Thomas Jefferson – First Inaugural Address (March 4, 1801) I am called to this office & thank you for the trust you’ve put in me. This job is beyond any human being. We are a young nation with fruitful land, engaged in industry, & commerce with nations who are surgingContinue Reading

Mark Twain – Learning the River (Ch. 6 from Life on the Mississippi) Somehow the “Paul Jones” lost 2 weeks of our travels from Cincinnati to New Orleans. But that gave me a chance to speak with one of the pilots who taught me how to steer. This got meContinue Reading

Edmund Burke – A Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol (1777) This letter is regarding the last 2 acts passed in Parliament regarding the troubles in America. They stem from the same policy. They not only hurt Americans but us over here in England as well. I hate the ideaContinue Reading

On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth by Thomas de Quincey (1823) I was always puzzled about the knocking at the gate in Macbeth right after Duncan’s murder. But I never knew why. It reflected back on the murder with an awfulness & solemnity… but why? Don’t pay attentionContinue Reading

Pliny the Younger – The Eruption of Vesuvius (Letter 6.20) To Cornelius Tacitus: In the last letter, I wrote about my uncle’s death. But now you’re asking about me, so I’ll tell my version of the events. My uncle left us & I went to go read. Afterwards, I hadContinue Reading

Pliny the Younger – The Eruption of Vesuvius (Letter 6.16) To Cornelius Tacitus: My uncle, Pliny the Elder, died in a terrible incident which also left our region in ruins. Let’s hope that our talking about him will immortalize him. He was with the fleet he was commanding at MisenumContinue Reading

Of Death – Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) Men fear death like kids fear the dark Natural fear of the dark is increased by tales & so is fear of death The contemplation of death is holy & religious but the fear of it is weakness In religion, there’s often aContinue Reading

Of Discourse by Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) Some people would rather be known as being witty & being able to hold an argument than to be known for judgment & being able to discern truth. As if it were higher praise to be said to know what to say ratherContinue Reading

Of Adversity – Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) In a speech, Seneca said – the good things which belong to prosperity are to be wished but the good things that belong to adversity are to be admired If miracles are command over nature, they definitely appear in adversity In another speech,Continue Reading

The Virginia Declaration of Rights (June 12, 1776) All men by nature are free & independent. They have certain inherent right, which can’t be taken away in society – enjoyment of life & property, acquiring & possessing property, & pursuing & obtaining happiness All the power of representatives are vestedContinue Reading

“A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country” by Jonathan Swift (1729) Everywhere you go in Ireland, you see female beggars with up to 6 kids, dressed in rags & asking for money Instead of doing honest work, they’re outContinue Reading

“How Should One Read a Book?” by Virginia Woolf (1925) I can only answer for myself because you really ought not take advice from others. Just follow your instincts, use reason & come up with your own conclusions These are merely suggestions – don’t give up your independence Difficult toContinue Reading

“The Sphinx” by Francis Bacon (1561-1626) The Sphinx was a mythological creature – part woman, part bird, part griffin, living on a mountain near Thebes She ambushed travelers forcing them to answer riddles she got from the muses If they didn’t answer correctly, she’d rip them to pieces If oneContinue Reading

“Declaration of Rights of Man & Citizen” (1789) The Representatives of France in a National Assembly Because of past ignorance, neglect & contempt of human rights are the cause of public misfortune & corruption of government Trying to make natural & inalienable rights always in the mind of the publicContinue Reading

“On Swift” by William Hazlitt (1778-1830) Swift’s ability as a poet is often overlooked because of his ability to write prose If he had never written “Tale of a Tub” or “Gulliver’s Travels”, he’d still be known as a poet Dry humor, agreeable morality, exquisite tone of irony, touching pathosContinue Reading

“What Is a Classic?” by Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve (1804-1869) It all depends… if someone I trust recommends it to me, I’ll give it a whirl – all my attention & give my honest opinion The English have been writing essays for non-personal opinions – abstract & moral – should beContinue Reading

“An Essay on Modern Education” by Jonathan Swift (c. 1720) After a lot careful reflection, I’ve come to conclusion that the wealthier you are, the worse your education is & if the whole world were under just one king, his son would be the dumbest person to have ever livedContinue Reading

“Of Studies” by Francis Bacon (1561–1626) Studies are for 3 different purposes Delight – in privateness &retiring Ornament – in discourse Ability – in the judgment & disposition of business Expert men can execute & judge particulars – but generally speaking, the best advice & plans come from learned menContinue Reading

“Of Beauty” by Francis Bacon (1561–1626) Virtue looks best in a nice body, not too delicate, but dignified in presence rather than aspect Virtue is more in practice than in great spirit There are many famous men held in high regard but also very good-looking: Augustus, Philip le Bel, EdwardContinue Reading

“The Art of Life” by Walter Horatio Pater (1839-1894) We tend to think of things & principles as inconstant modes & fashions Let’s examine physical life… Look at the floods of summer rain We don’t see anything but a combination of elements from the periodic table They’re in our bodiesContinue Reading