Wilfred C. Cummings and The Hole of Everything

Wilfred Cummings circa 1910“If God should speak, it would be through the hole of the everything bagel.” – Wilfred C. Cummings (1873-1929)

It is known that Wilfred C. Cummings uttered this mysterious phrase upon his daughters birth the day he returned from Europe in May 1914.  The inspiration and meaning behind the quote, left largely unexplained by Cummings, has likewise been left largely unexplored by historians and philosophers as well.  However, the analysis of Cummings’ career and his private life may shed some light on the meaning behind the words.

Cummings, the great American playrewright became known as “the Doge” for his whimsical interpretation of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice in the early 1890s, in which Cummings retold the tale primarily through the eyes of Shylock. When asked why he chose Shylock as the main character and sometimes narrator, the Doge responded, “Hath not a Jew eyes?” implying that, all things equal and anti-Semitic sentiment aside, why not the Jew?

Shylock, in Cummings’ world, was a pastry chef with dreams of one day opening a bakery with his friend Tubal. Aside from the change in perspective and character the retelling of The Merchant of Venice differed wildly in other major ways; the two largest discrepancies being: Antonio dying in Act One and there being no Balthazar character.  Yet the story unfolds in much the same manner as Shakespeare’s, marking it as one of the finest rewrites of a play in the 19th Century.  The rewrite reached its peak when it opened in Baltimore on October 31, 1893, a day after the close of the World’s Columbian Expedition.  American audiences became enamored with the Shylock in Cummings’ rewrite, largely due to his “destiny manifested”, entrepreneurial pursuits, his strong non-Jewish dialogue and his numerous bagel references.

The inclusion of a bagel reference in the nonfamous 1914 quote is an obvious homage to Cummings’ Shylock, who often personified bagels based on their ingredients. For instance in Act Two Shylock, in reference to Portia, uses the phrase “spotty yet as sharp as the Poppy seeded,” referring to her obtuse logic, yet sharp and chastising tongue. It would seem that Cummings saw this Shylock in himself years later when he alluded to God speaking through an everything bagel, as if it were a bishop or priest.  However, Cummings never uses a reference to everything bagels in his The Merchant of Venice; in fact, the everything bagel as we know it today wasn’t in existence until the mid-to-late 20th Century!

So, in order to discover the meaning of “everything” in the quote, one must look beyond the traditional sesame, poppy, onion, etc… and look at “everything” in the context of the metaphysical space that Cummings approaches, in this case: God and creationism.  When viewed in this light the meaning behind the quote changes from parody to paradox.  It touches on the idea that God is in everything, and, with everything having been created by Him, then we and this existence of ours would be a part of the ‘everything’ bagel as well. Even this ‘everything’ bagel would exist within itself, creating an infinite loop beyond our basic understanding of modern bagels! Perhaps a more apt name would have been the perilous void bagel!

But why should God speak, if he should speak, through the hole of the everything bagel.  Perhaps this where we must examine the contextual history of the quote itself.  It is known that Cummings said this phrase, but it is only known by written account from Beatrice Gooding, the midwife present at the birth of Margaret Cummings.  In her diary she wrote what the Doge had to say upon witnessing his daughter for the first time, though it is not a stretch to consider a scenario in which Gooding misinterpreted the quote; rather than ‘hole’ of the bagel, let us instead consider the idea that Cummings actually meant the ‘whole’ or entirety of the bagel itself.  If God were to speak, if God should speak, through the whole of the everything bagel, the meaning is less obtuse.  Cummings eloquently veils the meaning behind the personified, infinite, everything bagel upon witnessing his first daughter’s life begin: if God should speak, it would be through the whole of the everything bagel; it would be through the world around me, through my existence.  The living world, our existence, this bagel – is God’s voice.

The mystery behind Wilfred C. Cummings’ most influential quote (outside of his play rewrites, of course) cannot be faulted to Gooding’s misinterpretation alone; scholars it seems should also be at fault for not considering the depth of the language at play. Rather than simply viewing the quote as an homage to the Doge’s greatest work in an attempt to ignite his past glory, scholars have stopped short; they have neglected to view the quote in the intimacy of the moment in which it came into existence.

- sponge

1 comment

  1. Dweceodowsden says:

    Best backlinks and website traffic service – we post your custom message up to 100’000 forums worldwide price starting only from $29 Get amazing online web traffic using superb backlink service available. We are able post your custom post up to 100’000 forums around the web, get insane amount of backlinks and large targeted web traffic in shortest time. Most affordable and most powerful service for web traffic and backlinks in the world!!!! Your post will be published up to 100000 forums worldwide your website or blog will get instant traffic and massive increase in seo rankings just after few days or weeks so your site will get targeted long term traffic from search engines. Order now: backlinks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>