How to Speak and Write Correctly
By Joseph Devlin

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Chapter XI


Great Authors–Classification–The World’s Best Books.

The Bible is the world’s greatest book. Apart from its character as a work of divine revelation, it is the most perfect literature extant.

Leaving out the Bible the three greatest works are those of Homer, Dante and Shakespeare. These are closely followed by the works of Virgil and Milton.

Indispensable Books

Homer, Dante, Cervantes, Shakespeare and Goethe.

(The best translation of Homer for the ordinary reader is by Chapman. Norton’s translation of Dante and Taylor’s translation of Goethe’s Faust are recommended.)

A Good Library

Besides the works mentioned everyone should endeavor to have the following:

Plutarch’s Lives, Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, Chaucer, Imitation of Christ (Thomas a Kempis), Holy Living and Holy Dying (Jeremy Taylor), Pilgrim’s Progress, Macaulay’s Essays, Bacon’s Essays, Addis on s Essays, Essays of Elia (Charles Lamb), Les Miserables (Hugo), Heroes and Hero Worship (Carlyle), Pal-grave’s Golden Treasury, Wordsworth, Vicar of Wake field, Adam Bede (George Eliot), Vanity Fair (Thackeray), Ivanhoe (Scott), On the Heights (Auerbach), Eugenie Grandet (Balzac), Scarlet Letter (Hawthorne), Emerson’s Essays, Boswell’s Life of Johnson, History of the English People (Green), Outlines of Universal History, Origin of Species, Montaigne’s Essays, Longfellow, Tennyson, Browning, Whittier, Ruskin, Herbert Spencer.

A good encyclopoedia is very desirable and a reliable dictionary indispensable.

Masterpieces of American Literature

Scarlet Letter, Parkman’s Histories, Motley’s Dutch Republic, Grant’s Memoirs, Franklin’s Autobiography, Webster’s Speeches, Lowell’s Bigelow Papers, also his Critical Essays, Thoreau’s Walden, Leaves of Grass(Whitman), Leather-stocking Tales (Cooper), Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, Ben Hur and Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Ten Greatest American Poets

Bryant, Poe, Whittier, Longfellow, Lowell, Emerson, Whitman, Lanier, Aldrich and Stoddard.

Ten Greatest English Poets

Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, Burns, Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Tennyson, Browning.

Ten Greatest English Essayists

Bacon, Addison, Steele, Macaulay, Lamb, Jeffrey, De Quincey, Carlyle, Thackeray and Matthew Arnold.

Best Plays of Shakespeare

In order of merit are: Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, Antony and Cleopatra, Macbeth, Merchant of Venice, Henry IV, As You Like It, Winter’s Tale, Romeo and Juliet, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, Tempest.

Only the Good

If you are not able to procure a library of the great masterpieces, get at least a few. Read them carefully, intelligently and with a view to enlarging your own literary horizon. Remember a good book cannot be read too often, one of a deteriorating influence should not be read at all. In literature, as in all things else, the good alone should prevail.


Chapter I  •  Chapter II  •  Chapter III  •  Chapter IV  •  Chapter V  •  Chapter VI  •  Chapter VII  •  Chapter VIII  •  Chapter IX  •  Chapter X  •  Chapter XI  •  Chapter XII  •  Chapter XIII  •  Chapter XIV  •  Chapter XI  • 

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