the concept of “nemo,” or nobodiness, the state of being nobody (The Aristos). Fowles interprets much of human endeavor as an attempt to defeat or overcome the nemo, including its political or citizen-based forms.

- Fowles promotes the growth of consciousness, psychological maturity, and emotional literacy. Against the modern tradition of the anti-hero and mock-hero, Fowles’s mid-career novels restore a core commitment to heroism and the hero’s journey; his heroes also must submit to hard-edged mentoring (Maurice Conchis in The Magus, Dr. Grogan in The French Lieutenant’s Woman, the Herr Professor in Daniel Martin). One sees in these novels a discernable path from trapped egotism to socially conscious enlightenment (“. . . Dan saw, or felt, abruptly, for the first time in his life, the true difference between Eros and Agape” – Daniel Martin, 600).

- Fowles’s novels and nonfiction include rich meditations on creativity and the arts; he also recurrently questions the distinction between artists and non-artists (“I create, I am: all the rest is dream, though concrete and executed.” – Daniel Martin, 221).

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Re: -:-:-the spiritual life of :-daniel martin-: -:-:-

Postby Magusbob on Tue Jul 08, 2014 6:23 am


Thanks for your always well-written and insightful post. I'd be interested in any further thoughts you have regarding your statement that "Mirth, wit, jokes, and laughter are integral to Fowles’s outlook."

As brilliant as Fowles is, the one thing I've always thought was conspicuously absent from his fiction was humor (wit, yes, but in a very dry and intellectual way). Perhaps the only novel that could be considered even remotely humorous would be "Mantissa," in my opinion clearly his worst book.

On a related note, I'm working on a screenplay for a miniseries of "The Magus," and one change I've implemented to Fowles' narrative is giving Nicholas a sense of humor. Without it (and without his "looking back as a wiser man" first-person narrative), I think he would come across as insufferable on the screen.

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Re: -:-:-the spiritual life of :-daniel martin-: -:-:-

Postby drkellyindc on Fri Jul 25, 2014 6:09 pm

Hi Bob,

Thanks for your posting, and congratulations about your Magus project!

I’ve been thinking about the humor issue you raise.

I re-read The Magus recently. Flipping through my paperback copy now, I see that I’ve added only a few exclamation points to the margins (signaling where I find something funny). So yes, not a lot of chuckles and titters. Is this because Fowles is a self-serious writer, or because this specific project took him on an exceedingly serious path? Perusing Fowles’s 1976 foreword to the novel, I sense that the agony he went through while writing The Magus may help account for its relative lack of humor compared with the later works.

The smile that Conchis speaks of in Chapter 62 (“Learn to smile, Nicholas. Learn to smile”) is a lot like Sarah Woodruff’s smile at Charles Smithson in Chapter 21 of The French Lieutenant’s Woman. In both cases the gesture punctures the hero’s defenses and serves as a bid for him to take himself less seriously. Still, these smiles come across as way-serious, as “lessons,” and readers aren’t likely to break out in stitches over them.

Leafing through other passages of FLW, though, I find dozens of exclamation points added to the margins. Most everything to do with Mrs. Poulteney makes me laugh, at least inwardly. Lots of this novel’s humor stems from the narrator’s attitude toward people and their habits (like Ernestina’s overprotected delicacy, her family’s philistinism, etc.), and from some of the narrator’s more outrageous propositions (see chapter 13). However, a lot of that is the dry, intellectual humor you mention. The servants Sam and Mary provide cheekier and earthier forms of humor that help balance things.

Myself, I prefer Fowles’s kinds of humor to the kinds found in more overtly comic novels by, say, Joseph Heller or Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. I’m not saying these novelists are less funny than Fowles, but that their outlook on the world serves me less, and their humor doesn’t serve the other facets of their novels as well. Their writings don’t stay with me or draw me back as Fowles’s works have done.

I’ve added a lot of exclamation points to my copy of Daniel Martin! Here are some of the reasons:

  • I find Jenny McNeil hilarious at times—her descriptions of L.A., of a restaurant being “posh-lousy” (37), for instance, or a publicity woman with “processed-cheesecake charm” (36). Dan gives her a query--“which is real, you or Los Angeles?”--and she turns that into a mantra (36). That’s doubly funny in my book. A lot of Jenny’s humor at Dan’s expense gets funnier the more I know about Dan.

  • Abe Nathan, Dan’s host and filmscript mentor in Bel-Air, California, has a scathing sense of humor, and is a lively joke-teller, often at the expense of the movie industry. He describes the Hollywood of his era as being “run by Jews and yet a Jewish-looking actor couldn’t get a job ‘as understudy to a crowd extra’” (248). He says about Dan, “‘You know he tried to kid his last girl his name was Sir Beverly Hills Hotel?’ Then: ‘Where do you think he buys his towels?’” (247).

  • Fowles sprinkles this novel with camp humor—for instance, an awful religious painting with the words “The Lord God watches overall” written across the top (446, 455); and Dan’s habit of camping up his Britishness depending on the context (33, 73).

  • At the end of Jenny’s “second contribution,” to explain what the term “orange horse” means, Dan tells a racy joke about a lovesick Brooklyn stable-boy working at a posh Long Island estate (252). This is an example of how Fowles’s dealing with Americans in Daniel Martin helped him expand his humor range.

  • Jenny, Dan, and Abe all parody Hollywood and its pretensions; in addition, Dan parodies himself as a movie writer, as when he says he’s a “dialogue installer and repairman” (32). Describing Jane on the morning after Anthony takes his life, Dan inserts a self-mocking B-movie line into the text to indicate precisely how Jane thwarts expectation: “Her ravaged face shows the horrors of the previous night” (225). It’s a tasteless line deployed with great precision by Fowles, and it gets to me every time.

  • Jane, Nell, Miriam and Marjory all have their own brands of humor; as does Jimmy Assad in the Cairo scenes. Welcome humor also comes at the expense of that “horrid little monomaniac” Paul Mallory, Jane and Anthony’s son.

  • As Dan’s flight to Heathrow prepares for departure in New York, a flight attendant tells Barney, “We’re winding up the elastic. If you’d take your seat, Mr. Dillon” (103). Some jokes have staying power with me; that one still makes me laugh at times, like when I’m at an airport.

  • Dan reports a string of jokes Ahmed Sabry tells at the Assad’s soiree in Cairo (498-501), mostly at the expense of Egyptian authorities.

One further thought: readers don’t find out much at all about the fathers of Nicholas Urfe or Charles Smithson (Nick and Charles are effectively orphaned by circumstances). However, we get to know a lot about Daniel Martin’s father, an Anglican parson in rural Devon. One stand-out trait that Dan attributes to his father is a “general humorlessness” (78), which embarrasses Dan in his teens, especially when cheekier village boys imitate his father’s “outstandingly dull” pulpit style. I read Dan’s growth in terms of grappling with, and trying to overcome, his father’s excessive seriousness. That effort continues as Dan deals with his “father-substitute” at Oxford, the cerebral and pedantic Anthony Mallory (71); and again in the Egypt section of the novel, where Dan acquires a spiritual father in the Herr Professor, a German-born scholar specializing in ancient papyruses. The Herr Professor tells Dan and Jane that he was “taught humor at the source,” by an Englishwoman he fell in love with and married (545). All of this could lead to a longer consideration of fatherhood, mentorship and humor in Daniel Martin, and how it relates to Fowles’s own biography.

Incidentally, I know what you mean about Mantissa. I cut Fowles some slack on that one, though, since it was written for a tiny coterie audience, but his publisher forced the book out into an expanded market, so readers were led to expect another full-bodied Fowles novel in the mid-career Magus/FLW/Daniel Martin tradition.

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