The words and syntax of a speaker are as revelatory of identity as a fingerprint, a ballistics test, and a DNA sample are to a criminologist. The critical inquiries of the scholar, or the practiced eye of the native speaker, will as readily deduce the origin of a written text from an examination of its lexicon and constructions, as might a forensics scientist derive a wealth of information from a study of a fragment of bone, a scrap of tissue, or a tuft of hair. While this truth has not often been appreciated, it remains one that has been consistently demonstrated. We will discuss three examples that illustrate our proposition.Continue reading
It is an unhappy commentary on the state of societal affairs when a scholar is compelled to remind readers of civilization’s benefits. Have things become so bad that we need to lay out arguments in favor of order, discipline, and our cultural patrimony? Is what was believed to be self-evident for centuries, now not self-evident at all? Are there really people who believe that a crass descent into barbarism and anarchy are preferable? The unsettling answer to these three questions is, unfortunately, yes. And this is the starting point of Michael R. J. Bonner’s stimulating and wonderfully researched new book, Defense of Civilization. The book is not currently available, but will be released soon.Continue reading
Andrea Palladio is considered one of the most distinguished names in the history of architecture. His designs of villas, churches, theaters, and palaces have for centuries been held as exemplars of the High Renaissance genius for adapting classical styles and themes to modern purposes.Continue reading
The name Jacob August Riis is an obscure one today, known only perhaps to scholars of American journalism and photography. He was a Danish-American journalist, and he lived from 1849 to May 26, 1914. He produced excellent work in his day; his photographs of the New York slums were influential in helping promote social reforms that eased the lives of the urban poor. His 1890 volume How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among The Tenements Of New York constitutes an important record of the squalid conditions of the Gilded Age’s downtrodden.Continue reading
The following tale appeared in an old volume of forgotten maritime lore. Its author, the indefatigable historian Edward R. Snow, relates that he first heard in as a young man in Bristol, England. He frankly notes the difficulty of substantiating its details, but suggests that, like many sea-yarns, it may contain the seeds of actual events. The story remains, in any case, a powerful allegory of love, loss, and commitment. The setting is the Isle of Wight. The time is the end of the seventeenth century.Continue reading
In August 2021, a new and original translation of the full text of Cicero’s Tusculan Disputations will be published by Fortress of the Mind Publications. Nearly two years in the making, this is the first complete translation of Tusculan Disputations to appear in English since the 1920s, and the only one that is fully annotated and illustrated. It is ideal for the student, general reader, and scholar who needs a clear, cogent, and modern edition of this timeless classic.Continue reading
In January of 1841 the twenty-two-year-old Herman Melville shipped aboard the whaler Acushnet for a multi-year cruise. He had many motivations for doing this. There was, in the first place, a desire to see the world and test himself against its challenges; then there was a need to escape the stultifying confines and restrictions of a nineteenth-century “proper” American household; and finally, a longing to cleanse himself of his father’s failures, disgrace, and early death.Continue reading
There are no “forgotten wars.” We may choose to talk about them, to write about them, or to learn from them. Or we may not. It is a question of what value we place on the lessons. Some eras, forged in strife and hardship, embrace history’s lessons, and consume narratives of past conflict with an eager inquisitiveness; other epochs, softened by luxury and lassitude, are largely immune to the lessons of the past. In the end, it is always a matter of choice.
In the past I’ve resisted the idea of making lists of recommended books. One gets the sense that the instant something is committed to a list, many will assume that the list is exclusive, and that other options should not be considered. There is also a personal feeling of distaste I have towards the “listicle” writing format: it seems trite, simplistic, and geared towards the lowest attention span reader.
Great enterprises require a sustained effort over a long period of time. They cannot be pursued in fits and starts with intermittent bursts of energy; and they demand a confluence of factors that only coalesce on rare occasions. There must exist the ability and talent to conceive the project; there must be intense initiative and endurance to carry it through to completion; and, as a practical matter, the creator must have the leisure and financial ability to sponsor his labors. If any of these requirements are wanting, there will be no progress.