The Rev. George W. Rutler, unofficial chaplain of this happy Corner, has just published a wonderful little book entitled Coincidentally: Unserious Reflections on Trivial Connections. Divided into 50 chapters, Coincidentally presents Fr. Rutler’s reflections on coincidences—hundreds and hundreds of coincidences—throughout history. When I picked up a copy, I thought the book would read something like the Guiness Book of World Records—fun for dipping into, but nothing one would care to read from cover to cover. Except that I then found myself reading Coincidentally from cover to cover. I mean, how could anyone resist passages like this?
“That morose day of Napoleon’s surrender…witnessed one of history’s grandest homophonic sentences, a homophone being, we might say, a verbal coincidence….Napoleon stood silent on the deck for a painful while and then muttered with resignation: ‘Cast off, it is time to go.’ Only the Corsican said it in his accented French which he had learned at the age of ten: ‘A l’eau, c’est l’heure.’ A young British sailor standing on deck knew not the gilded tongue of mankind’s golden race. Under the impression that the fallen emperor was speaking English, the sailor was flattered by what he mistook for familiarity and later reported that Napoleon had the courtesy to address him, ‘Hello, sailor.’”
Arch, erudite—how does Fr. Rutler know all this stuff?—and gloriously silly.