April 18, 2006Commen Women by Ruth Karras 142 pages. Finished 04/16/06.
Karras does a good job of laying out the institution of prostitution in medieval England. My one criticism would be that she often pays little attention to periodization when using evidence to prove her point. She will quote something from 1180 and 1450 in the same paragraph as if these two societies remained static. The Black Death radically transformed societies in medieval England (and elsewhere in Europe), so to not account for that is somewhat problematic.
April 08, 2006John Adams by David McCullough 651 pages. Finished 04/08/06.
Yes, I have finally finished this tome! It's only taken me four and a half months of reading on and off, but I really did enjoy it. Perhaps Mr. McCullough's only criticism could be that he likes details just a bit too much. He skillfully wove the letters, papers and diaries of Mr. Adams and his peers into the writing, but there were some things that I could have lived without. I didn't need to know the location of every business in Philadelhpia in 1775, for example. But nonetheless, it was a great look at our second President, about whom I knew comparatively little.
One final quotation, this one written to his granddaughter, Caroline: You are not singular in your suspicions that you know but little. The longer I live, the more I read, the more patiently I think, and the more anxiously I inquire, the less I seem to know....Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly. This is enough.... (p. 650)
final set of John Adams quotes Before any great things are accomplished, a memorable change must be made in the system of education and knowledge must become so general as to reaise the lower ranks of society nearer to the higher. The education of a nation instead of being confined to a few schools and universities for the instruction of the few, must become the national care and expense for the formation of the many. (p. 364)
If the executive power, or any considerable part of it, is left in the hands of an aristocratical or democratical assembly, it will corrupt the legislature as necessarily as rust corrupts iron, or as arsenic poisons the human body; and when the legislature is corrupted, the people are undone. (p. 375)
Gentlemen, I feel a great difficulty how to act. I am Vice President. In this I am nothing, but I may be everything. (p. 389)
Public business, my son, must always be done by somebody. It will be done by somebody or other. If wise men decline it, others will not; if hones men refuse it, others will not. A young man should weigh well his plans. Integrity should be preserved in all events, as essential to his happiness, through every stage of his existence. His first maxim then should be to place his honor out of reach of all men. In order to do this he must make it a rule never to become dependent on public employments for subsistence. Let him have a trade, a profession, a farm, a shop, something where he can honestly live, and then he may engage in public affairs, if invited, upon independent priciples. My advice to my children is to maintain an independent character. (p. 415)
No one is without difficulties, whether in high or low life, and every person knows best where their own shoe pinches. (Abigail - p. 423)
[Said of the White House] I pray heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and all that shall hereafter inhabit. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof. (p. 551)
[Said of the new Capitol] Here may the youth of this extensive country forever look up without disappointment, not only to the monuments and memorials of the dead, but to the examples of the living. (p. 555)
Patience and perseverance will carry you with honor through all difficulties. Virtuous and studious from your youth, beyond any other instance I know, I have great confidence in your success in the service of your country, however dark your prospects may be at present. Such talents and such learning as you possess, with a character so perfectly fair and a good humour so universally acknowledged, it is impossible for you to fail. (pp. 587-588)
It would divert you to witness conversation between my ancient friend and colleague Robert T. Paine and me. He is above eighty. I cannot speak and he cannot hear. Yet we converse. (p. 601)
They fill the air of the room with their bubbles, their air balloons, which roll and shine reflecting the light of the fire and candles, and are very beautiful. There can be no more perfect emblem of the physical and political and theological scenes of life. Morality only is eternal. All the rest is balloon and bubble from the cradle to the grave. (p. 611)