This is the sixth in a series on Franklin’s moral improvement plan, the rest of the posts are available here.
FRUGALITY: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i. e., waste nothing.
“Every excellency, and every virtue,” writes Lord Chesterfield, “has its kindred vice or weakness; and if carried beyond certain bounds, sinks into one or the other. Generosity often runs into profusion, economy into avarice, . . . and so on.” Frugality (thrift, economy, etc.) is one of those virtues that seems most likely to slip into its kindred vice, parsimony (niggardliness, avarice, etc.) So how can one be careful without being cheap?
Thomas Hobbes would advise prioritizing frugality below ambition. “Frugality,” he writes in Leviathan, “though in poor men a virtue, maketh a man unapt to achieve such actions as require the strength of many men at once; for it weakeneth their endeavour, which is to be nourished and kept in vigour by reward.” To the extent that one’s frugality impedes one’s ambition, the ambition ought to be preferred because our happiness depends on our ability to continually advance.
Of course, this advice is qualified. For one thing, Hobbes concedes that people of limited means ought to practice frugality. It is not totally clear how Hobbes would define “poor men”, but it seems likely that the bulk of humanity falls into that class for purposes of his Leviathan. That particular section of the book starts with an explanation that felicity can only be obtained through constantly fulfilling an ceaseless series of desires. Aside from those at the very top of society, it seems unlikely that many have the resources to properly pursue that “perpetual and restless desire of power after power, that ceaseth only in death.”
Still, even poor folk ought to weigh their goals and aspirations when deciding how to spend their money. Even when money is tight, there are some desires that are “worth it.” Those desires or goals that are likely to lead to long term gain (or, in Hobbes’s terms, are likely to assure the ability to satisfy future desires) are probably worth investing in, and those that are likely to lead to recurring expense (or diminish the likelihood of achieving future goals) should be pursued only cautiously. For example, a tightfisted farmer who purchases a low-quality, second hand plow is probably not doing himself any favors. He is not being frugal, but cheap. Likewise, a thousand dollars spent on a once-in-a-lifetime trip is probably a better choice than buying a thousand dollar snow-mobile (or any other toy) that will result in future expenses in the forms of storage, maintenance, and fuel. In the words of Francis Bacon, “a man ought warily to begin charges which once begun will continue; but in matters that return not he may be more magnificent.”
Beer of the week: DAB Dark Beer – Budgeting for beer is a balancing act where one must consider not only the price, but also the quantity and quality. For example, a six pack of .5L cans of DAB actually costs less than a sixer of 12 oz. bottles of Bud, but tastes much better. And this is not the first time that I have turned to Dortmunder Actien-Brauerei for relatively good beer on the cheap. For a while as a student in 2007, Dortmunder Hansa was my go-to brew. It came in half-liter bottles, and was a serious value for a reasonably good European lager. This dark lager is pretty good. It pours with plenty of tan foam and a decent bready aroma. It has some of the classic dark malt flavors, including an aftertaste of coffee, but without much of the bitterness that often accompanies dark roasted malt. I am a big fan of dark lagers are generally, and this one is no exception.
Reading of the week: Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes – This excerpt is from a section of Leviathan called Of the Difference of Manners. But Hobbes makes it clear immediately that by “manners” he does not mean “how a man should wash his mouth, or pick his teeth before company, and such other points of the ‘small morals’.” What Hobbes is interested in is how one may live in society despite the fact that our happiness depends on our ability to constantly acquire power, presumably over, or at least to the exclusion of, others.
Question for the week: There are beers that fetch hundreds of dollars per bottle on the secondary market. Is it possible that one of those beers is actually hundreds of times better than a dollar beer? Is that even the right way to analyze the price?
“Brevity is the soul of wit” is a wonderful aphorism.* In no small part, that is because it encapsulates a lot of what makes aphorisms themselves so delightful. Whether they are called fragments, maxims, epigrams, proverbs, or pensées, aphorisms can be awful lot of fun to read. When done well, they are pithy, profound, and memorable. But for those very reasons, they can be somewhat difficult to approach as serious reading.
One short phrase can provide enough insight to sustain a very deep discussion. And yet, it is often easy to consume multiple aphorisms at a time, like so many kernels of popcorn. This seems particularly true when the author has put his thoughts into a particular order. There is plenty of value in being able to flip open a book of aphorisms and read one at random, but that seems to discount the value of the author/editor’s decisions in arranging them. Consequently, there is a tension between attempting to read aphorisms as stand-alone thoughts or as a composed collection.
For example, in his book of aphorisms, Vectors, James Richardson wonders: “Why shouldn’t you read this the way I wrote it, with days between the lines?” But that thought is number 369 out of 500. So is it really a serious suggestion on how he thinks the book should be read? An invitation to re-read Vectors with a new focus?
It seems unlikely that there is a “wrong way” to approach aphorisms, but it is worth giving some thought to the different ways in which they can be read. It is also probably important to remain aware of context; without context, a good aphorism may be no more than a cliché.
*Now is probably a good time to mention that the line “Brevity is the soul of wit” is spoken by a long-winded character in an extremely lengthy play. This irony is, perhaps, the best thing about it.
Beer of the week: Fat Tire Amber Ale – This is a tasty little ale from New Belgium Brewing Company. It starts with light, flowery hops on the nose, but the taste is a nice balance between the hops and malt. It gets better as it warms slightly in the glass and the bready malt starts to shine through. Pretty darn good.
Reading for the week: Maximes and Moral Reflections by François de La Rochefoucauld – These dozen selected aphorisms seem fairly representative of La Rochefoucauld’s work. And although each could stand on its own, together they exhibit a distinct line of thought. A couple suggestions on how to read La Rochefoucauld: the author himself suggests that “the best approach for the reader to take would be to put in his mind right from the start that none of these maxims apply to himself in particular, and that he is the sole exception, even though they appear to be generalities.” Lord Chesterfield recommends that one should “read in the morning some of La Rochefoucault’s [sic] Maxims; consider them, examine them well, and compare them with the real characters you meet in the evening.”
Question for the week: How do you like to read aphorisms?
In the dialogue Meno, Socrates is asked by the eponymous interlocutor whether virtue can be taught. Socrates, as per usual, plays dumb: “I don’t even know what virtue is; how can I tell you if it can be taught?” Meno then lists the virtues of various classes of people, all of which appear to be a form of practical efficiency. After a substantial digression, Socrates and Meno finally get to the business of addressing whether virtue can be taught by establishing a provisional definition of what virtue is: the wisdom or knowledge required to know how to act in a way that will be profitable. That is, prudence. For example, courage is a virtue. Without prudence, however, courage becomes folly. The same is true of every other individual virtue. Prudence is the overarching principle of all virtues.
Some two-thousand years later, Lord Chesterfield took up this interpretation of virtue. In a letter to his son, he used the word “judgement” in the place of “prudence” but expressed the same idea. Each virtue is only good if exercised with good judgement, otherwise it becomes a parallel vice. “Generosity often runs into profusion, economy into avarice, courage into rashness, caution into timidity, and so on.” Judgement (or prudence? or moderation?) is the heart of virtue, because without it all other virtues are vice. But Chesterfield went on to apply this to a field that might not be considered a virtue in itself: education.
“Great learning,” writes Chesterfield, “if not accompanied with sound judgment, frequently carries us into error, pride, and pedantry.” Those who are highly educated but not prudent do not give their contemporaries enough credit. Instead, they rely on the ancients, even upon ancient mad men. “We are really so prejudiced by our education, that, as the ancients deified their heroes, we deify their madmen; of which, with all due regard for antiquity, I take Leonidas and Curtius to have been two distinguished ones.” The study of the ancients is necessary and proper, but what really matters is what is going on today.
One may argue that since Chesterfield’s time, the pendulum has swung the quite other way. The products of today’s education scoff at the ancients as primitive and look only to modern science. A particular example of this is the modern opinion of faith. Any great thinker of the past who was avowedly religious is automatically discounted in the opinion of the modern pseudo-intellectual. Faith is no longer regarded as a virtue, but it is now held to be archaic and indicative of personal weakness. And as for Chesterfield’s admonition against mentioning that one is reading classics, there is surely little chance of that now. I read somewhere the observation that Americans used to learn Latin and Greek in high school. But now they learn remedial English in college. If not for the recent motion pictures about the Persian invasion of Greece, many college graduates would have no idea who Leonidas was at all.
Still, Chesterfield’s advice is well worth heeding. Especially for this blog. Works of greater or lesser antiquity are an obvious part of this project. Partially because of an ingrained deference for the ancients, partially because the readings reproduced here must be in the public domain. I think that I generally avoid fawning over the ancients unnecessarily and from trotting out my education just to let people know that I have one. After all, I freely admit that I am under-educated. I had to search Wikipedia just to learn who Curtius was.
Beer of the Week: Lord Chesterfield Ale – This beer has a pleasant and refreshing hint of citrus. It is not as flavorful as I would hope, but it really is a bit better than the average mass-produced beer. Especially after drinking half a case. Also, it is named for a noted man of letters, which is an obvious point in its favor.
Reading for the Week: Letter XXX from Lord Chesterfield to his Son – The collected letters of Lord Chesterfield to his son are known as Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman, so that’s awesome. The first time I read this letter, it almost felt like a rebuke for creating this blog. And I still haven’t quite shaken that impression.
Question for the Week: A number of Americans have made former presidents the objects of their deification. Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, the Roosevelts, and others are practically cult figures in various circles. In what way does this differ from an obsession with the ancients?
Letter XXX to his Son from Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield
BATH, February 22, O. S. 1748.
Every excellency, and every virtue, has its kindred vice or weakness; and if carried beyond certain bounds, sinks into one or the other. Generosity often runs into profusion, economy into avarice, courage into rashness, caution into timidity, and so on:—insomuch that, I believe, there is more judgment required, for the proper conduct of our virtues, than for avoiding their opposite vices. Vice, in its true light, is so deformed, that it shocks us at first sight, and would hardly ever seduce us, if it did not, at first, wear the mask of some virtue. But virtue is, in itself, so beautiful, that it charms us at first sight; engages us more and more upon further acquaintance; and, as with other beauties, we think excess impossible; it is here that judgment is necessary, to moderate and direct the effects of an excellent cause. I shall apply this reasoning, at present, not to any particular virtue, but to an excellency, which, for want of judgment, is often the cause of ridiculous and blamable effects; I mean, great learning; which, if not accompanied with sound judgment, frequently carries us into error, pride, and pedantry. As, I hope, you will possess that excellency in its utmost extent, and yet without its too common failings, the hints, which my experience can suggest, may probably not be useless to you.
Some learned men, proud of their knowledge, only speak to decide, and give judgment without appeal; the consequence of which is, that mankind, provoked by the insult, and injured by the oppression, revolt; and, in order to shake off the tyranny, even call the lawful authority in question. The more you know, the modester you should be: and (by the bye) that modesty is the surest way of gratifying your vanity. Even where you are sure, seem rather doubtful; represent, but do not pronounce, and, if you would convince others, seem open to conviction yourself.
Others, to show their learning, or often from the prejudices of a school education, where they hear of nothing else, are always talking of the ancients, as something more than men, and of the moderns, as something less. They are never without a classic or two in their pockets; they stick to the old good sense; they read none of the modern trash; and will show you, plainly, that no improvement has been made, in any one art or science, these last seventeen hundred years. I would by no means have you disown your acquaintance with the ancients: but still less would I have you brag of an exclusive intimacy with them. Speak of the moderns without contempt, and of the ancients without idolatry; judge them all by their merits, but not by their ages; and if you happen to have an Elzevir classic in your pocket neither show it nor mention it.
Some great scholars, most absurdly, draw all their maxims, both for public and private life, from what they call parallel cases in the ancient authors; without considering, that, in the first place, there never were, since the creation of the world, two cases exactly parallel; and, in the next place, that there never was a case stated, or even known, by any historian, with every one of its circumstances; which, however, ought to be known, in order to be reasoned from. Reason upon the case itself, and the several circumstances that attend it, and act accordingly; but not from the authority of ancient poets, or historians. Take into your consideration, if you please, cases seemingly analogous; but take them as helps only, not as guides. We are really so prejudiced by our education, that, as the ancients deified their heroes, we deify their madmen; of which, with all due regard for antiquity, I take Leonidas and Curtius to have been two distinguished ones. And yet a solid pedant would, in a speech in parliament, relative to a tax of two pence in the pound upon some community or other, quote those two heroes, as examples of what we ought to do and suffer for our country. I have known these absurdities carried so far by people of injudicious learning, that I should not be surprised, if some of them were to propose, while we are at war with the Gauls, that a number of geese should be kept in the Tower, upon account of the infinite advantage which Rome received IN A PARALLEL CASE, from a certain number of geese in the Capitol. This way of reasoning, and this way of speaking, will always form a poor politician, and a puerile declaimer.
There is another species of learned men, who, though less dogmatical and supercilious, are not less impertinent. These are the communicative and shining pedants, who adorn their conversation, even with women, by happy quotations of Greek and Latin; and who have contracted such a familiarity with the Greek and Roman authors, that they, call them by certain names or epithets denoting intimacy. As OLD Homer; that SLY ROGUE Horace; MARO, instead of Virgil; and Naso, Instead of Ovid. These are often imitated by coxcombs, who have no learning at all; but who have got some names and some scraps of ancient authors by heart, which they improperly and impertinently retail in all companies, in hopes of passing for scholars. If, therefore, you would avoid the accusation of pedantry on one hand, or the suspicion of ignorance on the other, abstain from learned ostentation. Speak the language of the company that you are in; speak it purely, and unlarded with any other. Never seem wiser, nor more learned, than the people you are with. Wear your learning, like your watch, in a private pocket: and do not pull it out and strike it; merely to show that you have one. If you are asked what o’clock it is, tell it; but do not proclaim it hourly and unasked, like the watchman.
Upon the whole, remember that learning (I mean Greek and Roman learning) is a most useful and necessary ornament, which it is shameful not to be master of; but, at the same time most carefully avoid those errors and abuses which I have mentioned, and which too often attend it. Remember, too, that great modern knowledge is still more necessary than ancient; and that you had better know perfectly the present, than the old state of Europe; though I would have you well acquainted with both.
I have this moment received your letter of the 17th, N. S. Though, I confess, there is no great variety in your present manner of life, yet materials can never be wanting for a letter; you see, you hear, or you read something new every day; a short account of which, with your own reflections thereupon, will make out a letter very well. But, since you desire a subject, pray send me an account of the Lutheran establishment in Germany; their religious tenets, their church government, the maintenance, authority, and titles of their clergy.
‘Vittorio Siri’, complete, is a very scarce and very dear book here; but I do not want it. If your own library grows too voluminous, you will not know what to do with it, when you leave Leipsig. Your best way will be, when you go away from thence, to send to England, by Hamburg, all the books that you do not absolutely want.
English Traits by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Chapter I, Excerpt
Greenough brought me, through a common friend, an invitation from Mr. Landor, who lived at San Domenica di Fiesole. On the 15th May I dined with Mr. Landor. I found him noble and courteous, living in a cloud of pictures at his Villa Gherardesca, a fine house commanding a beautiful landscape. I had inferred from his books, or magnified from some anecdotes, an impression of Achillean wrath,—an untamable petulance. I do not know whether the imputation were just or not, but certainly on this May day his courtesy veiled that haughty mind, and he was the most patient and gentle of hosts. He praised the beautiful cyclamen which grows all about Florence; he admired Washington; talked of Wordsworth, Byron, Massinger, Beaumont and Fletcher. To be sure, he is decided in his opinions, likes to surprise, and is well content to impress, if possible, his English whim upon the immutable past. No great man ever had a great son, if Philip and Alexander be not an exception; and Philip he calls the greater man. In art he loves the Greeks, and in sculpture, them only. He prefers the Venus to everything else, and, after that, the head of Alexander in the gallery here. He prefers John of Bologna to Michael Angelo; in painting, Rafaelle; and shares the growing taste for Perugino and the early masters. The Greek histories he thought the only good; and after them, Voltaire’s. I could not make him praise Mackintosh, nor my more recent friends; Montaigne very cordially,—and Charron also, which seemed undiscriminating. He thought Degerando indebted to “Lucas on Happiness” and “Lucas on Holiness”! He pestered me with Southey; but who is Southey?
He invited me to breakfast on Friday. On Friday I did not fail to go, and this time with Greenough. He entertained us at once with reciting half a dozen hexameter lines of Julius Cæsar’s!—from Donatus, he said. He glorified Lord Chesterfield more than was necessary, and undervalued Burke, and undervalued Socrates; designated as three of the greatest of men, Washington, Phocion, and Timoleon; much as our pomologists, in their lists, select the three or the six best pears “for a small orchard”; and did not even omit to remark the similar termination of their names. “A great man,” he said, “should make great sacrifices, and kill his hundred oxen without knowing whether they would be consumed by gods and heroes, or whether the flies would eat them.” I had visited Professor Amici, who had shown me his microscopes, magnifying (it was said) two thousand diameters; and I spoke of the uses to which they were applied. Landor despised entomology, yet, in the same breath, said, “the sublime was in a grain of dust.” I suppose I teased him about recent writers, but he professed never to have heard of Herschel, not even by name. One room full of pictures, which he likes to show, especially one piece, standing before which, he said “he would give fifty guineas to the man that would swear it was a Domenichino.” I was more curious to see his library, but Mr. H——, one of the guests, told me that Mr. Landor gives away his books, and has never more than a dozen at a time in his house.
Mr. Landor carries to its height the love of freak which the English delight to indulge, as if to signalize their commanding freedom. He has a wonderful brain, despotic, violent, and inexhaustible, meant for a soldier, by what chance converted to letters, in which there is not a style nor a tint not known to him, yet with an English appetite for action and heroes. The thing done avails, and not what is said about it. An original sentence, a step forward, is worth more than all the censures. Landor is strangely undervalued in England; usually ignored; and sometimes savagely attacked in the Reviews. The criticism may be right, or wrong, and is quickly forgotten; but year after year the scholar must still go back to Landor for a multitude of elegant sentences—for wisdom, wit, and indignation that are unforgettable.
Each of these readings is under one beer long and worth at least a 6-pack of thought.
The Constitution of the Confederate States of America: In toto
The Constitution of May 3, 1791: In toto
Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776: Declaration of Rights
Antifederalist Papers No. 3 by “A Farmer”: In toto
Thanksgiving Declaration of 1777 by Samuel Adams in committee with Richard Henry Lee and Daniel Roberdeau: In toto
Paradiso by Dante Alighieri: Canto XXXIII
Proslogium by St. Anselm of Canterbury: Chapters II and III
The Frogs by Aristophanes: Lines 1010- 1105
The Wasps by Aristophanes: Lines 986-1121
Metaphysics by Aristotle: Book IV, 1005b-1006b
Physics by Aristotle: Book II, Part 3, Excerpt
Aristotle’s Problems: Excerpts
The Confessions of St. Augustine: Book 3, Paragraphs 1-4
The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela: Chapter XIII
New Atlantis by Francis Bacon: Excerpt
Of Studies by Sir Francis Bacon: In toto
Of Truth by Sir Francis Bacon: In toto
The Law by Frédéric Bastiat: Excerpt
The Broken Window by Frédéric Bastiat: In toto
Stulta and Puera by Frédéric Bastiat: In toto
Get Drunk by Charles Baudelaire: In toto
The Ecclesiastical History of the English People by The Venerable Bede: Preface
The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1 & 2
The Book of Ecclesiastes, or The Preacher: Chapter 3
The Book of Job: Chapter 6
The Gospel According to St. Matthew: The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (20:1-15)
First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians: Chapter 13
The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius: Book I, Sections 2 & 3
In Reference to Her Children, 23 June 1659 by Anne Bradstreet: In toto
Home-thoughts, from Abroad by Robert Browning: In toto
Beer by Charles Bukowski: In toto
On the Sublime and Beautiful by Sir Edmond Burke: Part I, Chapter 1
Scotch Drink by Robert Burns: In toto
To a Mouse by Robert Burns: In toto (with audio)
War is a Racket by Major General Smedley Butler: Chapter 2
The First Six Books of the Elements of Euclid translated by Oliver Byrne: Introduction, Excerpt
My Soul is Dark by George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron: In toto
Cordas v. Peerless Transp. Co. by Justice Frank Carlin: In toto
Characteristics by Thomas Carlyle: Paragraphs 1-4
The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini: Excerpt
Don Quixote, Part 1 by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra: Chapter VI, Excerpt
Don Quixote, Part 1 by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra: Chapter VIII, Paragraphs 1 and 2
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
General Prologue: Excerpt
The Parson’s Tale: Excerpt
Regret by Kate Chopin: Excerpt
The Lady with the Dog by Anton Chekhov: Excerpt
Letter XXX to his Son from Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield: In toto
On Friendship by Marcus Tullius Cicero: Paragraphs 61-66
Second Inaugural Address: by Grover Cleveland: In toto
The Sayings of Confucius: VII
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad: Excerpt
The Pioneers by James Fenimore Cooper: Volume 2, Chapter III, Excerpt
On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres by Nicolas Copernicus: Introduction
Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas De Quincey: The Pleasures of Opium, Excerpt
Le Monde by René Descartes: Chapter 1, Excerpt
Meditations on First Philosophy by René Descartes: Preface to the Reader
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoesvky: Epilogue, Chapter Three, Excerpt
Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass by Fredrick Douglass: Excerpt
A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Part One, Chapter Two, Excerpt
The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas: Chapter 1, Excerpt
The Ghosts by Lord Dunsany: In toto
Relativity by Albert Einstein: Section 1
English Traits by Ralph Waldo Emerson: Chapter I, Excerpt
Pyrrhonic Sketches by Sextus Empericus: Excerpt
The Handbook of Epictetus: Chapter 4
Hippolytus by Euripides: Excerpt
The Force of Gravitation by Michael Faraday: Paragraphs 7-10
The Reivers by William Faulkner: Excerpt
Shah Nameh by Ferdowsi: Excerpt
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Key Fitzgerald: Chapter 9, Excerpt
Sermon to the Birds by St. Francis of Assisi: In toto
Disapproving and Accepting the Constitution by Benjamin Franklin: In toto
His Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin: Excerpt
My November Guest by Robert Frost: In toto
The Desecration of the Flag by Horatio Greenough: In toto
On the Law of War and Peace by Hugo Grotius: Excerpt
The Code of Hammurabi: Excerpts
On the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals by William Harvey: Dedication, In toto
Rappaccini’s Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorn: Excerpt
Histories by Herodotus: Book I, Paragraphs 30 & 32
Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes: Excerpt
The Iliad by Homer: Book XXIII, 653-749
The Odyssey by Homer: Chapter IX, Lines 1-38
The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope: Excerpt
Sceptical Doubts concerning the Operations of the Understanding by David Hume: Part I
The Spy by Svetozár Hurban-Vajanský: In toto
Treatise on Light by Christiaan Huygans: Preface
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving: Excerpt
Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving: Excerpt
A Counterblaste to Tobacco by King James I of England: Excerpt
What is an Emotion? by William James: Excerpts
The Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson and The Continental Congress: Paragraph 2
Notes on Religion by Thomas Jefferson: Excerpt
Thoughts on Lotteries by Thomas Jefferson: Excerpt
Thomas Jefferson To Dr. Joseph Priestly: In toto
Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome: Chapter 12, Excerpt
Hermit Hoar by Samuel Johnson: In toto
On Bacon by Ben Jonson: In toto
The Caesars by Emperor Julian I (The Apostate): Excerpt
In the Penal Colony by Franz Kafka: Excerpt
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka: Excerpt
Dreams of a Spirit-Seer by Immanuel Kant: Preface
Optimism by Helen Keller: Excerpt
The Economic Consequences of the Peace by John Maynard Keynes: Excerpt
The Crowd is Untruth by Søren Kierkegaard: In toto
Why I am Opposed to the War in Vietnam by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: In toto (audio)
Gunga Din by Rudyard Kipling: In toto
If— by Rudyard Kipling: In toto
The Stranger by Rudyard Kipling: In toto
The Alexiad by Anna Komnene: Excerpts from Book I, Chapters X & XI
Lives of the Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laërtius: Parmenides, Melissus, and Zeno of Elea
Epictetus and Seneca by Walter Savage Landor: In toto
Elements of Chemistry by Antoine Lavoisier: Chapter 3, Excerpt
The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln: In toto
The Genius of Wine by Liu Ling: In toto
The History of Rome by Livy: Book I, Paragraphs 43-45
Excelsior by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: In toto
The Village Blacksmith by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: In toto
To Althea, from Prison by Richard Lovelace: In toto
A Treatise on Good Works by Martin Luther: Section VI
Letter to Jerome Weller by Martin Luther: In toto
The Art of War by Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli: Preface
Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusion by Charles Mackay: Volume II: The Crusades, Excerpt
The Federalist No. 37 by James Madison: Excerpt
The Guide for the Perplexed by Moses Maimonides: Part I, Chapter LXXIII
The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus by Christopher Marlowe: Scene VI
Bartleby The Scrivener by Herman Melville: Excerpt
Billy Budd, Sailor by Herman Melville: Chapter IV, Excerpt
The American Language by H. L. Mencken: Chapter 22: Expletives and Forbidden Words
Damn! A Book of Calumny by H. L. Mencken: Chapter XII: On Lying
On Liberty by John Stuart Mill: Chapter One, Excerpt
On Liberty by John Stuart Mill: Chapter One, Excerpt
On Liberty by John Stuart Mill: Chapter Four, Excerpt
Areopagitica by John Milton: Excerpt
At a Vacation Exercise in the College, Part Latin, Part English by John Milton: Excerpt
Liberty and Property by Ludwig von Mises: Section V
Tartuffe, or the Hypocrite by Molière: Act I, Scene VI
The Apology of Raymond Sebond by Michel de Montaigne: Excerpt
Of Cannibals by Michel de Montaigne: Excerpt
Of Moderation by Michel de Montaigne: Excerpt
Utopia by Thomas More: Chapter 1, Excerpt
Ave Verum Corpus by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Audio
Volume 39 of the Harvard Classics by William Allan Neilson: Introductory Note
The Gay Science by Friedrich Nietzsche: The Madman
Human, All Too Human by Friedrich Nietzsche: The Traditional Error of Philosophers
Human, All Too Human by Friedrich Nietzsche: The Appreciation of Simple Truths
The Madman by Friedrich Nietzsche: In toto
The Extent of the Universe by Simon Newcomb: Excerpt
Our Enemy the State by Albert Jay Nock: Excerpt
The Life of Charlemagne by Notker the Stammerer: Book I, 1-4
Politics and the English Language by George Orwell: In toto
Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell: Excerpt
Metamorphoses by Ovid: Book VIII, Lines 183-235, Daedalus and Icarus
Clancy Of The Overflow by Banjo Paterson: In toto
The Corner-Man by Banjo Patterson: In toto
The Man from Snowy River by Banjo Paterson: In toto
A Key by William Penn: Sections XII, XIII, and Postscript
Some Fruits of Solitude by William Penn: Part I, 41-46
Charmides by Plato: Excerpt
Gorgias by Plato: 493d-495b
Phaedrus by Plato, 274c – 275e
The Republic by Plato: Book IV, 436(a) – 441(c)
Letter to Calvisius by Pliny the Younger: In toto
Letter to Cornelius Tacitus by Pliny the Younger: In toto
The Life of Cato the Younger by Plutarch: Excerpt
The Life of Pericles by Plutarch: Excerpt
Annabel Lee by Edgar A. Poe: In toto
Lines on Ale by Edgar Allan Poe: In toto
The Purloined Letter by Edgar A. Poe: Paragraphs 94-96
The Raven by Edgar A. Poe: In toto
The Histories by Polybius: Excerpt
Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope: Canto V
Gargantua by François Rabelais: The Author’s Prologue to the First Book, Excerpt
Maximes and Moral Reflections by François de La Rochefoucauld: 50-62
The Mystery of Banking by Murray N. Rothbard: Chapter IV, Section 1, Excerpt
What is a Classic? by Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve: Excerpt
On Men of Learning by Arthur Schopenhauer, Excerpt
Letter LXIII to Lucilius from Seneca: In toto
Natural Questions by Seneca: XXX & XXXI
Hamlet by William Shakespeare: Act 1, Scene 1
Henry V by William Shakespeare: Act 5, Scene 2, Excerpt
Henry VI, Part 2 by William Shakespeare: Act 4, Scene 2, Excerpt
Richard II by William Shakespeare: Act III, Scene 2
Sonnet #12 by William Shakespeare: In toto
Sonnet #18 by William Shakespeare: In toto
Winter by William Shakespeare: In toto
The New Theology by George Bernard Shaw: Excerpt
Music by Percy Shelley: In toto
Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley: In todo
Bibliotheca Historica by Diodorus Siculus: Book XIV, Preface
The Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith: III.I.46
Ozymandias by Horace Smith: In toto
Ajax by Sophocles: Lines 1-133
Antigone by Sophocles: Lines 1-99
Justice by Herbert Spencer: Excerpt
On the Improvement of the Understanding by Benedictus de Spinoza: 3:2-5;3, 7:1-3
Across the Plains by Robert Louis Stevenson: Fellow-Passengers
A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift: In toto
The Annals by Tacitus: Book 6, Paragraphs 33-35
Creative Unity by Rabindranath Tagore: Chapter One, Part I
Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson: In toto
Crossing the Bar by Alfred, Lord Tennyson: In toto
Zmai Iovan Iovanovich – The Chief Servian Poet of To-Day by Nikola Tesla: In toto
Kelo v. New London: Dissenting Opinion of Justice Clarence Thomas
Walden by Henry David Thoreau: Chapter 17, Excerpt
History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides: Book VI, Chapters 8-15
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy: Part One, Chapter 3, Excerpt
The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy: Chapter VI
On Patriotism by Leo Tolstoy: Excerpt
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy: Book Seven, Chapter 6, Excerpt
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain: Chapter XII
How I Edited an Agricultural Paper by Mark Twain: In toto
Jim Smily and His Jumping Frog by Mark Twain: In toto
The Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen: Excerpt
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne: Excerpts
Five Weeks in a Balloon by Jules Verne: Chapter 20, Excerpt
Aeneid by Virgil: Book IV, Lines 591-652
The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells: Chapter 19, Excerpt
The New World Order by H.G. Wells: Chapter: 10 Declaration of the Rights of Men
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde: Preface
Philosophical Inquiries by Ludwig Wittgenstein: §40-47
The Man Upstairs by P.G. Wodehouse: Excerpt
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth: In toto
Memorabilia by Xenophon: Book I, Chapter 2, Sections 39-50
A Model For The Laureate by William Butler Yeats: In toto
The Old Stone Cross by William Butler Yeats: In toto