MAY Reading Guide

(Please proceed to the “Harvard Classics” under the section “Categories” on a daily basis)

When the hounds of spring are on winter’s traces,
The mother of months in meadow or plain
Fills the shadows and windy places
With lisp of leaves and ripple of rain. . .
SWINBURNE (Vol. 42, p. 1199)

1. What Would You Ask Judas Iscariot?
Once Hazlitt and his friends took to discussing the famous people
they would like to meet—Guy Fawkes, Sir Isaac Newton,
Chaucer, Boccaccio, Cromwell, Garrick, and Judas.
Read: PERSONS ONE WOULD WISH TO HAVE SEEN Vol. 27, pp. 270-283

2. First Sparks of Electricity
Everything has to have a beginning, so too with the science of
electricity. Here we learn the very rudiments, the inceptions
of science that have revolutionized the world. Faraday explains
in a simple way t he truths of electricity.
Read: Faraday’s MAGNETISM—ELECTRICITY Vol. 30, pp. 61-72

3. Why “Machiavellian”?
Traveling from court to court in the stirring days of the Renaissance,
Machiavelli studied the intrigues of princes. His writings
have affected the destiny of mighty dynasties.
(Machiavelli horn May 3, 1469.)
Read from Machiavelli’s THE PRINCE Vol. 36, pp. 7-17

4. A Champion of Science
When science was struggling for a place in popular education,
Huxley distinguished himself as its champion. While the arts
were to beautify life and increase pleasure, Huxley saw science
as a means of benefiting man’s prosperity.
(Huxley born May 4, 1825.)
Read from SCIENCE AND CULTURE Vol. 28, pp. 209-319

5. Strange Adventures in Man’s Clothes
Disguised as a man, a Russian noblewoman exploring the mountains
of Poland came upon a secret prison. Fate linked the
lives of this woman and the unknown prisoner.
(Calderon, after a life of adventure, died May 5, 1681.)
Read from Calderon’s LIFE IS A DREAM Vol. 26, pp. 7-21

6. A Poor Artist Defies a Rich Duke
“Benvenuto, the figure cannot succeed in bronze,” so spoke the
patron Duke. Cellini, stung to fury, passionately burst out:
” Y o u do not understand art.” Feverishly he began the casting
of the statue—but read his o w n account of the tilt with the Duke.
Read from CELLINI’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY Vol. 31, pp. 373-384

7. A Bishop Bargains
A haughty aristocrat, who murdered his wife for enjoying life
more than he, now bargaining for a new bride; a crafty bishop
begging and bullying his heirs for a tomb richer than that of
his rival; these are subjects of Browning’s pen.
(Robert Browning born May 7, 1812.)
Read from BROWNING’S POEMS Vol. 42, pp. 1074-1078

8. Behind the Screen in t h e School for Scandal
Lady Teazle hides in haste when her husband is unexpectedly
announced. Situations which set many tongues wagging and
fed the fire of gossip in Scandal-land, startle the reader.
(“School for Scandal” produced at Drury Lane, May 8, 1777.)
Read from Sheridan’s SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL Vol. 18, pp. 164-176

9. Relation of Art to Freedom
Who has ever thought the arts had anything to do with freedom?
Schiller did. Forced by a German noble to enter a military
school, he escaped. Struggling to achieve freedom, he wrote
a series of letters on the relation of art to freedom.
(Friedrich von Schiller died May 9, 180;.)
Read: Schiller’s ON ESTHETIC EDUCATION Vol. 32, pp. 209-217

10. A Knight Among Cannibals
Savages who drink the powdered bones of their dead mixed with
wine, Amazons w h o hold riotous festivals, the worship of golden
statues, all the primitive wonders of Guiana are described by
the famous Elizabethan gallant, Sir Walter Raleigh.
Read from Raleigh’s DISCOVERY OF GUIANA Vol. 33, pp. 326-341

11. Latest Gossip in Malfi
Latest news abroad in Malfi: T h e Duchess has run off w i t h her
butler. But this happened before the days of newspapers or
radio, so Webster made from it an exciting play.
Read from Webster’s THE DUCHESS OF MALFI Vol. 47, pp. 721-737

12. His Wife’s Golden Hair Enshrined His Poems
The manuscripts of many of the best poems of Rossetti were
buried with his wife. Friends prevailed upon him to allow
them to be exhumed—and these poems, once buried with the
dead, are n ow a treasure of the living.
(Rossetti born May 12, 1828.)
Read: ROSSETTI’S POEMS Vol. 42, pp. 1149-1153, 1178-1181

13. What Does Your D o g Think of You?
Two dogs fell a-gossiping about their masters and about a dog’s
life among the humble Scotch folk. Each “rejoic’d they werena
men but dogs; an’ each took aff his several way.”
Read: Burns’ THE TWA DOGS Vol. 6, pp. 151-157

14. Jenner’s Amazing Smallpox Cure
Edward Jenner found that disease in the heel of a horse, transmitted
through a cow to the dairy attendants, was an agent in
making human beings immune from smallpox. His amazing
experiments inaugurated a new epoch.
(Edward Jenner maizes his first vaccination May 14, 1796.)

15. Glimpses Into the Beyond
The best part of the Divine Comedy for a few minutes’ reading is the
“Inferno.” There the reader finds the most vivid
descriptions, the most startling and unforgettable pictures.
(Dante born May 1$, 1265.)
Read from Dante’s DIVINE COMEDY Vol. 20, pp. 102-114

16. Favorite Superstitions of Celtic Imagination
Chessboards on which, of their own accord, black pieces played against
white; chariots that swiftly turned hither and yon without a driver;
pots in which a coward’s meat would not cook—
all these are woven into bewitching stories.
Read from THE POETRY OF THE CELTIC RACES Vol. 32, pp. 145-155

17. An Honest Life’s Reward
Condemned for impiety, Socrates felt so justified in the virtue of his
past action that instead of receiving a death sentence, he told the
judges he should be maintained at public expense as a public benefactor.
Read: Plato’s APOLOGY OF SOCRATES Vol. 2, pp. 24-30

18. The Night Life of Flowers
Flowers often tire of their stationary life and sometimes at night
frolic away to a ball in a beautiful castle. Thus a fanciful storyteller
accounts for their drooping condition in the morning.
Read: ANDERSEN’S TALES Vol. 17, pp. 334-341

19. Golden Advice on Manners
When a man is invited to a banquet he must be satisfied with the dishes
put before him. Epictetus reasoned that man should be content with what
life offers, and in serenity find happiness.
Read: Epictetus’ GOLDEN SAYINGS Vol. 2, pp. 128-138

20. Shakespeare’s Finest Work
The most concentrated beauty of Shakespeare’s unbounded creative
genius is found in his sonnets. Written as personal messages
to friends and not intended for publication, they reveal the
inner Shakespeare more truly than do any of his great plays.
(Sonnets entered in the London Stationers’ Register, May 20. 1609.)
Read from Shakespeare’s SONNETS Vol. 40, pp. 270-276

21. An Honest Man Defined
The sharp tongue of Alexander Pope made him celebrated, yet widely
feared. In a representative product of his versatile pen, he gracefully
combines his flashing wit with sage advice.
(Alexander Pope born May 21, 1688.)
Read from Pope’s ESSAY ON MAN Vol. 40, pp. 430-440

22. True Love in Difficulty
Because of a fancy for a peasant girl, the tyrannical lord of an Italian village
sent desperadoes to threaten the priest if he married the girl to her village lover.
(Manzoni died May 22, 1873.)
Read from Manzoni’s I PROMESSI SPOSI Vol. 21, pp. 7-24

23. A Plea for an Unfortunate
From the river her body was tenderly lifted—the girl who could find no place in
the vast city. Thomas Hood pleads for her—
eloquently and justly. Read this gem of pathos.
(Thomas Hood born May 23, 1709.)
Read: HOOD’S POEMS Vol. 41, pp. 907-911

24. The Night Life of Flowers
Flowers often tire of their stationary life and sometimes at night
frolic away to a ball in a beautiful castle. Thus a fanciful storyteller
accounts for their drooping condition in the morning.
Read: ANDERSEN’S TALES Vol. 17, pp. 334-341

24. They Had No Money—Yet Bought and Sold
Debts were not always paid in money. Not so long ago the
butcher paid for his keg of beer with a slab of beef, and oxen were exchanged
for land and wives. Adam Smith tells the interesting story of the origin and use of money.
Read from Adam Smith’s WEALTH OF NATIONS Vol. 10, pp. 22-33

25. Do What You Fear
Emerson startled the world by fearlessly declaring his beliefs. Such apparent paradoxes
as we find in his inspirational essay, “Heroism,” makes him the most stimulating
yet profound thinker America has produced.
(Emerson born May 25, 1803.)
Read: Emerson’s HEROISM Vol. 5, pp. 121-131

26. Daughter Declares Her Love
Goneril and Regan falsely swore they loved their father, King Lear, more than life
itself. Cordelia could find no words to express her sincere devotion. Then King Lear
made the decision that started a series of exciting events.
(Shakespeare’s first daughter, Susanna, baptized May 26, 1583.)
Read from Shakespeare’s KING LEAR Vol. 46, pp. 215-225

27 Lessing’s Courageous Stand for Toleration
To advance freedom of thought, Lessing published an essay of one hundred paragraphs
outlining the history of religion. The wrath of orthodox churchmen was hurled at his head,
and Lessing was left alone to defend his daring theories.
Read from THE EDUCATION OF THE HUMAN RACE Vol. 32, pp. 185-195

28. Master of Melodious Lyrics
Any one of these poems, ” The Harp That Once Through Tara’s Halls,”
“The Last Rose of Summer,” “The Light of Other Days,” would alone have
made Moore immortal.
(Thomas Moore born May 28, 1779.)
Read: MOORE’S POEMS Vol. 41, pp. 816-822

29. Adventures in Bagdad
A Bagdad merchant dreamed of .the money he would make from the sale of a tray
of glassware, and of marrying the king’s daughter. But, daydreaming, he kicked over the tray.
Read from THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS Vol. 16, pp. 177-184

30. When the Throb of the War D r um Is Stifl’d
(Memorial Day.)
At the close of the war, a torn and bleeding nation set about to rebuild its shattered frame.
The result was a stronger nation rising from an almost disrupted union.
Read: Longfellow’s THE BUILDING OF THE SHIP. . . Vol. 42, pp. 1280-1290

31. America’s Most Surprising Poet
Walt Whitman is the most original and startling of modern poets. An irony of his life is that
while he wrote for the contemporary masses, only a limited number of followers appreciated his genius, now universally recognized.
(Walt Whitman born May 31, 1819.)
Read: Whitman’s PREFACE TO LEAVES OF GRASS Vol. 39, pp. 388-398

Edward Jenner laid the foundation for the making of modern smallpox vaccine. He made his first experiment in 1796 by inoculating a boy of eight. (See Reading Assignment for May 14th.)


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