March

FIFTEEN MINUTES A DAY

MARCH READING GUIDE

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

MARCH
Old Winter bac\ to the savage hills
Withdraweth his force, decrepid now.
GOETHE (Vol. 19, p. 43)

1. Invented Sir Roger de Coverly
Word pictures are often more vivid than photographs. Steele
had a gift for originating characters that are remembered longer
than flesh and blood people. Sir Roger de Coverly and Will
Honeycomb are now bold figures in literature.
(First issue of the “Spectator,” published March 1 , 1711.)
Read: THE SPECTATOR CLUB Vol. 27, pp. 83-87

2. What Sailors Do on Sunday
” A sailor’s liberty is but for a day,” as Dana explains. Dressed
in his Sunday best, the sailor feels like a dashing Beau Brummel;
and sets out to enjoy his freedom. “While it lasts it is perfect.
He is under no one’s eye and can do whatever he pleases.”
Read from Dana’s Two YEARS BEFORE THE MAST Vol. 23, pp. 112-119

3. For Poets and Fishermen
Isaak Walton, famed patron of fishermen, appreciated other
arts and hobbies. He writes of George Herbert, a preacher
whose hobby was poetry.
(George Herbert died March 3, 1633.)
Read from Walton’s LIFE OF GEORGE HERBERT Vol. 15, pp. 373-382

4. Penn—Pioneer, Thinker, and Builder
(King Charles grants Penn charter of Pennsylvania, March 4, 1681.)
Penn, true to Quaker beliefs, came before the king with his
hat on. The king overlooked this and later made him governor
of Pennsylvania. A sagacious Penn is revealed in his writings.
Read from Penn’s SOME FRUITS OF SOLITUDE Vol. 1, pp. 321-330

5. Laughed at Locks
Prison walls were the least of Cellini’s troubles. “Lock me well
up and watch me, for I shall certainly contrive to escape.” In
spite of this warning, the utmost care of the jailers only furnished
amusement for the dauntless Cellini.
Read from CELLINI’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY Vol. 31, pp. 214-224

6. West Point’s Outcast, America’s First Great Poet
(Poe expelled from West Point, March 6, 1831.)
Edgar Allan Poe was expelled from West Point and disinherited.
So poor was he that when his young wife lay dying, he could
not afford a fire to warm her. The weirdness and despair of
“The Raven” is particularly symbolic of his life.
Read: Poe’s THE-RAVEN Vol. 42, pp. 1227-1230

7. Bacon Warns Judges
Bacon pointed out that a judge’s duty was to interpret laws and
not to make laws. This single essay of Bacon’s is a richly condensed
summary of the ethics of law.
(Bacon made Keeper of the Great Seal of England, March 7, 1616.)
Read: Bacon OF JUDICATURE Vol. 3, pp. 130-134

8. Dangerous Experiment with a Wife
Anselmo and Lothario were close friends. Anselmo, anxious to
learn if his wife were perfect, as he believed her to be, makes
an unusual proposal to his old friend.
Read from Cervantes’ DON QUIXOTE Vol. 14, pp. 307-319

9. Common Sense and Good Manners
Swift regretted the laws against dueling because dueling at least
was a good means of ridding the country of bores and fools.
His keen eye penetrated social customs and saw the common
sense that governed good manners.
(Passage of laws against dueling in England, March 9, ^679.)
Read: TREATISE ON GOOD MANNERS Vol. 27, pp. 99-103

10. Beaumont—The Adonis of Elizabethan Playwrights
In the days when contact with the theatre meant exile from the
best society, Beaumont and Fletcher, men from good families,
dared to ally themselves with the stage as playwrights. “Philaster”
won them immortal praise.
Read from PHILASTER Vol. 47, pp. 667-677

11. Gain Gleaned from Suffering
We are paid for our suffering and we pay for our happiness.
Every ache, every sorrow receives its recompense here on earth.
Emerson gives the basis for this conviction.
(Emerson ordained Unitarian minister, March 1 1 , 1829.)
Read from Emerson’s COMPENSATION Vol. 5, pp. 85-92

12. An Irish Bishop’s Wit
Berkeley believed in a great religious future for America. He
lived three years in Rhode Island, and made plans for a college
in Bermuda.
(Bishop Berkeley bom March 12, 1685.)
Read from Berkeley’s THREE DIALOGUES Vol. 37, pp. 228-238

13. Before Nobility Ran Tea Rooms
Manzoni has pictured in this thrilling romance of the seventeenth
century nobility, the pompous and sporting life of those good old
days when nobles lived sumptuously in spacious castles surrounded
by vast estates.
Read from Manzoni’s I PROMESSI SPOSI Vol. 21, pp. 318-332

14. A Maiden’s Forfeit
” T h i s gentlewoman that ye lead with you is a m a i d ? ” demanded
the knight. “Sir,” said she, “a maid I am.” “Then she must
yield us the custom of this castle.”
(Malory, recorder of King Arthur stories, died March 14, 1470.)
Read from THE HOLY GRAIL Vol. 35, pp. 194-200

15. Beware the Ides of March!
(Ides of March, March 1;.)
Twice warned of the danger that threatened him on the Ides
of March, although “the earth rocked and the stars fell and
headless men walked in the Forum,” Caesar goes to the doom
awaiting him in the Senate Chamber.
Read from Plutarch’s CESAR Vol. 12, pp. 315-321

16. Crabs Climb Trees?
Many amazing things happen in the Malay jungles. For example,
Darwin tells about a crab that climbs trees and walks
down the trunks for an occasional bath in a pool.
Read from Darwin’s VOYAGE OF THE BEAGLE Vol. 29, pp. 466-475

17. An Old Irish Legend
(St. Patrick’s Day.)
An old Irish legend tells how, while St. Patrick was preaching
about Paradise and Hell, several of his audience begged to be
allowed to investigate the reality of these places. St. Patrick
actually satisfied their curiosity.
Read from THE POETRY OF THE CELTIC RACES Vol. 32, pp. 174-182

18. New Way t o Pay Old Debts
A cunning uncle cheats his worthless nephew out of his fortune.
The nephew, laughing stock of his former servants, sets out to
retrieve his old position and riches.
(Massinger buried March 18, 1640.)
Read from A NEW WAY TO PAY OLD DEBTS Vol. 47, pp. 859-870

19. Seeing Old Egypt
The mysterious Egyptian temples, the floating islands, the huge
pyramids and the many wonders of ancient Egypt are pictured
for you by Herodotus.
(Last recorded event in Herodotus’ history dated March 19, 478 B. C.)
Read from Herodotus’ AN ACCOUNT OF EGYPT Vol. 33, pp. 72-84

20. Apples, Feathers, and Coals
Sir Isaac Newton was aided in his momentous discoveries by the
most insignificant objects—even apples, feathers, and coal. Voltaire
discusses the wondrous discoveries of Newton.
(Sir Isaac Newton died March 20, 1727.)
Read from Voltaire’s LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH Vol. 34, pp. 113-124

21. 1,000 Years of History on t h e Surface of a Shield
Venus, mother of ^Eneas and wife of Vulcan, obtained from
her husband, by seductive witchery, a marvelous shield whose
surface reflected a thousand years of future events. Venus describes
the wonders of the magic armor.
Read from Virgil’s AENEID Vol. 13, pp. 280-292

22. From Puppet Show to Majestic Drama
The Faust legend, which can be traced to puppet shows of earlier
days, portrays a philosopher who, through Satan’s aid and in return
for the price of his soul, works magic at will. From this
rude framework Goethe has reared a drama of sublime grandeur.
(Goethe died March 22, i8j2.)
Read from Goethe’s FAUST Vol. 19, pp. 23-36

23. First of a Thousand Harem Stories
Shahrazad, favorite of the treacherous Sultan’s harem, selected
a most thrilling story for her bridal night. By leaving it unfinished
she was privileged to live to continue it the next night—and
so on for a thousand and one nights.
Read from THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS Vol. 16, pp. 15-24

24. A Queen Pleads
Guenevere, King Arthur’s queen, justly accused but harshly
treated, makes a noble and brave attempt to convince her court
that Gawaine lied and that Launcelot was true.
{William Morris born March 24, 1834.)
Read: Morris’ DEFENSE OF GUENEVERE Vol. 42, pp. 1183-1193

25. How Conscience Makes Cowards of Us All
Hamlet pondered over which course contained the least unhappiness—
whether to suffer here and not incur new dangers, or
whether to end it all and chance the unknown terrors of the
next world. See how Hamlet reasoned.
(Shakespeare ma\es his will, March 25, 1616.)
Read from Shakespeare’s HAMLET Vol. 46, pp. 144-158

26. “2,500 Years Ago AEsop Said . . .”
Men in all ages have recognized the ingenuity of the practical
philosophy and freshness of jEsop’s allegories. Spend a few
delightful moments with the wit and wisdom of Msop.
(Caxton prints Msop’s Fables, March 26, 1484.)
Read from AEsop’s FABLES Vol. 17, pp. 21-30

27. When Is a Lie Not a Lie?
Is lying or quibbling ever permissible? May one juggle words
so a truth is conveyed through a lie and a lie told by a truth?
Stevenson unravels this puzzle.
Read: Stevenson’s TRUTH OF INTERCOURSE Vol. 28, pp. 277-284

28. Pins and Other Points
The making of a simple pin is one of the most complex affairs
of modern industry. Adam Smith regards the process from the
worker’s point of view, and shows the many and varied economic
principles that are involved in pin making.
Read from Adam Smith’s WEALTH OF NATIONS Vol. io, pp. 9-17

29. Hero and Goddess Break Engagement
Brynhild, favorite goddess of Norse mythology, plighted troth
with Sigurd, fearless warrior. But Sigurd forgot Brynhild and
married Gudrun, whose brother, Gunner, then set out to win
the beautiful Brynhild. Complications very like a modern triangle
arose.
Read from EPIC AND SAGA Vol. 49, pp. 307-317

30. The Plague of Milan
“I Promessi Sposi,” a seventeenth century novel, vividly describes
the devastating plague of Milan. Then whole families sickened
in a few hours and died in less than a day’s time of strange and
violent complaints whose symptoms were unknown to physicians.
(Capuchin monkjs given charge of the plague hospital in Milan,
March 30, 1630.)
Read from Manzoni’s I PROMESSI SPOSI Vol. 21, pp. 500-512

31. The Ghastly Whim of John Donne
Monuments are usually made from death masks, but John Donne
took pleasure in posing for his, wrapped from head to foot in a
shroud. Isaak Walton tells of this in his fascinating biography
of the eccentric poet.
(John Donne died March 31, 1631.)
Read from Walton’s LIFE OF DR. DONNE Vol. 15, pp. 364-369

Sir Francis Bacon believed that “the supreme law of all is the weal
of the people.” (See Reading Assignment for March 7th.)
IT WAS TRULY SAID, OPTIMl CONSILIARU MORTUI . . .
BOOKS WILL SPEAK PLAIN WHEN COUNSELLORS BLANCH.
—FRANCIS BACON.

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