Clean Earth to Till

“Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till” (V.9)

William Dean Howells on Reading

“All civilization comes through literature now, especially in our country.  A Greek got his civilization by talking and looking, and in some measure a Parisian may still do it.  But we, who live remote from history and monuments, we must read or we must barbarise.”

The Greatest Toast

“May your table be graced with lovely women and good men.  May you drink well enough to drown the envy of youth in the satisfactions of maturity.  May your men wear their weight with pride, secure in the knowledge that they have at last become considerable.  May they rejoice that they will never again be taken for callow, black-haired boys.

“And your women?  Ah!  Women are like cheese strudels.  When first baked, they are crisp and fresh on the outside, but the filling is unsettled and indigestible; in age, the crust may not be so lovely, but the filling comes at last into its own.  May you relish them indeed.

“May we all sit long enough for reserve to give way to ribaldry and for gallantry to grow upon us.  May there be singing at our table before the night is done, and old, broad jokes to fling at the stars and tell them we are men.”

-Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb

Mark Sarvas, On Annotating Books

I am forever urging my students to mark up their books, to scribble, deface and decode.  It’s only by interacting with the books we admire at the sentence level that writers can begin to unlock the secrets of how one’s heroes have accomplished their magic.”

Alisdair MacIntyre, After Virtue

It is through hearing about wicked stepmothers, lost children, good but misguided kings, wolves that suckle twin boys, youngest sons who receive no inheritance but must make their own way in the world and eldest sons who waste their inheritance…that children learn or mislearn what a child and what a parent is, what the cast of characters may be in the drama into which they have been born and what the ways of the world are.  Deprive children of stories and you leave them unscripted, anxious stutterers in their actions as in their words.

C. S. Lewis, The Discarded Image

Literature exists to teach what is useful, to honour what deserves honour, to appreciate what is delightful.  The useful, honourable, and delightful things are superior to it:  it exists for their sake; its own use, honour, or delightfulness is derivative from theirs.”