Friday, January 1, 2010

Epilogue: Summing Up After Going Once Around The Sun

And so our year consuming the Harvard Classics in 15 minute bites has come to an end.

For those who stuck it out through the full 365 days of 2009, I salute you. For those who came into this project while it was in progress, thanks for stopping by.

The daily posts are now through, but I will post periodic updates about the Harvard Classics from here on out. I hope this blog will serve as a starting point for those seeking to get into this series and are willing to try the bite-by-bite method.

Again, thanks to all of you who read this blog over the past year, and happy reading to all!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

December 31: Curiousity and Interest as Guide to Reading (Vol. 25, pp. 364-374)

"Learn to be good readers ... be discriminate in your reading ... read faithfully, and with your best attention, all kinds of thing which you have a real interest in."

These words were spoken by Thomas Carlyle's in his 1866 inaugural address upon assuming the position of rector of Edinburgh University. It serves, in a way, as the inspiration for Dr. Eliot and the creation of the Harvard Classics.

More reading, and more books, are what Carlyle calls for, and to that, every educated person can agree. In reading is the salvation of the world, for only through books can the flame of civilization continue to burn brightly. In an age where ignorance is exulted, only an educated people can halt the spread of stupidity.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

December 30: Dana Meets a Tattooed Sailor (Vol. 23, pp. 77-86)

More from "Two Years Before The Mast" today, as our hero reaches Gold Rush-era California, circa 1850. Dana doesn't think much of Californians, calling them "an idle, thriftless people." He gets quite descriptive of the dress of women and his trip to Monterey. Dana comes off a bit haughty in this passage, as one might expect a Harvard man to be — the Boston Brahmin looking down his nose at the commoners.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

December 29: These Guests Overstayed Their Welcome (Vol. 22, pp. 296-309)

We get the climax of the "Odyssey" today, when our hero returns home after his long and arduous voyage to find his home filled with freeloaders and suitors trying to make Penelope. There is enough blood and gore in this passage to satisfy the action film constituency as Odysseus kills and kills and kills some more to cleanse his happy home of the hangers-on that moved in after he first left town.

Monday, December 28, 2009

December 28: Ho! for the Spanish Main (Vol. 33, pp. 229-240)

Darwin's voyage is contrasted sharply with today's tale of Sir Francis Drake and how, in 1485, he raided the Spanish gold and silver stores to swipe the precious metals the Spanish explorers swiped from the indigenous peoples of the New World.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

December 27: Million-Year-Old Islands (Vol. 29, pp. 376-389)

On this day in 1831, Charles Darwin and crew set sail on the Beagle. The most famous stop on their tour, the Galapagos Islands, is recounted in today's reading. Darwin's voyage was arguably the first example of exploration without pillage, and the data he gathered greatly informed his research on evolution and natural selection.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

December 26: Silence Cost Her a Kingdom (Vol. 46, pp. 288-300)

On this day in 1606, Shakespeare's "King Lear" had its premiere before Queen Elizabeth's court. In this sequence, Cordelia -- King Lear's dutiful daughter -- struggles with the lack of acknowledgment of her deep and abiding love for her father.