Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Reading the Harvard Classics

As I make my way into the Harvard Classics, I'm three books in and starting a fourth. The first three I downloaded through the Amazon store directly. Much to my chagrin, I discovered these were just raw scans - not cleaned up at all. Missing letters, jumped lines, out-of-sequence text ... not pleasant to read at all. But I got through them.

As for the content of the work themselves, I greatly enjoyed Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography. Much more interesting than I expected. The next two were more dry and moralistic, not nearly as engaging, but informative nonetheless. William Penn's "Some Fruits of Solitude" is wordy but provides some insight on the moral instruction of the day. Likewise, "The Journal of John Woolman" is repetitive and over-lengthened with unnecessary words, but this seems to be the standard of the time. However, I found this one much more interesting than "..Fruits" simply because the author was instrumental in spreading his conviction against slavery throughout the New England Quakers, influencing a great number of persons during the years immediately prior to the American declaration of independence.

Woolman wrote extensively of his low-key pleadings with his peers for freedom for all men, the argument being that plain living (such as prescribed by the Quakers) makes for more equitable treatment of others (therefore making slavery incompatible with the Christian man), as piling on wealth and giving in to vanity can only be made on the backs of others hard labor. Think Apple / iPhone for a modern comparison.

His message of moderation, humility, charity, consideration and awareness of one's fellow man still speaks to us today.

Now once I finished his book, I was ready to crack open the next set of three. I started by loading three books of the Harvard Classics at a time on my Kindle, so in continuation of such, I loaded the next three when I neared the end of the first set. However, this time I went to Project Gutenberg for properly formatted works.

It was a great pleasure to open Marcus Aurelius' Meditations and see clear words, clean pages, formatted chapter titles, hyperlinks - ahhhh. So much better! Beautiful, in fact. Thank you pgdp.

Now reading the famed emperor's words, I begin to understand the historical respect he holds and yet am surprised at the simplicity of the wisdoms. Reading through this "bookshelf" is promising to be an entertaining adventure for my brain.

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