Thursday, April 28, 2016

On the boyhood reading of Plutarch

(posted by Anne White)

From the footnotes to Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay on Plutarch, written by the editor, Emerson's son, Dr.Edward Waldo Emerson. (Photograph of father, son and baby grandson here.)
"Mr. Emerson as a boy read Plutarch, and never tired of this early friend. When I was fourteen years old, he put Plutarch’s Lives into my hand and bade me read two pages every week-day and ten every holiday. It seemed at first an irksome task, but my mother asked me to read them aloud to her, and this made it easier. Lycurgus’s training of the Spartan boys, Archimedes’s amazing military engineering in the defence of Syracuse, Hannibal’s passage of the Alps, Scipio’s magnanimity and C├Žsar’s courage and genius won their own way, as my father knew they would with a boy, and, what is by no means common with authors, the personality of the writer also, as, for instance, where he drops the narrative to hotly censure the meanness of Cato the Elder in selling his slaves when they were past service. The style of Plutarch could commend itself even to a boy."

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