Saturday, January 17, 2015

Book Review: The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia

Wouldn't it be great to try reviewing each book I read this year?  I seriously doubt that it will happen, but that doesn't keep me from thinking such idealistic things at the beginning of a new year. :)

The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia, by Samuel Johnson, was the first book I finished this year.  It was one I had on hand as a possibility for Bethany's school year, chosen from the Ambleside Online book list, but I wanted to pre-read it.  I didn't even know what it was about.  Toward the end of 2014, I wanted to complete 50 books before the year was out, but I was getting short on time.  I took up this one with just a few days left in the year because it was only around 100 pages, and it only took Johnson a week to write.  Surely then, it wouldn't take long to read.

I was wrong.  Not only was I pretty busy, especially in that last part of 2014 and the first part of 2015, both with various activities and other things needing reading as well, but the book is apparently the distillation of years of forethought, learning, and experience.  While he did whip it out in a week in 1759 to pay for the costs of his mother's healthcare and funeral, and it is a novel, it's not a lightweight read.  This is a thought-provoking, philosophical book.

But don't let that keep you from reading it!  Although I was mildly irritated that I couldn't get it read in time, and it ended up taking me more than twice as long to read it as it took him to write it, I really enjoyed it.  I'm quite glad I read it, and recommend it.

Rasselas is a young prince who lives in what seems at first to be a rather Utopian community, but he is not content.  He decides to travel and explore the concept of happiness, to try to determine where and how to find and keep it.  This book is about his adventures and conversations with various people from different walks of life in his attempts to do so.

Through this plot, Johnson philosophizes on various topics, including but certainly not limited to:  idleness and luxury, work, learning, marriage, family, grief, and madness.  Yes, he packed a lot in those less than 100 pages!  There is a lot of quotable wisdom in it.  I think it will make a great book for discussion, especially coupled with a solid Biblical perspective.  I was pleasantly surprised and intrigued by this little book.

Some of the many quotes I enjoyed:

"...the life that is devoted to knowledge passes silently away, and is very little diversified by events.  To talk in publick, to think in solitude, to read and to hear, to inquire, and answer inquiries, is the business of a scholar.  He wanders about the world without pomp or terrour, and is neither known nor valued but by men like himself" (p. 15).

"Inconsistencies... cannot both be right, but, imputed to man, they may both be true.  Yet diversity is not inconsistency" (p. 16).

"...drinking at the fountains of knowledge, to quench the thirst of curiosity" (p. 17).

"...envy feels not its own happiness, but when it may be compared with the misery of others" (p. 19).

"Truth, such as is necessary to the regulation of life, is always found where it is honestly sought" (p. 24).

"Human life is everywhere a state in which much is to be endured, and little to be enjoyed" (p. 25).

"Few things are impossible to diligence and skill" (p. 28).

"I live in the crowds of jollity, not so much to enjoy company as to shun myself, and am only loud and merry to conceal my sadness" (p. 35).

"We are long before we are convinced that happiness is never to be found, and each believes it possessed by others, to keep alive the hope of obtaining it for himself" (p. 35).

"Be not too hasty... to trust, or to admire, the teachers of morality: they discourse like angels, but they live like men" (p. 38).

"...every tongue was muttering censure and every eye was searching for a fault" (p. 47).

"The colours of life in youth and age appear different, as the face of nature in spring and winter" (p. 50).

"Few parents act in such a manner as much to enforce their maxims by the credit of their lives" (p. 50).

"The general folly of mankind is the cause of general complaint" (p. 56).

"...nature sets her gifts on the right hand and on the left... as we approach one, we recede from another.  There are goods so opposed that we cannot seize both, but, by too much prudence, may pass between them at too great a distance to reach either.  This is often the fate of long consideration; he does nothing who endeavours to do more than is allowed to humanity....  Of the blessings set before you make your choice, and be content.  No man can taste the fruits of autumn while he is delighting his scent with the flowers of the spring: no man can, at the same time, fill his cup from the source and from the mouth of the Nile" (p. 58).

"This at least... is the present reward of virtuous conduct, that no unlucky consequence can cause us to repent it" (p. 67).

"Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful" (p. 81).

" mock the heaviest of human afflictions is neither charitable nor wise.... Of the uncertainties of our present state, the most dreadful and alarming is the uncertain continuance of reason" (p. 84).

"No disease of the imagination... is so difficult of cure, as that which is complicated with the dread of guilt..." (p. 92).

I had trouble stopping!  But I must leave you reason to read the book. :)

For more book reviews, follow this link or click on the "Book Reviews" tab at the top of the page.

To view my reading list, click here, or on the "Reading" tab at the top of the page.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Extra Photos

Here are some more photos from our not back-to-school group.  They are a little more varied, a little more fun, a little more silly. :) I'm putting them up without commentary to save time.  

Saturday, November 1, 2014

2014-2015 Not Back-to-School Photos

Well, now that it's November, I guess it's finally time to get back to school...

Joking. :) The children have been working hard for quite some time.  I took "not" back-to-school photos a while ago, but hadn't gotten around to posting them.  Our first "official" week of school started September 14. (But that's a Sunday, you say?  Exactly.  They learn on Sundays, too -- very important things, in fact.  But the more traditional school work didn't start until the following day.)  Due to Justice's mid-August birth we delayed our start time this year.  The photos were taken near the end of September.

I have other photos without the signs showing their ages, but I limited this post to only the ones with signs to reduce its length.  I got more "sign shots" with some students than others.

Perhaps I'll post other pictures later... but at my current rate of posting, there are no guarantees. Between one little boy who doesn't settle down easily at night, and another who is an early-morning riser, these precious blessings are stretching me these days.  Many times that might otherwise seem good for blogging now and then are spent discussing heavy machinery with a 3 year old or caring for a fussy baby.  It's a season that will seem to have passed oh, so quickly when I look back. These photos serve as evidence of that, as I see how much my older ones have grown from previous years.

That the Lord has blessed us with all these beautiful children fills me with awe.  They are amazing.  God is truly an incredible Creator and deserves our praise. 

We have a new student this year. :)

He had a rash for a while that we thought was heat rash.  We finally upped the a/c because we felt sorry for him, and it improved, but part of it did linger and came back now and then, though it's finally all gone now and his cheeks are back to smooth baby softness.  He may have sensitive skin.

Abraham had a little trouble smiling on request...

 ...but he was still cute.

Telling me something about the sign.

I finally resorted to bribery.  I told him he could have a Starburst if he could smile nicely for pictures. I promised them to the older ones, too, but he was why.

Funny boy.  

Liberty did pretty well.

Topaz the cat joined her...

 ...and seemed to be posing for this shot.

Cheese!  Cutie pie.

Here's Tirzah, who was still 7.  Now she is 8, after having a birthday in October.

Turning into a lovely young lady.

Speaking of lovely young ladies, I'm blessed to have the company of two others...

...and a handsome young gentleman as well.

Here is the last lovely young lady, Bethany, who is really the first.

My babies are growing up!