Riddle Me, Riddle Me, What Is That?

In the year 1629 there appeared on the streets of London a pamphlet “printed for Michael Sparke, dwelling in Greene-Arbor, at the sign of the Blue Bible.” The pamphlet, in the English of the day, bore the title: The Booke of Meery Riddles, together with proper Questions and witty Prouerbs to make pleasant pastime, no lesse usefull than behoouefull for any yong man or child to know if he be quick-witted, or no.Read more »

The Hub Of The Solar System

The author walks us through literary Boston at its zenith. But Boston being what it is, we also come across the Revolution, ward politics, and the great fire.

Like three Bostonians out of four, I live on a site that was originally underwater. My house is on River Street, an alleyway that was built for stables at the bottom of Beacon Hill in the middle of the nineteenth century. Until my wife, twenty years ago, redesigned the carriage house we live in, no humans had resided there. Out of the back of the house we see the spire of the Church of the Advent, a late-nineteenth-century Gothic-revival creation that has the best music, and the highest Episcopal service, in Boston.Read more »

Good Fences

The first settlers marked the borders of their lives with simple fences that grew ever more elaborate over the centuries

Good fences make good neighbors,” wrote Robert Frost, and he meant that fences did more than just enclose space; like his woods and roads, they bounded a social and psychological landscape. That fences also form a kind of historical document is suggested by the photographs on these pages. Read more »

Ten Books That Shaped The American Character

Walden is here, of course; but so too is Fanny Farmer’s first cookbook

America is not a nation of readers, yet books have had a deep and lasting effect on its national life. By comparison with the Russians, whose thirst for books—especially contraband books—is legendary, we pay them scant attention; Walker Percy once dolefully estimated that the hard-core audience for serious literature in this country of two hundred and thirty million is perhaps one or two million, and he probably was not far off.Read more »

Does The West Have A Death Wish?

Before there were Western states, there were public lands—over a billion acres irrevocably reserved for the people of the United States. The Sagebrush Rebels are the most recent in a series of covetous groups bent on “regaining” what was never theirs.

So, at the very moment when the West is blueprinting an economy which must be based on the sustained, permanent use of its natural resources, it is also conducting an assault on those resources with the simple objective of liquidating them. The dissociation of intelligence could go no farther, but there it is—and there is the West yesterday, today, and forever. It is the Western mind stripped to the basic split. The West as its own worst enemy. The West committing suicide.

—Bernard De Voto “The West Against Itself” Harper’s Magazine, January, 1947 Read more »