Curiosity and Interest as Guides to Reading

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Thomas Carlyle

Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881). Inaugural Address at Edinburgh.
Vol. 25, pp. 364-374 of The Harvard Classics

The most unhappy man, Carlyle says, is the man who has no real work - no interest in life. To avoid this miserable state, he advises faithful and diligent reading along the lines dictated by curiosity and interest.


[…]

  It remains, however, practically a most important truth, what I alluded to above, that the main use of Universities in the present age is that, after you have done with all your classes, the next thing is a collection of books, a great library of good books, which you proceed to study and to read. What the Universities can mainly do for you,—what I have found the University did for me, is, That it taught me to read, in various languages, in various sciences; so that I could go into the books which treated of these things, and gradually penetrate into any department I wanted to make myself master of, as I found it suit me.

Dana Meets a Tattooed Sailor

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Richard Henry Dana Jr.

Richard Henry Dana, Jr. (1815–1882). Two Years before the Mast.
Vol. 23, pp. 77-86 of The Harvard Classics

Dana's description of the picturesque, pre-gold-rush California is unique. While he was on the Pacific coast he met a British sailor who was elaborately tattooed and of an unforgetable ap­pearance and personality.


Chapter XIII
Trading—A British Sailor

THE NEXT day, the cargo having been entered in due form, we began trading. The trade-room was fitted up in the steerage, and furnished out with the lighter goods, and with specimens of the rest of the cargo; and M——, a young man who came out from Boston with us, before the mast, was taken out of the forecastle, and made supercargo’s clerk. He was well qualified for the business, having been clerk in a counting-house in Boston. He had been troubled for some time with the rheumatism, which unfitted him for the wet and exposed duty of a sailor on the coast. For a week or ten days all was life on board. The people came off to look and to buy—men, women, and children; and we were continually going in the boats, carrying goods and passengers,—for they have no boats of their own. Everything must dress itself and come aboard and see the new vessel, if it were only to buy a paper of pins. The agent and his clerk managed the sales, while we were busy in the hold or in the boats. Our cargo was an assorted one; that is, it consisted of everything under the sun. We had spirits of all kinds, (sold by the cask,) teas, coffee, sugars, spices, raisins, molasses, hardware, crockery-ware, tinware, cutlery, clothing of all kinds, boots and shoes from Lynn, calicoes and cottons from Lowell, crepes, silks; also shawls, scarfs, necklaces, jewelry, and combs for the ladies; furniture; and in fact, everything that can be imagined, from Chinese fire-works to English cart-wheels—of which we had a dozen pairs with their iron rims on.

These Guests Outstayed Their Welcome

Monday, 29 December 2014


Homer (fl. 850 B.C.). The Odyssey.
Vol. 22, pp. 296-309 of The Harvard Classics

After twenty years' absence, Odysseus returned home to find his house filled with strangers rioting and wasting his treasure. Crafty Odysseus, with the aid of his son and the gods, devised a bold plan to rid his home of the unwelcome guests.


Book XXII

The killing of the wooers.


THEN Odysseus of many counsels stripped him of his rags and leaped on to the great threshold with his bow and quiver full of arrows, and poured forth all the swift shafts there before his feet, and spake among the wooers:

  ‘Lo, now is this terrible trial ended at last; and now will I know of another mark, which never yet man has smitten, if perchance I may hit it and Apollo grant me renown.’

  With that he pointed the bitter arrow at Antinous. Now he was about raising to his lips a fair twy-eared chalice of gold, and behold, he was handling it to drink of the wine, and death was far from his thoughts. For who among men at feast would deem that one man amongst so many, how hardy soever he were, would bring on him foul death and black fate? But Odysseus aimed and smote him with the arrow in the throat, and the point passed clean out through his delicate neck, and he fell sidelong and the cup dropped from his hand as he was smitten, and at once through his nostrils there came up a thick jet of slain man’s blood, and quickly he spurned the table from him with his foot, and spilt the food on the ground, and the bread and the roast flesh were defiled. Then the wooers raised a clamour through the halls when they saw the man fallen, and they leaped from their high seats, as men stirred by fear, all through the hall, peering everywhere along the well-builded walls, and nowhere was there a shield or a mighty spear to lay hold on. Then they reviled Odysseus with angry words:

Ho! for the Spanish Main!

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Captain Walter Bigges, Drake's Great Armada.
Vol. 33, pp. 229-240 of The Harvard Classics

Drake with a fleet of twenty-five ships and twenty-three hundred men sets sail to plunder and lay waste Spain's treasure hoards in the New World. Gold and silver bar, nuggets and jewels awaited the bold adventurers.


[NARRATIVE MAINLY BY CAPTAIN WALTER BIGGES]

A Summary and True Discourse of SIR FRANCIS DRAKE’S West Indian Voyage, begun in the year 1585. Wherein were taken the cities of SANTIAGO, SANTO DOMINGO,CARTHAGENA, and the town of ST. AUGUSTINE, in FLORIDA. Published by MASTERTHOMAS CATES.


  THIS worthy knight, for the service of his prince and country, having prepared his whole fleet, and gotten them down to Plymouth, in Devonshire, to the number of five and twenty sail of ships and pinnaces, and having assembled of soldiers and mariners to the number of 2,300 in the whole, embarked them and himself at Plymouth aforesaid, the 12. day of September, 1585, being accompanied with these men of name and charge which hereafter follow: Master Christopher Carlile, Lieutenant-General, a man of long experience in the wars as well by sea as land, who had formerly carried high offices in both kinds in many fights, which he discharged always very happily, and with great good reputation; Anthony Powell, Sergeant-Major; Captain Matthew Morgan, and Captain John Sampson, Corporals of the Field. These officers had commandment over the rest of the land-captains, whose names hereafter follow: Captain Anthony Platt, Captain Edward Winter, Captain John Goring, Captain Robert Pew, Captain George Barton, Captain John Merchant, Captain William Cecil, Captain Walter Bigges, 1 Captain John Hannam, Captain Richard Stanton.Captain Martin Frobisher, Vice-Admiral, a man of great experience in seafaring actions, who had carried the chief charge of many ships himself, in sundry voyages before, being now shipped in the Primrose; Captain Francis Knolles, Rear-Admiral in the galleon Leicester; Master Thomas Venner, captain in the Elizabeth Bonadventure, under the General; Master Edward Winter, captain in the Aid; Master Christopher Carlile, the Lieutenant-General, captain of the Tiger; Henry White, captain of the Sea-Dragon; Thomas Drake, 2 captain of the Thomas; Thomas Seeley, captain of the Minion; Baily,captain of the Talbot; Robert Cross, captain of the bark Bond; George Fortescue, captain of the bark Bonner; Edward Careless, captain of the Hope; James Erizo, captain of the White Lion; Thomas Moon, captain of the Francis; John Rivers, captain of the Vantage; John Vaughan, captain of the Drake; John Varney, captain of the George; John Martin,captain of the Benjamin; Edward Gilman, captain of the Scout; Richard Hawkins, captain of the galliot called the Duck; Bitfield, captain of the Swallow.

Million-Year-Old Islands

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Charles Robert Darwin (1809–1882).  The Voyage of the Beagle.
Vol. 29, pp. 376-389 of The Harvard Classics

It was the new-old lands that Darwin visited on his voyage of the "Beagle." The strange specimens of prehistoric life he saw there made the world gape and shudder.
(Charles Darwin begins voyage in the "Beagle," Dec. 27, 1831.)


Chapter XVII

Galapagos Archipelago—The whole Group Volcanic—numbers of Craters—Leafless Bushes—Colony at Charles Island—James Island—Salt-lake in Crater—Natural History of the Group—Ornithology, curious Finches—Reptiles—Great Tortoises, habits of Marine Lizard, feeds on Sea-weed—Terrestrial Lizard, burrowing habits, herbivorous—Importance of Reptiles in the Archipelago—Fish, Shells, Insects—Botany—American Type of Organization—Differences in the Species or Races on different Islands—Tameness of the Birds—Fear of Man, an acquired Instinct


SEPTEMBER 15th.—This archipelago consists of ten principal islands, of which five exceed the others in size. They are situated under the Equator, and between five and six hundred miles westward of the coast of America. They are all formed of volcanic rocks; a few fragments of granite curiously glazed and altered by the heat, can hardly be considered as an exception. Some of the craters, surmounting the larger islands, are of immense size, and they rise to a height of between three and four thousand feet. Their flanks are studded by innumerable smaller orifices. I scarcely hesitate to affirm, that there must be in the whole archipelago at least two thousand craters. These consist either of lava or scoriæ, or of finely-stratified, sandstone-like tuff. Most of the latter are beautifully symmetrical; they owe their origin to eruptions of volcanic mud without any lava: it is a remarkable circumstance that every one of the twenty-eight tuff-craters which were examined, had their southern sides either much lower than the other sides, or quite broken down and removed. As all these craters apparently have been formed when standing in the sea, and as the waves from the trade wind and the swell from the open Pacific here unite their forces on the southern coasts of all the islands, this singular uniformity in the broken state of the craters, composed of the soft and yielding tuff, is easily explained.

Silence Cost Her a Kingdom

Friday, 26 December 2014

King Lear and the Fool in the Storm

William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Tragedy of King Lear.
Vol. 46, pp. 288-300 of The Harvard Classics

Cordelia, daughter of old King Lear, could not convince her father of her love for him. Afterward, when misfortunes made him accept her aid, he learned too late of her real devotion.
("King Lear" presented at Queen Elizabeth's court, Dec. 26, 1606.)


Act IV
Scene IV

[The same. A tent]
Enter, with drum and colours, CORDELIA, Doctor, and Soldiers

  Cor.  Alack, ’tis he! Why, he was met even now
As mad as the vex’d sea, singing aloud,
Crown’d with rank fumiter and furrow-weeds,
With hardocks, hemlock, nettles, cuckoo-flowers,
Darnel, and all the idle weeds that grow
In our sustaining corn. A sentry send forth;
Search every acre in the high-grown field,
And bring him to our eye. [Exit an Officer.] What can man’s wisdom
In the restoring his bereaved sense?
He that helps him take all my outward worth.
  Doct.  There is means, madam.
Our foster-nurse of nature is repose,
The which he lacks; that to provoke in him,
Are many simples 1 operative, whose power
Will close the eye of anguish.
  Cor.        All blest secrets,
All you unpublish’d virtues of the earth,
Spring with my tears! be aidant and remediate 2
In the good man’s distress! Seek, seek for him,
Lest his ungovern’d rage dissolve the life
That wants the means to lead it.

The Christmas Story

Thursday, 25 December 2014

The Gospel According to Luke.
Vol. 44, pp. 357-360 of The Harvard Classics

(Christmas Day.)
Luke was a Greek physician, a man of culture, trained in the best universities of the ancient world. He became imbued with the spirit of Christ, and wrote the most beautiful story of the birth and life of Jesus.


II


[1]  
  NOW it came to pass in those days, there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that all the 1 world should be enrolled.
[2]  
This was the first enrolment made when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
[3]  
And all went to enrol themselves, every one to his own city.
[4]  
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David;
[5]  
to enrol himself with Mary, who was betrothed to him, being great with child.
[6]  
And it came to pass, while they were there, the days were fulfilled that she should be delivered.
[7]  
And she brought forth her firstborn son; and she wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
[8]  
  And there were shepherds in the same country abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock.
[9]  
And an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
[10]  
And the angel said unto them, Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people:



for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ 3 the Lord.
[11]  
And this is the sign unto you: Ye shall find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger.
[12]  
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
[13]  
  Glory to God in the highest,
[14]  
  And on earth peace 4 among men 5 in whom he is well pleased.
[15]  
  And it came to pass, when the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing 6 that is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
[16]  
And they came with haste, and found both Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in the manger.
[17]  
And when they saw it, they made known concerning the saying which was spoken to them about this child.
[18]  
And all that heard it wondered at the things which were spoken unto them by the shepherds.
[19]  
But Mary kept all these sayings, 7 pondering them in her heart.
[20]  
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, even as it was spoken unto them.
[21]  
  And when eight days were fulfilled for circumcising him, his name was called JESUS,which was so called by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
[22]  
  And when the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were fulfilled, they brought him up to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord
[23]  
(as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord),
[24]  
and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.
[25]  
And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
[26]  
And it had been revealed unto him by the Holy Spirit, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
[27]  
And he came in the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, that they might do concerning him after the custom of the law,
[28]  
then he received him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,
[29]  
  Now lettest thou thy servant 8 depart, Lord, 9

According to thy word, in peace;
[30]  
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,

Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples;
[31]  
A light for revelation 10 to the Gentiles,

And the glory of thy people Israel.
[32]  
  And his father and his mother were marvelling at the things which were spoken concerning him;
[33]  
and Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel; and for a sign which is spoken against;
[34]  
yea and a sword shall pierce through thine own soul; that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.
[35]  
And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher (she was of 1 a great age, having lived with a husband seven years from her virginity,
[36]  
and she had been a widow even unto fourscore and four years), who departed not from the temple, worshipping with fastings and supplications night and day.
[37]  
And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks unto God, and spake of him to all them that were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
[38]  
And when they had accomplished all things that were according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.
[39]  
  And the child grew, and waxed strong, filled 12 with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.
[40]  
  And his parents went every year to Jerusalem at the feast of the passover.
[41]  
And when he was twelve years old, they went up after the custom of the feast;
[42]  
and when they had fulfilled the days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and his parents knew it not;
[43]  
but supposing him to be in the company, they went a day’s journey; and they sought for him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance:
[44]  
and when they found him not, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking for him.
[45]  
And it came to pass, after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, 13 both hearing them, and asking them questions:
[46]  
and all that heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
[47]  
And when they saw him, they were astonished; and his mother said unto him, Son, 14why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I sought thee sorrowing.
[48]  
And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? knew ye not that I must be in 15my Father’s house?
[49]  
And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.
[50]  
And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth; and he was subject unto them: and his mother kept all these sayings 16 in her heart.
[51]  
  And Jesus advanced in wisdom and stature, 17 and in favor 18 with God and men.


Note 1. Gr. the inhabited earth. 
Note 2. Or, night-watches. 
Note 3. Or, Anointed Lord. 
Note 4. Many ancient authorities read peace, good pleasure among men. 
Note 5. Gr. men of good pleasure. 
Note 6. Or, saying. 
Note 7. Or, things. 
Note 8. Gr. bondservant. 
Note 9. Gr. Master. 
Note 10. Or, the unveiling of the Gentiles. 
Note 11. Gr. advanced in many days. 
Note 12. Gr. becoming full of wisdom. 
Note 13. Or, doctors. See ch. 5. 17; Acts 5. 34. 
Note 14. Gr. Child. 
Note 15. Or, about my Father’s business.Gr. in the things of my Father. 
Note 16. Or, things. 
Note 17. Or, age. 
Note 18. Or, grace. 


 

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