Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Oxford Book of Essays (4)

Ed. John Gross. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. 1991. (4)

Why read it? This book contains many of the classical essays, well known essays that have become part of the literary canon. Essentially, there are two types of essays. The first, based on the model of Montaigne’s essays, is organized around the writer’s thoughts, moving from one thought to another as the mind moves. The second type of essay is found in Bacon’s and Addison’s essays, writing that is planned with a beginning, middle and end. As for topics: they can be about anything on which the writer chooses to write.

Enjoy the sample quotes from essays written over the years.

Peace. “God…allows no man peace till he get it in the grave….” p. 267. Mark Twain. 1890s. ………. Republic. “The republic has its advantages; among these is the liberty to say, ‘Down with the Republic!’ ” p. 283. Ambrose Bierce. 1902. ………. PhD. “To interfere with the free development of talent…to foster academic snobbery by the prestige of certain privileged institutions, to transfer accredited value from essential manhood to an outward badge, to blight hopes…to divert the attention of aspiring youth from direct dealings with truth to the passing of examinations….” p. 288. William James. “The Ph.D. Octopus.” 1903.

Childhood. “Civilization is cruel in sending children to bed at the most stimulating time of dusk—summer dusk, especially, is the frolic moment for children.” p. 303. Alice Meynell. 1897. ……….Life. “We live the time that a match flickers….” p. 311. Robert Louis Stevenson. 1878. ………. Death. “The old hear of the death of people about their own age, or even younger, not as if it was a grisly warning, but with a simple child-like pleasure at having outlived someone else….” p. 311. Robert Louis Stevenson. 1878.

Positive Attitude. “Every heart that has beat strong and cheerfully has left a hopeful impulse behind it in the world, and bettered the tradition of mankind.” p. 316. Robert Louis Stevenson. 1878. ………. Bias. “It is only about things that do not interest one that one can give a really unbiased opinion.” p. 317. Oscar Wilde. 1891. ………. Art. “Art does not spring from inspiration, but it makes others inspired.” p. 318. Oscar Wilde. 1891.

Growth. “The essence of thought, as the essence of life, is growth.” p. 318. Oscar Wilde. 1891. ………. News. “By carefully chronicling the current events of contemporary life, it shows us of what very little importance such events really are.” p. 319. Oscar Wilde. 1891. ………. Youth and Age. “Youth is ever in revolt, age alone brings resignation.” p. 330. James G. Huneker. 1915.

Fanaticism. “Viewed from within, each religion or national fanaticism stands for a good; but in its outward operation it produces and becomes an evil.” p. 245. George Santayana. 1905. ………. Science. “Hardly any man of science, nowadays, sits down to write a great work, because he knows that while he is writing it, others will discover new things that will make it obsolete before it appears.” p. 353. Bertrand Russell. 1950. ………. Fanaticism. “All movements go too far….” p. 354. Bertrand Russell. 1950.

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