Plato – “The Republic” (c. 400 BC)

The Republic (Greek: Πολιτεία, Politeia; Latin: De Republica) is a Socratic dialogue, written by Plato around 380 BC, concerning the definition of justice (δικαιοσύνη), the order and character of the just city-state and the just man, reason by which ancient readers used the name On Justice as an alternative title (not to be confused with the spurious dialogue also titled On Justice). The dramatic date of the dialogue has been much debated and though it must take place some time during the Peloponnesian War, “there would be jarring anachronisms if any of the candidate specific dates between 432 and 404 were assigned”. It is Plato’s best-known work and has proven to be one of the most intellectually and historically influential works of philosophy and political theory. In it, Socrates along with various Athenians and foreigners discuss the meaning of justice and examine whether or not the just man is happier than the unjust man by considering a series of different cities coming into existence “in speech”, culminating in a city (Kallipolis) ruled by philosopher-kings; and by examining the nature of existing regimes. The participants also discuss the theory of forms, the immortality of the soul, and the roles of the philosopher and of poetry in society. (Wikipedia)

Feast away in triumph, and take your fill of the argument; I will not oppose you, lest I should displease the company.

Well then, proceed with your answers, and let me have the remainder of my repast. For we have already shown that the just are clearly wiser and better and abler than the unjust, and that the unjust are incapable of common action; naying at more, that to speak as we did of men who are evil acting at any time vigorously together, is not strictly true, for if they had been perfectly evil, they would have laid hands upon one another; but it is evident that there must have been some remnant of justice in them, which enabled them to combine; if there had not been they would have injured one another as well as their victims; they were but half-villains in their enterprises; for had they been whole villains, and utterly unjust, they would have been utterly incapable of action. That, as I believe, is the truth of the matter, and not what you said at first. But whether the just have a better and happier life than the unjust is a further question which we also proposed to consider. I think that they have, and for the reasons which to have given; but still I should like to examine further, for no light matter is at stake, nothing less than the rule of human life.

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E. M. Forster – “A Room with a View” (1908)

A Room with a View is a 1908 novel by English writer E. M. Forster, about a young woman in the repressed culture of Edwardian era England. Set in Italy and England, the story is both a romance and a critique of English society at the beginning of the 20th century. Merchant-Ivory produced an award-winning film adaptation in 1985.

The Modern Library ranked A Room with a View 79th on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century (1998).

Standing at its brink, like a swimmer who prepares, was the good man. But he was not the good man that she had expected, and he was alone.

George had turned at the sound of her arrival. For a moment he contemplated her, as one who had fallen out of heaven. He saw radiant joy in her face, he saw the flowers beat against her dress in blue waves. The bushes above them closed. He stepped quickly forward and kissed her.

Before she could speak, almost before she could feel, a voice called, “Lucy! Lucy! Lucy!” The silence of life had been broken by Miss Bartlett who stood brown against the view.

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Plato – “Crito” (c. 400 BC)

Crito (/ˈkraɪtoʊ/ KRY-toh or /ˈkriːtoʊ/ KREE-toh; Ancient Greek: Κρίτων [krítɔːn]) is a dialogue by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. It is a conversation between Socrates and his wealthy friend Crito regarding justice (δικαιοσύνη), injustice (ἀδικία), and the appropriate response to injustice. Socrates thinks that injustice may not be answered with injustice, and refuses Crito’s offer to finance his escape from prison. This dialogue contains an ancient statement of the social contract theory of government.

SOCRATES: From these premises I proceed to argue the question whether I ought or ought not to try and escape without the consent of the Athenians: and if I am clearly right in escaping, then I will make the attempt; but if not, I will abstain. The other considerations which you mention, of money and loss of character and the duty of educating one’s children, are, I fear, only the doctrines of the multitude, who would be as ready to restore people to life, if they were able, as they are to put them to death—and with as little reason. But now, since the argument has thus far prevailed, the only question which remains to be considered is, whether we shall do rightly either in escaping or in suffering others to aid in our escape and paying them in money and thanks, or whether in reality we shall not do rightly; and if the latter, then death or any other calamity which may ensue on my remaining here must not be allowed to enter into the calculation.

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Arthur Conan Doyle – “The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes” (1894)

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, originally published in 1894.

The only light in the room came from the lamp upon the table at which I had been reading. Holmes edged his way round the wall and flinging the shutters together, he bolted them securely.

“You are afraid of something?” I asked.

“Well, I am.”

“Of what?”

“Of air-guns.”

“My dear Holmes, what do you mean?”

“I think that you know me well enough, Watson, to understand that I am by no means a nervous man. At the same time, it is stupidity rather than courage to refuse to recognize danger when it is close upon you. Might I trouble you for a match?” He drew in the smoke of his cigarette as if the soothing influence was grateful to him.

“I must apologize for calling so late,” said he, “and I must further beg you to be so unconventional as to allow me to leave your house presently by scrambling over your back garden wall.”

“But what does it all mean?” I asked.

He held out his hand, and I saw in the light of the lamp that two of his knuckles were burst and bleeding.

“It is not an airy nothing, you see,” said he, smiling. “On the contrary, it is solid enough for a man to break his hand over.”

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Leo Tolstoy – “Childhood” (1852)

Childhood (Russian: Детство, Detstvo) is the first published novel by Leo Tolstoy, released under the initials L. N. in the November 1852 issue of the popular Russian literary journal The Contemporary.

It is the first in a series of three novels and is followed by Boyhood and Youth. Published when Tolstoy was just twenty-three years old, the book was an immediate success, earning notice from other Russian novelists including Ivan Turgenev, who heralded the young Tolstoy as a major up-and-coming figure in Russian literature.

Childhood is an exploration of the inner life of a young boy, Nikolenka, and one of the books in Russian writing to explore an expressionistic style, mixing fact, fiction and emotions to render the moods and reactions of the narrator.

Happy, happy, never-returning time of childhood! How can we help loving and dwelling upon its recollections? They cheer and elevate the soul, and become to one a source of higher joys.

Sometimes, when dreaming of bygone days, I fancy that, tired out with running about, I have sat down, as of old, in my high arm-chair by the tea-table. It is late, and I have long since drunk my cup of milk. My eyes are heavy with sleep as I sit there and listen. How could I not listen, seeing that Mamma is speaking to somebody, and that the sound of her voice is so melodious and kind? How much its echoes recall to my heart! With my eyes veiled with drowsiness I gaze at her wistfully. Suddenly she seems to grow smaller and smaller, and her face vanishes to a point; yet I can still see it—can still see her as she looks at me and smiles. Somehow it pleases me to see her grown so small. I blink and blink, yet she looks no larger than a boy reflected in the pupil of an eye. Then I rouse myself, and the picture fades. Once more I half-close my eyes, and cast about to try and recall the dream, but it has gone.

I rise to my feet, only to fall back comfortably into the armchair.

“There! You are falling asleep again, little Nicolas,” says Mamma. “You had better go to by-by.”

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Plato – “Apology” (c. 400 BC)

The Apology (Greek: Ἀπολογία Σωκράτους; Apologia Socratis) is Plato’s version of the speech given by Socrates as he defended himself in 399 BC against the charges of “corrupting the young, and by not believing in the gods in whom the city believes, but in other daimonia that are novel” (24b). “Apology” here has its earlier meaning (now usually expressed by the word “apologia”) of speaking in defense of a cause or of one’s beliefs or actions (from the Greek ἀπολογία). The general term apology, in context to literature, defends a world from attack (opposite of satire–which attacks the world).

But, setting aside the question of public opinion, there seems to be something wrong in asking a favour of a judge, and thus procuring an acquittal, instead of informing and convincing him. For his duty is, not to make a present of justice, but to give judgment; and he has sworn that he will judge according to the laws, and not according to his own good pleasure; and we ought not to encourage you, nor should you allow yourselves to be encouraged, in this habit of perjury–there can be no piety in that. Do not then require me to do what I consider dishonourable and impious and wrong, especially now, when I am being tried for impiety on the indictment of Meletus. For if, O men of Athens, by force of persuasion and entreaty I could overpower your oaths, then I should be teaching you to believe that there are no gods, and in defending should simply convict myself of the charge of not believing in them. But that is not so–far otherwise. For I do believe that there are gods, and in a sense higher than that in which any of my accusers believe in them. And to you and to God I commit my cause, to be determined by you as is best for you and me.

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Arthur Conan Doyle – “The Hound of the Baskervilles” (1902)

The Hound of the Baskervilles is the third of the four crime novels written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle featuring the detective Sherlock Holmes. Originally serialised in The Strand Magazine from August 1901 to April 1902, it is set largely on Dartmoor in Devon in England’s West Country and tells the story of an attempted murder inspired by the legend of a fearsome, diabolical hound of supernatural origin. Sherlock Holmes and his companion Dr. Watson investigate the case. This was the first appearance of Holmes since his intended death in “The Final Problem”, and the success of The Hound of the Baskervilles led to the character’s eventual revival.

In 2003, the book was listed as number 128 of 200 on the BBC’s The Big Read poll of the UK’s “best-loved novel.” In 1999, it was listed as the top Holmes novel, with a perfect rating from Sherlockian scholars of 100.

“It was at my advice that Sir Charles was about to go to London. His heart was, I knew, affected, and the constant anxiety in which he lived, however chimerical the cause of it might be, was evidently having a serious effect upon his health. I thought that a few months among the distractions of town would send him back a new man. Mr. Stapleton, a mutual friend who was much concerned at his state of health, was of the same opinion. At the last instant came this terrible catastrophe.

“On the night of Sir Charles’s death Barrymore the butler, who made the discovery, sent Perkins the groom on horseback to me, and as I was sitting up late I was able to reach Baskerville Hall within an hour of the event. I checked and corroborated all the facts which were mentioned at the inquest. I followed the footsteps down the Yew Alley, I saw the spot at the moor-gate where he seemed to have waited, I remarked the change in the shape of the prints after that point, I noted that there were no other footsteps save those of Barrymore on the soft gravel, and finally I carefully examined the body, which had not been touched until my arrival. Sir Charles lay on his face, his arms out, his fingers dug into the ground, and his features convulsed with some strong emotion to such an extent that I could hardly have sworn to his identity. There was certainly no physical injury of any kind. But one false statement was made by Barrymore at the inquest. He said that there were no traces upon the ground round the body. He did not observe any. But I did-some little distance off, but fresh and clear.”

“Footprints?”

“Footprints.”

“A man’s or a woman’s?”

Dr. Mortimer looked strangely at us for an instant, and his voice sank almost to a whisper as he answered:–

“Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!”

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Arthur Conan Doyle – “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” (1892)

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of twelve stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle, featuring his famous detective, and illustrated by Sidney Paget.

These are the first of the Sherlock Holmes short stories, originally published as single stories in the Strand Magazine from July 1891 to June 1892. They were collected and published in the book, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, on 14 October 1892 by George Newnes Ltd in England and on 15 October 1892 in the US by Harper. The initial combined print run was 14,500 copies. (Wikipedia)

“You can imagine from what I say that my poor sister Julia and I had no great pleasure in our lives. No servant would stay with us, and for a long time we did all the work of the house. She was but thirty at the time of her death, and yet her hair had already begun to whiten, even as mine has.”

“Your sister is dead, then?”

“She died just two years ago, and it is of her death that I wish to speak to you. You can understand that, living the life which I have described, we were little likely to see anyone of our own age and position. We had, however, an aunt, my mother’s maiden sister, Miss Honoria Westphail, who lives near Harrow, and we were occasionally allowed to pay short visits at this lady’s house. Julia went there at Christmas two years ago, and met there a half-pay major of marines, to whom she became engaged. My stepfather learned of the engagement when my sister returned and offered no objection to the marriage; but within a fortnight of the day which had been fixed for the wedding, the terrible event occurred which has deprived me of my only companion.”

Sherlock Holmes had been leaning back in his chair with his eyes closed and his head sunk in a cushion, but he half opened his lids now and glanced across at his visitor.

“Pray be precise as to details,” said he.

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Fyodor Dostoyevsky – “Notes From The Underground” (1864)

Notes from Underground (Russian: Записки из подполья, Zapiski iz podpol’ya), also translated as Notes from the Underground or Letters from the Underworld, is an 1864 novella by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Notes is considered by many to be the first existentialist novel. It presents itself as an excerpt from the rambling memoirs of a bitter, isolated, unnamed narrator (generally referred to by critics as the Underground Man) who is a retired civil servant living in St. Petersburg. The first part of the story is told in monologue form, or the underground man’s diary, and attacks emerging Western philosophy, especially Nikolay Chernyshevsky’s What Is to Be Done?. The second part of the book is called “Àpropos of the Wet Snow”, and describes certain events that, it seems, are destroying and sometimes renewing the underground man, who acts as a first person, unreliable narrator. (Wikipedia)

“Liza, do you despise me?” I asked, looking at her fixedly, trembling with impatience to know what she was thinking.

She was confused, and did not know what to answer.

“Drink your tea,” I said to her angrily. I was angry with myself, but, of course, it was she who would have to pay for it. A horrible spite against her suddenly surged up in my heart; I believe I could have killed her. To revenge myself on her I swore inwardly not to say a word to her all the time. “She is the cause of it all,” I thought.

Our silence lasted for five minutes. The tea stood on the table; we did not touch it. I had got to the point of purposely refraining from beginning in order to embarrass her further; it was awkward for her to begin alone. Several times she glanced at me with mournful perplexity. I was obstinately silent. I was, of course, myself the chief sufferer, because I was fully conscious of the disgusting meanness of my spiteful stupidity, and yet at the same time I could not restrain myself.

 

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Agatha Christie – “The Mysterious Affair At Styles” (1920)

The Mysterious Affair at Styles is a detective novel by Agatha Christie. It was written in the middle of World War I, in 1916, and first published by John Lane in the United States in October 1920.

Styles was Christie’s first published novel, introducing Hercule Poirot, Inspector (later, Chief Inspector) Japp, and Arthur Hastings. Poirot, a Belgian refugee of the Great War, is settling in England near the home of Emily Cavendish, who helped him to his new life. His friend Hastings arrives as a guest at her home. When the woman is killed, Poirot uses his detective skills to solve the mystery. (Wikipedia)

Poirot was an extraordinary looking little man. He was hardly more than five feet, four inches, but carried himself with great dignity. His head was exactly the shape of an egg, and he always perched it a little on one side. His moustache was very stiff and military. The neatness of his attire was almost incredible. I believe a speck of dust would have caused him more pain than a bullet wound. Yet this quaint dandyfied little man who, I was sorry to see, now limped badly, had been in his time one of the most celebrated members of the Belgian police. As a detective, his flair had been extraordinary, and he had achieved triumphs by unravelling some of the most baffling cases of the day.

He pointed out to me the little house inhabited by him and his fellow Belgians, and I promised to go and see him at an early date. Then he raised his hat with a flourish to Cynthia, and we drove away.

“He’s a dear little man,” said Cynthia. “I’d no idea you knew him.”

“You’ve been entertaining a celebrity unawares,” I replied.

And, for the rest of the way home, I recited to them the various exploits and triumphs of Hercule Poirot.

We arrived back in a very cheerful mood. As we entered the hall, Mrs. Inglethorp came out of her boudoir. She looked flushed and upset.

“Oh, it’s you,” she said.

“Is there anything the matter, Aunt Emily?” asked Cynthia.

“Certainly not,” said Mrs. Inglethorp sharply. “What should there be?”

 

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