FIFTEEN MINUTES A DAY
JANUARY READING GUIDE
(Please proceed to the “Harvard Classics” under the section “Categories” on a daily basis)
ST. AGNES’ Eve!—Ah, bitter chill it was!
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
The hare limp’d trembling through the frozen grass,
And silent wds the floc\ in woolly fold. . .
KEATS (Vol. 41, p. 883)
1. Franklin’s Advice for the New Year
“Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without
fail what you resolve”—was one of the rules for success
framed by America’s first “self-made” man.
Read from FRANKLIN’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY Vol. i, pp. 79-85
2. School-Day Poems of John Milton
At the age of sixteen, Milton first appeared before the public
eye as a promising young poet. These early verses, written while
he was a boy in school, indicate his brilliant future.
(First edition of Milton’s collected poems published Jan. 2, 164;.)
Read: MILTON’S POEMS Vol. 4, pp. 7-18
3. Cicero on Friendship
“Fire and water are not of more universal use than friendship”—
such is the high value put upon this great human relationship
by the most famous orator of Rome.
(Cicero born fan. 3, 106 B.C.)
Read from Cicero ON FRIENDSHIP Vol. 9, pp. 16-26
4. A Flounder Fish Story
A fisherman, so the story goes, once caught a flounder that spoke,
begging to be released. This was granted, whereupon the fisherman’s
wife demanded that it grant her one miracle after another,
until even the flounder was disgusted.
(Jacob Grimm, elder of the famous Grimm brothers, born Jan. 4, 178;.)
Read from GRIMM’S FAIRY TALES Vol. 17, pp. 83-90
5. The Soaring Eagle and Contented Stork
Mazzini labored for the freedom of Italy, but was exiled. Byron
and Goethe also battled for liberty. Mazzini wrote an essay
in which he compared Byron to a soaring eagle and Goethe to
a contented stork.
(Byron arrived in Greece to fight for Greek, freedom, Jan. 5, 1824.)
Read: Mazzini’s BYRON AND GOETHE Vol. 32, pp. 377-396
6. Warned by Hector’s Ghost
In the dead of night Hector’s ghost appeared to warn AEneas
of the impending doom to come upon the walled city of Troy.
AEneas lifted his aged father on his back and, taking his son by
the hand, sought safety in flight. Off to Latium!
(H. Schliemann, discoverer of ancient Troy, born Jan. 6, 1822.)
Read from Virgil’s AENEID Vol. 13, pp. 109-127
7. If He Yawned, She Lost Her Head!
The Sultan had a habit of beheading each dawn his beautiful
bride of the night before, until he encountered Scheherazade.
Cleverly she saved her life a thousand and one mornings.
Read from THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS Vol. 16, pp. 5-13
8. Trying the Patience of Job
God was pleased with the piety of Job, but Satan accredited t he
piety to Job’s prosperity and happiness. So a trial was made.
See how each succeeding affliction visited on Job shook the
depths of his nature, and how he survived.
Read from THE BOOK OF JOB Vol. 44, pp. 71-87
9. A Treasure Hunt in Nombre de Dios
With only fifty-two men, Sir Francis Drake conceives the idea
of attacking his archenemy, Spain, at her most vulnerable point
the treasure at Nombre de Dios.
(Drake died at Nombre de Dios, ]an. 9, 7596.)
Read from Nichol’s SIR FRANCIS DRAKE REVIVED Vol. 33, pp. 135-145
10. Where Love Lies Waiting
King Pantheus of Thebes contended against Dionysus, the God,
for the adoration of the Theban women. The god was winning
by bewitching the women when the king interceded. Euripides
tells the story in a masterpiece of Greek drama.
Read from Euripides’ THE BACCHAE Vol. 8, pp. 368-372
11. Hamilton—-Father of Wall Street
Hamilton organized the Treasury Department. He penned
most of the Federalist papers, which were greatly influential
in bringing New York into the Union—the first step toward its
eminent position in national and world finance.
(Alexander Hamilton born Jan, 11 , 1757.)
Read: THE FEDERALIST Vol. 43, pp. 199-207
12. What Is Good Taste?
A Turkish sultan, relates Burke, when shown a picture of the
beheaded John the Baptist, praised many things, but pointed
out one gruesome defect. Did this observation show the sultan
to be an inferior judge of art?
(Edmund Burke born Jan. 12, 1729.)
Read: Burke ON TASTE Vol. 24, pp. 11-26
13. Rousseau Seeks Sanctuary in England
Rousseau taught that men were not created free and equal.
T o substantiate his daring beliefs he traced man’s history back
to his primitive beginnings. For his teachings, Rousseau was
forced to seek refuge in England.
(Jean Jacques Rousseau arrived in England, Jan. 13, 1766.)
Read from Rousseau’s INQUIRY ON INEQUALITY Vol. 34, pp. 215-228
14. The First Step Toward Independence
(Fundamental Orders of Connecticut adopted Jan. 14, 1639.)
The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut is “the first written
constitution as a permanent limitation on governmental power,
known in history.” It is the work of the Connecticut Yankee.
Read: THE FUNDAMENTAL ORDERS OF CONNECTICUT Vol. 43, pp. 60-65
15. “The Moving Finger Writes”
(“Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam” first published Jan. 1$, /S59.)
Omar Khayyam laughed and enjoyed the good things of life.
His “Rubaiyat,” the most popular philosophic poem, is the best
of all books to d ip into for an alluring thought.
Read from THE RUBAIYAT OF OMAR KHAYYAM Vol. 41, pp. 943-953
16. The Old Woman and the Wine Jar
A n old woman once found a wine jar, but it was empty. She
sniffed at the mouth of the jar and said: “What memories cling
’round the instruments of our pleasure.”
Read from AESOP’S FABLES Vol. 17, pp. 43-44; also pp. 31-43
17. Franklin’s Family Tree
(Benjamin Franklin born Jan. 17, 1706.)
Good middle-class people, Franklin boasts, were his ancestors.
Some have attributed his genius to his being the youngest son
of the youngest son for five generations. In his famous autobiography,
he reveals quaint family history.
Read from FRANKLIN’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY Vol. 1 , pp. 5-15
18. Origin of Yale “Brekekekex-Ko-ax”
“Shall I crack any of those old jokes, master, at which the audience
never fails to laugh?” Like an up-to-date vaudeville
team, Xanthias and Dionysus start off a dialogue that mingles
wit and poetry with humor and keen satire.
Read from Aristophanes’ THE FROGS Vol. 8, pp. 439-449
19. Poe on Poetry
Regarded in Europe as one of America’ s greatest writers, Poe
originated the detective story, perfected the mystery short story,
and produced America’s first great poems. Here he unravels
the fabric of which all poetry is woven.
(Edgar Allan Poe born Jan. 19, 1809.)
Read from Poe’s THE POETIC PRINCIPLE Vol. 28, pp. 371-380
20. ” Ah! 14 is St. Agnes’ Eve —”
(St. Agnes’ Eve, Jan. 20.)
At midnight on the eve of St. Agnes there were certain solemn
ceremonies which all virgins must perform to have “visions of
delight and soft adorings from their loves.” Porphyro took advantage
of this custom to win his bride.
Read: Keats’ EVE OF ST. AGNES Vol. 41, pp. 883-893
21. The Nightingale’s Healing Melody
The Emperor of China lies on his deathbed grieving for the
song of his favorite bird. Hark, the song! It charms, coaxes,
and bribes Death to depart. It brings new life to the master.
Read from ANDERSEN’S TALES Vol. 17, pp. 301-310
22. A King’s Pleasure Now Yours
The classic plays of French literature are produced to-day precisely
as when they were given for the resplendent kings they
were written to please. We are fortunate to have in English,
excellent translations of these noble plays.
(Corneille elected to French Academy, Jan. 22, 1647.)
Read from Corneille’s POLYEUCTE Vol. 26, pp. 77-87
23. Pascal Knew Men and Triangles
(Pascal publishes “Provincial Letters,” Jan. 23, 1656.)
Pascal, the keen-minded philosopher and mathematician, fathomed
the human traits of man’s nature with the same accurate
measurements which made him famous in the realm of geometry.
Read his searching analysis of man’s conceit.
Read: Pascal’s THE ART OF PERSUASION Vol. 48, pp. 400-411
24. Odysseus Silenced the Sirens
When his ship approached the siren’s rock, Odysseus stuffed
the ears of his crew with wax and had himself bound to the mast
that he might hear the alluring voice of the siren and yet not
wreck his ship on the enchanted rock.
Read from Homer’s ODYSSEY Vol. 22, pp. 165-173
25. A Field Mouse Made Famous
A humble Scotchman, plowing his fields, turns over the nest of
a frightened mouse. He apologizes with the deepest sincerity
and explains how “the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang
(Robert Burns born Jan. 25, 1759.)
Read: To A MOUSE and Burns’ other poems… .Vol. 6, pp. 119-120, 388-394
26. In the Cradle of Civilization
A king who entombed his daughter in a golden cow—the worship
of the bull and the cat—scandal of the court and the gossip
of the temples is given by Herodotus in his delightful story of
Read from Herodotus’ AN ACCOUNT OF EGYPT Vol. 33, pp. 65-75
27. Dante and Beatrice in Paradise
Dante fell madly in love with Beatrice at first sight; but it is
doubted if he ever spoke to her in this world. He tells of his
happy meeting with Beatrice in Paradise.
(Dante victim of political persecution in Florence, Jan. 27, /302.)
Read from Dante’s DIVINE COMEDY Vol. 20, pp. 267-279
28. Man’s Wings
A pure heart, says Thomas a Kempis, comprehends the very
depths of Heaven and Hell. And it is by the wings of simplicity
and purity that man is lifted above all earthly things.
Read from Thomas a Kempis Vol. 7, pp. 242-249
29. Visits the Land of Fire
South of Patagonia is Tierra del Fuego—”The Land of Fire.”
The natives of that primitive country are to-day almost extinct.
Darwin made a careful and vitally interesting study of that land
and its ill-fated inhabitants.
(Darwin married Emma Wedgewood, Jan. 29, 1839.)
Read from Darwin’s VOYAGE OF THE BEAGLE Vol. 29, 209-221
30. First Problem Play Popular
Antigone, an orphan princess, defies a king’s mandate and risks
her life to d o her duty to her brother. What is this duty which
her brother calls her to perform and the k i n g forbids?
(Sophocles died at Athens, Jan. 30, 405 B.C.)
Read from Sophocles’ ANTIGONE Vol. 8, pp. 255-266
31. What “Don Quixote” Really Slew
Slayer of windmills, rescuer of fair damsels in distress, eccentric
Don Quixote, scores of years behind his time, set out on a mad
quest of knight-errantry. Worlds of fun and killing satire are
in this absorbing story of Cervantes.
Read from DON QUIXOTE Vol. 14, pp. 60-67
Don Quixote, the ambitious amateur \night, was well ridiculed for
his pains. (See Reading Assignment for January 31st.)
A FEW BOOKS ARE BETTER THAN MANY, AND A LITTLE
TIME GIVEN TO A FAITHFUL STUDY OF THE FEW WILL
BE ENOUGH TO QUICKEN THOUGHT AND ENRICH THE