The Irrepressible Adaptation Of The Mind

Several days ago I read one of Edgar Allan Poe’s lesser-known stories, “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether.”  It was first published in 1845.  Readers may not be familiar with the story; but as it seems to offer a useful commentary on contemporary affairs, I wanted to share my thoughts about it. 

Continue reading

On Why A Slovenly Appearance Is A Form Of Muted Hostility

The Roman writer Aulus Gellius, in his Attic Nights (XIII.22), records the following anecdote.  Gellius was once conversing with his teacher, one Titus Castricius, whom he describes in glowing terms as “a man of the greatest prestige and dignity.” 

Continue reading

The Terrible Loss Of The “Rothsay Castle”

Today only historians of the sea have heard of the horrific loss of the steam packet Rothsay Castle in 1831.  Yet in its day, the tragedy aroused considerable public indignation and mourning in England; and it remains one of the most unsettling of the nineteenth century’s long list of maritime calamities.  We will retell the tale. 

Continue reading

Convenience Leads To Dependence, And Then To Ruin

It often happens that, in the affairs of states and princes, conveniences lead to dependency, and from dependency to ruin.  What may first appear to be advantageous, may in time prove to be only the first link of a chain forged for the purpose of bondage.  History abounds with examples of this slide into servitude, but we will relate two from the military history of the second century Greek author Polyaenus.

Continue reading

Two Immortal Speeches Delivered By The Emperor Julian

The Roman emperor Julian, wary of the encroaching borders of the Persians, undertook a military campaign against the Persian Empire in March of A.D. 363.  Despite some initial successes, the operation resulted in a defeat for Roman arms and Julian’s own death in battle.  Yet the field of conflict yielded more than just a litany of forgotten sieges and dusty marches.  The emperor had occasion to deliver two masterpieces of rhetoric, expressive of some of the noblest, and most memorable, sentiments ever uttered by a wearer of the imperial purple.  We will review both of them here. 

Continue reading

The Inviolability Of The Artist’s Work (Podcast)

The world recently learned that the estate of British author Roald Dahl actually allowed a team of censors to purge words and phrases from the author’s works that they deemed “offensive.” This is a terrifying escalation in the left’s war on the literary record and on artistic expression in general. The idea that censors would dare to reach back into old books and rewrite them would have been unthinkable even a decade ago. It is communist thought-policing, pure and simple. Every writer or artist should be taking steps now to protect their work from tampering by potential future vandals. If our concept of art is to have any meaning at all, the artist’s work must be seen as inviolate and sacrosanct.

Continue reading

Lose Your Subsistence, Surrender Your Liberties

Deprivations of property or liberty may proceed by guile or force, or by an admixture of the two.  The trickery of a malicious sovereign must be matched, and exceeded, by the vigilance of his subjects; and no sentinel on the battlements of liberty can afford to relax his guard.  Assurances of benign intentions carry no weight.  What matters are the capabilities conferred by power, and the foreseeable consequences of the sovereign’s actions and policies.

Continue reading

The Fittest Sharers Of Your Joys

Wise sayings can soothe life’s hardships by reminding us that past travelers on the road have met with similar trials.  Adages are distillations of lived wisdom, condensed for mental retention and seasoned, in many cases, with pathos and humor. We will first consider a saying by Ibrahim Ibn Al Abbas Al Suli, a poet who “belonged to a highly respected Turkish family,” according to our trusted biographer Ibn Khallikan, whose earnest pages have brightened many a gloomy day. 

Continue reading