Search This Blog

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Travel Writing, Culture, and Geography

Charlotte Mason on the teaching of geography, from volume 6 of her 6 volume series on education (used with permission). She quotes Traherne:

"When I heard of any new kingdom beyond the seas the light and glory of it entered into me. It rose up within me and I was enlarged by the whole. I entered into it, I saw its commodities, springs, meadows, inhabitants and became possessor of that new room as if it had been prepared for me so much was I magnified and delighted in it. When the Bible was read my spirit was present in other ages. I saw the light and splendour of them, the land of Canaan, the Israelites entering into it, the ancient glory of the Amorites, their peace and riches, their cities, houses, vines and fig trees . . . I saw and felt all in such a lively manner as if there had been no other way to those places but in spirit only. Without changing place in myself I could behold and enjoy all those. Anything when it was proposed though it was a thousand years ago being always present before me."

I venture again to quote Traherne because I know of no writer who retains so clear a memory of his infancy; but Goethe gives as full and convincing an account of his experience of the Bible [See Some Studies in the Formation of Character, by the Writer, i.e. Charlotte Mason]; I say 'experience' advisedly, for the word denotes the process by which children get to know. They experienceall the things they hear and read of; these enter into them and are their life; and thus it is that ideas feed the mind in the most literal sense of the word 'feed.'

Do our Geography lessons take the children there?(emphases mine- Wendi).  Do, they experience, live in, our story of the call of Abraham?––or of the healing of the blind man on the way to Jericho?...
How many teachers know that children require no pictures excepting the pictures of great artists, which have quite another function than that of illustration? They see for themselves in their own minds a far more glorious, and indeed more accurate, presentation than we can afford in our miserable daubs. They read between the lines and put in all the author has left out....
This is how any child's mind works, and our concern is not to starve these fertile intelligences. They must have food in great abundance and variety....

Do we wish every child in a class to say,––or, if he does not say, to feel,––"I was enlarged wonderfully" by a Geography lesson? Let him see the place with the eyes of those who have seen or conceived it; your barographs, thermographs, contour lines, relief models, sections, profiles and the like, will not do it. A map of the world must be a panorama to a child of pictures so entrancing that he would rather ponder them than go out to play; and nothing is more easy than to give him this joie de vivre.

Let him see the world as we ourselves choose to see it when we travel; its cities and peoples, its mountains and rivers, and he will go away from his lesson with the piece of the world he has read about, be it county or country, sea or shore, as that of "a new room prepared for him, so much will he be magnified and delighted in it." (emphasis added, Wendi)

All the world is in truth the child's possession, prepared for him, and if we keep him out of his rights by our technical, commercial, even historical, geography, any sort of geography, in fact, made to illustrate our theories, we are guilty of fraudulent practices. What he wants is the world and every bit, piece by piece, each bit a key to the rest. He reads of the [tidal] Bore of the Severn [River] and is on speaking terms with a 'Bore' wherever it occurs. He need not see a mountain to know a mountain. He sees all that is described to him with a vividness of which we know nothing just as if there had been "no other way to those places but in spirit only." Who can take the measure of a child? The Genie of the Arabian tale is nothing to him. He, too, may be let out of his bottle and fill the world. But woe to us if we keep him corked up.

So we want to be reading great travel writing, the kind which gives readers the heart of the places depicted, a feel for the sweep of the land, the sparkle of the waters, the flora and fauna, the smells and sights. In addition, though I am not sure Charlotte ever mentions this, I cannot urge strongly enough the importance of including some cultural studies, some reading on different cultures and why they do the things they do.

 I can tell you about the adjustment we had to make in ordering food at restaurants in the Philippines, when the food was never brought to the table at once, but one person's order might arrive half an hour before the fourth person's food would come (and once, it was two hours, which was an outlier), and the 'appetizers' almost always came no sooner than the first order. I could describe the food, the delay between orders, the delicious flavors, smells, and exotic fruits and fresh seafoods- but this doesn't tell the full story. To a westerner unfamiliar with certain aspects of Philippine culture, this information alone, however well written, would communicate a strange sort of inefficiency for a business. But that's not what was happening.

 In the Philippines, eating together is a communal activity, and sharing food is a given. So although the four members of my family were ordering individual dishes, our servers never imagined for a moment that we selfishly intended to eat the dish each of us had ordered all by ourselves. So they would bring perhaps my son's order, and put it in the center of the table and give us each a plate and/or bowl, and utensils, and it was assumed we would courteously share the dish amongst ourselves. And then later they would bring perhaps my order, and set it in the center, again expecting that we were eating as a family should, sharing our food together, perhaps over-eating, as Americans do (many times we were told a dish ordered would serve three people and it was a single serving for my 6'4" basketball playing, scuba diving, athletic son), but sharing, because community is vastly more important than individualism, and food is shared. Of course, there were restaurants which catered more to western tourists and so did things in a way more familiar to us- but they were also typically more expensive and the food was less interesting to us as well. Once we realized we should not expect to place four orders and receive them at the same time, nor should we expect to eat our orders entirely by ourselves but to share them with the rest of the family, eating out became a much more enjoyable experience.  My husband and I also came to prefer this more family style form of sharing a meal, although I suspect my ever hungry son would have liked to eat all of his own order by himself, and possibly some of ours as well.

I could write about the time when we were living in Japan and I tried to make an appointment to get our utilities turned on.  We were the only American family then living on our street, and not many lived in our community.  I wanted my power turned on by a certain date, and the lovely and very polite and totally noncommittal city employee kept telling me, "Hmmm. I am not sure. I think that will be difficult."  And I kept trying to get her to explain what was difficult about it and see how we could clear the difficulty away. And her smile would falter and she would reiterate that it was difficult but not tell me why or how to fix it, although she would suggest that perhaps I would like my power turned on an entirely different date (that didn't work for me).  If I tell that story, no matter how clear, accurate, and perfect my depiction, even to the point of placing you on the scene, it will not convey what was happening accurately to most westerners.  What was really happening is that within her culture, that poor, beleagured young lady was telling me as politely as she knew how "No, that is impossible, you need to accept a different date."  Any Japanese would have understood her instantly. She couldn't have been more clear on the subject- within her culture.  And I, blundering badly, culturally oblivious, was rudely ignoring her polite 'no, that is impossible,' and insisting that it must be possible. 

So I am going to suggest a few free and a few not quite so free travel reads which give a good feel for the scenery, the place and the experience (mostly from a western point of view).  And then I'm going to share a couple of my favourite resources on one of my favourite topics in the world- cultural differences.

Free and slightly more than free travel writing:

Alaska The Great Country by Ella Higginson
I just read a few pages, but it looks like an enchanting read, and a very interesting travel narrative. Such books are often lovely for geography studies, as they give the reader that piece by piece glimpse at a bit of the world, that is like a 'new room prepared for him,' which will magnify and delight his soul.
You can also read some here, as well as here (and there is an audio version at the second link).  Note that it is an older book, so not everything the author has to say about the native peoples is graced with the sort of speech that makes for comfortable reading today, but this is not always the case, and it is quite interesting reading.  Here's an excerpt:
A great Russian moved under inspiration when he sent Vitus Behring out to discover and explore the continent lying to the eastward; two great Americans—Seward and Sumner—were inspired when, nearly a century and a half later, they saved for us, in the face of the bitterest opposition, scorn, and ridicule, the country that Behring discovered and which is now coming to be recognized as the most glorious possession of any people; but, first of all, were the gentle, dark-eyed Aleuts inspired when they bestowed upon this same country—with the simplicity and dignified repression for which their character is noted—the beautiful and poetic name which means "the great country."

"Seaforth Channel is the dangerous reach leading into
[Pg 24] Millbank Sound. It is broken by rocks and reefs, on one of which, Rejetta Reef, the Willapa was stranded ten years ago. Running off Seaforth and Millbank are some of the finest fiords of the inland passage—Spiller, Johnston, Dean, Ellerslie, and Portlock channels, Cousins and Cascades inlets, and many others. Dean and Cascades channels are noted for many waterfalls of wonderful beauty. The former is ten miles long and half a mile wide. Cascades Inlet extends for the same distance in a northeasterly direction, opening into Dean. Innumerable cataracts fall sheer and foaming down their great precipices; the narrow canyons are filled with their musical, liquid thunder, and the prevailing color seems to be palest green, reflected from the color of the water underneath the beaded foam. Vancouver visited these canals and named them in 1793, and although, seemingly, but seldom moved by beauty, was deeply impressed by it here. He considered the cascades "extremely grand, and by much the largest and most tremendous we had ever beheld, their impetuosity sending currents of air across the canal."
These fiords are walled to a great height, and are of magnificent beauty. Some are so narrow and so deep that the sunlight penetrates only for a few hours each day, and eternal mist and twilight fill the spaces. In others, not disturbed by cascades, the waters are as clear and smooth as glass, and the stillness is so profound that one can hear a cone fall upon the water at a distance of many yards. Covered with constant moisture, the vegetation is of almost tropic luxuriance. In the shade, the huge leaves of the devil's-club seem to float, suspended, upon the air, drooping slightly at the edges when touched by the sun. Raspberries and salmon-berries grow to enormous size, but are so fragile and evanescent that they are gone at a breath, and the most delicate care must be[Pg 25]
exercised in securing them. They tremble for an instant between the tongue and the palate, and are gone, leaving a sensation as of dewdrops flavored with wine; a memory as haunting and elusive as an exquisite desire known once and never known again."

Here's an Amazon review:
Samuel Hall Young here is writing about his adventures with John Muir and Hall's Dog Stickeen,
not that Stickeen belonged to anyone according to the book. So if you've read Muir's
book "Stickeen", this is where it started.
The stories about Muir are beautiful for lack of a better word. Samuel Hall Young was a missionary
and John Muir was doing what he always did. They were going to the same places so they went together
and continued writing to each other until Muir's death. Samuel Hall Young lost all those letters when
the "steamer went to the bottom of the Yukon".
It's too bad those letters didn't survive.
Anyway, if you know who John Muir is, and you appreciate what all he did (Sierra Club etc..) this is a
great book that is a first hand account of what he was like.The part where Muir rescues Hall Young after a fall while climbing is worth a book in itself.
Truly awesome book,, this is what Kindle is all about..
Eothen, or, Traces of Travel Brought Home from the East
by Alexander Kingslake. I read this and loved it. Do you know that scene in Sense and Sensibility (the movie with Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson), where the youngest girl asks the Colonel what it was like in the East Indies, and he says, "The air is full of spices"? That's what I thought of when I read this book. Maybe you will feel differently, but it had that sense of the exotic, a whiff of foreign odors.

From Amazon:
In her fourth travelogue, Susie and her husband take to their bikes to explore the Marne valley, following in the carriage tracks of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI in their abortive escape attempt from the French revolution.
Susie is not a born cyclist, as she discovers within the first five minutes of a journey that will last three weeks. Neither does she look her best in Lycra cycling gear. While her husband whirls along effortlessly, she frequently grinds to a halt and has to be rescued. But the pair keep pedalling. From the glitz of Versailles to the hilly Champagne vineyards, via a hair-raising ride through Paris.Through quaint provincial towns and sombre World War II battlefields.
Like the bestselling "Best Foot Forward – a 500-mile Walk Through Hidden France", and "Travels with Tinkerbelle – 6,000 miles Around France in a Mechanical Wreck", "The Valley of Heaven and Hell – Cycling In The Shadow Of Marie Antoinette" is an enjoyable mixture of travel and history, told in Susie's characteristically light-hearted and self-depreciating style. One for armchair travellers to enjoy, or a good holiday read - fans of France, fans of travel writing, fans of Bill Bryson and Peter Mayle will love this book.

Days of Déjà vu (this is not free, unless you have Kindle Unlimited. It's 4.99)
Amazon review:
Born land-locked six hundred miles from the nearest ocean, this is an autobiography of an ordinary man with an extraordinary dream of building a sea going yacht and sailing the world.
Opening on the threshold of wild transition in South Africa in the 1970s, the author and his American wife struggle to build a sailing vessel on the outskirts of Johannesburg, whose skyline soon erupts in black clouds of fire and revolution.
Through all the struggles of personal relationships, exodus, poverty, sorrow, and loss, the dream of the sail remains constant. As that dream becomes reality, the story tells of an inexperienced crew battling rough seas, mind numbing calms, near death experiences, solo sailing for thousands of miles, land adventures with distant south sea tribes, and through it all, a constant wonder and appreciation of the amazing world we live in.
There are lessons to be learned from the author's homespun philosophy, honesty, and mistakes, as well as a wealth of sailing facts and accounts of the fascinating places the author and crew visit, all woven together in an amazingly vivid account of this decade long adventure through the oceans of the world.

It’s 1851 and the Crystal Palace Exhibition is on in England. English American the Reverend, Dr. Choules, leaves Newport, Rhode Island with three teenaged students - James Robinson, George Vanderbuilt, and Weld French, who are forced to leave the fourth member of their blue-blooded quartet at home - and all four travelers promise to write to “Dear Charley”, Charles Duston, of later fame. The boys meet the Duke of Wellington, travel down the Rhine, and meet many friends along the way. While the letters are filled with some prejudice against the Catholic religion, they are a product of their time - a sometimes ignorant, but often dazzling, period of our history. (Summary by Sibella Denton) Above description taken from here, where you can get an audio version.
Utterly Random Excerpt from Gutenberg:
On the 8th at five in the morning, the wind coming still more to the northward, we could no longer keep on the same tack, on account of the ice, but were obliged to stand to the westward. At this time our soundings had decreased to nineteen fathoms, from which, on comparing it with our observations on the depth of water last year, we concluded that we were not at a greater distance from the American shore than six or seven leagues; but our view was confined within a much shorter compass, by a violent fall of snow. At noon, the latitude, by account, was 69° 21', longitude 192° 42'. At two in the afternoon the weather cleared up, and we found ourselves close to an expanse of what appeared from the deck solid ice; but, from the mast-head, it was discovered to be composed of huge compact bodies, close and united toward the outer edge, but in the interior parts several pieces were seen floating in vacant spaces of the water. It extended from N.E. by the N. to W.S.W. We bore away by the edge of it to the southward, that we might get into clearer water; for the strong northerly winds had drifted down such quantities of loose pieces, that we had been for some time surrounded by them, and could not avoid striking against several, notwithstanding we reefed the topsails, and stood under an easy sail.
On the 9th we had a fresh gale from the N.N.W., with heavy showers of snow and sleet. The thermometer was in the night time 28°, and at noon 30°. We continued to steer W.S.W., as before, keeping as near the large body of ice as we could, and had the misfortune to rub off some of the sheathing from the bows against the drift pieces, and to damage the cutwater. Indeed, the shocks we could not avoid receiving, were frequently so severe, as to be attended with considerable danger. At noon, the latitude, by account, was 69° 12',. and longitude 188° 5'. The variation in the afternoon was found to be 29° 30' E.
As we had now sailed near forty leagues to the westward, along the edge of the ice, without seeing any opening, or a clear sea to the northward beyond it, and had therefore no prospect of advancing farther N. for the present, Captain Clerke resolved to bear away to the S. by E. (the only quarter that was clear), and to wait till the season was more advanced, before he made any farther efforts to penetrate through the ice. The intermediate time he proposed to spend in examining the bay of Saint Laurence, and the coast to the southward of it; as a harbour so near, in case of future damage from the ice, would be very desirable. We also wished to pay another visit to our Tschutski friends; and particularly since the accounts we had heard of them from the commander of Kamtschatka.

Amazon reviewer writes:
...To some people who may not be interested in the history of Oxford, it may seem to be somewhat slightly dry reading but I am finding it to be enjoyable and interesting. The writer does describe quite well (with a sort of the old "It's my college" love) the history of Oxford, which the earliest known teaching was in 1096 AD He describes in much detail the "scenery" of each land, town, castle within the Illustrations/chapters which each describes in detail the additions and subtractions of buildings, gardens, or castles and their changes (due to wars against Kings, again well illustrated with words, or buildings or castles falling down due to age) throughout the centuries up until our present day; describing nearly 1000 years of changes all the way until our time today. This book describes the sort of "love" one feels for Oxford while and after attending the College; or visiting and viewing in awe, the College whilst having a full knowledge of nearly a millenium of it's history.

Under the Tuscan Sun, Frances Mayes, 4.99- a more modern example of travel writing, pretty much loved by everybody who has read it.  As I recall there were one or two spots that might call for a bit of judicious editing if reading aloud to a youngster, or not, depending on your family.  One of them I seem to remember had something to do with a discussion of nomenclature for a type of bread that compares it to human breasts, but I am fuzzy on the details.

On Culture: Expand Your Borders: Discover Ten Cultural Clusters (CQ Insight Series Book 1) Kindle Edition by David A. Livermore 9.99 for Kindle I like most things by Livermore, although my favourite, by far, is his Great Courses lecture, which I got from Audible and think it was entirely worth it and wish I could make everybody listen to it. Here's an Amazon blurb on the above book: "Rather than rehashing the overused stereotypes of Indians versus Brits or Koreans vs. Brazilians, this book provides you with a macro comparison of the most significant cultural similarities and differences you’ll encounter as you travel across today’s multicultural environment—at home and abroad. Expand Your Borders takes you on a whirlwind tour across ten cultural clusters around the world. You’ll see why dressing with too much bling could get you in trouble in Nordic Europe. You’ll learn the story behind chopsticks in Confucian Asia, and hear why Livermore needed his own nurse after surviving a serious dune buggy accident in Brazil. Rooted in academic research and brought to life with stories and best practices, this is a book you can read once for a quick overview, and then return to as needed when preparing for an overseas trip or reflecting on a recent cross-cultural encounter. And as you learn about the ten cultural clusters, you can improve the quality and enjoyment of your cross-cultural travels, work, and relationships!"

  Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes- I loved how this dovetailed with so many of our own experiences in the PHilippines. One of the authors served as a missionary to Indonesia for years, and the insights on culture differences between eastern and western Christians were fascinating to me (and resonated with my own experiences). I am sure there are others just as valuable, and there are very likely excellent oks from an Eastern perspective rather than western, but being western, I can't really presume to access their quality, accuracy, or usefulness. I'm open to suggestions, though!


The following items are for sale, and  proceeds support my family's work.  When creating these things,  my constant thought was 'What might readers like to know or think about? What will help our Charlotte Mason parents and families?  What will give them something to think about, something to love, something to grow on?'  I hope you can tell. 

$5.00- Education for All, vol 2- the Imagination (and more) issue!- transcript of the imagination talk from the AO Camp meeting, with additional material I had to cut to save time.  
 $5.00- Education for All, a new CM journal,   Feed Your Mind!  This issue contains several articles on handicrafts, outdoor play, nature study and science. See sidebar for purchasing options if you are in the Philippines.

 $3.00 Five Little Peppers and How They Grew Copywork (grades 2/3, carefully selected with an eye toward finely crafted sentences, lovely bits of writing pleasant to picture in the mind's eye, and practice in copying some of the mechanics of grammar and punctuation typically covered in these years.

  $3.00 Aesop's Fables Copywork for Year One!  Carefully selected with an eye toward well written sentences, memorable scenes, and some practice copying sentences that model the basics of capitalization and punctuation.   Suitable for use with children who have already mastered the strokes and letters for basic penmanship.

Picture Study!  Miguel Cabrera's beautiful, diverse families, painted in 18th century Mexico this package includes 9 downloadable prints along with directions for picture study and background information on the artist and his work. $5.00

Common Kitchen:  What's for lunch?  Isn't that a common problem in homeschooling families?  What to fix, what is quick, what is frugal, what is nourishing?  How can I accomplish all those things at once?  We homeschooled 7 children, and I was a homeschooling mom for 29 years on a single income.  I collected these recipes and snack ideas from all over the world.  These are real foods I used to feed my family, my godsons, and sometimes my grandkids.  Includes some cooking tips and suggestions for sides, and for a variety of substitutions.  I think every family will find something they can use here. $5.00

Friday, February 22, 2019

Diversity in Art

Let me introduce you to some artists I have been learning more about over the last couple of years. I really love their work.  Before I give you more background information, just take a few minutes to study these (there are better resolutions on the internet, but this is a start).  Take your time. See what you notice about them, what you think about what you are seeing.

The first set is by Miguel Cabrera. During his lifetime he was considered the greatest painter of his time and country:

I love that gleam in the father's eye, and if you look closely you see the blanket is frayed right around the baby's little bottom.  And I suspect that oldest child is quite the rascal, don't you?

The mother's skirt!  Beautiful embroidery.  And I have seen just that same look on a grandchild's face as she is being handed over to daddy

This one below is my favourite. It just gives me warm feelings all over:

The mother's dress in the picture below is, again- sumptious embroidery work. The basket of food is interesting.  And is Dad giving the child a lemon or taking it away?

Jose Juaquin Mangon painted the next one:

I think they are taking Dad his lunch at work, a sweet scene.

Below: I wonder what Dad has been writing?  Is he perhaps writing a description of the flowers and fruit on the table? But baby has interrupted for some attention- and who needs baby toys when you have a live... parrot?

Juan Rodruiquez Juarez:

Below: Her dress is gorgeous. It's patterned on a native style known as a huipil.  His is European, right up that powdered wig.

More lovely embroidery, and music, too.  Are they playing and singing together as a fun family activity, for money, or is it a lesson?  I have no idea.  What do you think?

Morlete Ruiz (I believe he was married twice, and he fathered 19 children!) painted the next set:

What do you see? Who are these people?  Why is Ruiz painting their portraits?

All of these painters lived and worked in 18th century Mexico, then known as New Spain. Some of them were Spanish.  Nobody knows Cabrera's parentage, but his godparents were half black.  One of the painters was half Spanish and half Indian.   One of them had black grandparents but he was able to pass as Spanish and he mostly did.  Other known painters of Casta groups are Jose de Ibarra (Afro-Mexican, but passed as Spanish), Juan Correa (he considered himself 'mulatto), and others.

These paintings are called Casta paintings.  They are, I think, exclusively from New Spain in the 1700s.  These artists were well known in their day, and most of those we know by name were more famous for their other work.  They were frequently commissioned to paint religious paintings or portraits of high ranking politicians or churchmen.  For centuries, the Casta paintings were ignored or forgotten.  I found a 500 page history book entirely on the topic of the history of art in Mexico after Spain colonized her, and there's not a single mention of Casta painting in it, even though all of the above artists are mentioned, but only for their other work! The Casta paintings have regained attention and interest in the last few years.

Casta paintings were generally done in sets of 16 groupings.  The above artists (and a handful of others) are known to have done them because as well known artists, they signed their names to them.  Many Casta paintings are unsigned.

Many of the paintings include local flora and fauna, especially fruits to show a Spanish audience the bounty of the New World. Wikipedia says that Some were likely commissioned by Spanish functionaries as souvenirs of Mexico, because everything in the New World was so different and strange to those back home in Spain (and other parts of Europe).  I guess it was kind of like tourists buying postcards, only far more expensive.

Please bear with me as I continue,  because at first some of you may be horrified, but I think it's worthwhile to explore this genre.

 I heard about these paintings while reading a book by Charles Mann called 1493: Uncovering the World Columbus Made (he's also done another called 1493 for Young People by Charles Mann, which I highly, highly recommend).  There is no way to sugar coat this, so I'll just say it.  At least one purpose of the paintings was to classify and rank people by their racial background.

According to the author of 1493, they were commissioned by the government and one of their purposes was to help local officials properly classify people under their jurisdiction (it was part of their official ID, their casta designation). This makes sense because the reason for the limited time window on Casta paintings is that they ceased after  after the Mexican War of Independence, when legal racial categories were repudiated in independent Mexico.  Racial classification could also determine your job opportunities.  For example, according to that 1950s art book (I will remember the title before this post is finished!), those classified as mulatto could not join the pottery guild.  According to this site, Mexican women with known African ancestry were prohibited from wearing Spanish dress- so the officials needed to know your ancestry to be sure you were following the law.  However.... more on that further down.

  The sets are always numbered and number 1 is always a Spaniard husband, and the higher the numbers go, the darker the skin (except for the albinos) of the couples.   They had weird ideas that Albinism was actually inherited from African ancestry, so there are many albinos represented in the paintings.  The racist themes are not so obvious when you look at portraits individually, and presuming you don't know their background or the titles.  The painters themselves may be making some commentary of their own, I don't know, but some experts think so, and the family groups are generally so warm, loving, and tender that it's hard for me to see them in their original context. I like them for themselves, looked at individually.

However, if we were to see them in their full groups of sets of 16, the racist intent of the plan is more obvious. Incidentally, often each of the 16 categories was a separate painting, but sometimes a casta painting depicts all 16 in a single canvas, like this one.

I should add, there are a handful of exceptions to the generally warm and loving family scenes.  Some casta paintings depict domestic violence- sometimes the husband is beating or threatening to stab the wife, sometimes the wife is beating the husband or coming at him with a knife. But I have only seen three of four of those. Most of those I have seen are fairly represented by the above examples.  

The names of the paintings themselves are often problematic, to use a delicate word for an ugly issue, as each of the 16 'types' of children are given names representing their racial heritage as children of mixed marriages.  Not all of those names are complimentary. Some are called coyotes, some wolves, and some:

"For instance, a Spaniard and a mestizo produce a castizo (“burned tree”), while a Spaniard and a morisco (a muslim who had been forced to convert to Christianity) produce an albino torna atrás(“Return-Backwards”) and a No te entiendo (“I-Don’t-Understand-You”) with a Cambuja (offspring of an Indian woman and African man) makes a tente en el aire (“Hold-Yourself-in-Mid-Air”)." (source)

That's an assumption in the description I believe- moriscos were not necessarily muslims who were *forced* to convert. Many were forced.  Some converted voluntarily, and sometimes died for their faith, because Islam teaches that leaving the religion is punishable by death.
 But anyway.There is also one designation that is translated, "I don't even know what you are."  I forget which one that is supposed to be.  I wonder who came up with those names?

 It is interesting to learn that while the government intended them to be used one way, Mann says people actually used the classifications and paintings as a kind of recipe and/or tool for upward mobility.  They chose spouses for themselves or their children as a way to move up (remember this is an era and a culture where marriage for social convenience and improvement of your family is an accepted, even desirable and admirable function of marriage anyway), or they might bribe local officials to give them the casta designation they wanted regardless of where they fit- they could use the pictures to say, "see, I pass..."  Or, I imagine,  they could move to another area and say to the officials in charge of noting these things, 'Yes, my mother was a Spaniard. Don't believe me? Look at the casta paintings on your own walls and you can see that obviously I am in X category and not Y..." 

There were also options for those who were not interested in 'passing,' which the book talks about as well, but 'passing' itself had far less baggage in a culture where everybody was doing it and the officials and your neighbors were really just winking at it and everybody knew that everybody else probably had parents or grandparents who had done the same.  And it might mean the difference between joining a guild and being a qualified artisan or just being allowed to be the janitor.

In spite of the racist origins of the Casta paintings as a genre, when I look at them individually I cannot help but feel admiration, warmth, and curiosity.  I love the details the painters added showing how the families lives and work.  I love the dresses.  I love the food, the depictions of Mexican plants and wildlife.  I love the family warmth and affection shown in most of the pictures.  Even Ilona Katzeor, probably the America's biggest expert on Casta paintings, notes, " At the same time these are highly estheticized paintings that function as proud renditions of the local: their exquisite assortment of fruits and textiles alone make them fascinating images of the material culture of the period. And one cannot fail either to notice the great tenderness among the figures which serves to mask any sense of racial tension."

Most of the art critics I read point out that the more European the ancestry, the lower the numeral ranking- so again, if you are looking at the paintings as a numbered group, this is more disturbing and obvious.  But looked at without numbers and as individual works, it's a different story.  They also point out, those experts, that the higher the numbers, the poorer the subjects are.  Well, they are the experts after all.  However, I am not sure if that specific  aspect is particularly racist rather than realistic.   Since your ranking on the chart determined what guilds and jobs you were allowed to have, it would make sense that families classified as a number 13  in a Casta painting series would find it economically more difficult to find work than families classified as a two.  The *reasons* were related to race, but the paintings themselves in that regard were not.

For those reasons (the warmth and beauty of the works themselves), I would not hesitate to share them with my younger grandchildren as individual works of art, rather than as a set of Casta paintings showing race.  We can discuss that later when the kids are teens (or their parents can, and as the grandma, I have the privilege of leaving the hard discussions to the parents while I give the children candy and we look at pretty pictures together)

In fact, I put together a book of several of my favourites on Shutterfly for just that purpose.
Create your own custom photo books at
(for the next couple of days Shutterfly photo books are around 11 or 12 dollars, 40% off.  Periodically they go on sale for half off. Don't pay full price)

Tip: I include this in the booklet as well, but because the titles of the paintings are troublesome, I wouldn't use them with younger children at all.  What I would do is ask them to look at the painting and then think of the title they would choose for a painting.  You would not necessarily do this every time, as it might become tiresome. 

In the U.S. the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is known to have a few Casta paintings, including one that was missing for years and turned out to be stored under somebody's couch!  There's also a delicious mystery about the remaining missing Casta painting by Cabrera.

If you want to do your own research, there's a bit of biographical info on several of the above painters here (only a small bit of info on Casta paintings, mostly it's about their more religious works)

More paintings and background information here, including a full listing of the various 'castes'.

Some details on the dress and accessories of some Casta portraits here.

SEveral high resolution and beautiful images here.

That art history book which title I could not recall is Colonial art in Mexico by Manuel Toussaint.

If you want to put together your own group of paintings for picture study, and you are using Charlotte Mason's philosophy, this information will help you do so while being faithful to the principles.  The picture study is not the time for didacticicism. It's not the place for art history or art appreciation or socio-political history, either. It's the place for introducing children to six works by the same artist, works that you have chosen based on the value of the works themselves, not merely because they present a message you want to deliver.  

I have also put together a downloadable, printable packet of 9 of Miguel Cabrera's beautiful family pieces, along with some helps on picture study and background information that you can print out yourself or send to a print shop. You can purchase that here.
 (To print, set to landscape, and a high resolution)

Monday, February 11, 2019

The Best 100 Books for the Schoolroom

"The 'hundred best books for the schoolroom' may be put down on a list, but not by me. I venture to propose one or two principles in the matter of school-books, and shall leave the far more difficult part, the application of those principles, to the reader. For example, I think we owe it to children to let them dig their knowledge, of whatever subject, for themselves out of the fit book; and this for two reasons: What a child digs for is his own possession; what is poured into his ear, like the idle song of a pleasant singer, floats out as lightly as it came in, and is rarely assimilated. I do not mean to say that the lecture and the oral lesson are without their uses; but these uses are, to give impulse and to order knowledge; and not to convey knowledge, or to afford us that part of our education which comes of fit knowledge, fitly given.~ Charlotte Mason

There have been times when somebody has read this section and concluded that making any list of books, or even having a curriculum, is somehow incompatible with Charlotte Mason's philosophy.  This conclusion was always puzzling to me as it is  difficult to reconcile that notion with the reality that Mason *had* a curriculum, a booklist, one she requires parents using her programme to use without pre-approved deviation.

I think her point is that any specific booklist is of secondary importance.  What matters is that the books on any chosen curriculum list should be chosen based on principles, and they way we use them should also be informed and supported by Mason's principles.

It needs to be a fit book.  It needs to be a book from which the children are able to dig their own knowledge.  Having to work a bit at a book is not the mark of a book that does not fit the child's needs. It's sometimes a delicate balance between a book that stretches and a book that is so difficult for a given child that he can't dig anything at all out of it.  Parenting goes in cycles and the current pendulum swing seems to me most often to err on the side of  the notions that any digging makes a book to hard, the reading for school should not require much effort, but should be as easy and delightful as plucking gumdrops from the trees in Lollypop Land.  But in books, as in many things in life, lightly come, lightly go.  That we have to work at a bit is more readily retained.  When we have to think about it, that thinking is itself part of the learning process and the ideas are more readily assimilated.

There are other principles to consider- is it rich language, living, literary language?  Is it thinly disguised propaganda or a living book written by somebody who loves their topic and communicates well?
Learn the principles.  Look up some of the books Mason actually used and read a few excerpts to get a feel for the kind of things she referred to as a living book.  Then apply them to the books you use in your home.

Other posts you may find helpful:

Using books as read alouds

Guidelines for Living Science

When this book is too hard

Addendum for those who join me in historical CM Geekery:

I like to uncover the historical context and background to what I find in CM's books. If you do as well, you will probably enjoy learning about where this "100 Best Books" notion comes from.  Mason didn't just pluck it out of the air.

Sir John Lubbock published such a list in the Pall Mall Gazette in 1886, and the editor invited others to make their own contributions.  There then followed a rather vigorous back and forth discussion on what the best books really were, as still others weighed in with their editorial additions and omissions.  I've not found the original yet, but the Westerminster Review in the same year published Sir John Lubbock's revised list (his original omitted the Bible, among other things) along with substantial excerpts from the original, and some quotes from three other essays on books and reading.
It is that Westminster Review summary that is extensively, yet still only partially, laid out below. I think most of it will be of little interest to those who aren't just fascinated by all contextual clues to Charlotte Mason, Victoriana in general, and booklists at large.

There are still some gems I think, even if you fall outside those sets of a Venn diagram. Ruskin's remarks are just funny, although I don't believe he meant to be. But you needn't read it all, just reading half a dozen responses gives one some ideas about why Miss Mason excused herself from providing a similar list for the school-room!
1. Pall Mall Gazette "Extra," No. 24. The Best Hundred Books. By the Best Judges. London : Pall Mall Gazette Office. 1886.
2. The Pleasures, the Dangers, and the Uses of Desultory Reading. By the Right Hon. the EARL OF IDDESLEIGH. London : Kegan Paul, Trench & Ca 1885.
3. The Choice of Books; and other Literary Pieces. By FREDERIC HARMON. London : Macmillan & Co. 1886.
4. The Pleasures of a Bookworm. By J. ROGERS REES. London : Elliot Stock. 1886.

"THE choice of books," says Mr. F. Harrison, "is really the choice of our education, of a moral and intellectual ideal, of the whole duty of man." - If we of the present day go wrong in our choice, it is not for want of warning, for we are deluged with advice as to what books we should read, and how we should read them. This deluge began in November last by Lord Iddesleigh's "desultory discourse,' as he calls it, delivered, as Lord Rector of Edinburgh University, to the students. It is published, with a few additions, under the title named at the head of this article. Sir John Lubbock in the December following made the choice of books the subject of his address, as President of the Working Men's College, to the members of the College, and followed it up by publishing in the Contemporary Review a list of "The Beat Hundred Books," which he afterwards revised. Mr. Frederic Harrison also gives us his advice on the choice of books, " founded on the basis of Auguste Comte's library ;" and lastly, Mr. J. Rogers Rees in the
course of the spring gave to the world the interesting little volume which he calls "The Pleasures of a Bookworm." When Sir John Lubbock's list came out, the Editor of the Pall Mall Gazette gratified his passion for curious investigation, and undertook the task of submitting Sir John's list to a variety of men eminent in society and literature, and asking for their opinions and criticisms, and for a list of what each of them considered the hundred best books. These opinions and criticisms now form the pamphlet entitled "The Best Hundred Books." Sir John's list, as finally revised by himself, stands thus:—
1. The Bible.
2. Marcus Aurelius, "Meditations."
3. Epictetus.
4. Confucius, " Analects."
5. "Le Bouddha et as Religion" (St. Hilaire.)
6. Aristotle, " Ethics."
7. Mahomet, "Koran."
8. " Apostolic Fathers," Wake's Col-lection. '
9. St. Augustine, " Confessions."
10. Thomas a Kempis, " Imitation."
11. Pascal, "Penses"
12. Spinoza " Tractatus Theologico-politicus."
13. Comte, "Catechism of Positive Philosophy " (Congreve).
14. Butler, "Analogy."
15. Jeremy Taylor, "Holy Living and Holy Dying."
16. Bunyan, "Pilgrim's Progress"
17. Keble, "Christian Year.''
18. Aristotle, " Politics."
19. Plato's Dialogues ; at any rate, the Phaedo " and " Republic."
20. Demosthenes, " De Corona."
21. Lucretius..
22. Plutarch.
23. Horace.
24. Cicero, " De officialis," " De Amiaitii," "De Senectate."
25. Homer, "Iliad" and "Odyssey."
26. Hesiod.
27. Virgil.
28. Niebelungenlied.
29. Malory, " Morte d'Arthar."
30. "Maha Bharat;" " Ramayana." Epitomised by Talboys Wheeler in the first two vols. of his " History of India."
31. Firduai, "Shahnameb."
32. "Sheking " (Chinese Odes).
33. Aeschylus, " Prometheus," " House of Atreus," "Trilogy," or " Persae)."
34. Sophocles, " OEdipus Trilogy."
35. Euripides, " Media”
36. Aristophanes, "The Knights.”
37. Herodotus.
38. Xenophon, " Anabasis.”
39. Thucydides.
40. Tacitus, "Germania.”
41. Livy.
42. Gibbon, " Decline and FalL”
43. Hume, " England.”
44. Grote, " Greece.”
45. Carlyle, " French Revolution.”
46. Green, " Short History of Eng-land.”
47. Bacon, "Novum Organum.”
48. Mill, " Logic.”
49.  (Also John Stuart Mill) "Political Economy.”
50. Darwin, " Origin of Species.”
51. Smith, "Wealth of Nations" (part of.)
52. Berkeley, " Human Knowledge'
53. Descartes, " Discours sur la  Methode.”
54. Locke, "Conduct of the Under-standing."
55. Lewes, " History of Philosophy.”
56. Cook's Voyages.
57. Humboldt's 'Travels.
58. Darwin, "Naturalist on the Beagle."
59. Shakespeare.
60. Milton, " Paradise Lost " and the shorter poems.
61. Dante, "Divine Commedia."
62. Spenser. "Faerie Queen."
63. Dryden's Poem.,
64. Chaucer: Morris's, or (if expurgated) Clarke's, or Mrs. Haweis' edition.
65. Gray.
66. Burns.
In the outset of our remarks we wish each of our readers to ask himself or herself two questions—(1) Have I read, not these hundred books, but any hundred books ? (2) Do I know any one who has read a hundred books? With regard to Sir John's list, it has been mischievously suggested, " Why not send a confidential interviewer to ask Sir John Lubbock whether he has read all his hundred books; and if not, why not? "
Mr. Frederic Harrison makes some true remarks on the readers and reading of the present day : "Even those who are resolved to read the better books are embarrassed by a field of choice practically boundless.... Systematic reading is but little in favour even amongst studious men ; in a true sense, it is hardly possible for women." What follows is, we fear, but too  true :
If any person given to reading were honestly to keep a register of all the printed stuff that he or she consumes in a year—all the idle tales of which the very names and the story are forgotten in a week—the bookmaker's prattle at so much a sheet, the fugitive trifling about silly things and empty people, the memoirs of the unmemorable, and lives of those who never really lived at all—of what a mountain of rubbish would it be a catalogue !
We have not at hand Sir John Lubbock's address at the Working Men's College, but we presume his list is intended for working men, and if so, we agree with Mr. Quaritch the book-seller, of Piccadilly, that " Sir John's working man is an ideal
creation." " I," he adds, "have known many working men, but none of them could have digested such a feast as he has prepared for them." This opinion is corroborated by information sup-plied by the librarian of the Free Library of Darlington. His list of the books which are the favourites of the members, who are mainly of the working class, includes only nine of those given by Sir John Lubbock.
Of Sir John's list we agree with the DUKE of ARGYLL, who writes: " Sir John Lubbock's list seems to me very good as far as such lists can possibly go." To this opinion the MASTER OF BALLIOL assents; adding—to which we also assent : "The chief fault being that it is too long." Mr. FROUDE remarks: "People must choose their own reading, and Sir John Lubbock's list will do for a guide as well as others. I, at any rate, do not wish to put myself into competition with him." With commendable caution, PROFESSOR FREEMAN writes : " I feel myself quite unable to draw up such a list as you propose, as I could not trust my own judgment on any matter not bearing on my own special studies, and I should be doubtless tempted to give too great prominence to them.
It is with full assent and consent that we subscribe to the remark of Professor J. S. Blackie :
No man, it appears to me, can tell another what he ought to read. A man's reading, to be of any value must depend on his power of assimilation, and that again depends on his tendencies, his capacities, his surroundings, and his opportunities.
And again :
In attempting to frame such a list as that put forth by Sir John Lubbock, it is also of the utmost importance to keep in view what sort of persons we are favouring with our advice ; and here I see two large classes of readers—those who have large leisure, and have gone through a regular process of severe intellectual discipline ; and those who can only redeem a few hours daily, if so much, to fill up the gaps left in the hasty architecture of their early attempt at self-culture.
And again :
To a political student, on the highest platform of course, Aristotle and Thucydides are supreme authorities; but it would be unreasonable to expect that the mass of intelligent young men in our great cities, untrained in intellectual gymnastics and unfurnished with scholarly aids, should set themselves systematically to grapple with severe thinkers of this type, or with metaphysics or metaphysical theology.
Mr. Carlyle has somewhere said that " books are, like men's
souls, divided into sheep and goats;" and probably there is no better advice on the choice of books than that which, in his pithy manner, he gave to the students of Edinburgh University : "Learn to be good readers, which is perhaps a more difficult thing than you imagine. Learn to be discriminative in your reading—to read all kinds of things that you have an interest in, and that you find to be really fit for what you are engaged on."* Of this opinion was Dr. Johnson—" A. man," he says, " ought to read just as inclination leads him, for what he reads as a task will do him little good." "You see," says Professor Max Muller, "the best books are not the best books for everybody."
Sir John Lubbock is surprised at the great divergence of opinion as to the best books which has been expressed. " Nine of your correspondents," he writes to the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, "have favoured us with lists of some length. These lists contain some 300 works not mentioned by me (without, however, any corresponding omissions), and yet there is not one single book which occurs in every list, or even in half of them, and only about half a dozen which appear in more than one of the nine."
We will now glance at some of the criticisms of Sir John's "best hundred." The PRINCE OF WALES, speaking with diffidence, expresses the opinion that the list suggested by Sir John Lubbock could hardly be improved upon. His Royal Highness would, however, venture to remark that the works of Dryden should not be omitted from such an important and comprehensive list."Mr. CHAMBERLAIN does not think he could greatly improve Sir John's list, but would inquire " whether it is by accident or design that the Bible has been omitted?"It will be observed that in Sir John's revised list the Bible stands at the head. The political reputation and official position of Mr. Bryce, M.P., have made people forget that he first made his reputation by his book on "The Holy Roman Empire," and that he is still an Oxford Professor and a Fellow of Oriel.
"I give you [he writes to the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette] some additions to and criticisms on Sir John Lubbock's list, which occur to me. I have not seen the remarks of your other correspondents, except Mr. Ruskin's. In Greek poetry Pindar ought to be substituted for Hesiod. In Greek philosophy, Aristotle's " Rhetoric" and "Poetic" ought not to be omitted. Of Cicero it would be much better to have some Orations than the " Offices" or "Old Age." St. Augustine's
"De Civitate Dei " is indispensable. Perhaps no book ever more affected history. The Icelandic Sagas, or some of them, ought to be added. Most of the best have been translated, such as " Njals Saga," " Grettis Saga," and the " Heimscringla." The poems in the "Elder Edda" (now admirably translated in Vigfusson and Powell's " Corpus Poeticum Boreale ") ought also to find a place. For travels, add Marco Polo; for history, Machiavelli's "Prince." In Italian poetry, Ariosto and Leopard should come in. The " Lusiad" of Camoens is one of the finest examples of a poem in the grand style, and not the less interesting because the only work of Portuguese genius whose fame has overpassed the limits of its country. Montesquieu's "Esprit des Lois" is indispensable ; so is " Candide." In modern fiction " Lee Miserables " and " The Scarlet Letter " may well replace Kingsley and Bulwer. The modern poets Keats and Shelley surely rank above Southey and Longfellow. Whether you put anything in its place or not (for example, Kant's " Kritik der reinen Vernunft " or Hegel's " History of Philosophy "), Lewis's " History of Philosophy " should be struck out.*

Lord COLERIDGE, premising that since he left the university his reading has only been desultory and superficial, continues :
Generally speaking, I think Sir John Lubbock's list a very good one, as far as I know the books which compose it. But I know nothing of Chinese or Sanscrit, and have no opinion whatever about the Chinese and Sanscrit works he refers to. To the classics I should add Catullus, Propertius, Ovid (in selections), Pindar, and the pastoral writers Theocritus, Bion, and Moschus.
I should find a place among epic poets for Tasso, Ariosto, and, I should suppose, Camoens, though I know him only in translation. With the poem of Malory on the " Morte d'Arthur " I am quite unacquainted : Malory's prose romance under that title is familiar to many readers from Southey's reprint of (I think) Caxton's edition of it.
Among the Greek dramatists, I should give more prominent place to Euripides—the friend of Socrates, the idol of Menander, the admiration of Milton and Charles Fox ; and I should exclude Aristophanes, whose splendid genius does not seem to me to atone for the baseness and vulgarity of his mind. In history, I shall exclude Hume, as mere waste of time now to read ; and include Tacitus and Livy and Lord Clarendon and Sismondi. I do not know enough about philosophy to offer any opinion. In poetry and general literature, I should certainly include Dryden, some plays of Ben Jenson, and Ford and Messinger, and Shirley and Webster ; Gray, Collins, Coleridge, Charles Lamb, De Quincey, Bolingbroke, Sterne ; and I should substitute Bryant for Longfellow ; and most certainly I should add Cowper. In fiction I should add Miss Austen, "Clarissa," "Tom Jones," "Humphrey Clinker ;" and certainly exclude Kingsley.
Mr. RUSKIN has " put his pen lightly through the needless, and blottesquely through the rubbish and poison of Sir John's
list," with the result of reducing it by fully one-half. He omits all the non-Christian moralists among the theological books ; he retains only Jeremy Taylor's "Holy Living and Dying" and "The Pilgrim's Progress." From the historical writers he excludes Gibbon, Voltaire, Hume, and Grote ; he erases John Stuart Mill's name altogether, and every writer on philosophy but Bacon, and of him would read chiefly " The New Atlantis." He strikes out Southey and Longfellow from among the poets, and Hume, Macaulay, and Emerson from among the essayists ; but be would read all Plato and every word of Scott and Carlyle. Mr. Ruskin, in a subsequent letter to the editor, says :—" The idea that any well-conducted mortal life could find leisure enough to read one hundred books would have left me wholly silent on the matter, but that I was fain, when you sent me Sir John's list, to strike out, for my own pupils' sake, the books I would forbid them to be plagued with." He adds his reasons for erasing some of the books. These judgments are pre-iminently characteristic of the man's dogmatic, self-sufficient, supercilious, and, we must add, superficial nature :
1. Grote's History of Greece.-Because there is probably no commercial establishment between Charing Cross and the Bank whose head•clerk could not write a better one, if he had the vanity to waste his time for it.
2. Confessions of St. Augustine.—Because religious people nearly always think too much about themselves, and there are many saints whom it is much more desirable to know the history of—St. Patrick, to begin with, especially in present times.
3. John Stuart Mill.-Sir John Lubbock ought to have known that his day was over.
4. Charles Kingsley.-Because his sentiment is false, and his tragedy frightful. People who buy cheap clothes are not punished in real life by catching fevers; social inequalities are not to he redressed by tailors falling in love with bishops' daughters, or gamekeepers with squires ; and the story of "Hypatia" is the most ghastly in Christian tradition, and should for ever have been left in silence.
5. Darwin.—Because it is every man's duty to know what he is, and not to think of the embryo he was, nor the skeleton that he shall be. Because also Darwin has a mortal fascination for all vainly curious and idly speculative persons, and has collected, in the train of him, every impudent imbecility in Europe, like a dim comet wagging its useless tail of phosphorescent nothing across the steadfast stars.
6. Gibbon.—Primarily none but the malignant and the weak study the Decline and Fall either of State or organism. Dissolution and putrescence are alike common and unclean in all things; any wretch or simpleton may observe for himself; and experience himself, the processes of ruin ; but good men study and wise men describe only the growth and standing of things—not their decay. For the rest, Gibbon's is the worst English that was ever written by
an educated Englishman. Having no imagination and little logic, he is alike incapable either of picturesqueness or wit; his epithets are malicious without point, sonorous without weight, and have no office but to make a flat sentence turgid.
7. Voltaire.—His work is, in comparison with good literature, what nitric acid is to wine, and sulphuretted hydrogen to air. Literary chemists cannot but take account of the sting and stench of him ; but he has no place in the library of a thoughtful scholar. Every man of sense knows more of the world than Voltaire can tell him; and what he wishes to express of such knowledge he will say without a snarl.•

Mr. SWINBURNE would add Mill "On Liberty," and Mrs. Gaskell's works.
Mr. WILLIAM MORRIS writes: "I hope I shall escape boycotting at the hands of my countrymen for leaving out Milton; but the union in his works of cold classicalism with Puritanism (the two things which I hate most in this world) repels me so that I cannot, read him."  [Our readers will remember Dr Johnson's saying, "Why sir, no one ever read Paradise Lost for pleasure." ]Mr. Morris adds : " I should like to say here that I yield to no one, not even Mr. Ruskin, in my love and admiration for Scott ; also that, to my mind, of the novelists of our generation Dickens is immeasurably ahead."
Lady DILKE after expressing her assent (in which we concur) to the criticisms of the Pall Mall Gazette on the wisdom of placing before "working men, or any men whatever, such a vast and heterogeneous course of study," adds (and we venture to express our concurrence in the opinion) : "To be in a position to properly understand and appreciate the works on Sir John's list, I undertake to say that one must have spent at least thirty years in preparatory study, and have had the command of, say, something more than a thousand other volumes."
Mr. WILKIE COLLINS, after recommending Sterne's "Sentimental Journey" as the best book of travels "that has ever been written," and " Childe Harold " as " the greatest poem which the world has seen since 'Paradise Lost," continues: My own ideas cordially recognize any system of education the direct tendency of which is to make us better Christians. Looking over Sir John Lubbock's list from this point of view—that is to say, assuming that the production of a good citizen represents the most valuable result of a liberal education—I submit that the best book which your correspondent has recommended is " The Vicar of Wake-field," and of the many excellent schoolmasters (judging them by their works) in whose capacity for useful teaching he believes, the two
in whom I, for my part, most implicitly trust are Walter Scott and Charles Dickens. Holding these extraordinary opinions, if you asked me to pick out a biographical work for general reading, I should choose (after Boswell's supremely great book, of course) Lockhart's " Life of Scott." Let the general reader follow my advice, and he will find himself not only introduced to the greatest genius that has ever written novels, but provided with the example of a man, modest, just, generous, resolute, and merciful—a man whose very faults and failings have been transformed into virtues through the noble atonement that he offered at the peril and the sacrifice of his life.
Mr. COLLINS is also of opinion that "the most perfect letters in the English language " are those of Byron, published in his Life by Moore, and he recommends a book unknown, we venture to affirm, to nine-tenths of even our middle-aged readers. " Read, my good public, Mrs. Inchbald's 'Simple Story,' in which you will find the character of a young woman who is made interesting even by her faults—a rare triumph, I can tell you, in our art."*
At first sight there seems something incongruous in the editor of Punch recommending the study of Cardinal Newman's works; but Mr. F. C. BURNAND writes: "I should recommend ' The Grammar of Assent' and all Cardinal Newman's works. His 'Lectures on Catholicism in England' are masterpieces." In this recommendation we thoroughly agree, especially as to "The Grammar of Assent," one of the most wonderful books the present generation has seen.
The Cardinal was applied to for his opinion on Sir John Lubbock's list, but feeling at his great age unequal to the task, was obliged to decline it. It would have been interesting to have had the views of such a master of thought and expression.
We gain from another source [a biography] some slight information on the subject. Mr. Jennings, describing the Cardinal's library, says : The books with which the walls are lined bear evidence that light literature is not disregarded. Miss Austen, Thackeray, Anthony Trollope, Sir Walter Scott, Mrs. Gaskell are favourite authors with the great theologian. Of modern English poets, Wordsworth, Southey, and Crabbe are highly valued by him, and constantly read.
Mr. HENRY Irving writes : "Before a hundred books, commend me first to the study of two—the Bible and Shake-speare."
Mrs. LYNN-LINTON would add to the list " Pilgrim's Progress," Green's " History of the English People," Herbert Spencer (every word), Lecky, and all Darwin ; Carlyle's full works (no selection), and George Eliot ; Miss Austen, Bate's and Wallace's and Livingstone's travels, Laing's "Travels in Nor-way," Kinglnke's "Eothen " and " History of the Crimean War;" and to French literature, Dumas (the elder), G. Sand, and Balzac, if the reader be a man.
Archdeacon FARRAR writes : "If all the books of the world were in a blaze, the first twelve which I should snatch out of the flames would be the Bible, the ‘Imitatio Christi,' Homer, AEschylus, Thucydides, Tacitis, Virgil, Marcus Aurelius, Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth. Of living writers I would save first the works of Tennyson, Browning, and Ruskin."* We are surprised not to find the Archdeacon's "Life of Christ" in any of the lists.
The PRESIDENT OF THE CONGREGATIONAL UNION places in his list some books not to be found in any of the others. Amongst these are—Professor Bryce's " History of the Holy Roman Empire," Helps' "Friends in Council,"" Companions of my Solitude," and " Organization of Common Life," Bossuet's "Funeral Orations," Whately's "Cautions for the Times," Newman's "Parochial Sermons," and Wraxall's " Memoirs ;" and he concludes his letter with this advice : "Add to these an occasional course of reading in the Church Times, the Guardian, the Record, the Rock, the Watchman, the Nonconformist, the Inquirer'', and the Freethinker, in order to see how diligently our contemporaries endeavour not to understand but to misrepresent each other ; and by the aid of the books above mentioned I think the unlearned reader will find enough to instruct, amuse, and astonish him, both in England and else-where.

To be honest, there are at least six more pages of this to go, and I begin to find it all very tedious, and I am sure few of you have made it this far.=)  Here are a couple more comments I found interesting or amusing:
Professor Max Muller writes, "If I were to tell you what I really think of the hundred best books, I am afraid you would call me the greatest literary heretic or an utter ignoramus. I know few books, if any, which I should call good from the beginning to the end.  I pray thee, have me excused.
Mr HM Stanley (the African explorer) passes this criticism on Sir John's list: I observe that science, astronomy, chemistry, geology, geography, natural history, manners and customs of people, are wholly omitted by Sir John Lubbock,  as well as arts, manufactures, industries, biographies, antiquities, &c.  If a man knows nothing of these, he had far better throw every book on Sir John's list into the waste basket except the Bible. For supposing that he knows all about philosophy and history and the classics, if he has no ideas beyond what he has gathered from these, he is only fit to be a soldier or a mechanical copyist.
After all this discussion about the best books, the case remains as it is stated by Lord Iddesleigh; " So great is the mass of our book heritage that it is absolutely impossible for any one and
doubly impossible for one who has other engagements in life, to make himself acquainted with the hundredth part of it. So that our choice lies for the most part between ignorance of much that we would greatly like to know and that kind of acquaintance which is to be acquired only by desultory read-ing?'(The Pleasures, the Dangers and the Uses of Desultory Reading by Stafford Henry Northcote Iddesleigh, "This discourse was read by the Earl of Iddesleigh, lord rector of the University of Edinburgh, in the United Presbyterian synod-hall, the first of a series of addresses to the students, on November 3, 1885.")
But the Lord Rector gave this warning to the Edin-burgh students : " We are not to confound desultory work with idleness."t And with the exactness of an Oxford man of the old school he proceeds to define the word "desultory" : It is useful to look to the origin of words. The word desultory is of Latin parentage, and it was applied by the Romans to describe the equestrian jumping actively from one steed to another in the circus, or even, as was the case with Numidians, from one charger to another, in the midst of battle. That certainly was no idle loitering. It was energetic activity, calculated to keep the mind and the body very much alive indeed. That should be the spirit of the desultory reader. His must be no mere fingering of books without thought how they are to be turned to account. He may be wise in not allowing himself to become a bookworm, but he must take care not to become what is much worse—a book-butterfly. Whatever is worth doing is worth doing well, and it is possible to so regulate and pursue a seem-ingly desultory course of reading as to render it more truly beneficial than an apparently deeper and severer method of study.: And even in the case of those who give themselves up to strictly limited subjects, Lord Iddesleigh affirms that the inter-mixture of some general and desultory reading is necessary both for the very purposes of their study and in order to relieve the strain of the mind and to keep it in a healthy condition, and he tells us his own experience: I never read so many novels in succession as during the months that I was working for my degree at the rate of ten or twelve hours a day; and in the week when I was actually under examination I read through the " Arabian Nights" in the evenings. I forget who the great judge was who, being asked as to his reading, answered that he read nothing but law and novels. But there is plenty of literature besides novels and besides the " Arabian Nights " which will be good for the relaxa-tion of the mind after severe study, and I venture to think that the more miscellaneous our selection is, the more agreeable as well as more profitable it will be.*"

And he refers to the well-known passage in Bacon's essay " Of Studies," which should be borne in mind by those, if any such there shall ever be, who set about to read Sir John Lubbock's "Hundred":

" Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested," that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly and with diligence and attention."

Other PNEU references to John Lubbock:
"Books recommended for lessons in house, garden and field:--Lubbock's "Chapters in Popular Natural History," ...  also, I believe, referred to here.   And referenced here.
The Scenery of Switzerland (new edition), by Sir John Lubbock (Macmillan, 6/-). The time will come when nobody will be content to enjoy scenery without the added pleasure of comprehension. Why this broad valley, that tumultuous mountain heap? It is to this intelligent curiosity on the part of the author that we owe Sir John Lubbock's volume on The Scenery of Switzerland and the causes to which it is due. "I longed," he says, "to know what forces had raised the mountains, had hollowed out the lakes and directed the rivers." We venture to say that a trip to Switzerland would be ten times as enjoyable after a careful study of this able, well-informed and simply written volume.
That must be a dull soul who can read Darwin, or Lubbock, or Huxley, Arabella Buckley, or Doctor Taylor, without any kindling of the enthusiasm of Nature."

More about Sir John Lubbock and his book list, as well as about Charlotte Mason, here.