Monthly Archives: January 2021

Some Rambling Notes of an Idle Excursion

Some Rambling Notes of an Idle Excursion by Mark Twain

Some Rambling Notes of an Idle Excursion by Mark Twain

This is a collection of stories about a trip Mark Twain made with some friends to Bermuda. It contains fascinating descriptions of Bermuda the island, and some of its people as well as an explanation of why Bermuda’s houses are “so white”.

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Phaedrus

Phaedrus by Plato

Phaedrus by Plato

Phaedrus is the most enchanting of Plato’s Erotic dialogues (capitalised in honour of the god). The barefoot philosopher urges an eager young acquaintance – who has allowed his lover’s oratorical skills to impress him overmuch – to re-examine the text of Lysias’s speech in the light of his own exalted (and Platonic) vision of Love.

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Zadig or the Book of Fate

Zadig or the Book of Fate by Voltaire

Zadig or the Book of Fate by Voltaire

Zadig or the Book of Fate is a famous novel written by the French Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire. It tells the story of Zadig, a philosopher in ancient Babylonia. The author does not attempt any historical accuracy, and some of the problems Zadig faces are thinly disguised references to social and political problems of Voltaire’s own day.

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Personal Narrative of Travels – Volume 2

Personal Narrative of Travels - Volume 2 by Alexander von Humboldt

Personal Narrative of Travels – Volume 2 by Alexander von Humboldt

In 1799, with extensive travel permissions from the Spanish government, Alexander von Humboldt and the botanist Aimé Bonpland departed for the Americas on a journey of exploration that would last well into 1804. In writing the “Personal Narrative…”, von Humboldt combined a description of the places and people of their travels with diverse scientific observations; but particularly of plants and animals, geology, weather and astronomy. von Humboldt’s narrative (and Thomasina Ross’s translation) of their adventures is marvelously well written and at times poetically descriptive. Volume I of the “Personal Narrative….”, covers their preparations, departure from Spain, and their travels to the Canary Islands, Tobago, Cumana and vicinity, and Caracas and vicinity in Venezuela. Alexander von Humboldt was a member of the Prussian aristocracy. He was well educated and as a young man worked as an inspector of mines. After receiving an inheritance from his Mother, he was able to follow his desire to explore and follow scientific pursuits, and was sufficiently wealthy to equip and fund his scientific expeditions. Although not a household name today (unless you live in one of the 18 places named after him), von Humboldt was the best known naturalist of his day, and his published observations and interpretations have a very important place in the history of science. For example, he strongly influenced Charles Darwin. He aimed to find the universal principles that integrate all aspects of nature (the Unity of Nature) rather than to just describe and as such is considered to be the founder of biogeography; and he is recognized as being among the first to describe the effect of human activity on climate.

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Unaddressed Letters

Unaddressed Letters

Unaddressed Letters

I had a friend who loved me;” but he has gone, and the “great gulf” is between us. After his death, I received a packet of manuscript with these few words:—“What I have written may appeal to you because of our friendship, and because, when you come to read them, you will seek to grasp, in these apparent confidences, an inner meaning that to the end will elude you. If you think others, not the many but the few, might find here any answer to their unuttered questionings, any fellowship of sympathy in those experiences which are the milestones of our lives, then use the letters as you will, but without my name. I shall have gone, and the knowledge of my name would make no one either wiser or happier.” The writer was, by trade, a diplomatist; by inclination, a sportsman with literary and artistic tastes; by force of circumstances he was a student of many characters, and in some sense a cynic. He was also a traveler—not a great traveler, but he knew a good deal of Europe, a little of America, much of India and the further East. He spent some time in this neighborhood, and was much interested in the country and its people. There is an Eastern atmosphere about many of the letters, and he made no secret of the fact that he was fascinated by the glamour of the lands of sunshine. He died very suddenly by misadventure, and, even to me, his packet of letters came rather as a revelation.

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Lost Diaries

Lost Diaries by Maurice Baring

Lost Diaries by Maurice Baring

Within these pages find passages from the “lost diaries” of a wide range of people: royal, regular, famous, infamous, historical, and fictional.

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