Classic British and American Essays and Speeches

English Prose From Francis Bacon to George Orwell

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Top row: Benjamin Franklin, Francis Bacon, Zora Neale Hurston, Mark Twain. Bottom row: Charles Lamb, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Virginia Woolf, G. K. Chesterton.

From the works of Francis Bacon and Daniel Defoe to those of Virginia Woolf and Martin Luther King, Jr., here you'll find more than 300 of the greatest essays and speeches composed by British and American authors over the past four centuries.

 

  • Franklin P. Adams to Benjamin Franklin (below)
  • Margaret Fuller to H.L. Mencken (page two)
  • Alice Meynell to W.B. Yeats (page three)

 

Franklin P. Adams (1881-1960)

Henry Adams (1838-1918)

Joseph Addison (1672-1719)

George Ade (1866-1944)

  • The Difference Between Learning and Learning How
    "In due time the Faculty gave the Degree of M.A. to what was left of Otis and still his Ambition was not satisfied."
     
  • Luxuries
    "About sixty-five per cent of all the people in the world think they are getting along great when they are not starving to death."
     
  • Vacations
    "The planet you are now visiting may be the only one you ever see"

A. Bronson Alcott (1799-1888)

  • Exercise
    "Each moment offers the full cup. Drink, drink deep, drink it off while you may!"

Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)

  • Death of a Soldier
    "Even in his solitary grave in the 'Government Lot,' he would not be without some token of the love which makes life beautiful and outlives death."

Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)

Matthew Arnold (1822-1888)

  • Culture
    "If it were not for this purging effect wrought upon our minds by culture, the whole world, the future as well as the present, would inevitably belong to the Philistines."

John James Audubon (1785-1851)

  • The Hurricane
    "Some of the largest trees were seen bending and writhing under the gale."
  • The Passenger Pigeon
    "I cannot describe to you the extreme beauty of their aerial evolutions, when a Hawk chanced to press upon the rear of a flock."

Mary Austin (1868-1934)

    Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

    • Of Discourse
      "The honourablest part of talk is to give the occasion; and again to moderate and pass to somewhat else, for then a man leads the dance."
    • Of Marriage and Single Life
      "He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune."
    • Of Parents and Children
      "The joys of parents are secret, and so are their griefs and fears."
    • Of Revenge
      "A man that studieth revenge keeps his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well."
    • Of Studies
      "Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man."
       
    • Of Suspicion
      "They dispose kings to tyranny, husbands to jealousy, wise men to irresolution and melancholy."
    • Of Travel
      "When a traveller returneth home, let him not leave the countries where he hath travelled altogether behind him."
    • Of Truth
      "A mixture of a lie doth ever add pleasure."
    • Of Youth and Age
      "The errors of young men are the ruin of business; but the errors of aged men amount but to this, that more might have been done, or sooner."

    Walter Bagehot (1826-1877)

    • Boscastle
      "The principal harbour of Lilliput probably had just this look."

    Max Beerbohm (1872-1956)

    • Arise, Sir--!
      "We have our Law-Lords--why not our Novel-Lords? It matters not what title he receive, so it be one which will perish, like his twaddle, with him."
    • Going Out for a Walk
      "I never go out of my way, as it were, to avoid exercise."
    • How Shall I Word It?
      "The not perfect reader begins to crave some little outburst of wrath."
    • Pretending
      "Every human creature weaves for himself and wears an elaborate vesture of illusion. All of us pretend."
    • A Relic
      "It had occurred to me that I might be a writer."

    Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953)

    • The Autumn and the Fall of Leaves
      "The leaves are hardly heard, but they are heard just so much that men also, who are destined at the end to grow glorious and to die, look up and hear them falling."
       
    • A Conversation With a Cat
      "There is in your complacency no foreknowledge of death nor even of separation."
    • Crooked Streets
      "How much better are not the beauties of a town seen from Crooked Streets!"
    • On Inaccuracy
      "Inaccuracy is a mighty mother of works."
    • On a Piece of Rope
      "As I looked at the rope I further considered how strange it was that ropes had never been worshipped."

    Robert Benchley (1889-1945)

    • You!
      "A homely virtue such as was taught us . . . in a dozen or so simple words, is taken and blown up into a book in which it is stated very impressively in a series of short, snappy sentences, all saying the same thing."

    Arnold Bennett (1867-1931)

    Arthur Christopher Benson (1862-1925)

    • Sincerity
      "The curious thing about English people is that they tend, if anything, to be hypocritical about their virtues rather than about their faults."

    George Berkeley (1685-1753)

    Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?)

    • The Art of Controversy
      "I know not if there is another life, but if there is I do hope that to obtain it all will have to pass a rigid examination in logic and the art of not being a fool."
    • Christmas and the New Year
      "Christmas is to some extent a day of meaningless ceremonies, false sentiment and hollow compliments endlessly iterated and misapplied."
    • The Clothing of Ghosts
      "Who ever heard of a naked ghost?"
    • Disintroductions
      "What I am affirming is the horror of the characteristic American custom of promiscuous, unsought and unauthorized introductions."
    • For Brevity and Clarity
      "While reforming the language I crave leave to introduce an improvement in punctuation--the snigger point, or note of cachinnation."
    • The Gift o' Gab
      "Extinction of the orator I hold to be the most beneficent possibility of evolution."

    Augustine Birrell (1850-1933)

    • Book-Buying
      "[U]ntil you have ten thousand volumes the less you say about your library the better."

    James Boswell (1740-1795)

    • On War
      "My mind expanded itself in reflections upon the horrid irrationality of war."
       
    • A Sentimental Essay on Death
      "The last scene of the moral and mortal drama few are in haste to perform."

    Rupert Brooke (1887-1915)

    • Niagara Falls
      "Both men and nations are hurried onwards to their ruin or ending as inevitably as this dark flood."

    Charles Brooks (1878-1934)

    Heywood Broune (1888-1939)

    • The Young Pessimists
      "Our young American pessimists see man at the moment he drops beside the road, and without further investigation decide that it is all up with him."

    Thomas Browne (1605-1682)

    • On Dreams
      "A good part of our sleep is peered out with visions and fantastical objects, wherein we are confessedly deceived."

    Eustace Budgell (1686-1737)

    • On Friendship
      "A friendship which makes the least noise is very often most useful."

    Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873)

    Gelett Burgess (1866-1951)

    • A Defense of Slang
      "Slang in America . . . is a frothy compound, and the bubbles break when the necessity of the hour is past."

    Thomas Burke (1886-1945)

    • Nights in London
      "You cannot have a bad night in London unless you are a bad Cockney--or a tourist."

    John Burroughs (1837-1921)

    Nicholas Murray Butler (1862-1947)

    • The Revolt of the Unfit
      "The plain fact is that man is not ruled by thinking. When man thinks he thinks, he usually merely feels . . .."

    Samuel Butler (1835-1902)

    Henry Seidel Canby (1878-1961)

    • Coddling in Education
      "I sometimes wonder if a moron could not be made into an Abraham Lincoln by such a system--if the system were sound."
    • Out With the Dilettante
      "When the straight-from-the-shoulder American takes time to finish his thought, to mold his sentences, to brain his reader with a perfect expression of his tense emotion, then he makes literature."

    Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)

    John Jay Chapman (1862-1933)

    • Professorial Ethics
      "[T]he professor is trampled upon, his interests are ignored, he is overworked and underpaid, he is of small social consequence, he is kept at menial employments, and the leisure to do good work is denied him."
    • William James
      "Now James was an illuminating ray, a dissolvent force. He looked freshly at life, and read books freshly."

    G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

    William Cobbett (1763-1835)

    • Rural Rides: Reigate
      "When the old farm-houses are down (and down they must come in time) what a miserable thing the country will be!"

    Joseph Conrad (1857-1924)

    • Outside Literature
      "A sea voyage would have done him good. But it was I who went to sea--this time bound to Calcutta."

    Susan Fenimore Cooper (1813-1894)

    • Rural Hours
      "Such open hill-sides . . . bear a kind of heaving, billowy character."

    Abraham Cowley (1618-1667)

    William Cowper (1731-1800)

    • On Conversation
      "We should try to keep up conversation like a ball bandied to and fro from one to the other, rather than seize it all to ourselves, and drive it before us like a football."
    • On Keeping a Secret
      "That no man may betray the counsel of his friend, let every man keep his own."

    Stephen Crane (1871-1900)

    Samuel McChord Crothers (1857-1927)

    • The Spoiled Children of Civilization
      "The real thinkers of any age do not remain long in a blue funk. . . . They cannot passively wait to see the future come. They are too busy making it."

    Homer Croy (1883-1965)

    George William Curtis (1824-1892)

    • My Chateaux
      "Bourne owns the dirt and fences; I own the beauty that makes the landscape, or otherwise how could I own castles in Spain?"
    • The New Year
      "Let our whitest vow be . . . that age shall no longer be measured by this arbitrary standard of years."

    Charles Anderson Dana (1819-1897)

    Charles Darwin (1809-1882)

    • Natural Selection
      "Natural selection can act only through and for the good of each being."

    Daniel Defoe (1660-1731)

    Joseph Dennie (1768-1812)

    • Jack and Gill: A Mock Criticism
      "The subject is the fall of men, a subject, high, interesting, worthy of a poet."
       
    • Levity of the Age
      "We too are childish on this side of the Atlantic, though not quite so absurd, or cruel in our sports, as the French."

    Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859)

    • A Happy Home
      "I will here lay down an analysis of happiness; and . . . I will give it, not didactically, but wrapped up and involved in a picture of one evening."
    • On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth
      "[W]hen the deed is done, when the work of darkness is perfect, then the world of darkness passes away like a pageantry in the clouds."

    Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

    • Gin-Shops
      "Drunken besotted men, and wretched broken-down miserable women"
    • Lying Awake
      "I devote this paper to my train of thoughts as I lay awake."
    • Mr. Barlow
      "Immortal Mr. Barlow, boring his way through the verdant freshness of ages!"
    • Night Walks
      "Houselessness would walk and walk and walk, seeing nothing but the interminable tangle of streets."

    Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson (1862-1932)

    • Red-Bloods and Mollycoddles
      "The whole structure of civilisation rests on foundations laid by Mollycoddles; but all the building is done by Red-bloods."

    Isaac D'Israeli (1766-1848)

    Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)

    Richard Dowling (1846-1898)

    • Past Twelve
      "Safety is a joy added to life, not a mere barrier against real ills."

    W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963)

    John Earle (1601-1665)

    Max Eastman (1883-1969)

    Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849)

    George Eliot (1819-1880)

    • A Fine Excess
      "Perhaps it is an implicit joy in the resources of our human nature which has stimulated admiration for acts of self-sacrifice which are vain as to their immediate end."
    • Margaret Fuller and Mary Wollstonecraft
      "Men pay a heavy price for their reluctance to encourage self help and independent resources in women."
    • Story-Telling
      "What is the best way of telling a story?"

    Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1883)

    • Circles
      "Permanence is a word of degrees. Every thing is medial. Moons are no more bounds to spiritual power than bat-balls."
       
    • Gifts
      "The only gift is a portion of thyself."
    • Self-Reliance
      "Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist."

    Edward Everett (1794-1865)

    • Shaking Hands
      "I beg leave to offer a few remarks on the origin of the practice, and the various forms in which it is exercised."

    William Faulkner (1897-1962)

    Owen Felltham (1602-1668)

    Henry Fielding (1707-1754)

    F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)

    Charles Macomb Flandrau (1871-1938)

    • What Is Education?
      "Once started upon this mad career of disillusionment, there seemed to be absolutely no end to it."

    Ford Madox Ford (1873-1939)

    • Bits of London
      "Above all his London, his intimate London, will be the little bits of it that witnessed the great moments."
    • London From a Distance
      "[I]n the bulk the Londoner is anything rather than tolerant of a class not his own; the unfamiliar is almost inevitably the iniquitous."

    E.M. Forster (1879-1970)

    • My Wood
      "Pray, does my wood belong to me or doesn't it?"

    Glenn Frank (1887-1940)

    • A Successful Failure
      "[O]ur colleges must contrive to give to students a genuinely liberal education that will make them intelligent citizens of the world."

    Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

    Continued on page two

    From the works of Francis Bacon and Daniel Defoe to those of Virginia Woolf and Martin Luther King, Jr., here you'll find more than 300 of the greatest essays and speeches composed by British and American writers over the past four centuries.

    • Franklin P. Adams to Benjamin Franklin (page one)
    • Margaret Fuller to H.L. Mencken (below)
    • Alice Meynell to W.B. Yeats (page three)

     

    Margaret Fuller (1810-1850)

    • The Irish Character
      "When we consider all the fire which glows so untamably in Irish veins, . . . we cannot forbear, notwithstanding all the temporary ills they aid in here, to give them a welcome to our shores."
    • A Short Essay on Critics
      "The critic, then, should be not merely a poet, not merely a philosopher, not merely an observer, but tempered of all three."

    Thomas Fuller (1608-1661)

    • Of Anger
      "To be angry for every toy debases the worth of thy anger."
       
    • Of Self-Praising
      "He whose own worth doth speak, need not speak his own worth."
       

    John Galsworthy (1867-1933)

    Alfred George Gardiner (1865–1946)

    • In Defence of Ignorance
      "And, after all, aren't we all allotment holders of the mind, cultivating our own little patch and surrounded by the wonderland of the unknown?"
       

    Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865)

    Emma Goldman (1869-1940)

    • On the Street
      "It would be too dreadful if he should learn that Emma Goldman, the anarchist, had been found soliciting on 14th Street."

    Oliver Goldsmith (1730-1774)

    Robert Graves (1895-1985)

    • Goodbye to All That
      "My breaking point was near now, unless something happened to stave it off."

    Philip Guedalla (1889-1944)

    • Some Historians
      "Historians' English is not a style; it is an industrial disease."

    Louise Imogen Guiney (1861-1920)

    • On Graveyards
      "Near by is the harrowing script: 'Father. Parted Below'; and its sequel a yard's length off: 'Mother. United Above.' It flashes across your brain like a revelation of Vandal atrocities."

    Joseph Hall (1574-1656)

    • The True Friend
      "When his mate is dead, he accounts himself but half alive."

    Frances E.W. Harper (1825-1911)

    Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864)

    • Footprints on the Seashore
      "Surely here is enough to feed a human spirit for a single day. Farewell, then, busy world!"
    • The Haunted Mind
      "In the depths of every heart, there is a tomb and a dungeon."
    • Rochester
      "Everybody seemed to be there, and all had something to do, and were doing it with all their might."

    William Hazlitt (1778-1830)

    • On Corporate Bodies
      "Corporate bodies are more corrupt and profligate than individuals, because they have more power to do mischief, and are less amenable to disgrace or punishment."
    • On Familiar Style
      "Many people mistake a familiar for a vulgar style."
    • On the Fear of Death
      "People walk along the streets the day after our deaths just as they did before."
    • On the Feeling of Immortality in Youth
      "Life is indeed a strange gift, and its privileges are most mysterious."
    • On Going a Journey
      "With change of place we change our ideas; nay, our opinions and feelings."
    • On Gusto
      "In a word, gusto in painting is where the impression made on one sense excites by affinity those of another."

    Ben Hecht (1894-1964)

    • Fog Patterns
      "Yes, we are all lost and wandering in the thick mists. We have no destinations."
       
    • Letters
      "You would see a procession of mysterious figures flitting through the streets, an unending swarm of dim ones, queer ones."
       

    Arthur Helps (1813-1875)

    Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)

    • American Bohemians in Paris
      "The scum of Greenwich Village, New York, has been skimmed off and deposited in large ladles on that section of Paris adjacent to the Café Rotonde."
    • Camping Out
      "Any man of average office intelligence can make at least as good a pie as his wife."

    William Ernest Henley (1849-1903)

    A.P. Herbert (1890-1971)

    • About Bathrooms
      "[I]f they go to sleep I shall set in motion my emergency waste mechanism, by which the bath can be emptied in malice from outside."

    Maurice Hewlett (1861-1923)

    Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894)

    James Huneker (1860-1921)

    • Coney Island at Night
      "What signified to all those strong, bustling men and women the death of a tiny girl baby--dead and hardly clad in a wisp of blackened canvas?"

      Leigh Hunt (1784-1859)

      • Deaths of Little Children
        "Made as we are, there are certain pains without which it would be difficult to conceive certain great and overbalancing pleasures."
      • Getting Up on Cold Mornings
        "Some people say it is a very easy thing to get up of a cold morning."
      • A "Now": Descriptive of a Hot Day
        "Now doors and brick-walls are burning to the hand; and a walled lane, with dust and broken bottles in it, near a brick-field, is a thing not to be thought of."
      • Spring
        "[W]e would exhort everybody to do their best for the earth, and all that is upon it, in order that it and they may be thought worth continuance."

      Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960)

      Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895)

      • A Liberal Education
        "Well, what I mean by Education is learning the rules of this mighty game."

      Washington Irving (1783-1859)

      • Christmas
        "One of the least pleasing effects of modern refinement is the havoc it has made among the hearty old holiday customs."
      • The Mutability of Literature
        "Language gradually varies, and with it fade away the writings of authors who have flourished their allotted time."

      Henry James (1843-1916)

      • London
        "The British capital is the particular spot in the world which communicates the greatest sense of life."

      William James (1842-1910)

      • The Essence of Humanism
        "There is a stage of thought that goes beyond common sense."
      • The Ph.D. Octopus
        "We of the university faculties are responsible for deliberately creating this new class of American social failures, and heavy is the responsibility. . . . We dangle our three magic letters before the eyes of these predestined victims, and they swarm to us like moths to an electric light."
      • On Some Mental Effects of the Earthquake
        "I felt no trace whatever of fear; it was pure delight and welcome."

      Richard Jefferies (1848-1887)

      • Hours of Spring
        "It is beautiful, every filament. Always beautiful! everything beautiful!"
      • January in the Sussex Woods
        "[M]igration is purely natural, and acts for the general preservation. Try to put yourself in a bird's place, and you will see that migration is very natural indeed."
      • The Modern Thames
        "What, then, has the otter done? Has he ravaged the fields? does he threaten the homesteads? is he at Temple Bar?"
      • A Wet Night in London
        "Human beings reduced to mere hurrying machines, worked by wind and rain, and stern necessities of life."

      Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

      Jerome K. Jerome (1859-1927)

      • On Being in the Blues
        "Nobody cares for you. You never have been properly appreciated, never met with your due deserts."
      • On Getting On in the World
        "Cheek by cheek, they struggle onward. Screaming, cursing, and praying, laughing, singing, and moaning, they rush past side by side."

      James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938)

      • The Making of Harlem
        "Harlem . . . is a city within a city, the greatest Negro city in the world."
      • Outcasts in Salt Lake City
        "Our cabman . . . was probably the only compassionate soul we should meet in the whole city of the Latter-Day Saints."

      Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

      • Books
        "[T]he ancient sage who thought 'a great book a great evil' would now think the multitude of books a multitude of evils."
      • Conversation
        "It is always necessary to be loved, not always necessary to be reverenced."
      • The Decay of Friendship
        "The most fatal disease of friendship is gradual decay."
      • An Encomium on Sleep
        "Sleep is necessary to the happy, to prevent satiety, and to endear life by a short absence; and to the miserable, to relieve them by intervals of quiet."
      • Of Spring
        "[T]he younger part of my readers, to whom I dedicate this vernal speculation, must excuse me for calling upon them, to make use at once of the spring of the year, and the spring of life."
      • On Studies
        "[M]ethod is the excellence of writing, and unconstraint the grace of conversation."
      • On the Style of Jonathan Swift
        "His style was well suited to his thoughts."
      • The Vanity of Authors
        "No place affords a more striking conviction of the vanity of human hopes, than a publick library."

      Ben Jonson (1572-1637)

      • The Difference of Wits
        "Some wits are swelling and high; others low and still; some hot and fiery; others cold and dull; one must have a bridle, the other a spur."
      • On Education and Style
        "No matter how slow the style be at first, so it be laboured, and accurate; seek the best."

      John F. Kennedy (1917-1963)

      Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)

      Charles Kingsley (1819-1875)

      Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

      • Values in Life
        "Some of you here know--and I remember--that youth can be a season of great depression, despondencies, doubts, and waverings."

      Charles Lamb (1775-1834)

      • Blakesmoor in H-----shire
        "It was an old deserted place, yet not so long deserted but that traces of the splendour of past inmates were everywhere apparent."
         
      • A Chapter on Ears
        "Scientifically I could never be made to understand (yet have I taken some pains) what a note in music is; or how one note should differ from another."

      • Grace Before Meat
        "The plainest diet seems the fittest to be preceded by the grace."
      • A Few Words on Christmas
        "Let us not meet to abuse the world, but to make it better by our individual example."
      • London
        "The very deformities of London, which give distaste to others, from habit do not displease me."
      • New Year's Eve
        "I am content to stand still at the age to which I am arrived."
      • That the Worst Puns Are the Best
        "A pun is not bound by the laws which limit nicer wit. It is a pistol let off at the ear; not a feather to tickle the intellect."

      D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930)

      Stephen Leacock (1869-1944)

      • Are the Rich Happy?
        "My judgment is that the rich undergo cruel trials and bitter tragedies of which the poor know nothing."
      • How to Borrow Money
        "The process is quite easy, provided you borrow enough."
      • How to Live to Be 200
        "Just one word about fresh air and exercise. Don't bother with either of them."
      • Saloonio: A Study in Shakespearean Criticism
        "No Saloonio, indeed! why, who is it that is Antonio's friend all through and won't leave him when Bassoonio turns against him? Who rescues Clarissa from Sherlock, and steals the casket of flesh from the Prince of Aragon?"

      Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

      Jack London (1876-1916)

      E.V. Lucas (1868-1938)

      • On Epitaphs
        "There is no indication that any of these dead ever enjoyed a moment."
      • London Mysterious
        "[T]here are two distinct London fogs—the fog that chokes and blinds, and the fog that shrouds."
      • The Perfect Holiday
        "The secret is that our holidays should rest not only our minds and bodies but our characters too."
      • The Town Week
        "Tuesday, the base craven, reconciles us to the machine."

      Robert Lynd (1879-1949)

      • Child's Talk
        "The problem of making the bath safe for children seems, at the age of six, a matter of far more urgent public importance than the problem of making the world safe for democracy."
      • On Being an Alien
        "The world can never be made one place so long as men continue to hate foreigners simply because they are foreigners."
      • The Pleasures of Ignorance
        "One of the greatest joys known to man is to take such a flight into ignorance in search of knowledge."

      Peter McArthur (1866-1924)

      Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859)

      • The Coffee Houses of London
        "The coffeehouses were the chief organs through which the public opinion of the metropolis vented itself."
      • On Sadler's Bombastic Declamations
        "He indulges without measure in vague, bombastic declamation, made up of those fine things which boys of fifteen admire, and which everybody, who is not destined to be a boy all his life, weeds vigorously out of his compositions after five-and-twenty."

      Archibald MacMechan (1862-1933)

      • Ghosts
        "One of the most disagreeable things in the world is to be a Living Ghost yourself."

      Don Marquis (1878-1937)

      • The Almost Perfect State
        "How is it that this hideous, halfbrute city is also beautiful and a fit habitation for demi-gods? How come?"
      • The Little Girl in Lavender Spats
        "Were spats worth while after all? Was dignity, eminence, worth the price?"
      • Preface to a Calendar
        "There is no time. There are only imperishable events, in the midst of which we flutter and change to something else and flutter on again."

      Edward Sandford Martin (1856-1939)

      • The Tyranny of Things
        "An ideal of earthly comfort . . . is to get a house so big that it is burdensome to maintain, and fill it up so full of jimcracks that it is a constant occupation to keep it in order."

      Helen Mathers (1853-1920)

      • A Contrast in Generations
        "'Live my life' was the cry of the old order of parent, so that with all its faults, its mistakes, its brutalities even, the New Order has more vitality and raison d'être than the old."

      Henry Mayhew (1812-1887)

      H. L. Mencken (1880-1956)

      Concluded on page three

      From the works of Francis Bacon and Daniel Defoe to those of Virginia Woolf and Martin Luther King, Jr., here you'll find more than 300 of the greatest essays and speeches composed by British and American writers over the past four centuries.

      • Franklin P. Adams to Benjamin Franklin (page one)
      • Margaret Fuller to H.L. Mencken (page two)
      • Alice Meynell to W.B. Yeats (below)

       

      Alice Meynell (1847-1922)

      • The Illusion of Historic Time
        "Let a man turn to his own childhood--no further--if he would renew his sense of remoteness, and of the mystery of change."
      • Under the Early Stars
        "Summer dusk . . . is the frolic moment for children."
         
      • Solitude
        "Solitudes are not to be measured by miles; they are to be numbered by days."
      • The Unready
        "Teachers of young children . . . should surround themselves with pauses of patience."

      John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)

      A.A. Milne (1882-1956)

      • The Diary Habit
        "Another exciting day. Shot a couple of hooligans on my way to business . . .."
      • Natural Science
        "'Have you seen my chrysalis?' we used to ask each other. 'I left him in the bathroom yesterday.'"
      • A Word for Autumn
        "There is a crispness about celery that is of the essence of October."

        Mary Russell Mitford (1787-1855)

        • A Country Apothecary
          "He was a most determined bachelor; and so afraid of being mistaken for a wooer, or encouraging the reputation of a gay deceiver, that he was as uncivil as his good-nature would permit to every unwedded female from sixteen to sixty."
        • The Touchy Lady
          "Her own name has all her life long been a fertile source of misery to this unfortunate lady."

          Edward Moore (1712-1757)

          • The Double Entendre
            "Of all the improvements in polite conversation, I know of nothing that is half so entertaining and significant as the double entendre."

          Christopher Morley (1890-1957)

          • 1100 Words
            "Let us be brief, crisp, packed with thought."
          • The Art of Walking
            "Sometimes it seems as though literature were a co-product of legs and head."
          • A Morning in Marathon
            "[W]e flashed onto the Hackensack marshes and into the fully minted gold of superb morning."
          • On Going to Bed
            "The happier creatures . . . take the tide of sleep at the flood and are borne calmly and with gracious gentleness out to great waters of nothingness."
          • On Laziness
            "Every time we get into trouble it is due to not having been lazy enough."
          • The Unnatural Naturalist
            "It is spring, when the feet of the floorwalker pain him and smoking-car windows have to be pried open with chisels."

          William Morris (1834-1896)

          • How I Became a Socialist
            "Apart from the desire to produce beautiful things, the leading passion of my life has been and is hatred of modern civilization."

          John Muir (1838-1914)

          • Shadow Lake
            "[A]ll the gardens and meadows were destroyed by a horde of hoofed locusts, as if swept by a fire."
          • A Wind-Storm in the Forests
            "But when the storm began to sound, I lost no time in pushing out into the woods to enjoy it."

            George Jean Nathan (1882-1958)

            • Baiting the Umpire
              "It is the delight in killing-the-umpire rather than the pleasure in watching-the-game that draws the tremendous crowds through the turnstiles."

            John Henry Newman (1801-1890)

            • A Definition of a Gentleman
              "He has his eyes on all his company; he is tender towards the bashful, gentle towards the distant, and merciful towards the absurd."

            Frank Norris (1870-1902)

            Bill Nye (1850-1896)

            • The Man Who Interrupts
              "He is the bull in my china shop, the wormwood in my wine, and the kerosene in my maple syrup."
               
            • Two Styles
              "[T]here is a long way and a short way of saying things on paper; a right way and a wrong way."
               

              Barack Obama (b. 1961)

              George Orwell (1903-1950)

              • A Hanging
                "We all began laughing again. . . . The dead man was a hundred yards away."
              • Why Are Beggars Despised?
                "A beggar, looked at realistically, is simply a businessman, getting his living."

              Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)

              • Good Souls
                "They are fated to go through life, congenial pariahs. They live out their little lives, mingling with the world, yet never a part of it."
              • Mrs. Post Enlarges on Etiquette
                "As one delves deeper and deeper into Etiquette, disquieting thoughts come."

              Walter Pater (1839-1894)

              Phoebe Yates Pember (1823-1913)

              • Letting Go
                "No words can do justice to the uncomplaining nature of the Southern soldier."

              Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)

              • The Philosophy of Furniture
                "There could be nothing more directly offensive to the eye of an artist than the interior of what is termed in the United States . . . a well-furnished apartment."

              Alexander Pope (1688-1744)

              • On Cruelty to Animals
                "Man . . . seeks out and pursues even the most inoffensive animals, on purpose to persecute and destroy them."

              John Reed (1887-1920)

              Agnes Repplier (1858-1950)

              • Battle of the Babies
                "Reading will be but gentle sport in the virtuous days to come."
              • The Passing of the Essay
                "The essay . . . offers no instruction, save through the medium of enjoyment."
              • Words
                "For every sentence that may be penned or spoken the right words exist."

              Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792)

              • The Idea of Beauty
                "As we are then more accustomed to beauty than deformity, we may conclude that to be the reason why we approve and admire it."

              Grace Rhys (1865-1929)

              James Harvey Robinson (1863-1936)

              • Beginning of Critical Thinking
                "The Greek thinkers . . . discovered skepticism in the higher and proper significance of the word, and this was their supreme contribution to human thought."
              • On Various Kinds of Thinking
                "It is clear, in any case, that our convictions on important matters are . . . pure prejudices in the proper sense of that word."

              John Ruskin (1819-1900)

              • The Dignity of Mechanical Art
                "I cannot express the amazed awe, the crushed humility, with which I sometimes watch a locomotive take its breath at a railway station."

              Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)

              • A Free Man's Worship
                "[O]nly on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul's habitation henceforth be safely built."
                 
              • In Praise of Idleness
                "The road to happiness and prosperity lies in an organized diminution of work."

              Mark Rutherford (William Hale White) (1831-1913)

              • 24th December
                "I have locked the door of my cottage and shall walk to No-man's Corner."
              • On Happiness
                "One fourth of life is intelligible, the other three fourths is unintelligible darkness; and our earliest duty is to cultivate the habit of not looking round the corner."
              • Talking About Our Troubles
                "We should be very careful for our own sake not to speak much about what distresses us."

              Margaret Sanger (1879-1966)

              George Santayana (1863-1952)

              Samuel H. Scudder (1837-1911)

              • Look at Your Fish!
                "Facts are stupid things . . . until brought into connection with some general law."

              William Sharp (1855-1905)

              • At the Turn of the Year
                "The changing seasons are indifferent to our calendars. Autumn may burn the lime and chestnut while Summer is still in her glory."

              George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

              • Preface to Pygmalion
                "It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him."
              • She Would Have Enjoyed It
                "Why does a funeral always sharpen one's sense of humor?"
              • Why Law Is Indispensable
                "Laws deaden the conscience of individuals by relieving them of responsibility."
              • What Is Wrong With Our System of Education?
                "If every secondary school and university in the kingdom were wiped out by an air raid tomorrow . . ., there would be an immediate and enormous increase in the number of really educated persons in England."
              • Valedictory
                "The English do not know what to think until they are coached . . . in the proper and becoming opinion."

              Alexander Smith (1830-1867)

              • A Lark's Flight
                "All these stories have their own touches of terror; yet I am inclined to think that my lark rising from the scaffold . . . is more terrible than any one of them."

              Horace Smith (1779-1849)

              • Last Year
                "Avarice has been designated the vice of old age; may it not sometimes be its consolation also?"
                 
              • Printed by Mistake
                "When the present race of writers have been squeezed, and peeled, and cut open, and eviscerated, and hung up on our bookshelves to dry, like so many shotten herrings at a fisherman's hut, how is the race to be renewed, and who is to satisfy the public with its myriad mouths gasping upwards in the hungry air, and roaring for food? It is an awful question. I pause for a reply."

              Logan Pearsall Smith (1865-1946)

              • Weltanschauung
                "When, now and then, on a calm night I look up at the Stars, I reflect on the wonders of Creation, the unimportance of this Planet, and the possible existence of other worlds like ours."

              Robert Southey (1774-1843)

              • Retirement
                "Their old occupations cling to them even when they hope that they have emancipated themselves."

              Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)

              • Use and Beauty
                "Equally in institutions, creeds, customs, and superstitions, we may trace this evolution of beauty out of what was once purely utilitarian."

              Philip Dormer Stanhope, Fourth Earl of Chesterfield (1694-1773)

              Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902)

              Richard Steele (1672-1729)

              Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

              Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896)

              • The Old Oak of Andover
                "Stanch men were they--these Puritan fathers of Andover. The old oak must have felt them something akin to himself."

              Lytton Strachey (1880-1932)

              • Lady Hester Stanhope
                "There has always been a strong strain of extravagance in the governing families of England; from time to time they throw off some peculiarly ill-balanced member, who performs a strange meteoric course."

              George S. Street (1867-1936)

              • On Healthy Exercise
                "Somebody put forward the theory that yawning is a wholesome and invigorating exercise."
              • The Persistence of Youth
                "At the present time he is a boy up to about thirty-five, a young man up to fifty, and he is hardly regarded as old until he has exceeded David's maximum of life by six or seven years."

              Simeon Strunsky (1879-1948)

              • On Living in Brooklyn
                "Brooklyn's tangled streets serve their highest purpose in safeguarding its inhabitants against the unwelcome visitor."
                 
              • The Solid Flesh
                "I go through my morning exercise with hatred for all the world and contempt for myself."

              Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)

              Arthur Symons (1865-1945)

              • The Aspect of London
                "A London sunset . . . has a colour of smoky rose which can be seen in no other city."

              Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667)

              William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863)

              • Ogres
                "Now, there are ogres in City courts who lure you into their dens."
              • The Two Children in Black
                "I saw two children, attired like little princes, taken from their mother and consigned to other care; and a fortnight afterwards, one of them barefooted and like a beggar."

              Celia Thaxter (1835-1894)

              • An Island Garden
                "The boats toss madly on the moorings, the sea breaks wildly on the shore, the world is drowned and gone."

              Edward Thomas (1878-1917)

              • Broken Memories
                "Who shall measure the sorrow of him that hath set his heart upon that which the world hath power to destroy?"
              • Entering Wales
                "There were late October twilights that seemed so mighty in their gentleness and so terrible in their silence that they alarmed the child with fear of desolation . . .."

              Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

              • The Battle of the Ants
                "I never learned which party was victorious, nor the cause of the war."
              • The Landlord
                "If we do not look up to the Landlord, we look round for him on all emergencies, for he is a man of infinite experience, who unites hands with wit."
              • The Last Days of John Brown
                "[T]he one great rule of composition--and if I were a professor of rhetoric I should insist on this--is, to speak the truth."
              • Love
                "One may be drunk with love without being any nearer to finding his mate."
              • Where I Lived, and What I Lived For
                "I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life."

              James Thurber (1894-1961)

              • The Subjunctive Mood
                "Husbands are suspicious of all subjunctives. Wives should avoid them."
              • Which
                "Never monkey with 'which.'"

              Henry Major Tomlinson (1873-1958)

              • Bed-Books and Night-Lights
                "There are times when we do not wish to be any better than we are. We do not wish to be elevated and improved."

              Charles Hanson Towne (1877-1949)

              • Free!
                "I suppose I shall be sane tomorrow, but I wonder if I want to be."

              Anthony Trollope (1815-1882)

              • The Plumber
                "The plumber is doubtless aware that he is odious. He feels himself, like Dickens's turnpike-man, to be the enemy of mankind."

              Mark Twain (1835-1910)

              Carl Van Doren (1885-1950)

              Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933)

              Charles Dudley Warner (1829-1900)

              • The Burden of Christmas
                "[T]he American people have developed an unexpected capacity for destroying things."
                 
              • Naturalization
                "Are we not always trying to adjust ourselves to new relations, to get naturalized into a new family?"

              Booker T. Washington (1856-1915)

              H.G. Wells (1866-1944)

              Gilbert White (1720-1793)

              Stewart Edward White (1873-1946)

              William Allen White (1868-1944)

              • Mary White
                "The last hour of her life was typical of its happiness."

              Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

              Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

              Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)

              Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)

              Mabel Osgood Wright (1859-1934)

              W.B. Yeats (1865-1939)