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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.


78 FIFTEEN MINUTES A DAY

OCTOBER

The skies they were ashen and sober;
The leaves they were crispéd and sere -
The leaves they were withering and sere. . .
POE (Vol. 42, p. 1230) (Poe Biographical Note)

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. 107-111

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 who 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

FIFTEEN MINUTES A DAY 79

OCTOBER Reading Guide

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 their fate.
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, 1845.)
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 two 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 Æneas Flees from an Inconsolable Love

Æneas, 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 King Acestes helped him to forget his relinquished love.
Read from Virgil's ÆNEID Vol. 13, pp. 178-188

80 FIFTEEN MINUTES A DAY

OCTOBER Reading Guide

12 Columbus' Letter Miraculously Found

(Columbus Day.)
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 World inhabitants.
(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 likc 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 own reason.
(Browne visited by Evelyn of "Evelyn Diary," Oct. 17, 1671.)
Read from Browne's RELIGIO MEDICI Vol. 3, pp. 253-265

FIFTEEN MINUTES A DAY 81

OCTOBER Reading Guide

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. 19, 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, whom 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 Cæsar Turned the Tables

When only a boy, Cæsar 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 CÆSAR Vol. 12, pp. 264-273

82 FIFTEEN MINUTES A DAY

OCTOBER Reading Guide

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 Æschylus' AGAMEMNON Vol. 8, pp. 52-64

25 It Greatly Encouraged Intrigue

After the publication of Machiavelli's "The 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 and Asia.
(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

FIFTEEN MINUTES A DAY 83

OCTOBER Reading Guide

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 him "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


Learning Spelling With Dice
John Locke taught spelling by means of dice with letters of the alphabet pasted on them. (See Reading Assignment for October 28th.)


THE FIRST TIME I READ AN EXCELLENT BOOK, IT IS TO ME JUST AS IF I HAD GAINED A NEW FRIEND. -GOLDSMITH.


[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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