Curiosity and Interest as Guides to Reading (Dec. 31)

Curiosity and Interest as Guides to Reading 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. Read from Carlyle’s INAUGURAL ADDRESS Vol. 25, pp. 364-374 Well, Gentlemen, whatever … Continue reading

Dana Meets a Tattooed Sailor (Dec. 30)

Dana Meets a Tattooed Sailor 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. Read from Dana’s Two YEARS BEFORE THE MAST Vol. 23, pp. 77-86 CHAPTER XIII TRADING—A BRITISH SAILOR THE … Continue reading

These Guests Outstayed Their Welcome (Dec. 29)

These Guests Outstayed Their Welcome 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. Read from Homer’s ODYSSEY Vol. 22, pp. 296-309 … Continue reading

Ho! for the Spanish Main! (Dec. 28)

Ho! for the Spanish Main! 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. Read from DRAKE’S GREAT ARMADA Vol. 33, pp. 229-240 DRAKE’S GREAT ARMADA [NARRATIVE MAINLY … Continue reading

Million-Year-Old Islands (Dec. 27)

Million-Year-Old Islands 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.) Read from Darwin’s VOYAGE OF THE BEAGLE Vol. 29, pp. 376-389 CHAPTER XVII GALAPAGOS … Continue reading

Silence Cost Her a Kingdom (Dec. 26)

Silence Cost Her a Kingdom 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.) Read from Shakespeare’s KING LEAR Vol. 46, pp. … Continue reading

The Christmas Story (Dec. 25)

The Christmas Story (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. Read from the GOSPEL OF ST. LUKE Vol. 44, pp. 357-360 … Continue reading

Christmas Made a dull Day (Dec. 24)

Christmas Made a dull Day Before the Reformation in England almost every third day was a holy day. But the Puritans abolished all the holy days, even Christmas. Read from HOLINSHED’S CHRONICLES Vol. 35, pp. 266-270 As for our churches themselves, bells and times of morning and evening prayer remain as in times past, saving … Continue reading

Saved from a Bonfire of Books (Dec 23)

Saved from a Bonfire of Books 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.) Read: Sainte-Beuve’s WHAT IS A CLASSIC? Vol. 32, pp. 121-133 WHAT IS A CLASSIC? A DELICATE … Continue reading

Rubbing Noses in New Zealand (Dec. 22)

Rubbing Noses in New Zealand 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.) Read from Darwin’s VOYAGE OF THE BEAGLE Vol. 29, pp. 425-434 December 23rd.—At a place called Waimate, … Continue reading

"Madam Bubble" Not to Be Discouraged (Dec. 21)

"Madam Bubble" Not to Be Discouraged "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.) Read from Bunyan’s PILGRIM’S PROGRESS Vol. 15, pp. 306-318 PILGRIM’S … Continue reading

Egypt Visited by the First Reporter (Dec. 20)

Egypt Visited by the First Reporter 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. Read from Herodotus’ AN ACCOUNT OF EGYPT Vol. 33, pp. 7-17 AN ACCOUNT OF EGYPT BY … Continue reading

Samson Finds a Champion (Dec. 19)

Samson Finds a Champion 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.) Read: Milton’s SAMSON AGONISTES Vol. 4, pp. 444-459 As … Continue reading

For a Gentleman (Dec. 18)

For a Gentleman 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. Read from SOME THOUGHTS CONCERNING EDUCATION. .Vol. 37, pp. 136-145 § 164. Latin I look upon as absolutely necessary to … Continue reading

Dies on the Eve of Her Son’s Conversion (Dec. 17)

Dies on the Eve of Her Son’s Conversion 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. Read from CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE Vol. 7, pp. 150-160   Thy mercy upon him, that believing in Thee, … Continue reading

How Man’s Courtship Differs from Animal’s (Dec. 16)

How Man’s Courtship Differs from Animal’s 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. Read from Burke’s THE SUBLIME AND BEAUTIFUL Vol. 24, pp. 37-48 SECT. IX.—THE FINAL CAUSE OF … Continue reading

Odysseus Talks with Ghosts (Dec. 15)

Odysseus Talks with Ghosts 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. Read from Homer’s ODYSSEY Vol. 22, pp. 145-153 BOOK XI Odysseus, his descent into hell, and discourses with the ghosts of the deceased heroes. NOW when … Continue reading

Pastoral Poems and Politics (Dec. 14)

Pastoral Poems and Politics 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.) Read: MARVELL’S POEMS Vol. 40, pp. 370-379 … Continue reading

To the South Seas with the Gallant Drake (Dec. 13)

To the South Seas with the Gallant Drake 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.) Read from DRAKE’S VOYAGE ROUND THE WORLD Vol. … Continue reading

How the Glorious News was Carried to Aix (Dec. 12)

How the Glorious News was Carried to Aix 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, … Continue reading

The Most Dashing Figure in Athens (Dec. 11)

The Most Dashing Figure in Athens 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. Read from Plutarch’s ALCIBIADES Vol. 12, pp. 106-117 ALCIBIADES ALCIBIADES, as it … Continue reading

Benvenuto Boasts of Gallantry (Dec. 10)

Benvenuto Boasts of Gallantry 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. Read from CELLINI’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY Vol. 31, pp. 62-72 XXXII I shall be obliged to digress … Continue reading

Slavery’s Last Stand (Dec. 9)

Slavery’s Last Stand 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." Read: THE FUGITIVE SLAVE ACT Vol. 43, pp. 306-312 FUGITIVE SLAVE ACT (1850) [The Fugitive Slave Act … Continue reading

Dream Women Shaped His Destiny (Dec. 8)

Dream Women Shaped His Destiny 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, /S59.) Read: LEVANA AND OUR … Continue reading

What Cicero Least Expected (Dec. 7)

What Cicero Least Expected After being governor of Sicily, Cicero returned to Rome expecting a hero’s welcome. When he asked what the Romans thought of his recent achievements, he received an astounding answer. (Cicero slain by Mark Antony’s soldiers, Dec. 7, 43 B. C.) Read from Plutarch’s CICERO Vol. 12, pp. 222-231 He was appointed … Continue reading

Moralizing as a Seductive Art (Dec. 6)

Moralizing as a Seductive Art "The Vision of Mirza" and "Westminster Abbey," first printed in "The Spectator," are examples of Addison’s wondrous gift of expression. He leads us to higher realms. (Last issue of "The Spectator" published Dec. 6, 1712.) Read: Addison’s ESSAYS Vol. 27, pp. 73-80 THE VISION OF MIRZA1 Omnem, quce nunc obducta … Continue reading

Poems by an Artist’s Model (Dec. 5)

Poems by an Artist’s Model So beautiful that many painters sought her for a model— Christina Rossetti, sister of the famous poet, Dante Rossetti, combined with her unusual beauty a rare poetic sense. (Christina Georgina Rossetti born Dec. 5, 1830.) Read: CHRISTINA ROSSETTI’S POEMS Vol. 42, pp. 1181-1183 CHRISTINA GEORGINA ROSSETTI [1830-18941 723 SONG WHEN … Continue reading

The Queen Weds a Poor Stranger (Dec. 4)

The Queen Weds a Poor Stranger AEneas and Dido, world-famous lovers, while hunting in the forest, were trapped in a cave by a furious storm. There the marriage between the proud African queen and the homeless wanderer was completed. Read from Virgil’s AENEID Vol. 13, pp. 152-162 THE FOURTH BOOK OF THE AENEIS THE ARGUMENT.—Dido … Continue reading

Met the Gods of Ten Thousand Worlds (Dec. 3)

Met the Gods of Ten Thousand Worlds After three awesome messengers have issued three warnings, the gods of ten thousand worlds decide who is to be the new Buddha. Then the parents, the conception, the birth of the god-child demand constant vigilance. Read: THE BIRTH OF THE BUDDHA Vol. 45, pp. 603-612 THE BIRTH OF … Continue reading

Practical Jokes in King Arthur’s Day (Dec. 2)

Practical Jokes in King Arthur’s Day Attacked in fun by two masked knights, Sir Galahad smote one so that both horse and rider went down. Turning on the other jester, he slashed open his helmet. Read from THE HOLY GRAIL Vol. 35, pp. 128-134 CHAPTER XVII HOW SIR GALAHAD MET WITH SIR LAUNCELOT AND SIR … Continue reading

Are Skeptics Faulty Thinkers? (Dec. 1)

Are Skeptics Faulty Thinkers? Offhand we say a skeptic is one who doubts everything. But does he? And are his doubts caused by too much learning, or too little? Berkeley presents both sides of skepticism. Read from Berkeley’s THREE DIALOGUES Vol. 37, pp. 189-199 THREE DIALOGUES BETWEEN HYLAS AND PHILONOUS, IN OPPOSITION TO SCEPTICS AND … Continue reading

"Don’ts" for Conversation (Nov. 30)

"Don’ts" for Conversation To harp on one’s illnesses, giving all the symptoms and circumstances, has been a blemish on conversation for ages. Two hundred years ago Swift complained of persons who continually talked about themselves. (Jonathan Swift horn Nov. 30, 1667.) Read: Swift’s ESSAY ON CONVERSATION Vol. 27, pp. 91-98 HINTS TOWARDS AN ESSAY ON … Continue reading

How Ideas Originate (Nov. 29)

How Ideas Originate Did you ever stop to think just how you thought? What inner emotions, what outer influences make up the fathomless depths of mind and intellect? Hume explains how we draw our thoughts, then clumsily put them into tangible shape called ideas. Read: Hume’s Or THE ORIGIN OF IDEAS Vol. 37, pp. 299-303 … Continue reading

Poems Made from Visions (Nov. 28)

Poems Made from Visions "To see a world in a grain of sand, and a heaven in a wild flower—" Such was the exaltation of the mysticism of William Blake, who reflected in his poetry the ecstasy of his visions. Simplicity is the keynote of his genius. (William Blake born Nov. 28, 1757.) Read: BLAKE’S … Continue reading

What Land is This? (Nov. 27)

What Land is This? In wondrous Utopia pearls and precious stones were used as playthings for little children. Gold rings and bracelets were only worn by outcasts, while great golden chains shackled criminals and felons. When ambassadors from foreign lands came in fine raiment, the Utopians treated the plainest dressed as the greatest; the others … Continue reading

Shakespeare Should Be Heard (Nov. 26)

Shakespeare Should Be Heard Charles Lamb, favorite essayist, thought that no stage could do justice to Shakespeare’s tragedies. He advocated reading the plays, and with the imagination costuming the players and building the gorgeous scenery in a way equaled by no scene painter or costumer. Read: Lamb ON THE TRAGEDIES or SHAKSPF.RE Vol. 27, pp. … Continue reading

Cupid as a Shoemaker (Nov. 25)

Cupid as a Shoemaker We are indebted to Thomas Dekker for one of the most humorous characters in all Elizabethan literature; namely, Simon Eyre, an old shoemaker whose affairs became hilariously involved with those of the gentry. Read from Dekker’s THE SHOEMAKER’S HOLIDAY Vol. 47, pp. 469-483 THE SHOE MAKER’S HOLIDAY [DRAMATIS PERSON* THE KING. … Continue reading

The Book that Upset Tennessee (Nov. 24)

The Book that Upset Tennessee The signal for the beginning of a great controversy, still raging, was the publication of Darwin’s "Origin of Species." This was the first complete statement of the evolution theory, which had been privately advanced but never publicly taught. A new epoch in science dates from this great work. ("Origin of … Continue reading

Less Than Star Dust (Nov. 23)

Less Than Star Dust According to Pascal, a man is not even as significant as a speck of star dust in the universe. Pascal’s thoughts on the subject are startling to the modern reader, and they furnish rich food for the imagination. (Pascal begins writing his "Thoughts," Nov. 23, 1654.) Read from PASCAL’S THOUGHTS Vol. … Continue reading

How a Queen Died for Love (Nov. 22)

How a Queen Died for Love Deserted by her lover, Queen Dido applied to her heart the only balm that could ease her pain. Read from Virgil’s JENEID Vol. 13, pp. 167-177   What pangs the tender breast of Dido tore, When, from the tow’r, she saw the cover’d shore, And heard the shouts of … Continue reading

Bargains in Wives (Nov. 21)

Bargains in Wives The beautiful daughters of the Circassians were in demand for the seraglios of the Turkish Sultan. Voltaire tells how these beauties were protected from smallpox centuries before modern vaccination. (Voltaire ill with smallpox, Nov., 1723.) Read from Voltaire’s LETTERS Vol. 34, pp. 93-97 LETTER XI ON INOCULATION IT is inadvertently affirmed in … Continue reading

Old Stories Ever New (Nov. 20)

Old Stories Ever New When the cold winds howled about the thatched huts of the German peasant, the mother drew her children to her side and told them stories. Collected and retold by the Grimm brothers, these stories have perennial charm. Read from GRIMM’S FAIRY TALES Vol. 17, pp. 90-98 THE VALIANT LITTLE TAILOR ONE … Continue reading

No Man Knows His Resting Place (Nov. 19)

No Man Knows His Resting Place A barge with black sails bearing three black robed queens with crowns of gold carried away the dying King Arthur. Will they bring him back and fulfill Merlin’s prophecy? (Queen Victoria appointed Tennyson poet laureate, Nov. 19, 1850.) Read: Tennyson’s MORTE D’ARTHUR Vol. 42, pp. 986-992 MORTE D’ARTHUR So … Continue reading

Apple or Son the Arrow’s Mark (Nov. 18)

Apple or Son the Arrow’s Mark The arrow shot from his bow with a twang and whizzed through the air. Tell covered his eyes, fearing to see where the arrow hit. Then the shout of triumph, a shout of the people and not of the tyrant—but the end was not yet. (William Tell incident, legendary … Continue reading

At Thirty Scott Began to Write (Nov. 17)

At Thirty Scott Began to Write Are you curious about famous people, their lives, habits, personalities? Carlyle discusses the intimate life of his illustrious countryman, and reveals Scott, the man, and Scott, the genius who entertained Christendom with his stories. (Scott writes dedication of "Ivanhoe," Nov. 17, 1817.) Read: Carlyle’s SIR WALTER SCOTT Vol. 25, … Continue reading

Just Before the Gold Rush (Nov. 16)

Just Before the Gold Rush When the glorious Western coast was only partly settled, Dana visited the Presidios. He saw frontier life at a time when Spanish splendor still gilded California. Read from Two YEARS BEFORE THE MAST Vol. 23, pp. 165-168 CHAPTER XXI CALIFORNIA AND ITS INHABITANTS WE KEPT up a constant connection with … Continue reading

Food Profiteers 300 Years Ago (Nov. 15)

Food Profiteers 300 Years Ago Food profiteering was as active in plague-stricken Milan 300 years ago as in modern times. Shops were stormed for food. Read how the Council strove heroically to fix fair rates. (Sale of corn and flour regulated in Milan, Nov. 75, 7629.) Read from Manzoni’s I PROMESSI SPOSI Vol. 2i, pp. … Continue reading

He Worried About It (Nov. 14)

He Worried About It We wonder if the man who worried about the "scientifical" prediction that "The sun’s heat will give out in ten million years more," had read Lyell on the gradual changes in the earth’s surface. (Sir Charles Lyell born Nov. 14, 1797.) Read: Lyell’s UNIFORMITY OF CHANGE Vol. 38, pp. 398-405 UNIFORMITY … Continue reading

When Carthage Was Monte Carlo (Nov. 13)

When Carthage Was Monte Carlo Carthage was the playground of the ancient world. In that city of many sins, Augustine was a leader of the revels. His conversion to Christianity amazed those who knew him. (St. Augustine born Nov. 13, 354.) Read from the CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE Vol. 7, pp. 31-38 THE THIRD BOOK … Continue reading

Story of the First Dresses (Nov. 12)

Story of the First Dresses Milton’s version tells how the Serpent induced Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. Eve offered it to Adam. Then they became conscious for the first time that they were not clothed. (John Milton married second wife, Nov. 12, 1656.) Read from Milton’s PARADISE LOST Vol. 4, pp. 278-290 278 JOHN … Continue reading