FIFTEEN MINUTES A DAY
OCTOBER READING GUIDE
(Please proceed to the “Harvard Classics” under the section “Categories” on a daily basis)
The skies they were ashen and sober;
The leaves they were crisped and sere—
The leaves they were withering and sere. . .
POE (Vol. 42, p. 1230)
1. Princes To-day and Yesterday
To-day the chief duty of a prince is to be the nation’s friend
maker. Years ago princes desired supreme power and, by fair
means or foul, strove for control. Machiavelli was a guide for
such ambitious princes.
(Machiavelli’s model prince sent to France as papal legate, Oct. 1 , 1498.)
Read from Machiavelli’s THE PRINCE Vol. 36, pp. 36-44
2. Veteran Tells of Indian War
Just before Darwin visited Bahia Blanca, an Indian insurrection
had been ruthlessly put down. A veteran of the Indian war told
Darwin how Indians had been treated.
(Darwin returns from South America, Oct. 2, 1836.)
Read from Darwin’s VOYAGE OF THE BEAGLE Vol. 29, pp. 107-m
3. Good Enough for Chaucer
When polite English society conversed in French—considering
English a vulgar tongue, fit only for servants and working people—
Chaucer, nevertheless, wrote poems in this “vulgar” English,
which charm us because of their quaint words.
Read: CHAUCER’S POEMS Vol. 40, pp. 11-20
4. His Mouth Full of Pebbles
The man w h o put pebbles in his mouth and orated to the sea,
shaved one-half of his head so that he would be obliged to stay
at home until he had perfected his oratory—a strange method of
attaining eminence, but a successful one.
Read from Plutarch’s DEMOSTHENES Vol. 12, pp. 196-205
5. Amateur Athlete in Old Athens
A boxer in public games desired to study philosophy at Athens.
There were no furnaces to tend, no tables to wait on, no books
or magazines to peddle, yet this sturdy young Greek managed
to work his way through college.
Read from Newman’s UNIVERSITY LIFE AT ATHENS Vol. 28, pp. 51-61
6. The Atrocious Spectacle of October 6th
Wakened by the death cries of her sentry, Marie Antoinette,
Queen of France, fled by a secret passage from the fury of a vile
mob. The royal family was arrested and taken to Paris to await
Read from Burke’s REVOLUTION IN FRANCE Vol. 24, pp. 208-217
7. An Uncanonized American Saint
John Woolman was the foremost leader of the early Quakers
and contributed much to the spiritual life of the American Colonies.
He was a pioneer in the crusade against slavery.
(John Woolman died Oct. 7, 1772.)
Read from THE JOURNAL OF JOHN WOOLMAN Vol. 1, pp. 283-288
8. Fielding’s Parody Becomes History
Fielding wrote a lengthy story to burlesque a novel of Richardson.
But the travesty overshot its mark. Instead of a mere parody,
it became a masterpiece.
(Henry Fielding died Oct. 8, 1764.)
Read: Fielding’s PREFACE TO JOSEPH ANDREWS Vol. 39, pp. 176-181
9. Songs Shake the Walls of Jericho
Do you know that many of your favorite hymns have echoed
for hundreds of years through vast cathedrals, and resounded
from the walls of Jericho during the Crusades?
(Newman, author of “Lead, Kindly Light,” baptized Oct. 9, 184;.)
Read: LATIN HYMNS Vol. 45, pp. 546-556; also pp. 567-568
10. A Fugitive in Boy’s Clothes
The romance-stricken Don Quixote sees a fair youth seated by the
side of a stream, “his feet like t w o crystals, his hands like snowflakes.”
The youth was a charming girl!
(Cervantes aided in the capture of Tunis, Oct. 10, 1573.)
Read from Cervantes’ DON QUIXOTE Vol. 14, pp. 252-266
11. AEneas Flees from an Inconsolable Love
iEneas, mythological founder of the Roman race, leaving Carthage
and its lovely Queen Dido, was driven by a storm to the
coast of Sicily. There the hospitality of K i n g Acestes helped
him to forget his relinquished love.
Read from Virgil’s JENEID Vol. 13, pp. 178-188
12. Columbus’ Letter Miraculously Found
Historical documents, now priceless, were often used as wrapping
paper. Rescued by chance was a letter of Columbus telling of
his voyages—of the amazing bargains made with timid natives—
of Amazon women who fought like men and made marriage
treaties with cannibals.
Read: LETTER OF COLUMBUS Vol. 43, pp. 21-27
13. Pagan Virtue Perpetuated
A man of virtue, although a pagan, Marcus Aurelius ruled with
benevolence and wisdom. Cruel in persecution of Christians as
lawbreakers, no trace of this sternness appears in his writings.
Read from Marcus Aurelius’ MEDITATIONS Vol. 2, pp. 193-199
14. No Spice and Little Gold
All colonies are founded to gain territory or treasure. Spain
expected spice and gold from Columbus’s expedition, but got no
spice and little gold. Adam Smith tells the true motive of the
colonizing Greeks, Romans, English, and Spaniards.
Read from Adam Smith’s WEALTH OF NATIONS Vol. 10, pp. 395-404
15. First Families of America
“They are a people smooth and clean of body because of continually
washing themselves—they eat all their enemies whom
they kill or capture.” Amerigo Vespucci thus writes of the New
(Amerigo Vespucci returns from first American voyage, Oct. 15, 1498.)
Read: VESPUCCI’S ACCOUNT OF HIS FIRST VOYAGE Vol. 43, pp. 28-44
16. When Medicine Was a Mystery
Once physicians treated the sick with a mixture of medicine and
charms. In those days medicine was regarded as a dark art like
magic, and those practicing it formed guilds to protect themselves.
Read: HIPPOCRATES’ OATH AND LAW Vol. 38, pp. 3-5
17. Reason His Only Religion
The religion of Thomas Browne—a liberal man in a most intolerant
time—was not taken from either Rome or Geneva, but
from his o w n reason.
(Browne visited by Evelyn of “Evelyn Diary,” Oct. 17, 1671.)
Read from Browne’s RELIGIO MEDICI Vol. 3, pp. 253-265
18. “If Winter Comes”
From the title of a recently popular novel, we know that one
prominent fiction writer of to-day was inspired by the verses of
Shelley. Many others have also felt the stirring vigor of his poetry.
What is your reaction?
Read: SHELLEY’S POEMS Vol. 41, pp. 829-835
19. Virtue in Smiles
Weep if you must. It is far better than to repress your tears.
But Leigh Hunt finds greater virtue in cheerfulness. Fanciful
and graceful—his writings exerted a wholesome influence on all
nineteenth century journalism.
(James Henry Leigh Hunt born Oct. tg, 1784.)
Read: Hunt’s ESSAYS Vol. 27, pp. 285-295
20. Odysseus Adrift on a Raft
The gods met in council and decreed that Odysseus be set adrift.
Poseidon, God of the Sea, shattered the raft and Odysseus was cast
ashore to encounter further adventures.
Read from Homer’s ODYSSEUS Vol. 22, pp. 68-80
21. No Fault to Find with Old Age
Cicero agrees with Browning that old age is the golden time of
life, when the fruits of a well-spent life are harvested. Cicero,
the wise Roman, welcomed old age for its gifts: wisdom, sound
judgment, and contentment.
Read from Cicero’s ON OLD AGE Vol. 9, pp. 45-56
22. Swift’s Love Problems
Swift was embarrassed by two women; Stella, w h om he really
loved, and Vanessa, with whom he had flirted and who had
taken him seriously. Marriage to either one would break the
heart of the other.
Read from Thackeray’s JONATHAN SWIFT Vol. 28, pp. 23-28
23. When Caesar Turned the Tables
When only a boy, Caesar was captured by pirates. While awaiting
ransom he entered into every sport and game with them. Once
freed, he quickly returned with forces that captured the outlaws.
Then he took deliberate revenge.
Read from Plutarch’s CESAR Vol. 12, pp. 264-273
24. Clytemnestra Meets Her Rival
Cassandra knew through a prophetic vision that a sword would
pierce her heart. Agamemnon, her captor, took her to his home
where an avenging wife, Clytemnestra, awaited. The tragedies
of the doom that requited the sins of the House of Atreus are
among the most powerful ever written.
Read from AEschylus’ AGAMEMNON Vol. 8, pp. 52-64
25. Greatly Encouraged Intrigue
After the publication of Machiavelli’s ” T h e Prince,” the Sultans
became more addicted to strangling their brothers, tyrants became
more merciless, and murderous plots increased. The
influence of that book, as Macaulay points out, spread over Europe
(Thomas Babington Lord Macaulay born Oct. 25, 1800.)
Read from Macaulay’s MACHIAVELLI Vol. 27, pp. 363-372
26. Franklin Learned the Secret
Poor at twenty, rich at forty, internationally famous at fifty. Benjamin
Franklin once walked the streets of Philadelphia alone,
poor, and with no education. Yet he rose to be a leader because
he learned the secret of careful reading.
(Franklin made U. S. plenipotentiary in France, Aug. 26, 1778.)
Read from Franklin’s AUTOBIOGRAPHY Vol. 1, pp. 14-21
27. Fruit of Seven Years’ Silence
Siddhartha Gautama, who became the god Buddha, renounced
the world and spent seven years in meditation. Then one day,
while sitting under a fig tree, he became inspired with exalted
and sublime conceptions of life and death. The rest of his life
was spent in teaching and converting mankind.
Read from BUDDHIST WRITINGS Vol. 45, pp. 661-674
28. How Dice Taught Spelling
Locke taught children by means of games. He tells of a game
whereby children were taught to spell with dice on which the
letters of the alphabet were pasted. This was more than 200 years
before modern kindergarten methods. Today’s children would
respond to such wise direction as Locke recommends.
(John Locke died Oct. 28, 1704.)
Read: SOME THOUGHTS CONCERNING EDUCATION Vol. 37, pp. 128-136
29. Genius Rises from a Stable
(John Keats born Oct. 29, 1795.)
Though the son of a stable man, John Keats wrote the most exquisite
and sublime poetry in our language. He was the friend
of Shelley, Lord Byron, and the other literary leaders of the time—
his genius recognized by all.
Read: KEATS’ POEMS Vol. 41, pp. 874-882
30. Geology’s Greatest Benefactor
Lyell has been called the founder of modern geology. Darwin,
the master scientist, called h im “Geology’s Greatest Benefactor.”
Lyell’s research revolutionized ideas on that subject.
Read from Lyell’s THE PROGRESS OF GEOLOGY Vol. 38, pp. 385-391
31. Witches Walk To-night
(All Hallows’ Eve.)
Beware of magic! Once a year uneasy spirits are released and
walk the earth from midnight until dawn. Spooks and goblins
invade the most secure homes and the canniest must watch out
for danger lurking in every dark corner.
Read from BURNS’ POEMS Vol. 6, pp. 110-119
John Locke taught spelling by means of dice with letters of the alphabet
pasted on them. (See Reading Assignment for October 28th.)
T H E FIRST TIME I READ AN EXCELLENT BOOK, IT IS TO
ME JUST AS IF I HAD GAINED A NEW FRIEND.—GOLDSMITH.