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THE HARVARD CLASSICS

The Five-Foot Shelf of Books

EDITED BY CHARLES W. ELIOT, L.L.D.

Fifteen Minutes a Day

The Reading Guide


[Introduction] [January] [February] [March] [April] [May] [June] [July] [August] [September] [October] [November] [December]

Also check out:
An older perspective on words in books.
An MIT Museum article on Charles Eliot.


42 FIFTEEN MINUTES A DAY

APRIL

... proud-pied April, dress'd in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything,
That heavy Saturn laughed and leaped with him.
SHAKESPEARE (Vol. 40, p. 278)

1 "Oh! to Be in England Now That April's There"
Everyone knows the pangs of homesickness in the spring. Even bright, sparkling Italy could not wean Browning's affection from the green hedgerows of misty England.
Read: BROWNING'S POEMS Vol. 42, pp. 1068-1074

2 A Spoon Dances in the Moonlight
A huge spoon dressed in human finery, placed on a grave, appears to become convulsed when the moon's rays fall on it and dances to the tune of chanting natives. Weird sights, according to Darwin, abound in the South Seas.
Read from Darwin's VOYAGE OF THE BEAGLE Vol. 29, pp. 462-471

3 Romance with a Happy Ending
"As a conqueror enters a surprised city; love made such resolutions as neither party was able to resist. She changed her name into Herbert the third day after this first interview."
(George Herbert born April 3, 1593.)
Read from Walton's LIFE OF GEORGE HERBERT Vol. 15, pp. 392-404

4 The Mistakes of a Night
Genial and rollicking fun are provided in this highly entertaining story of a man who mistakes a private house for an inn, and who treats his host's daughter like a serving maid.
(Oliver Goldsmith born April 4, 1774.)
Read from SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER Vol. 18, pp. 205-215

5 You and Your Dreams
Dreams and their causes interested Hobbes. Without superstition, the philosopher weighed the evidence of ghosts, goblins, and witches.
(Hobbes born April 5, 1588.)
Read from Hobbes' LEVIATHAN Vol. 34, pp. 313-322

FIFTEEN MINUTES A DAY 43

APRIL Reading Guide

6 Who Is Bad?
Badness has many interpretations, a different definition has been the dictate of each new generation. The solution of the eternal riddle was earnestly sought by Marcus Aurelius.
(Marcus Aurelius born April 6, 121 A. D.)
Read: MARCUS AURELIUS' MEDITATIONS Vol. 2, pp. 243-253

7 Nature Guided His Pen
Wordsworth was so closely in touch with Nature that the simple beauty of flowers, woods, and fields is reflected in his poems as if Nature herself took up the pen and wrote.
(Wordsworth born April 7, 1770.)
Read: WORDSWORTH'S POEMS Vol. 41, pp. 639-651

8 Beware the Vengeful Hounds!
Orestes, holding an avenging sword over his mother, is told: "Beware thy mother's vengeful hounds." How he pays for disregarding his mother's warning is told in this drama where a mother is slain to avenge a father's ghost.
Read from Æschylus' THE LIBATION BEARERS Vol. 8, pp. 111-121

9 A Perfect Land in a Wilderness of Waters
West of Peru there was reported to be a land where Truth and Science were used to promote the happiness and freedom of man. Here is Bacon's description of this ideal commonwealth.
(Francis Bacon died April 9, 1629.)
Read from Bacon's NEW ATLANTIS Vol. 3, pp. 145-155

10 Americans - by Will of the King
Before English adventurers could attempt settlement in America it was necessary first to get permission from the King. The charter of King James to the oldest American colony is an extremely important historical document.
(King James grants charter to Virginia, April 10, 1606.)
Read: FIRST CHARTER OF VIRGINIA Vol. 43, pp. 49-58

11 Danger in Being Young and Fair
The virgin beauty of Margaret enchanted Faust, who dazzled her with the brilliance of many gems. Margaret innocently took his gifts, believing that beauty should not "blush unseen" - but unmindful of consequences to follow.
Read from Goethe's FAUST Vol. 19, pp. 115-131

44 FIFTEEN MINUTES A DAY

APRIL Reading Guide

12 The Perfect Argument
You would doubtless like to know how to hold your own in any argument. Read what Leslie Stephen declares the finest speci­men in our language of the conduct of argument.
Read from Berkeley's THREE DIALOGUES Vol. 37, pp. 230-240

13 Michelangelo His Boon Companion
Kings, emperors, the greatest artists and sculptors of the Renaissance at its most magnificent period, walk through the pages of his autobiography - not as cold, austere, historical characters but as the intimate friends of Cellini.
Read from CELLINI'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY Vol. 31, pp. 23-35

14 A Raid on Spanish Treasure in America
Spanish towns in the New World were rich in treasure and tempting booty for English soldiers of fortune, who were venturesome and merciless. "Ho! for the Spanish Main!" was the rallying cry for all freebooters and buccaneers.
Read from Biggs' DRAKE'S GREAT ARMADA Vol. 33, pp. 229-242

15 0 Captain! My Captain!
(Lincoln died April 15, 1865.)
The rugged, genuine Lincoln was idealized by Walt Whitman - the founder of the new school of American poetry. Two of Whitman's finest poems were inspired by Lincoln.
Read: WHITMAN'S POEMS Vol. 42, pp. 1412-1420

16 Inside the Gates of Hell
The city of Dis, within the gates of Hell, was guarded by monsters and surrounded by a moat filled with the tormented. Dante, protected by Virgil, entered the forbidden city, and viewed sights never before seen by living man.
(Dante urges attack on the city of Florence, April 16, 1311.)
Read from Dante's DIVINE COMEDY Vol. 20, pp. 32-39

17 Benjamin Franklin - Book Salesman
In 1731 there were not many books in America. Franklin saw the need for more books and by house-to-house canvassing per­suaded Philadelphians to aid him in founding a public library which to-day stands as a lasting memorial to Franklin.
(Benjamin Franklin died April 17, 1790.)
Read from FRANKLIN'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY Vol. 1, pp. 66-77

FIFTEEN MINUTES A DAY 45

APRIL Reading Guide

18 Ready for Adventures and Conquests
Reading too many romances of knights and valorous deeds caused a poor Spanish gentleman to polish up his great-grandfather's armor, rechristen his old nag, and sally forth. "Don Quixote," besides holding a secure niche in literature as the work that quashed the romantic school of knight-errantry, is at the same time one of the most widely-read stories in the world.
(Cervantes receives the last sacraments April 18, 1616.)
Read from Cervantes' DON QUIXOTE Vol. 14, pp. 17-28

19 Battle of Concord
(Fought April 19, 1775.)
Dr. Eliot says of the opening stanza of the "Concord Hymn": "In twenty-eight words here are the whole scene and all the essential circumstances . . . what an accurate, moving, immortal description is this!"
Read: Emerson's CONCORD HYMN Vol. 42, pp. 1245-1246

20 Byron Gave His Life for Freedom
England's romantic poet died while fighting against the Turks on the side of the Greeks. His poems, "The Isles of Greece" and "The Prisoner of Chillon," proclaim freedom.
(At Missolonghi, Greece, 37 guns honor Byron, April 20, 1824.)
Read: BYRON'S POEMS Vol. 41, pp. 801-815

21 Books as Windows to the Past
Through the pages of a book the reader sees the life of past days. Carnivals, processions, battles, coronations, voyages - the whole history of the world and its people is revealed in a stupendous pageant. Taine was a Frenchman who wrote an unsurpassed history of English literature; its introduction reveals the unusual combination of an imaginative and an analytical style.
(H. A. Taine born April 21, 1828.)
Read from INTRODUCTION TO ENGLISH LITERATURE Vol. 39, pp. 410-418

22 Happiness as a Duty
Immanuel Kant, the most influential of German philosophers, taught that it was man's duty to be happy, for an unhappy man is tempted to sin. Seekers after happiness find aid and inspiration in Kant's writings.
(Immanuel Kant born April 22, 1724.)
Read from FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF MORALS Vol. 32, pp. 310-317

46 FIFTEEN MINUTES A DAY

APRIL Reading Guide

23 "If You Have Poison for Me, I Will Drink It"
Shaken and disillusioned by the treachery of his elder daughter, King Lear suspected even the faithful Cordelia of evil designs. Her most tender efforts to comfort him failed to drive away the insistent specter of his madness.
(Shakespeare died April 23, 1616.)
Read from Shakespeare's KING LEAR Vol. 46, pp. 293-303

24 Nineteen Million Elephants
At the rate at which elephants naturally increase, Darwin estimated that in 750 years there could be nearly 19,000,000 elephants. But did Darwin consider the ravages of civilization and circuses?
Read from Darwin's ORIGIN OF SPECIES Vol. 11, pp. 74-86

25 Mighty Rome Feared These Men
Men who danced among sharp swords - who gambled with their lives - who took their women to the battlefields to encourage the brave and shame the cowardly - these were the primitive Germans who made Roman emperors tremble.
Read from Tacitus' ON GERMANY Vol. 33, pp. 106-120

26 Do Miracles Still Happen
Just what constitutes a miracle? Does Science indorse miracles? One wonders why such marvelous things do not happen often nowadays. Hume tells why.
(David Hume born April 26, 1711.)
Read from Hume ON MIRACLES Vol. 37, pp. 375-385

27 He Dared to See Forbidden Beauty
The Puritan world feared Beauty. Emerson, great American essayist and philosopher, declared that the world was made for beauty, and openly worshiped at beauty's shrine.
(Emerson died April 27, 1882.)
Read: Emerson's BEAUTY Vol. 5, pp. 297-310

28 "Vanity of Vanities," Saith the Preacher
Three hundred years before Christ, a preacher in Jerusalem complained that there was no new thing under the sun. Everything considered new had really existed in the time of the fathers. Sophisticated and modern is this writer of 2,300 years ago.
Read from THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES Vol. 44 pp. 335-341

FIFTEEN MINUTES A DAY 47

APRIL Reading Guide

29 How I Got Rich - by Sindbad the Sailor
Sindbad, a poor man, recited woeful verses before the magnificent dwelling of Sindbad of the Sea. The great Sindbad, hearing him, invited the poor Sindbad to a feast and told the wonderful story of his fabulous fortune.
Read from THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS Vol. 16 pp. 231-242

30 Washington's Dictum on Private Life
Washington declared that the strength of the new nation lay in the "pure and immutable principles of private morality." A free government, fortified by the virtues and affection of its citizens, can command the respect of the world.
(Washington inaugurated April 30, 1789.)
Read: Washington's FIRST INAUGURAL ADDRESS Vol. 43, pp. 225-228

No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle
"No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle," wrote Hume, thus arousing bitter animosity in orthodox circles. Hume's searching treatment of miracles will stimulate to deeper thought upon this controversial subject. (See Reading Assignment for April 26th.)


THE SWEETEST PATH OF LIFE LEADS THROUGH THE AVENUES OF SCIENCE AND LEARNING. - HUME.

[Introduction] [January] [February] [March] [April] [May] [June] [July] [August] [September] [October] [November] [December]

Also check out:
An older perspective on words in books.
An MIT Museum article on Charles Eliot.


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