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. 


Christmas Made a Dull Day

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Holinshed's Chronicles: A Description of Elizabethan England.
Vol. 35, pp. 266-270 of The Harvard Classics

Before the Reformation in England almost every third day was a holy day. But the Puritans abolished all the holy days, even Christmas.


Chapter V
Of the Ancient and Present Estate of the Church of England
[1577, Book II., Chapter 5; 1585, Book II., Chapter 1.]

  I would set down two or three more of the like instruments passed from that see unto the like end, but this shall suffice, being less common than the other, which are to be had more plentifully.

  As for our churches themselves, bells and times of morning and evening prayer remain as in times past, saving that all images, shrines, tabernacles, rood-lofts, and monuments of idolatry are removed, taken down, and defaced, only the stories in glass windows excepted, which, for want of sufficient store of new stuff, and by reason of extreme charge that should grow by the alteration of the same into white panes throughout the realm, are not altogether abolished in most places at once, but by little and little suffered to decay, that white glass may be provided and set up in their rooms. Finally, whereas there was wont to be a great partition between the choir and the body of the church, now it is either very small or none at all, and (to say the truth) altogether needless, sith the minister saith his service commonly in the body of the church, with his face toward the people, in a little tabernacle of wainscot provided for the purpose, by which means the ignorant do not only learn divers of the psalms and usual prayers by heart, but also such as can read do pray together with him, so that the whole congregation at one instant pour out their petitions unto the living God for the whole estate of His church in most earnest and fervent manner. Our holy and festival days are very well reduced also unto a less number; for whereas (not long since) we had under the pope four score and fifteen, called festival, and thirty profesti,beside the Sundays, they are all brought unto seven and twenty, and, with them, the superfluous numbers of idle wakes, guilds, fraternities, church-ales, help-ales, and soul-ales, called also dirge-ales, with the heathenish rioting at bride-ales, are well diminished and laid aside. And no great matter were it if the feasts of all our apostles, evangelists, and martyrs, with that of all saints, were brought to the holy days that follow upon Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntide, and those of the Virgin Mary, with the rest, utterly removed from the calendars, as neither necessary nor commendable in a reformed church.

Saved from a Bonfire of Books

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve

Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve (1804-1869), What is a Classic?.
Vol. 32, pp. 121-133 of The Harvard Classics

If all the books in the world were on fire, some men would risk their lives to save certain priceless writings: the world's classics. Sainte-Beuve here tells why.
(Sainte-Beuve born Dec. 23, 1804.)


DELICATE question, to which somewhat diverse solutions might be given according to times and seasons. An intelligent man suggests it to me, and I intend to try, if not to solve it, at least to examine and discuss it face to face with my readers, were it only to persuade them to answer it for themselves, and, if I can, to make their opinion and mine on the point clear. And why, in criticism, should we not, from time to time, venture to treat some of those subjects which are not personal, in which we no longer speak of some one but of some thing? Our neighbours, the English, have well succeeded in making of it a special division of literature under the modest title of “Essays.” It is true that in writing of such subjects, always slightly abstract and moral, it is advisable to speak of them in a season of quiet, to make sure of our own attention and of that of others, to seize one of those moments of calm moderation and leisure seldom granted our amiable France; even when she is desirous of being wise and is not making revolutions, her brilliant genius can scarcely tolerate them.

Rubbing Noses in New Zealand

Monday, 22 December 2014

Charles Darwin

Charles Robert Darwin (1809–1882). The Voyage of the Beagle.
Vol. 29, pp. 425-434 of The Harvard Classics

Darwin, in exploring New Zealand, finds cannibalism, tattooing, and many weird customs among the natives. Instead of shaking hands, the salutation is by rubbing noses.
(Darwin visits New Zealand natives, Dec. 22, 1835.)


Chapter XVIII

[…]

  But their persons and houses are filthily dirty and offensive: the idea of washing either their bodies or their clothes never seems to enter their heads. I saw a chief, who was wearing a shirt black and matted with filth, and when asked how it came to be so dirty, he replied, with surprise, “Do not you see it is an old one?” Some of the men have shirts; but the common dress is one or two large blankets, generally black with dirt, which are thrown over their shoulders in a very inconvenient and awkward fashion. A few of the principal chiefs have decent suits of English clothes; but these are only worn on great occasions.

"Madam Bubble" Not to Be Discouraged

Sunday, 21 December 2014

John Bunyan

John Bunyan (1628–1688). The Pilgrim’s Progress.
Vol. 15, pp. 306-318 of The Harvard Classics

"Madam Bubble," or this vain world, presented both herself and her purse to the wayfarer. Repulsed and scorned, yet she serenely flaunts her bribes enticingly before his bewildered eyes.
(John Bunyan made leader of Non-Conformist congregation, Dec. 21, 1671.)


The Second Part

[…]

  So they came upon to another; and presently Stand-fast said to old Honest,Ho Father Honest, are you there? Ay, said he, that I am, as sure as you are there. Right glad am I, said Mr Stand-fast, that I have found you on this Road. And as glad am I, said the other, that I espied you upon your Knees. Then Mr Stand-fast blushed, and said, But why, did you see me? Yes, that I did, quoth the other, and with my heart was glad at the sight. Why, what did you think? said Stand-fast. Think, said Old Honest, what should I think? I thought we had an honest man upon the Road, and therefore should have his Company by and by. If you thought not amiss [said Stand-fast] how happy am I, but if I be not as I should, I alone must bear it. That is true, said the other, but your fear doth further confirm me that things are right betwixt the Prince of Pilgrims and your Soul, for he saith, Blessed is the man that feareth always.

Egypt Visited by the First Reporter

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Herodotus

Herodotus (c. 484–425 BC), An Account of Egypt: Being the Second Book of His Histories Called Euterpe.
Vol. 33 pp. 7-17 of The Harvard Classics

All phases of life were pictured by Herodotus in his history. Like a modern newspaper reporter, he combines weird stories, scandals, and battle accounts with descriptions of places, persons, and sights about town.


WHEN Cyrus had brought his life to an end, Cambyses received the royal power in succession, being the son of Cyrus and of Cassandane the daughter of Pharnaspes, for whose death, which came about before his own, Cyrus had made great mourning himself and also had proclaimed to all those over whom he bore rule that they should make mourning for her: Cambyses, I say, being the son of this woman and of Cyrus, regarded the Ionians and Aiolians as slaves inherited from his father; and he proceeded to march an army against Egypt, taking with him as helpers not only the other nations of which he was ruler, but also those of the Hellenes over whom he had power besides.

Samson Finds a Champion

Friday, 19 December 2014

John Milton

John Milton. (1608–1674), Samson Agonistes.
Vol. 4, pp. 444-459 of The Harvard Classics

The mighty Samson was blinded while a captive of the Philistines. He sought revenge - a revenge devastating and costly. Milton, himself a giant of intellect, blind and imprisoned, wrote of this sightless giant of other days.
(Milton released from prison, Dec. 19, 1660.)


Into the common prison, there to grind
Among the slaves and asses, thy comrades,
As good for nothing else, no better service
With those thy boisterous locks; no worthy match
For valour to assail, nor by the sword
Of noble warrior, so to stain his honour,
But by the barber’s razor best subdued.
  Sams. All these indignities, for such they are
From thine, these evils I deserve and more,
Acknowledge them from God inflicted on me
Justly, yet despair not of his final pardon,
Whose ear is ever open, and his eye
Gracious to re-admit the suppliant;
In confidence whereof I once again
Defy thee to the trial of mortal fight,
By combat to decide whose god is God,
Thine, or whom I with Israel’s sons adore.

For a Gentleman

Thursday, 18 December 2014

John Locke

John Locke (1632–1704). Some Thoughts Concerning Education.
Vol. 37, pp. 136-145 of The Harvard Classics

Every schoolboy asks: "What's the use of learning Latin?" John Locke, one of the greatest educators of all time, maintains that Latin is absolutely essential to a well-bred gentleman, and explains why.


  § 162. As soon as he can speak English, ’tis time for him to learn some other language. This no body doubts of, when French is propos’d. And the reason is, because people are accustomed to the right way of teaching that language, which is by talking it into children in constant conversation, and not by grammatical rules. The Latin tongue would easily be taught the same way, if his tutor, being constantly with him, would talk nothing else to him, and make him answer still in the same language. But because French is a living language, and to be used more in speaking, that should be first learned, that the yet pliant organs of speech might be accustomed to a due formation of those sounds, and he get the habit of pronouncing French well, which is the harder to be done the longer it is delay’d.

Dies on the Eve of Her Son's Conversion

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Saint Augustine

Saint Augustine. (354–430). The Confessions of St. Augustine.
Vol. 7, pp. 150-160 of The Harvard Classics

The mother of St. Augustine prayed unceasingly for her son's conversion. The most touching, most soul-revealing writing St. Augustine did is in the description of his mother's death.


The Ninth Book

[…]

  Brought up thus modestly and soberly, and made subject rather by Thee to her parents, than by her parents to Thee, so soon as she was of marriageable age, being bestowed upon a husband, she served him as her lord; and did her diligence to win him unto Thee, preaching Thee unto him by her conversation; by which Thou ornamentedst her, making her reverently amiable, and admirable unto her husband. And she so endured the wronging of her bed as never to have any quarrel with her husband thereon. For she looked for Thy mercy upon him, that believing in Thee, he might be made chaste. But besides this, he was fervid, as in his affections, so in anger: but she had learnt not to resist an angry husband, not in deed only, but not even in word. Only when he was smoothed and tranquil, and in a temper to receive it, she would give an account of her actions, if haply he had overhastily taken offence. In a word, while many matrons, who had milder husbands, yet bore even in their faces marks of shame, would in familiar talk blame their husbands’ lives she would blame their tongues, giving them, as in jest, earnest advice: “That from the time they heard the marriage writings read to them, they should account them as indentures, whereby they were made servants; and so, remembering their condition, ought not to set themselves up against their lords.” And when they, knowing what a choleric husband she endured, marvelled that it had never been heard, nor by any token perceived, that Patricius had beaten his wife, or that there had been any domestic difference between them, even for one day, and confidentially asking the reason, she taught them her practice above mentioned. Those wives who observed it found the good, and returned thanks; those who observed it not, found no relief, and suffered.

How Man's Courtship Differs from Animal's

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke (1729–1797). On the Sublime and Beautiful.
Vol. 24, pp. 37-48 of The Harvard Classics

Beauty is an important factor in the attraction between man and woman. It is knowing beauty that differentiates man from the animals, which only require that their mates be of the same species.


The Final Cause of the Difference Between the Passions Belonging to Self-Preservation and Those Which Regard the Society of the Sexes

THE FINAL cause of the difference in character between the passions which regard self-preservation, and those which are directed to the multiplication of the species, will illustrate the foregoing remarks yet further; and it is, I imagine, worthy of observation even upon its own account. As the performance of our duties of every kind depends upon life, and the performing them with vigour and efficacy depends upon health, we are very strongly affected with whatever threatens the destruction of either: but as we are not made to acquiesce in life and health, the simple enjoyment of them is not attended with any real pleasure, lest, satisfied with that, we should give ourselves over to indolence and inaction. On the other hand, the generation of mankind is a great purpose, and it is requisite that men should be animated to the pursuit of it by some great incentive. It is therefore attended with a very high pleasure; but as it is by no means designed to be our constant business, it is not fit that the absence of this pleasure should be attended with any considerable pain. The difference between men and brutes, in this point, seems to be remarkable. Men are at all times pretty equally disposed to the pleasures of love, because they are to be guided by reason in the time and manner of indulging them. Had any great pain arisen from the want of this satisfaction, reason, I am afraid, would find great difficulties in the performance of its office. But brutes, who obey laws, in the execution of which their own reason has but little share, have their stated seasons; at such times it is not improbable that the sensation from the want is very troublesome, because the end must be then answered, or be missed in many, perhaps for ever; as the inclination returns only with its season.

Odysseus Talks with Ghosts

Monday, 15 December 2014

Homer

Homer (fl. 850 B.C.). The Odyssey.
Vol. 22, pp. 145-153 of The Harvard Classics

This is another of those marvelous and unforgetable tales of the wandering Odysseus. The fantasy takes him into regions where he discourses with deceased heroes.


Book XI

Odysseus, his descent into hell, and discourses with the ghosts of the deceased heroes.


‘NOW when we had gone down to the ship and to the sea, first of all we drew the ship unto the fair salt water and placed the mast and sails in the black ship, and took those sheep and put them therein, and ourselves too climbed on board, sorrowing, and shedding big tears. And in the wake of our dark-prowed ship she sent a favouring wind that filled the sails, a kindly escort,—even Circe of the braided tresses, a dread goddess of human speech. And we set in order all the gear throughout the ship and sat us down; and the wind and the helmsman guided our barque. And all day long her sails were stretched in her seafaring; and the sun sank and all the ways were darkened.

Pastoral Poems and Politics

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Andrew Marvell

Andrew Marvell (1621–1678), Selected Poetry.
Vol. 40, pp. 370-379 of The Harvard Classics

The many-sided Marvell, who wielded a pen that was both feared and courted, is seen at his best in stirring verse. "A Garden," "Prospect of Flowers," with the "Horatian Ode upon Cromwell," show the power of his genius.
(Marvell entered Cambridge, Dec. 14, 1633.)


A Garden

SEE how the flowers, as at parade,
Under their colours stand display’d:
Each regiment in order grows,
That of the tulip, pink, and rose.
But when the vigilant patrol
Of stars walks round about the pole,
Their leaves, that to the stalks are curl’d
Seem to their staves the ensigns furl’d.
Then in some flower’s belovèd hut
Each bee, as sentinel, is shut,
And sleeps so too; but if once stirr’d,
She runs you through, nor asks the word.
O thou, that dear and happy Isle,
The garden of the world erewhile,
Thou Paradise of the four seas
Which Heaven planted us to please,
But, to exclude the world, did guard
With wat’ry if not flaming sword;
What luckless apple did we taste
To make us mortal and thee waste!
Unhappy! shall we never more
That sweet militia restore,
When gardens only had their towers,
And all the garrisons were flowers;
When roses only arms might bear,
And men did rosy garlands wear?

To the South Seas with the Gallant Drake

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Francis Pretty, Sir Francis Drake’s Famous Voyage Round the World.
Vol. 33, pp. 199-208 of The Harvard Classics

A famous voyage was Sir Francis Drake's around the world. Drake's crew, the first white men to visit many parts of the world, received amazing receptions from the natives.
(Sir Francis Drake embarked for South Seas, Dec. 13, 1577.)


NARRATIVE BY FRANCIS PRETTY, ONE OF DRAKE’S GENTLEMEN AT ARMS.

The FAMOUS VOYAGE of SIR FRANCIS DRAKE into the South Sea, and therehence about the whole Globe of the Earth, begun in the year of our Lord 1577.


THE 15. DAY of November, in the year of our Lord 1577, Master Francis Drake, with a fleet of five ships and barks, 1 and to the number of 164 men, gentlemen and sailors, departed from Plymouth, giving out his pretended voyage for Alexandria. But the wind falling contrary, he was forced the next morning to put into Falmouth Haven, in Cornwall,where such and so terrible a tempest took us, as few men have seen the like, and was indeed so vehement that all our ships were like to have gone to wrack. But it pleased God to preserve us from that extremity, and to afflict us only for that present with these two particulars: the mast of our Admiral, which was the Pelican, was cut overboard for the safeguard of the ship, and the Marigold was driven ashore, and somewhat bruised. For the repairing of which damages we returned again to Plymouth; and having recovered those harms, and brought the ships again to good state, we set forth the second time from Plymouth, and set sail the 13. day of December following.

How the Glorious News was Carried to Aix

Friday, 12 December 2014

Robert Browning

Robert Browning (1812–1889), Selected Poetry.
Vol. 42, pp. 1066-1068 of The Harvard Classics

Three brave men began the heroic ride from Ghent to Aix. Only one man arrived to tell the thrilling story of the tempestuous ride. In one of his most bewitching poems, in lines that haunt the memory, Browning retells the story.
(Robert Browning died Dec. 12, 1889.)


How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix’ [16—]

SPRANG to the stirrup, and Joris, and he;
I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all three;
‘Good speed!’ cried the watch, as the gate-bolts undrew;
‘Speed!’ echoed the wall to us galloping through;
Behind shut the postern, the lights sank to rest,
And into the midnight we galloped abreast.

The Most Dashing Figure in Athens

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Alcibiades

Plutarch (A.D. 46?–c.A.D. 120). Plutarch’s Lives.
Vol. 12, pp. 106-117 of The Harvard Classics

The handsome Alcibiades, cunning in politics, bold in war, was the lion of Athenian society until he violated the secrets of a mysterious religious cult. Then all outraged Athens united to dash their idol to the ground.


Alcibiades

ALCIBIADES, as it is supposed, was anciently descended from Eurysaces, the son of Ajax, by his father’s side; and by his mother’s side from Alcmæon. Dinomache, his mother, was the daughter of Megacles. His father, Clinias, having fitted out a galley at his own expense, gained great honor in the sea fight at Artemisium, and was afterwards slain in the battle of Coronea, fighting against the Bœotians. Pericles and Ariphron, the sons of Xanthippus, nearly related to him, became the guardians of Alcibiades. It has been said not untruly that the friendship which Socrates felt for him has much contributed to his fame; and certain it is, that, though we have no account from any writer concerning the mother of Nicias or Demosthenes, of Lamachus or Phormion, of Thrasybulus or Theramenes, notwithstanding these were all illustrious men of the same period, yet we know even the nurse of Alcibiades, that her country was Lacedæmon, and her name Amycla; and that Zopyrus was his teacher and attendant; the one being recorded by Antisthenes, and the other by Plato.

Benvenuto Boasts of Gallantry

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Benvenuto Cellini

Benvenuto Cellini (1500–1571). Autobiography.
Vol. 31, pp. 62-72 of The Harvard Classics

Taking offense at a soldier who made advances toward his favorite lady, Cellini jumped from the window, knife in hand, to avenge himself. This incident was recorded with characteristic conceit by Cellini in his amazing diary.


XXXII

SHALL be obliged to digress a little from the history of my art, unless I were to omit some annoying incidents which have happened in the course of my troubled career. One of these, which I am about to describe, brought me into the greatest risk of my life. I have already told the story of the artists’ club, and of the farcical adventures which happened owing to the woman whom I mentioned, Pantasilea, the one who felt for me that false and fulsome love. She was furiously enraged because of the pleasant trick by which I brought Diego to our banquet, and she swore to be revenged on me. How she did so is mixed up with the history of a young man called Luigi Pulci, who had recently come to Rome. He was the son of one of the Pulcis, who had been beheaded for incest with his daughter; and the youth possessed extraordinary gifts for poetry together with sound Latin scholarship; he wrote well, was graceful in manners, and of surprising personal beauty; he had just left the service of some bishop, whose name I do not remember, and was thoroughly tainted with a very foul disease. While he was yet a lad and living in Florence, they used in certain places of the city to meet together during the nights of summer on the public streets; and he, ranking among the best of the improvisatori, sang there. His recitations were so admirable, that the divine Michel Agnolo Buonarroti, that prince of sculptors and of painters, went, wherever he heard that he would be, with the greatest eagerness and delight to listen to him. There was a man called Piloto, a goldsmith, very able in his art, who, together with myself, joined Buonarroti upon these occasions. 1 Thus acquaintance sprang up between me and Luigi Pulci; and so, after the lapse of many years, he came, in the miserable plight which I have mentioned, to make himself known to me again in Rome, beseeching me for God’s sake to help him. Moved to compassion by his great talents, by the love of my fatherland, and by my own natural tenderness of heart, I took him into my house, and had him medically treated in such wise that, being but a youth, he soon regained his health. While he was still pursuing his cure, he never omitted his studies, and I provided him with books according to the means at my disposal. The result was that Luigi, recognising the great benefits he had received from me, oftentimes with words and tears returned me thanks, protesting that if God should ever put good fortune in his way, he would recompense me for my kindness. To this I replied that I had not done for him as much as I desired, but only what I could, and that it was the duty of human beings to be mutually serviceable. Only I suggested that he should repay the service I had rendered him by doing likewise to some one who might have the same need of him as he had had of me.

Slavery's Last Stand

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

An 1851 poster about policemen acting as "slave catchers"!

Fugitive Slave Act (1850)
Vol. 43, pp. 306-312 of The Harvard Classics

By the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 stringent laws were made to prevent assistance being given to any slaves attempting to escape. The antislavery answer to these laws was a perfection of the "Underground Railroad."



[The Fugitive Slave Act was part of the group of measures known collectively as the “Compromise of 1850.” By this compromise, the antislavery party gained the admission of California as a free state; and the prohibition of slave-trading in the District of Columbia. The slavery party, on the other hand, besides concessions with regard to Texas, gained this act, which, however, by its stringency did much to rouse abolitionist sentiment in the North.]

Dream Women Shaped His Destiny

Monday, 8 December 2014

Thomas De Quincey

Thomas De Quincey (1885-1859). Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow.
Vol. 27, pp. 319-325 of The Harvard Classics

De Quincy imagined that three women were sent to him so that he might know the depths of his soul. Real women could not have wielded greater influence. It is fortunate that everyone does not meet these weird women.
(Thomas De Quincy died Dec. 8, 1859.)


OFTENTIMES at Oxford I saw Levana in my dreams. I knew her by her Roman symbols. Who is Levana? Reader, that do not pretend to have much leisure for very much scholarship, you will not be angry with me for telling you. Levana was the Roman goddess that performed for the new-born infant the earliest office of ennobling kindness,—typical, by its mode, of that grandeur which belongs to man everywhere, and of that benignity in powers invisible which even in pagan worlds sometimes descends to sustain it. At the very moment of birth, just as the infant tasted for the first time the atmosphere of our troubled planet, it was laid on the ground. But immediately, lest so grand a creature should grovel there for more than one instant, either the paternal hand, as proxy for the goddess Levana, or some near kinsman, as proxy for the father, raised it upright, bade it look erect as the king of all this world, and presented its forehead to the stars, saying, perhaps, in his heart, “Behold what is greater than yourselves!” This symbolic act represented the function of Levana. And that mysterious lady, who never revealed her face (except to me in dreams), but always acted by delegation, had her name from the Latin verb (as still it is the Italian verb) levare, to raise aloft.
 

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