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Showing posts from July, 2014

Charm School for Women

Daniel Defoe Daniel Defoe, The Education of Women Vol. 27, pp. 148-150 of The Harvard Classics Lack of education, writes Defoe, makes a woman "turbulent, clamorous, noisy - " Defoe defied his generation and preached equal education for women. To-day we have co-education, but have we the benefits Defoe predicted? (Defoe pilloried for defiance of public opinion, July 31, 1703.) I  HAVE  often thought of it as one of the most barbarous customs in the world, considering us as a civilized and a Christian country, that we deny the advantages of learning to women. We reproach the sex every day with folly and impertinence; while I am confident, had they the advantages of education equal to us, they would be guilty of less than ourselves.   One would wonder, indeed, how it should happen that women are conversible at all; since they are only beholden to natural parts, for all their knowledge. Their youth is spent to teach them to stitch and sew or make baubles.

The First English Colony in North America

Sir Humphrey Gilbert Edward Haies (1550-1613), Sir Humphrey Gilbert’s Voyage to Newfoundland Vol. 33, pp. 263-273 of The Harvard Classics When the whole coast of America north of Florida was free to the first comer, Sir Humphrey Gilbert naïvely chose to settle on the rugged shores of Newfoundland. Read the glowing account of his great adventure "to plant Christian inhabitants in places convenient." (Gilbert lands at Newfoundland near St. John's, July 30, 1583.) A  REPORT   of the  V OYAGE   and success thereof, attempted in the year of our Lord 1583, by S IR  HUMPHREY GILBERT, K NIGHT,   with other gentlemen assisting him in that action, intended to discover and to plant Christian inhabitants in place convenient, upon those large and ample countries extended northward from the Cape of  F LORIDA,   lying under very temperate climes, esteemed fertile and rich in minerals, yet not in the actual possession of any Christian prince. Written by  M R.  E D

Stonehenge - England's Unsolved Mysterysto

17th Century depiction of Stonehenge Ralph Waldo Emerson. (1803–1882). Essays and English Traits . Vol. 5, pp. 453-462 of The Harvard Classics Stonehenge, that group of huge, rudely architectural stones on a vast plain in England, was erected no man knows when, nor why, nor how. Emerson, America's greatest thinker, visited this monument and was amazed at the "uncanny stones." English Traits XVI. Stonehenge I T  had been agreed between my friend Mr. C. and me, that before I left England we should make an excursion together to Stonehenge, which neither of us had seen; and the project pleased my fancy with the double attraction of the monument and the companion. It seemed a bringing together of extreme points, to visit the oldest religious monument in Britain, in company with her latest thinker, and one whose influence may be traced in every contemporary book. I was glad to sum up a little my experiences, and to exchange a few reasonable word

An Idyl of Agriculture

Abraham Cowley Abraham Cowley (1618-1687), Of Agriculture. Vol. 27, pp. 61-69 of The Harvard Classics Cowley portrays the ideal life - that of a farmer, and blazons it forth in heraldry. "A plow in a field arable" - to him, the most honorable of all emblems. (Abraham Cowley died July 28, 1667.) T HE FIRST  wish of Virgil (as you will find anon by his verses) was to be a good philosopher, the second, a good husbandman: and God (whom he seem’d to understand better than most of the most learned heathens) dealt with him just as he did with Solomon; because he prayed for wisdom in the first place, he added all things else, which were subordinately to be desir’d. He made him one of the best philosophers and the best husbandmen; and, to adorn and communicate both those faculties, the best poet. He made him, besides all this, a rich man, and a man who desired to be no richer— “O fortunatus nimium, et bona qui sua novit!”  1 To be a husbandman, is but a r

Once Surgeons Operated in Frock Coats

Joseph Lister Joseph Lister (1827–1912). On the Antiseptic Principle of the Practice of Surgery . Vol. 38, pp. 257-267 of The Harvard Classics The use of antiseptics in surgery is new. Hardly more than a half century ago surgeons operated in frock coats. Lord Lister, surgeon to Queen Victoria, was among the first to advocate scrupulous cleanliness in dressing wounds. (Lister publishes paper on antiseptic treatment, July 27, 1867.) I N THE  C OURSE  of an extended investigation into the nature of inflammation, and the healthy and morbid conditions of the blood in relation to it, I arrived several years ago at the conclusion that the essential cause of suppuration in wounds is decomposition brought about by the influence of the atmosphere upon blood or serum retained within them, and, in the case of contused wounds, upon portions of tissue destroyed by the violence of the injury.

Peace Amid Strife

Thomas van Kempen Thomas à Kempis. (b. 1379 or 1380, d. 1471). The Imitation of Christ . Vol. 7, pp. 205-211 of The Harvard Classics While Europe was shaken with wars, Thomas à Kempis lived in happy seclusion in his convent. His writings convincingly reflect the serenity and happiness of a man who has found peace - a peace that surpasses all understanding. (Thomas à Kempis died July 26, 1471.) Book I: Admonitions Profitable for the Spiritual Life I. Of the Imitation of Christ, and of Contempt of the World and all its Vanities H E  that followeth me shall not walk in darkness,   1  saith the Lord. These are the words of Christ; and they teach us how far we must imitate His life and character, if we seek true illumination, and deliverance from all blindness of heart. Let it be our most earnest study, therefore, to dwell upon the life of Jesus Christ.   2. His teaching surpasseth all teaching of holy men, and such as have His Spirit find therein  the

A Goddess and Her Mortal Lover

The Story of the Volsungs and Niblungs. Vol. 49, pp. 391-395 of The Harvard Classics Brynhild, Woden's daughter, carried the dead heroes to Valhalla where they could feast and fight without dying; until a sin divested her of divinity, and she fell in love with Sigurd. Certain Songs from the Elder Edda which Deal with the Story of the Volsungs Fragments of the Lay of Brynhild HOGNI SAID What hath wrought Sigurd Of any wrong-doing That the life of the famed one Thou art fain of taking?

Indian Sorcery Blamed for an Earthquake

Charles Robert Darwin (1809–1882). The Voyage of the Beagle . Vol. 29, pp. 306-316 of The Harvard Classics Darwin visited a South American city ruined by an earthquake. There he heard the superstitious account of the phenomenon. The ignorant people accused Indian women of bewitching the volcano. But Darwin has another explanation. Chapter XIV […]   A bad earthquake at once destroys our oldest associations: the earth, the very emblem of solidity, has moved beneath our feet like a thin crust over a fluid;—one second of time has created in the mind a strange idea of insecurity, which hours of reflection would not have produced. In the forest, as a breeze moved the trees, I felt only the earth tremble, but saw no other effect. Captain Fitz Roy and some officers were at the town during the shock, and there the scene was more striking; for although the houses, from being built of wood, did not fall, they were violently shaken, and the boards creaked and rattled toge

Friendship Above Love?

Francis Bacon Francis Bacon. (1561–1626). Essays, Civil and Moral . Vol. 3 pp. 65-72 of The Harvard Classics There are styles in friendship as well as in clothes. The mode of friendship of Bacon's time went out with plumed hats and long hose. But Bacon knew the true test of a friend. (Francis Bacon knighted, July 23, 1603.) XXVII Of Friendship I T  had been hard for him that spake  1  it to have put more truth and untruth together in few words, than in that speech,  Whatsoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.  For it is most true that a natural and secret hatred and aversation towards society in any man, hath somewhat of the savage beast; but it is most untrue that it should have any character at all of the divine nature; except it proceed, not out of a pleasure in soltitude, but out of a love and desire to sequester a man’s self for a higher conversation:  2  such as is found to have been falsely and feignedly in some of

Trapped in a Cave with a Frenzied Giant

Homer Homer (fl. 850 B.C.). The Odyssey. Vol. 22, pp. 120-129 of The Harvard Classics Odysseus was wrecked with his men on an island inhabited by one-eyed giants. Trapped in the cave of a giant who gobbled up some of the crew for supper, the cunning Odysseus blinded the giant and rescued the survivors of his crew. Book IX […]   ‘Then I commanded the rest of my well-loved company to tarry there by the ship, and to guard the ship, but I chose out twelve men, the best of my company, and sallied forth. Now I had with me a goat-skin of the dark wine and sweet which Maron, son of Euanthes, had given me, the priest of Apollo, the god that watched over Ismarus. And he gave it, for that we had protected him with his wife and child reverently; for he dwelt in a thick grove of Phoebus Apollo. And he made me splendid gifts; he gave me seven talents of gold well wrought, and he gave me a mixing bowl of pure silver, and furthermore wine which he drew off in twelve jar

Scotland's Own Poet

Robert Burns Robert Burns (1759–1796). Poems and Songs. Vol. 6, pp. 70-79 of The Harvard Classics The songs of Burns are the links, the watchwords, the symbols of the Scots. He is the last of the ballad singers. In his works are preserved the best songs of his people. (Robert Burns died July 21, 1796.) Holy Willie’s Prayer “And send the godly in a pet to pray.”—POPE. ARGUMENT.—Holy Willie was a rather oldish bachelor elder, in the parish of Mauchline, and much and justly famed for that polemical chattering, which ends in tippling orthodoxy, and for that spiritualized bawdry which refines to liquorish devotion. In a sessional process with a gentleman in Mauchline—a Mr.Gavin Hamilton—Holy Willie and his priest, Father Auld, after full hearing in the presbytery of Ayr, came off but second best; owing partly to the oratorical powers of Mr. Robert Aiken, Mr. Hamilton’s counsel; but chiefly to Mr. Hamilton’s being one of the most irreproachable and truly res

A Cobbler in Jail

Pilgrim's Progress First Edition John Bunyan (1628–1688). The Pilgrim’s Progress . Vol. 15, pp. 59-69 of The Harvard Classics John Bunyan, imprisoned for preaching without a license, gave to the world "Pilgrim's Progress," the greatest allegory in any language, second only to the Bible. The Pilgrim’s Progress, in the Similitude of a Dream; The First Part […]   Now he bethought himself of setting forward, and they were willing he should: but first, said they, let us go again into the Armory: So they did; and when they came there, they harnessed him from head to foot with what was of proof, lest perhaps he should meet with assaults in the way. He being therefore thus accoutred, walketh out with his friends to the Gate, and there he asked the Porter if he saw any Pilgrims pass by: Then the Porter answered, Yes.    Chr.   Pray, did you know him? said he.    Por.  I asked his name, and he told me it was  Faithful.    Chr.   O, said  Chr

She Wanted Heroes All to Herself

Sir Walter Raleigh Sir Walter Raleigh (1554-1618), The Discovery of Guiana Vol. 33, pp. 311-320 of The Harvard Classics The famous gallant who spread his gorgeous cloak so the dainty slipper of his queen would be unspotted, soon lost the high favor this action won for him. In spite of his glorious voyages, Raleigh condemned himself when he fell in love with another woman. (Sir WaIter Raleigh imprisoned July 19, 1603.) O N   1   2  Thursday, the sixth of February, in the year 1595, we departed  England,  and the Sunday following had sight of the north cape of  Spain,  the wind for the most part continuing prosperous; we passed in sight of the  Burlings,  and the Rock, and so onwards for the Canaries,  and fell with  Fuerteventura  the 17. of the same month, where we spent two or three days, and relieved our companies with some fresh meat. From thence we coasted by the Grand Canaria,  and so to  Teneriffe,  and stayed there for the  Lion’s Whelp,  your Lordship’s s

A Throne for Son or Stepson?

Title page of Phedre et Hippolyte Jean Racine (1639–1699). Phædra. Vol. 26, pp. 133-148 of The Harvard Classics Phædre first persecuted Hippolytus, her handsome stepson, then loved him. Suddenly he and her own son became rivals for the throne. Should she push her son's claims or let Hippolytus take the crown? (Racine elected to French Academy, July 17, 1673.) Act I Scene I H IPPOLYTUS,  T HERAMENES. Hippolytus M Y  mind is settled, dear Theramenes, And I can stay no more in lovely Trœzen. In doubt that racks my soul with mortal anguish, I grow ashamed of such long idleness. Six months and more my father has been gone, And what may have befallen one so dear I know not, nor what corner of the earth Hides him.

When Elizabeth Dined

William Harrison , A Description of Elizabethan England (Written for Holinshed's Chronicles) Vol. 35, pp. 271-288 of The Harvard Classics Meals in the houses of the gentry and noblemen in Elizabethan England were taken most seriously. No one spoke. Holinshed records the strange table etiquette of our ancestors. (Queen Elizabeth entertained at Kenilworth, July 15, 1575.) Chapter VI Of the Food and Diet of the English [1577, Book III., Chapter 1; 1587, Book II., Chapter 6.] T HE SITUATION  of our region, lying near unto the north, doth cause the heat of our stomachs to be of somewhat greater force: therefore our bodies do crave a little more ample nourishment than the inhabitants of the hotter regions are accustomed withal, whose digestive force is not altogether so vehement, because their internal heat is not so strong as ours, which is kept in by the coldness of the air that from time to time (especially in winter) doth environ our bodies.

The French People Triumph

Edmund Burke Edmund Burke (1729–1797). Reflections on the French Revolution . Vol. 24, pp. 268-273 of The Harvard Classics (The Bastille surrendered, July 14, 1789.) What the Fourth of July is to Americans, the Fourteenth of July is to Frenchmen. It commemorates an oppressive tyranny overthrown by a freedom-loving people. [...]   In the present disappearance of coin, no person could think it the same country, in which the present minister of the finances has been able to discover fourscore millions sterling in specie. From its general aspect one would conclude that it had been for some time past under the special direction of the learned academicians of Laputa and Balnibarbi.  1  Already the population of Paris has so declined, that M. Necker stated to the National Assembly the provision to be made for its subsistence at a fifth less than what had formerly been found requisite.  2  It is said (and I have never heard it contradicted) that a hundred thousand peop

Athenians Also Complained of Taxes

Plutarch (A.D. 46?–c.A.D. 120). Plutarch’s Lives . Vol. 12, pp. 47-57 of The Harvard Classics Pericles used public money to beautify Athens. The citizens protested against the expense, as citizens in all ages do. By a clever stroke Pericles won their support to his ambitious plans. Pericles [...]   For, indeed, there was from the beginning a sort of concealed split, or seam, as it might be in a piece of iron, marking the different popular and aristocratical tendencies; but the open rivalry and contention of these two opponents made the gash deep, and severed the city into the two parties of the people and the few. And so Pericles, at that time more than at any other, let loose the reins to the people, and made his policy subservient to their pleasure, contriving continually to have some great public show or solemnity, some banquet, or some procession or other in the town to please them, coaxing his countrymen like children, with such delights and pleasures

But He Walked!

Henry David Thoreau Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), Walking. Vol. 28, pp. 395-405 of The Harvard Classics Thoreau's individuality was unique and original. He had no profession; he never married; he never went to church; he never voted or paid taxes; he never smoked; he never drank wine. His amusement was walking, to observe and meditate. (Henry David Thoreau born July 12, 1817.) I  WISH  to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil,—to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society. I wish to make an extreme statement, if so I may make an emphatic one, for there are enough champions of civilization: the minister and the school committee and every one of you will take care of that.   I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks,—who had a genius, so to speak, for 

Star Gazing - A Cure for Tired Minds

Simon Newcomb Simon Newcomb, The Extent of the Universe Vol. 30, pp. 311-321 of The Harvard Classics The greatest spectacle offered man is a view of the magnificent vault of heaven. Under the stupendous arch of the Milky Way the cares of the world roll off. (Newcomb died July 11, 1909.) W E  cannot expect that the wisest men of our remotest posterity, who can base their conclusions upon thousands of years of accurate observation, will reach a decision on this subject without some measure of reserve. Such being the case, it might appear the dictate of wisdom to leave its consideration to some future age, when it may be taken up with better means of information than we now possess. But the question is one which will refuse to be postponed so long as the propensity to think of the possibilities of creation is characteristic of our race. The issue is not whether we shall ignore the question altogether, like Eve in the presence of Raphael; but whether in studying it we s

America's First Immigrants

The Voyages to Vinland (c. 1000) Vol. 43, pp. 14-20 of The Harvard Classics The shadow of a phantom cast upon the cradle of Snorri, the first white child born in America, was a warning of an Indian attack on the settlement of courageous Norsemen who had risked the terrors of unknown seas to visit "Wineland." Of the Wineland Voyages of Thorfinn and His Companions   T HAT  same summer a ship came from Norway to Greenland. The skipper’s name was Thorfinn Karlsefni. He was a son of Thord Horsehead, and a grandson of Snorri, the son of Thord of Hofdi. Thorfinn Karlsefni, who was a very wealthy man, passed the winter at Brattahlid with Leif Ericsson. He very soon set his heart upon Gudrid, and sought her hand in marriage. She referred him to Leif for her answer, and was subsequently betrothed to him; and their marriage was celebrated that same winter. A renewed discussion arose concerning a Wineland voyage; and the folk urged Karlsefni to make the venture, Gudrid

A Little Lying Now and Then

Francis Bacon Francis Bacon. (1561–1626). Essays, Civil and Moral . Vol. 3, pp. 7-19 of The Harvard Classics "What is Truth?" asked Pilate. For an answer Bacon discourses not on human nature as it should be, but as it is. These shrewd observations on making a life and a living admit occasional departures from truth. (Bacon becomes Privy Councilor, July 9, 1616.) I Of Truth W HAT  is truth?  said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer. Certainly there be that delight in giddiness, and count it a bondage to fix a belief; affecting  1  free-will in thinking, as well as in acting. And though the sects of philosophers, of that kind  2  be gone, yet there remain certain discoursing  3  wits which are of the same veins, though there be not so much blood in them as was in those of the ancients. But it is not only the difficulty and labor which men take in finding out of truth, nor again that when it is found it imposeth upon  4  men’s tho

Italy's Fair Assassin

Percy Bysshe Shelley Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822). The Cenci . Vol. 18, pp. 288-300 of The Harvard Classics When the monstrous Cenci forced his daughter Beatrice into a horrible situation, she revolted and boldly struck for freedom. Shelley tells her pitiful story in one of his best works. (Percy Bysshe Shelley drowned, July 8, 1822.) Act I Scene III A Magnificent Hall in the Cenci Palace. A Banquet. Enter  C ENCI,  L UCRETIA,  B EATRICE,  O RSINO,  C AMILLO,  N OBLES    Cenci.   Welcome, my friends and kinsmen; welcome ye, Princes and Cardinals, pillars of the church, Whose presence honours our festivity. I have too long lived like an anchorite, And in my absence from your merry meetings An evil word is gone abroad of me; But I do hope that you, my noble friends, When you have shared the entertainment here, And heard the pious cause for which ’tis given, And we have pledged a health or two together, Will think me flesh and blood a

Scandal That Lurked Behind Lace and Powder

Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816). The School for Scandal . Vol. 18, pp. 115-128 of The Harvard Classics The painted lips of the eighteenth century ladies and gallants vied with one another in whispering scathing gossip, in gleefully furthering the destruction of a good name. Sheridan depicts this gay world with a brilliant spicy pen. (Sheridan buried in Westminster Abbey, July 7, 1816.) Act First Scene I L ADY  S NEERWELL’S   Dressing-room L ADY  S NEERWELL   discovered at her toilet;  S NAKE   drinking chocolate. Lady Sneerwell T HE PARAGRAPHS,  you say, Mr. Snake, were all inserted?    Snake.   They were, madam; and, as I copied them myself in a feigned hand, there can be no suspicion whence they came.    Lady Sneer.   Did you circulate the report of Lady Brittle’s intrigue with Captain Boastall?    Snake.   That’s in as fine a train as your ladyship could wish. In the common course of things, I think it must reach Mrs. Clackitt’s ears wit

The Origin of "Utopia"

Sir Thomas More Sir Thomas More (1478–1535). Utopia. Vol. 36, pp. 135-142 of The Harvard Classics When Europe was suffering from evil rulers, heavy taxes, and despair, Sir Thomas More dreamed of a happy land where an intelligently managed state perfected happiness. (Sir Thomas More executed, July 6, 1535.) The First Book The First Book of the Communication of Raphael Hythloday, Concerning the Best State of a Commonwealth T HE  M OST  victorious and triumphant King of England, Henry the Eighth of that name, in all royal virtues, prince most peerless, had of late in controversy with the right high and mighty King of Castile, weighty matters and of great importance. For the debatement and final determination whereof, the King’s Majesty sent me ambassador into Flanders, joined in commission with Cuthbert Tunstall, a man doubtless out of comparison, and whom the King’s Majesty of late, to the great rejoicing of all men, did prefer to the office of Master