About this blog

Like the folks one hundred years ago who bought those first editions of the Harvard Classics--including the copy on my shelf--I have no formal training in literature, writing, or teaching; nor does my profession require it. This blog is about self-education, in the spirit of Dr Eliot's first, enthusiastic readers of 1909.

During the next several years, the Harvard Classics will be a springboard, reference, and guide to my reading. I don’t intend a rigid forced march from the first volume to the last. That the collection is imperfect, or at least incomplete, there is no doubt; Eliot himself would not have denied it. I expect, and he would have encouraged, many digressions, distractions, and detours into other books either suggested by the Classics themselves or simply not available (or not yet “classic”) to Eliot in his time.

The index of the set (Volume 50) includes a reading program which organizes the many works by topic and then within each topic proceeds chronologically. For example, the reading program for “The History of Civilization” includes ancient writings as well as contemporary essays, but also epic poems, dramas, religious and philosophical writings collated into chronological order from Herodotus through the nineteenth century. Eliot provides a table whereby each work can be found by volume and page number. The programs for “Religion and Philosophy”, “Education”, “Science”, etc., are laid out in similar fashion and the contents of each program will often overlap. I suspect that many of Eliot’s selections were based on the need for each work to serve multiple purposes. “Two Years Before the Mast,” for example, has value as history, travelogue, and social commentary as well as pure literature. Each work then should suggest multiple new paths of inquiry.

Knowledge is one purpose of this blog; they say “you’ve only really learnt it once you can describe it to another.” They also say “all good writers must be good readers.” But can a good reader become a better writer? Finding the answer is the other purpose of this blog.


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