FIFTEEN MINUTES A DAY
SEPTEMBER READING GUIDE
(Please proceed to the “Harvard Classics” under the section “Categories” on a daily basis)
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run. . .
KEATS (Vol. 41, p. 879)
1. Expelled from College, Founded a City
While at Oxford, Penn rejected the student’s gown and thereby
created a furore. Later he founded a city where he sought to
put his new ideas into practice.
(Penn arrested for preaching in London, Sept. 1, 1670.)
Read from Perm’s SOME FRUITS OF SOLITUDE Vol. 1, pp. 321-331
2. Too Great a Price for Love
While his soldiers fought the battle of Actium, Antony fled to
the arms of Cleopatra. By his flight he forfeited his right to an
empire. Dryden’s story of Antony’s love makes us realize the
folly of his infatuation for the N i l e siren.
(Battle of Actium, Sept. 2, 31 B. C.)
Read from Dryden’s ALL FOR LOVE Vol. 18, pp. 88-100
3. Seven Years to Reach England
Until 1783 the British refused to believe that the Liberty Bell
had rung. Then they signed a treaty formally recognizing the
Colonies as free and independent states.
(Treaty between England and the United States signed Sept. 3, 1783.)
Read: TREATY WITH GREAT BRITAIN (1783) Vol. 43, pp. 174-179
4 Voltaire Criticizes
Voltaire’s daring courage led h im to publish a series of letters
which contained unfavorable comparisons of French customs
with the English. For this he was threatened with the Bastille.
Read: Voltaire’s LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH Vol. 34, pp. 85-93
5. Survival of the Fittest
Just as the individual has a definite length of life, so have species
a limited duration. The progress and transition of the world,
Darwin declares, will see the extinction of certain variants of
(Darwin first outlines his theory of natural selection, Sept. 5, 1857.)
Read from Darwin’s ORIGIN OF SPECIES Vol. n , pp. 353-357
6. The Pride of All Scotchmen
Many sons of Scotland have striven eagerly for the great place
held by Sir Walter Scott. Carlyle describes the qualities that combined
to make him the idol of his people and the master of historical
Read Carlyle’s SIR WALTER SCOTT Vol. 25, pp. 393-403
7. The King’s Love
There she was undoing her hair—the loveliest woman the eyes of
men ever beheld, the light of wooing in her regal eyes. A longing
for her overwhelmed the warrior-king.
Read from DESTRUCTION OF DA DERGA’S HOSTEL Vol. 49, pp. 199-209
8. When Europe Lay Under Ice
There was a time when the snow fell and did not melt in summer.
Then from the frozen north there descended huge masses
of ice that covered northern Europe and most of North America.
Glaciers reveal a new world to us.
(Helmholtz died Sept. 8, 1894.)
Read from Helmholtz’s ICE AND GLACIERS Vol. 30, pp. 211-223
9. When Nature Beckons
“There are days during the year,” says Emerson, “when the
world of nature reaches perfection.” Can anyone escape this call,
especially in the glorious Indian Summer?
(Emerson retires from the ministry, Sept. 9, 1832.)
Read: Emerson’s NATURE Vol. 5, pp. 223-230
10. Famous Poet-Physician
One of America’s famous New Englanders, Oliver Wendell
Holmes, devoted his life principally to medicine. His name,
however, was made famous through his poem, “Old Ironsides,”
by which he saved America’s most famous battleship from destruction
when her fighting days were ended.
Read: Holmes’ POEMS Vol. 42, pp. 1365-1370
11. Wages—Why and How Much?
What regulates wages, on what do they depend? Adam Smith,
world’s authority on economic problems, advances his theories
on these matters.
Read from Adam Smith’s WEALTH OF NATIONS Vol. io, pp. 66-74
12. Love Letters of Elizabeth Browning
In all literary history there is no happier love story than that of
Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning. During their secret
courtship Miss Barrett sent Browning many beautiful love letters
written in verse.
(Browning married Elizabeth Barrett, Sept. 12, 1846.)
Read: SONNETS FROM THE PORTUGUESE Vol. 41, pp. 923-932
13. Good That Came from a Game Pit
From cockfighting, bear baiting, and like sports, the wife of John
Bunyan converted him to a life of humility and reverence. While
imprisoned for preaching, he used his idle time in writing a fantastic
story of a soul’s salvation—probably the most famous allegory
(fohn Bunyan liberated and pardoned, Sept. 13, 1672.)
Read from Bunyan’s PILGRIM’S PROGRESS Vol. 15, pp. 13-23
14. Dante and St. Peter
Dante, having journeyed through Hell and Purgatory, comes at
last to St. Peter on his throne. St. Peter calls for the aid of St.
James and St. John before passing final judgment on Dante’s
(Dante died Sept. 14, 1321.)
Read from Dante’s DIVINE COMEDY Vol. 20, pp. 387-395
15. Refused to Serve Three Terms
George Washington retired to private life in 1796, entrusting
“the preservation of the Union” to the “love of liberty.” His
last appeal is a vital message to American citizens, as pertinent
today as when he penned it.
(George Washington published “Farewell Address,” Sept. 75, 1796.)
Read: Washington’s FAREWELL ADDRESS Vol. 43, pp. 233-249
16. Penalty for Silence
“Such felons as stand mute [do not confess] are pressed to death
by huge weights laid upon a board that lieth over their breast
and a sharp stone under their backs.” Old English punishments,
recorded by Holinshed, make startling reading.
Read from HOLINSHED’S CHRONICLES Vol. 35, pp. 363-370
17. Romance on a New England Farm
“For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: ‘It
might have b e e n .'” On this theme Whittier based the story of
a fair farmer girl and a rich judge.
(Whittier died Sept. 17, 1892.)
Read: WHITTIER’S POEMS Vol. 42, pp. 1351-1364
18. Home After Storms and Adventures
“Every sight was full of beauty. We were coming back to our
homes, and the signs of civilization from which we had been so
long banished—” wrote Dana, as his ship entered Boston Harbor.
(Dana returns from two-year voyage, Sept. 18, 1836.)
Read from Dana’s Two YEARS BEFORE THE MAST Vol. 23, pp. 348-356
19. Humor That Survived Slavery
Held as a Moorish slave for five years, Cervantes was submitted
to almost daily tortures. But even the horrors of slavery could
not dull his sense of humor, as evinced by his most witty and
(Cervantes ransomed from slavery, Sept. 19, 1580.)
Read from Cervantes’ DON QUIXOTE Vol. 14, pp. 48-54
20. Women’s Rights in the Harem
The Koran defines the powers of a husband over his wives. Thus
a woman unfaithful to her lord may be walled up alive.
(Mohammed arrives at Kuba after “The Flight,” Sept. 20, 622.)
Read from THE KORAN Vol. 45, pp. 967-974
21. AEneas and the Old Witch
The Sybil, an old witch, personally conducts AEneas through the
gate and into the jaws of hell, where terrors abound on every
hand and frightful mysterious forms rule. There he is told of
the greatness and glory that was to come.
(Virgil died Sept. 21, 19 B. C.)
Read from Virgil’s AENEID Vol. 13, pp. 207-218
22. A King for a Souvenir
In the days when kings rode to battle leading their troops it was
possible to make good the boast of the doughboy: “I’ll bring you
a king for a souvenir.”
(Froissart dates Battle of Poitiers, Sept. 22, 1 _j_s6.)
Read from FROISSART’S CHRONICLES Vol. 35, pp. 42-53
23. Dying Concerns Every Man
The Romans made an art of dying. The Egyptians looked on
death with complacency. Moderns fear it. Montaigne argues
that the purpose of philosophy is to teach men how to die.
Read from Montaigne’s To LEARN HOW TO DIE Vol. 32, pp. 9-22
24 Citizens Lured from Their Homes
When the serpent of Minerva disappeared from her temple, the
priests said that the goddess had left Athens for the sea. Moreover,
the oracles urged the Athenians to seek safety in their ships.
Themistocles prompted these deceits. Why?
Read from Plutarch’s THEMISTOCLES Vol. 12, pp. 13-23
25. A Courtship of Twenty Years
John Stuart Mill in his autobiography boldly tells of his love for
his friend’s wife. After twenty years, she was freed from her first
husband and was happily married to John Stuart Mill. Read the
account of Mill’s courtship.
Read from Mill’s AUTOBIOGRAPHY Vol. 25, pp. 116-120, 149
26. And the World Rocked with Laughter
The gaunt lunatic, Don Quixote, saw the world through glasses
colored with romanticism that had gone out of style hundreds of
years before he was born. Cervantes made the world laugh at
the exaggerated stories it had been devouring.
(Printing of Cervantes’ “Don Quixote” licensed, Sept. 26, 1604.)
Read from Cervantes’ DON QUIXOTE Vol. 14, pp. 29-35
27. Pascal’s Fundamentals of Religion
To-day we have Fundamentalists and Modernists, each striving
for the same goal. Pascal, two hundred and fifty years ago, gave
his precepts of the fundamentals of religious thought.
(Pascal confers with Descartes, Sept. 27, 1647.)
Read from PASCAL’S THOUGHTS Vol. 48, pp. 181-192
28. He Introduced the Germ
Proof that germs cause many contagious diseases was established
by Louis Pasteur. His discoveries revolutionized modern science
and lessened the ravages of every type of disease.
(Louis Pasteur died Sept. 28, 1895.)
Read: Pasteur’s THE GERM THEORY Vol. 38, pp. 364-370
29. Prophet of 400 Million People
Confucius was a Chinese magistrate in 500 B. C. He lost the favor
of the Emperor and wandered from city to city, teaching and giving
counsel. After his death, Emperor and people alike bowed
before his shrine.
Read from SAYINGS OF CONFUCIUS Vol. 44, pp. 5-14
30. A Gentleman According to Emerson
An etiquette book and a good tailor do not always produce a
gentleman—neither does the Social Register include only gentlemen.
Emerson by quaint stories tells how fashion and manners
combine to make that rare product—a gentleman.
(Emerson’s first marriage, Sept. 30, 1829.)
Read from Emerson’s MANNERS Vol. 5, pp. 199-208
Confucius was a Chinese magistrate and minister of crime in 500
B. C. Though an ancient lawyer, he had modern ideas of prison
reform. (See Reading Assignment for September 29th.)
T H E MASTER SAID: BY BREADTH OF READING AND THE
TIES OF COURTESY A GENTLEMAN WILL ALSO KEEP FROM