Category Archives: Literature

Johnson’s Existential Quest

“Happiness… must be something solid and permanent, without fear and without uncertainty.”—Samuel Johnson, Rasselas I am returning to the roots of my journal with a discussion of Samuel Johnson’s novel Rasselas (1759), an exotic imaginary travelogue in which the characters … Continue reading

Posted in Literature, Philosophy, Samuel Johnson

The Uncertainty of Good and Evil

“All fear is in itself painful, and when it conduces not to safety is painful without use.”—Samuel Johnson My latest meditation is based on Johnson’s Rambler essay “The folly of anticipating misfortunes” (No. 29). Few things in life are so … Continue reading

Posted in Literature, Philosophy, Religion, Samuel Johnson

Mankind is Governed by Names

I have continued my reading of Gibbon, with his discussion of the Roman Constitution and the decline of the republic. The true and lasting origins of imperial power, we are told, lay not in the spectacular and short-lived dictatorship of … Continue reading

Posted in History, Literature, Politics

Chronicles of Empire

“I have not read all of the books in the English language, but of such as I have read, Gibbon’s Decline and Fall is far and away the most readable.”—Hilaire Belloc Belloc celebrates Edward Gibbon as one of the masters … Continue reading

Posted in History, Literature

All the Comforts of Holmes

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories are among my favorite works of fiction. Nor is it even the ingenious elements of detection that make them what they are. Other imaginary mysteries are more clever, though far less entertaining. Rather, … Continue reading

Posted in Literature

Deep Feelings Seek for Solitude

Having finished the first part of Thomas de Quincey’s memoirs, I came across this passage in his autobiographical sequel, Suspira de Profundis, in which the author discusses his bereavement following the death of a beloved sister. Interesting it is to … Continue reading

Posted in Literature, Philosophy

Memento Mori

“A frequent and attentive prospect of that moment, which must put a period to all our schemes, and deprive us of all our acquisitions, is indeed of the utmost efficacy to the just and rational regulation of our lives; nor … Continue reading

Posted in Literature, Philosophy, Samuel Johnson

A Delicate and Honourable Reserve

Thomas de Quincey (1785-1859), in the introduction to his famous memoir, Confessions of an English Opium Eater, presents us with an enviable model of restraint. Such reserve – dignified without being aloof – used to be the norm among educated … Continue reading

Posted in Literature

The Motives Behind Our Actions

“The recollection of the past is only useful by way of provision for the future.”—Samuel Johnson Picking up my old copy of the Yale edition of Johnson’s essays, I perused the entry for The Rambler No. 8 titled “The thoughts to be … Continue reading

Posted in Literature, Philosophy, Samuel Johnson

Hermann Hesse’s Pilgrimage

“Your soul is the whole world.”― Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha This saying best sums up the message of Hesse’s famous novel of ancient India. Set in the fifth century B.C., when the aged Gautama Buddha is nearing the end of his … Continue reading

Posted in Literature, Philosophy