Books, as Dryden has aptly termed them, are spectacles to read nature. Aeschylus and Aristotle, Shakespeare and Bacon, are priests who preach and expound the mysteries of man and the universe. They teach us to understand and feel what we see, to decipher and syllable the hieroglyphics of the senses.
Augustus William Hare
I did have the resource of having taught Greek mythology and the history of Western civilization, and you can go back into the plays of Aeschylus and follow what happens when people seek revenge, and there are people plucking their eyes out. And Greek mythology is filled with all kinds of monsters and whatnot.
Sandoz turned and accepted the book, looking at the spine. "Aeschylus?" Wordlessly, Guiuliani pointed out the passage, and Emilio studied it a while, slowly translating the Greek in his mind. Finally, he said, " ' In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, againstour will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.' "
Mary Doria Russell
Aeschylus and Plato are remembered today long after the triumphs of Imperial Athens are gone. Dante outlived the ambitions of thirteenth century Florence. Goethe stands serenely above the politics of Germany, and I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over cities, we too will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.
John F. Kennedy
I'll probably never produce a masterpiece, but so what? I feel I have a Sound aborning, which is my own, and that Sound if erratic is still my greatest pride, because I would rather write like a dancer shaking my ass to boogaloo inside my head, and perhaps reach only readers who like to use books to shake their asses, than to be or write for the man cloistered in a closet somewhere reading Aeschylus while this stupefying world careens crazily past his waxy windows toward its last raving sooty feedback pirouette.
Those who have not learned to read the ancient classics in the language in which they were written must have a very imperfect knowledge of the history of the human race; for it is remarkable that no transcript of them has ever been made into any modern tongue, unless our civilization itself may be regarded as such a transcript. Homer has never yet been printed in English, nor Aeschylus, nor Virgil even, works as refined, as solidly done, and as beautiful almost as the morning itself; for later writers, say what we will of their genius, have rarely, if ever, equaled the elaborate beauty and finish and the lifelong and heroic literary labors of the ancients. They only talk of forgetting them who never knew them.
Henry David Thoreau
About 2500 years ago Aeschylus, the Greek playwright, wrote, He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God. These remarkable photos and the stories that accompany them should be on billboards from sea to shining sea, so the pain and suffering they represent might fall drop by drop upon the American psyche and against our will, by the awful grace of God, wisdom might come to these United States and her foreign policy.
All of that art-for-art's-sake stuff is BS, ' she declares. 'What are these people talking about? Are you really telling me that Shakespeare and Aeschylus weren't writing about kings? All good art is political! There is none that isn't. And the ones that try hard not to be political are political by saying, 'We love the status quo.' We've just dirtied the word 'politics, ' made it sound like it's unpatriotic or something.' Morrison laughs derisively. 'That all started in the period of state art, when you had the communists and fascists running around doing this poster stuff, and the reaction was 'No, no, no; there's only aesthetics.' My point is that is has to be both: beautiful and political at the same time. I'm not interested in art that is not in the world. And it's not just the narrative, it's not just the story; it's the language and the structure and what's going on behind it. Anybody can make up a story.
All the books were beginning to turn against me. Indeed, I must have been blind as a bat not to have seen it long before, the ludicrous contradiction between my theory of life and my actual experiences as a reader. George MacDonald had done more to me than any other writer; of course it was a pity that he had that bee in his bonnet about Christianity. He was good in spite of it. Chesterton has more sense than all the other moderns put together; bating, of course, his Christianity. Johnson was one of the few authors whom I felt I could trust utterly; curiously enough, he had the same kink. Spenser and Milton by a strange coincidence had it too. Even among ancient authors the same paradox was to be found. The most religious (Plato, Aeschylus, Virgil) were clearly those on whom I could really feed. On the other hand, those writers who did not suffer from religion and with whom in theory my sympathy ought to have been complete - Shaw and Wells and Mill and Gibbon and Voltaire - all seemed a little thin; what as boys we called "tinny". It wasn't that I didn't like them. They were all (especially Gibbon) entertaining; but hardly more. There seemed to be no depth in them. They were too simple. The roughness and density of life did not appear in their books.
I fancy my father thought me an odd child, and had little fondness for me; though he was very careful in fulfilling what he regarded as a parent's duties. But he was already past the middle of life, and I was not his only son. My mother had been his second wife, and he was five-and-forty when he married her. He was a firm, unbending, intensely orderly man, in root and stem a banker, but with a flourishing graft of the active landholder, aspiring to county influence: one of those people who are always like themselves from day to day, who are uninfluenced by the weather, and neither know melancholy nor high spirits. I held him in great awe, and appeared more timid and sensitive in his presence than at other times; a circumstance which, perhaps, helped to confirm him in the intention to educate me on a different plan from the prescriptive one with which he had complied in the case of my elder brother, already a tall youth at Eton. My brother was to be his representative and successor; he must go to Eton and Oxford, for the sake of making connexions, of course: my father was not a man to underrate the bearing of Latin satirists or Greek dramatists on the attainment of an aristocratic position. But intrinsically, he had slight esteem for "those dead but sceptred spirits"; having qualified himself for forming an independent opinion by reading Potter's Aeschylus, and dipping into Francis's Horace. To this negative view he added a positive one, derived from a recent connexion with mining speculations; namely, that scientific education was the really useful training for a younger son. Moreover, it was clear that a shy, sensitive boy like me was not fit to encounter the rough experience of a public school. Mr. Letherall had said so very decidedly. Mr. Letherall was a large man in spectacles, who one day took my small head between his large hands, and pressed it here and there in an exploratory, suspicious manner - then placed each of his great thumbs on my temples, and pushed me a little way from him, and stared at me with glittering spectacles. The contemplation appeared to displease him, for he frowned sternly, and said to my father, drawing his thumbs across my eyebrows - 'The deficiency is there, sir-there; and here, ' he added, touching the upper sides of my head, 'here is the excess. That must be brought out, sir, and this must be laid to sleep.' I was in a state of tremor, partly at the vague idea that I was the object of reprobation, partly in the agitation of my first hatred - hatred of this big, spectacled man, who pulled my head about as if he wanted to buy and cheapen it. ("The Lifted Veil")
Reading list (1972 edition) 1. Homer - Iliad, Odyssey 2. The Old Testament 3. Aeschylus - Tragedies 4. Sophocles - Tragedies 5. Herodotus - Histories 6. Euripides - Tragedies 7. Thucydides - History of the Peloponnesian War 8. Hippocrates - Medical Writings 9. Aristophanes - Comedies 10. Plato - Dialogues 11. Aristotle - Works 12. Epicurus - Letter to Herodotus; Letter to Menoecus 13. Euclid - Elements 14. Archimedes - Works 15. Apollonius of Perga - Conic Sections 16. Cicero - Works 17. Lucretius - On the Nature of Things 18. Virgil - Works 19. Horace - Works 20. Livy - History of Rome 21. Ovid - Works 22. Plutarch - Parallel Lives; Moralia 23. Tacitus - Histories; Annals; Agricola Germania 24. Nicomachus of Gerasa - Introduction to Arithmetic 25. Epictetus - Discourses; Encheiridion 26. Ptolemy - Almagest 27. Lucian - Works 28. Marcus Aurelius - Meditations 29. Galen - On the Natural Faculties 30. The New Testament 31. Plotinus - The Enneads 32. St. Augustine - On the Teacher; Confessions; City of God; On Christian Doctrine 33. The Song of Roland 34. The Nibelungenlied 35. The Saga of Burnt Nje¡l 36. St. Thomas Aquinas - Summa Theologica 37. Dante Alighieri - The Divine Comedy;The New Life; On Monarchy 38. Geoffrey Chaucer - Troilus and Criseyde; The Canterbury Tales 39. Leonardo da Vinci - Notebooks 40. Niccole² Machiavelli - The Prince; Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy 41. Desiderius Erasmus - The Praise of Folly 42. Nicolaus Copernicus - On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres 43. Thomas More - Utopia 44. Martin Luther - Table Talk; Three Treatises 45. Frane§ois Rabelais - Gargantua and Pantagruel 46. John Calvin - Institutes of the Christian Religion 47. Michel de Montaigne - Essays 48. William Gilbert - On the Loadstone and Magnetic Bodies 49. Miguel de Cervantes - Don Quixote 50. Edmund Spenser - Prothalamion; The Faerie Queene 51. Francis Bacon - Essays; Advancement of Learning; Novum Organum, New Atlantis 52. William Shakespeare - Poetry and Plays 53. Galileo Galilei - Starry Messenger; Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences 54. Johannes Kepler - Epitome of Copernican Astronomy; Concerning the Harmonies of the World 55. William Harvey - On the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals; On the Circulation of the Blood; On the Generation of Animals 56. Thomas Hobbes - Leviathan 57. Rene Descartes - Rules for the Direction of the Mind; Discourse on the Method; Geometry; Meditations on First Philosophy 58. John Milton - Works 59. Molie¨re - Comedies 60. Blaise Pascal - The Provincial Letters; Pensees; Scientific Treatises 61. Christiaan Huygens - Treatise on Light 62. Benedict de Spinoza - Ethics 63. John Locke - Letter Concerning Toleration; Of Civil Government; Essay Concerning Human Understanding;Thoughts Concerning Education 64. Jean Baptiste Racine - Tragedies 65. Isaac Newton - Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy; Optics 66. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz - Discourse on Metaphysics; New Essays Concerning Human Understanding;Monadology 67. Daniel Defoe - Robinson Crusoe 68. Jonathan Swift - A Tale of a Tub; Journal to Stella; Gulliver's Travels; A Modest Proposal 69. William Congreve - The Way of the World 70. George Berkeley - Principles of Human Knowledge 71. Alexander Pope - Essay on Criticism; Rape of the Lock; Essay on Man 72. Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu - Persian Letters; Spirit of Laws 73. Voltaire - Letters on the English; Candide; Philosophical Dictionary 74. Henry Fielding - Joseph Andrews; Tom Jones 75. Samuel Johnson - The Vanity of Human Wishes; Dictionary; Rasselas; The Lives of the Poets
Mortimer J. Adler