ADLER, MORTIMER (1902-2001)
American philosopher, teacher and author. Published How to Read a Book in 1940 (revised in 1972). He devoted himself to oppose the relativism of his former teacher, John Dewey. "There are universal truths," he said. "Not to engage in this pursuit of ideas is to live like ants instead of like men." He worked with Encyclopedia Britannica to reprint 443 of the Great Books of the Western World. He defended the existence of the personal God revealed in the Bible.
ARNOLD, MATTHEW (1822-1888)
English poet, literary critic, essayist. Best known for his book, Essays Literary and Critical (1865; 1888), and for his influence upon other writers. His poetry is considered by some as a bridge between Romanticism (emphasizing emotion, in a reaction against science) and Modernism (emphasizing reason, in a reaction against tradition). He reduced religion to "morality touched with emotion," but exalted poetry as sacred (in place of religion), and loved the ancient classics. For example, he praised the "grand style" of Homer, Milton and Dante, which he defined as a noble and simple treatment of a "serious subject." His secret for writing well: "Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret of style."
AUDEN, W.H. (1907-1973
Anglo-American poet best known for his poem, "September 1, 1939," about the outbreak of WW II: "We must love one another or die'" and for "Funeral Blues," a parody of a poem about a politician which begins with the words: "Stop all the clocks." (A different version of the poem is read in "Four Weddings and a Funeral," a commercially He wrestled with religious faith, returning to the Anglican Church in 1940, after meeting Charles Williams (a friend of C. S. Lewis) in 1937. "We would rather be ruined than changed/ We would rather die in our dread/ Than climb the cross of the moment/ And let our illusions die" (1948).
AUSTEN, JANE (1775-1817)
English novelist; one of the most beloved Eng. Writers. Best known for Pride and Prejudice (1813), a romantic comedy. In 2003 it came in second, behind Lord of the Rings, in a poll of the "UK's Best-Loved Book." She was inspired and influenced by the poems of William Cowper (author of the hymn, "God Moves in a Mysterious Way"). Her realism and ironic humor, like that of Samuel Johnson, always hinged on moral issues and consequences. One of the most moving scenes reveals the change in Mr. Darcy, brought about through Elizabeth's earlier rebuke: "Your reproof, so well applied, I shall never forget: 'had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner.'"
BARZUN, JACQUES (1907- )
French-born American historian, teacher and cultural critic (Columbia U.: 1927-67). A generally conservative scholar, he (pron.: BAWRZ-'n) insisted on the importance of shared, traditional moral values for the health of society: "Political correctness does not legislate tolerance; it only organizes hatred" (From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 2001). About Adler's How to Read a Book he said: "Anyone who cares about the future of the nation's culture must read this book."
BECKETT, SAMUEL (1906-1989)
Anglo-Irish poet and dramatist who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1969. Considered one of the first of the atheist "Postmodernists" and a contributor to the "Theatre of the Absurd," a cynical artistic movement which expressed belief in the meaninglessness of life. Most famous for his play, "Waiting for Godot" (1953), the story of two men waiting for someone (representing God) who never shows up: "We always find something, eh... to give us the impression that we exist?"
BLAKE, WILLIAM (1757-1827
English poet associated with the Romantic movement (asserting imagination in reaction against reason and science); best known for poems like "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" (1790-93), in which he identified God as the enemy, and Satan as the hero: "Men forget that all deities reside in the human breast." C. S. Lewis titled his own short novel, The Great Divorce, in opposition to his poem, which he called: "a disastrous error." In another famous poem, "The Everlasting Gospel" (1818),he asserted: "The Vision of Christ that thou does see/ Is my vision's greatest enemy."
BOSWELL, JAMES (1740-1795)
Scottish lawyer, diarist and author; best known as Samuel Johnson's biographer. He is famous for coining the phrase: "citizen of the world." "I am, I flatter myself, completely a citizen of the world"(Journal, 1773).
BUCKLEY, WILLIAM F., Jr. (1925-2008)
American writer and commentator, famous for his book, God and Man at Yale (1951), which criticized the school for its intolerance toward Christians and for the indoctrination of liberal ideology which was forced upon students. Also famous for founding the conservative magazine, the National Review (1955) and for hosting the Emmy-winning public affairs TV program, Firing Line (1966-1999). He often hosted liberal guests with whom he engaged in civil but robust discussion of their disagreements. "Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views," he once quipped.
BURKE, EDMUND (1729-1797)
Anglo-Irish statesman, author and political writer who consistently supported American independence and denounced the French Revolution, correctly predicting the barbaric and unjustified bloodshed which would occur in the Reign of Terror. He recognized a dramatic difference between the disciplined, principled appeal for freedom in America and the defiant, religiously-hostile demand in France. His Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) has become a classic text for evaluating and contrasting the two famous revolutions. He accused France of "throwing off that Christian religion which has hitherto been our one great source of civilization" and asserted that "religion is the basis of civil society," since rulers serve as God's representatives (an allusion to Rom. 13:1-7).
CHAUCER, GEOFFREY (1342-1400)
English poet, courtier and diplomat. Widely considered to be the Father of English poetry; sometimes called the third greatest English author, next to William Shakespeare and John Milton. Also considered to be "the greatest comic writer in the English language," and sometimes called "the father of English Literature." Best known for his magnum opus, The Canterbury Tales is an incomplete work which was not published until near his death. The work is an original "frame story" which uses the fictional device of a pilgrimage. During the trip the pilgrims share stories; some of the individual stories are original; others are borrowed and reworked. He coined the famous aphorism, "Love is blind," in the Merchant's Tale; Shakespeare picked it up and used it in the Merchant of Venice and Two Gentlemen of Verona. [NOTE: The Greeks and Romans considered the God of Love (Eros in Greek, Cupid in Latin) to be blind, because lovers are blind to the faults of the one they love]. He is credited as the first major author to demonstrate the artistic legitimacy of the vernacular English language, alongside the established languages of French and Latin. Here is an example of his 14th century English: "Trouthe is the hyeste thing that man may kepe" (The Franklin's Tale).
CHESTERTON, G. K. (1874-1936)
English journalist, biographer, essayist, poet, literary critic, fiction writer and Christian apologist. Best known for his spiritual autobiography, Orthodoxy (1908); for his book, The Everlasting Man (1925), a reaction against H.G. Wells' atheistic Outline of History (1919); and his Father Brown detective fiction. His biography of Charles Dickens (1903) is credited with sparking a renewal of interest in, and respect for, Dickens' literary worth. C. S. Lewis said that reading him was a critical factor in his conversion to faith in Christ. He is one of the most quoted authors in the world. Here is a sample: "Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions;" "The reason angels can fly is because they take themselves lightly".
CHURCHILL, WINSTON (1874-1965)
British Prime Minister (1940-45; 1951-55); English author of many histories, biographies and memoirs; won the Nobel Prize in lit. (1953). Famous for rallying the British against Hitler with speeches which called forth courage and sacrifice: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat" (similar quotes have been discovered in Cicero and Livy). British citizens who lived through WWII have testified to the galvanizing effect of his valiant leadership and noble oratory.
CLARK, KENNETH (1903-1983)
English author, historian, and art critic, most famous for his BBC TV series, "Civilisation: A Personal View (1969), which was then published as a book. In his conclusion he cited the poem by W. B. Yeats, "The Second Coming," beginning with the line: "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold." He noted the cultural drift away from civic ideals and traditions and expressed foreboding for the future of Western Civilisation:"The trouble is that there is still no centre," he said.
COLERIDGE, SAMUEL (1772-1834)
English poet, literary critic, friend of W. Wordsworth and co-founder of the Romantic movement in literature. Most famous for The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan, which begins: "In Xanadu [beautiful, imaginary place] did Kubla Khan [13th century, Chinese emperor] / A stately pleasure-dome decree." His major work, Biographia Literaria (1815) includes famous literary theory and criticism. C. S. Lewis cites and honors him in his book, The Abolition of Man (in a story about a waterfall) because he recognized that beauty is real, objective and universal (not illusory, subjective and relative).
COOKE, ALISTAIR (1932-2004)
English-born, American journalist, broadcaster and commentator. For 58 years host of the BBC radio broadcast, "Letter from America;" for 22 years host of PBS Masterpiece Theater; author of America: A Personal History of the U.S. (1973). In the conclusion he concluded: "I recognize here [in the U.S.] several of the symptoms that Edward Gibbon maintained were signs of the decline of Rome... A mounting love of show and luxury... An obsession with sex. Freakishness in the arts masquerading as originality... And, most disturbing of all, a developing moral numbness and vulgarity, violence and the assault of the simplest human decencies" (America, p. 387). .
DARWIN, CHARLES (1809-1882)
British naturalist, famous for his theory of evolution through "natural selection." In his books, On the Origin of Species (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871), He proposed the common descent of all living creatures from a single ancestor. He argued that through a process similar to artificial selection, favorable heritable traits (which favor survival) are naturally "selected," leading to increasing complexity and diversity. He believed that his discovery was sufficient to explain the wonders of the world without reference to God. His viewpoint has become the prevailing scientific dogma today. A distinction must be made between "micro-evolution" (evolution within species) and "macro-evolution" (evolution between species). There is a plethora of evidence for the first kind of evolution, such as the changes in the beaks of finches on the Galapagos Islands. However, there is no evidence for the second.
DAWKINS, RICHARD (1941- )
English biologist, science writer, lecturer, debater and apologist for atheism. A leading Darwinian evolutionist, he is a distinguished scholar. He holds an endowed professorship at Oxford U., and is a member of the most prestigious scientific and literary societies in England. His best-selling books, The Selfish Gene (1976), The Blind Watchmaker (1986), and The God Delusion (2006), all ridicule belief in God, creationism and the Intelligent Design movement. He characterizes the God of the Old Testament as: "arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak;" and asserts that: "life has no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference." He has thus far declined to debate the Christian philosopher, Dinesh D'Souza, who has written a book to rebut his, and similar, arguments.
DICKENS, CHARLES (1812-1870)
English novelist, best known for The Adventures of Oliver Twist (1837-39), A Christmas Carol (1843), David Copperfield (1849-50), and A Tale of Two Cities (1859). Although criticized by some for his "sentimentality," his work has never gone out of print, and he has been praised by literary critics such as G. K. Chesterton for his creative and compelling characters, and for his penetrating social conscience: "Charity begins at home, and justice begins next door".
DONNE, JOHN (1572-1631
English poet, sometimes called "metaphysical," because of his interest in subjects which go beyond the physical (God, death, eternity, etc.). A common interest of the "metaphysical poets" of the 17thcentury was the idea that earthly beauty directs our attention to the perfection of beauty in eternity. Since the Greek philosopher, Plato, also believed this, these poets are also called "neo-Platonic. In one of his poems, he asked the haunting question: "What if this were the world's last night?" (Holy Sonnets, c. 1609). That question inspired C. S. Lewis to write an essay about the Second Coming of Christ entitled, "The World's Last Night" (1952).
D'SOUZA, DINESH (1961- )
Indian-born, American philosopher, writer, debater, public speaker, founder and editor of "tothesource," a weekly email magazine "challenging hardcore secularism." The author of numerous New York Times' best-selling books, he has served as an editor of the conservative journal, the Policy Review, as an advisor to Pres. Ronald Reagan, and a distinguished scholar ("fellow") of the American Enterprise Institute and the Hoover Institution at Stanford U. His book, Illiberal Education (1991) revealed the staggering intolerance toward conservatives in American universities. His book, What's So Great About Christianity (2007), is a powerful rejoinder to the atheistic arguments of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and others. He debated Hitchens at King's College, New York, in 2007. He attacks Darwinism as "ideological indoctrination masquerading as science," and points out its failure to demonstrate evolution of species: "Despite a long history of experimentation, breeders have never been able to breed across species lines and produce new species."
ELIOT, T. S. (1888-1965)
English-American poet, dramatist and literary critic; received the Nobel Prize in Lit. in 1948 for his masterpiece, The Four Quartets (1940), with the famous lines: "In my beginning is my end," and "The end is where we start from." Also famous for The Wasteland (1922): "I will show you fear in a handful of dust;" and The Hollow Men (1925): "We are the hollow men." He first expressed his Christian faith in "Ash Wednesday" (1930), which includes the prayer: "Teach us to sit still."
EMERSON, RALPH WALDO (1803-1882)
American writer and abolitionist; most famous for his essay, Nature (1836), which inspired an artistic movement called Transcendentalism, a pantheistic worldview which asserted infinite individual potential: "because each believes himself inspired by the Divine Soul which also inspires all men" (1837 Speech: "The American Scholar"). He was a cynic toward the God of the Bible: "The dice of God are always loaded;" "There is a crack in everything God has made;" and he blurred the distinction between God and man: "Every man is a divinity in disguise," he said (Essays, 1941).
FITZGERALD, F. SCOTT (1896-1940)
Irish-Amer. novelist and short story writer, most famous for the novel Great Gatsby (1925), which has long been in the "top ten required reading" of both public and private high schools in the U.S. About good writing he once said: "You don't write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say." A maxim which has been attributed to him: "Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat."
FOOTE, SHELBY (1916-2005)
American novelist and noted historian of the Civil War, endeared for his captivating commentary in the PBS television documentary, The Civil War (1990). He contended that the unique character of the U.S. can only be grasped by "coming to terms" with the Civil War, and recognizing that our citizens are willing to risk everything on behalf of their convictions. He contended that Americans are unique in their readiness to give their lives, not for survival, power or wealth, but for their ideals. Like Chesterton, he loved and admired Charles Dickens: "If you want to study writing, read Dickens," he said.
FRIEDMAN, THOMAS L. (1953- )
American author and journalist, and op-ed columnist for the N.Y. Times, specializing in foreign affairs. An early supporter of the Iraq War, he has been called a "liberal hawk." Although he is now an outspoken critic of the war, he continues to call for "honest" and "courageous" reporting about Islamic terrorism. His most recent books, which analyze and evaluate global and political trends, are: The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century (2005); and Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution—and How it Can Renew America (2008).
GIBBON, EDWARD (1737-1794)
English historian most famous for his six-volume, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-88); also known for his Memoirs (1796). He was very negative toward religion in general, and toward Christianity, in particular. He blamed Christianity for putting too much emphasis on heaven, and for feminizing Rome: "As the happiness of a future life is the great object of religion... the introduction or at least the abuse, of Christianity, had some influence on the decline and fall of the Roman empire... the last remains of military spirit were buried in the cloister [and] the clergy... governed by superstition." Ironically, atheists today blame Christians for just the opposite: putting too much emphasis on this world (their political involvement), and for encouraging war and violence (their nationalism and militarism). . [NOTE: C. S. Lewis addressed these criticisms quite well when he pointed out: "If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next" (Mere Christianity, III.10)].
GOLDING, WILLIAM (1911-1993)
Brit. poet and novelist, and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature; most famous for his allegorical novel, the Lord of the Flies (1954). The title is an allusion to the Hebrew name for Satan, Beelzebub, "god of the fly." The story is about a group of well-educated, British boys who are marooned, without adults, on a remote, idyllic island. Lacking civil constraints they descend quickly into demonic savagery. The allegory reveals a conflict between civilization (with its emphasis upon equality under law) and human nature (with its lust for dominion through coercion). His book has long been in the "top ten" novels of both public and private high schools in the U.S.
HAWTHORNE, NATHANIEL (1804-1864)
19th C. Amer. novelist and short story writer; associated with the Romantic Movement, which stressed emotion and aesthetics, in reaction against the rationalization of nature and experience. The story explores the theme of sin and shame through the adultery and hypocrisy of a Puritan minister who is unable to escape from his conscience or from the consequences of his sin. The Scarlet Letter (1850), has long been in the "top ten" novels of both public and private high schools in the U.S. Here is an extract: "All brave men love; for he only is brave who has affections to fight for, whether in the daily battle of life, or in physical contests."
HITCHENS, CHRISTOPHER (1949- )
English-born, American author, journalist, literary critic and apologist for atheism. He has written for Vanity Fair, the Nation, Free Inquiry, World Affairs, and the Atlantic. He has supported the Iraq War and warned against: "fascism with an Islamic face." Most famous for his book: God is Not Great: How Religion Destroys Everything (2007), and for his unique brand of atheism, or "anti-theism" (active opposition against belief in God). He refers to the Bible as "nonsense," "immoral," "totalitarian," and "hideous." He met Dinesh D'Souza in a spirited, televised debate at King's College, New York, in 2007.
HOBBES, THOMAS (1588-1679)
Eng. philosopher whose political treatise, Leviathan (1651), greatly influenced the future course of Western political theory, especially "social contract" theory. He viewed life as a bellum omnium contra omnes: "a war of all against all." The viewpoint of He was in many ways cynical, reductionistic and materialistic. For him good and evil, like truth and falsehood, are subjective and illusory. Everything is ruled by fate or necessity. "True and False are attributes of speech, not of things," he said. "And where speech is not, there is neither Truth not Falsehood" (Leviathan, Pt. 1, Chap. 4).
JOHNSON, PAUL B. (1928- )
English author, journalist and historian. Educated at Magdalen College, Oxford, he was associated with "the left" (anti-tradition) earlier in his career, but has since become a prominent conservative writer. His many historical works include: Modern Times (1984); A History of Christianity (1976); and A History of the American People (1997). His intriguing book, Intellectuals (1988), presents a series of case studies of influential atheists who proposed and promoted schemes for social improvement which opposed traditional morality and religious faith. He exposes a pattern of arrogance, hypocrisy and deceit among such literary icons as E. Hemingway, J. J. Rousseau, Percy Shelley, H. Ibsen, Karl Marx, and Edmund Wilson, and Bertrand Russell. He advises: "beware intellectuals;" and concludes that: "intellectuals are no wiser as mentors, or worthier as exemplars, than the witch doctors or priests of old."
JOHNSON, SAMUEL (1709-1784)
Brit. poet, literary critic, lexicographer, essayist and biographer. Considered to be a great wit and known for his aphorisms; said to be the most quoted Eng. writer, after Shakespeare. Best known for his Dictionary of the English Language (1755). His novella (short novel), the History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia (1759), is told from the perspective of Christian faith and the belief that happiness is not to be found in this life:"That it is doubted [belief in life after death] by cavillers [cynical protesters] can very little weaken the general evidence; and some who deny it with their tongues confess it by their fears." Of his numerous aphorisms, perhaps the most famous is this: "But if he does really think that there is no distinction between virtue and vice, why, Sir, when he leaves our houses, let us count our spoons."
KELLER, HELEN (1880-1968)
Deaf and blind American writer and educator; taught by Anne Sullivan. Her story was dramatized by William Gibson in The Miracle Worker (1959; filmed 1962). She wrote The Story of My Life in 1902, and The Open Door in 1957. "Life," she declared, "is either a daring adventure or nothing."
KRAUTHAMMER, CHARLES (1950- )
Pulitzer prize-winning, syndicated newspaper columnist; a regular commentator on Fox News and a television panelist on "Inside Washington," a PBS political roundtable; his column appears in The Washington Post and over 200 other newspapers; he is also a contributing editor for the Weekly Standard and The New Republic. In a recent column he asserted that: "Environmentalists are Gaia's [Mother Earth's] priests, instructing us in her proper service and casting out those who refuse to genuflect [bow the knee]" (Seattle Times, 06.02.08).
LAMB, CHARLES (1775-1834)
English essayist, most famous for his entertaining and unforgettable Essays of Elia, with such disarming assertions as: "Books think for me" (Last Essays, 1833) and: "Not many sounds in life... exceed in interest a knock at the door" (Valentine's Day, 1823). His Tales from Shakespeare, a prose adaptation of the plays (told as stories) which he wrote with his sister Mary, are a wonderful introduction to Shakespeare for readers who are unfamiliar with the characters, plots and antiquated language of Elizabethan England.
LARSON, EDWARD J. (1952- )
American historian, legal scholar and author. He is on the faculty of Pepperdine U.; he previously taught American History at the U. of Georgia. His book, Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and American's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion (Harvard Press, 1998) won a Pulitzer Prize for History. Although he defends evolution, his research reveals that the movie, "Inherit the Wind," is a wild caricature of what really happened in 1925, portraying fundamentalist Christians as "vicious and narrow-minded hypocrites," and "just as wildly and unjustly idealizing their opponents." In spite of his exposé, the movie continues to be presented as historical, and to fuel ongoing scientific antagonism against "religion."
LAWRENCE, THOMAS E. (188-1935
English soldier known as "Lawrence of Arabia," famous for his role in the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Turks (1916-18), and for his autobiographical account, the Seven Pillars of Wisdom. The title was based on Proverbs 9:1. He asserted: "There could be no honor in a sure success, but much might be wrested from a sure defeat."
LEE, HARPER (1926-
A female American novelist, most famous for her book, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960). The gripping story has become a classic tale on the theme of racial injustice. It is narrated by a young girl in the South during the Depression, whose father defends a black man who has been falsely accused of raping a white girl. The book has long been in the "top ten" novels of both public and private high schools in the U.S. The story was produced as a major film in 1962, starring Gregory Peck as the lawyer, Atticus Finch. Here are two excerpts: "Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy...they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird" (Chap. 10); "The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience" (Chap. 11).
LEWIS, C. S. (1898-1963)
Anglo-Irish literary scholar, novelist, critic, correspondent, and Christian apologist. Best known for his more popular works of fiction, like the Screwtape Letters ("the safest road to Hell is the gradual one") and the Chronicles of Narnia ("all worlds draw to an end and noble death is a treasure which no one is too poor to buy"), he has been praised for the depth, wit and clarity of his writing. A prolific author, his scholarly, critical works include: The Allegory of Love (1936), which influenced a revival of interest in medieval literature; English Literature in the 16th Century, Vol. 3 in the definitive Oxford History of English Literature (1954); and The Discarded Image, a scholarly introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature (1964). His book, Mere Christianity, is a goldmine of the basic truths shared by all Christians, expressed in response to the objections of unbelief: "If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning" (Bk. 2, Chap. 1).
MACAULAY, THOMAS B. (1800-1859
English historian, essayist and statesman, most famous for his History of England (5 vols., 1849-61). His heroes included those who signed the Magna Carta (1215), as well as those who supported the Protestant Reformation against what he considered a tyrannical Catholic Church: "Thus our democracy was, from an early period, the most aristocratic, and aristocracy the most democratic in the world" (Vol. 1, Chap. 1). About the Bible he once said: "The English Bible, a book which, if everything else in our language should perish, would alone suffice to show the whole extent of its beauty and power" (1860).
McCULLOUGH, DAVID (1933- )
American author, biographer, narrator and lecturer. Two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award. In his biography of John Adams (2001) we learn that our second President loved the Psalms and that his favorite verse in Scripture was: "Rejoice always" [1 Thess. 5:16; Phil. 4:4]. We also learn that he prayed for his enemies (p. 632) and that he considered Christianity to be the foundation of democracy: "The doctrine of human equality is founded entirely in the Christian doctrine that we are all children of the same Father, all accountable to Him for our conduct to one another" (p. 619).
MILL, JOHN STUART (1806-1873
English philosopher and political writer, most famous for his Utilitarianism, the name of his philosophy and the title of his most famous book (1863). As a political principle utilitarianism seeks to create the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. Sometimes he expressed his philosophy in Biblical terms: "To do as one would be done by, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, constitute the ideal perfection of utilitarian morality" (Utilitarianism, 1863). In 1862 he wrote a long essay in support of abolition and the Union cause in the American Civil War. He concluded: "But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse."
MILTON, JOHN (1608-1674
English author, usually ranked as one of the greatest, best known for his epic poem, Paradise Lost (1667) and his polemical tract, Areopagitica, defending the principle of free speech (1644): "he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself." In Paradise Lost he expresses the sad futility of Satan's rebellion, when Satan asserts: "Evil be thou my good." In his Preface to Paradise Lost C. S. Lewis commented that Satan's assertion amounts to: "Nonsense be thou my sense." Satan's defiant attitude is also captured in the refrain: "Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven" (Bk. 1.263). This quote is cited by C. S. Lewis in The Great Divorce (Chap. 9) in the scene with George MacDonald.
MUGGERIDGE, MALCOLM (1903-1990
English journalist, author, satirist, autobiographer. As a journalist, he worked around the world for several major newspapers. His initial enchantment with the communist dictator, Joseph Stalin, faded quickly during his stint in Moscow; he was one of the first to report about Stalin's many atrocities. Best known as a broadcaster for the BBC, he surprised many by renouncing his agnosticism and becoming a Christian in 1969, influenced by the witness of Mother Theresa of Calcutta. An example of his incisive wit: "Never forget that only dead fish swim with the stream."
ORWELL, GEORGE (1903-1950)
Indian-born, English journalist, novelist, essayist, political critic of totalitarianism. Most famous for his two novels, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), a (then) futuristic warning about increasing government regulation; and Animal Farm (1945), a satire of Stalinist totalitarianism. He popularized the metaphor, "Big brother," for absolute state control, and coined terms like "Doublethink," which he defined as: "holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them" (1984). Two quotes from Animal Farm: "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others;" "If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."
PEPYS, SAMUEL (1633-1703)
British naval administrator and member of parliament who became famous for his diary (1660-1669) which includes eyewitness accounts of momentous events like the Great Plague of London, the 2nd Dutch War, and the Great Fire of London (Sept. 2-5, 1666). An excerpt which illustrates his witty and entertaining style: "But me thought it lessened my esteem of the king, that he should not be able to command the rain" (Diary, July 19, 1662). [pron.: peeps, peps, or peppis].
SAYERS, DOROTHY (1893-1957)
English novelist, critic, essayist, and Christian apologist; author of the popular Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries; translator and editor of Dante's, Divine Comedy. Here is a sample of her thinking: "The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man—and the dogma is the drama;" "It is fatal to let people suppose that Christianity is only a mode of feeling;" "In the world it is called Tolerance, but in hell it is called Despair, the sin that believes in nothing."
SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM (1564-1608
English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language. His major works include some three dozen plays and 154 sonnets. Among his most famous plays are the tragedies, Hamlet and Macbeth. The prestigious Oxford English Dictionary estimates that he "coined" about 1700 words. Although he tapped many sources for inspiration, his primary source was Scripture. One researcher has documented over 1,300 Biblical references in his works, an average of about forty per play. He wrote from a God-centered, redemptive perspective. The great Biblical themes are all there, including the pride that goes before a fall, false ambition, false appearances, and self-destructive revenge. Among his most quoted lines is the famous metaphor: "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players" (As You Like It, 2.7).
SHAW, GEORGE B. (1856-1950
Prolific Irish playwright and literary critic, atheist and socialist, most famous for his play, Pygmalion (1912), which he adapted for film. After his death it was again adapted for the musical, My Fair Lady (1956; 1964). He won the Nobel Prize for Lit. in 1925. He was a critic of Victorian hypocrisy and political inequality; a peer, friend, debater and regular correspondent of G. K. Chesterton, who once said: "Mr. Bernard Shaw's philosophy is exactly like black coffee—it awakens but it does not really inspire." His cynicism is evident in quotations such as the following: "Beware of the man whose god is in the skies;" "The man who listens to Reason is lost: Reason enslaves all whose minds are not strong enough to master her" ("Man and Superman," 1903). He took the title of his play, Pygmalion, from the name of a legendary king of Cyprus who fell in love with a statue which later came to life.
STARK, RODNEY (1937- )
Pulitzer-prize winning American historian and social scientist. Currently a prof. of social sciences at Baylor U. (2004-Present), he taught previously at U.W. (1971-2003). Much of his work has revealed a prevailing academic bias against Christianity in higher education; several of his books debunk popular anti-Christian myths. His essay, "Fact, Fable and Darwin" (2004) is one of the most succinct and yet substantial critiques of Darwinism available anywhere: Here is a sample of his work: "I argue not only that there is no inherent conflict between religion and science, but the Christian theology was essential for the rise of science" (For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery: Princeton & Oxford, 2003: p. 123); "As Alfred North Whitehead put it during one of his Lowell Lectures at Harvard in 1925, science arose in Europe because of the widespread 'faith in the possibility of science... derivative from medieval theology'" (The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success: Random House, 2005: p. 14). This important idea regarding the Christian origins of science is now sometimes referred to in debate as "Whitehead's Thesis."
STEINBECK, JOHN (1902-1968)
A popular and prominent American novelist of the 20th C, most famous for the novella (short novel), Of Mice and Men (1937), and the Pulitzer-prize winning novel, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). Of Mice and Men has long been in the "top ten" novels of public high schools in the U.S. An example of his ability to touch the heart: "A sad soul can kill you quicker, far quicker, than a germ" (Travels With Charley: In Search of America, 1962) [an account of a trip which he made with his dog around the U.S. in 1960].
SWIFT, JONATHAN (1667-1745)
Anglo-Irish writer, Dean [Senior Pastor] of St. Patrick's, in Dublin, the largest church [Protestant/Presbyterian] in Ireland; best known for his classic work, Gulliver's Travels (1726; 1735), a satire of human nature and a parody of travelogues; considered the greatest English satirist. He coined the phrase, "sweetness and light" (1697), as well as the term: "Yahoo," which he used for a race of brutes who were vicious and stupid (1726). An example of his wit: "Every man desires to live long; but no man would be old" (1727).
THOREAU, HENRY D. (1817-1862)
American author, libertarian and naturalist, associated with R. W. Emerson. Like Emerson, he embraced the ideas of "transcendentalism": an emphasis upon self-reliance; a rejection of traditional authority; and a belief in God's immanence in man and nature. He is best known for his essays, Civil Disobedience (1849) and Nature (1836); and for his book, Walden (1854), a collection of essays which is considered a classic expression of literary transcendentalism. In his essay on civil disobedience he asserted that: "Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison." In Walden he extolled the simple life, lived in harmony with nature. Although his ideas were sometimes idealistic and impractical, He touched upon some penetrating truths and insights. For example, in one essay he emphasized the importance of reading good books: "How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book!"
TOCQUEVILLE, ALEXIS DE (1805-1859)
French author, statesman, political philosopher and historian, he wrote his classic, two-volume study, Democracy in America, after a visit to the United States in 1831 (first published in 1835). His enduring insights often focus upon the unique role of religion in America, as essential to the health and stability of the nation. But he warned about the danger of idolizing freedom. "Americans," he said, "are so enamored of equality that they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom." His insights have seemed particularly relevant since the 1960s, as American culture has increasingly rejected traditional faith and morality: "Those who went before are soon forgotten... Thus not only does democracy make every man forget his ancestors, but it hides his descendants and separates his contemporaries from him; it throws him back forever upon himself alone and threatens in the end to confine him entirely within the solitude of his own heart."
TWAIN, MARK (1835-1910)
The pen name of Samuel Clemens, humorist and lecturer, and perhaps America's most beloved author, most famous for his novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), sometimes called "the great American novel;" and for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). Although, due to "political correctness," he is sometimes accused of "racism," Huckleberry Finn continues to be honored near the top of the list of "most frequently required titles" in American high schools. His humor and wit are expressed in this quote, in response to a rumor that he had died: "The report of my death was an exaggeration" (1897); and in this: "Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to" (1897).
TYNDALE, WILLIAM (1484?-1536)
English scholar, translator, reformer and martyr. His translation of the Bible cost him his life, but earned him the title: "Father of the English Reformation." His work provided a foundation for all of the early English translations of the Bible which followed, as well as a lasting legacy for English literature in general. His masterful, memorable translation included such enduring English phrases as: "Let there be light;" "The burden and heat of the day;" "Eat, drink and be merry;" "A law unto themselves;" "The powers that be;" Fight the good fight;" and "Signs of the times."
UPDIKE, JOHN (1932-2009)
American novelist and literary critic whose interest has focused upon post-WW II life in suburbia and "small town America." Most famous for his stories about Harold C. Angstrom, a fictional character whom he nicknamed "Rabbit." Five of his novels are named for the central character, including Rabbit is Rich (1981) and Rabbit at Rest (1990), the novels for which he won a Pulitzer Prize. He is associated with the emphases of "Modernist" literature: common or mundane subject matter; pessimism about the meaning of life; alienated individuals in a fragmented society. Much of his work draws attention to the emptiness of a materialistic and secularized society, as can be seen in this quotation: "What a threadbare thing we make of life! Yet what a marvelous thing the mind is, they can't make a machine like it!" (Rabbit is Rich).
VIDAL, GORE (1925- )
A liberal American novelist, playwright and social critic, most famous for his historical novels and essays. An atheist who often supported left-wing causes, he and his publisher were twice sued for libel, successfully, by the conservative critic, W.F. Buckley. He championed freedom of sexual expression; his novel, The City and the Pillar (1948), was the first to feature homosexuality. His cynical relativism is evident in the following, pro-abortion quote from an interview in 1968: "To bring into the world an unwanted human being is as antisocial an act as murder."
WAUGH, EVELYN (1903-1966)
A conservative English writer regarded as the premier social satirist of his time; best known for his novel, Brideshead Revisited (1945), about the spiritual awakening of a wealthy, aristocratic Catholic family. Although he was criticized by some for his conservative morality and Christian convictions, the famous literary critic Edmund Wilson called him: "the only first-rate comic genius that has appeared in English since Bernard Shaw;" and in his obituary Time magazine praised his: "wickedly hilarious yet fundamentally religious assault on a century that, in his opinion, has ripped up the nourishing taproot of tradition and let wither all the dear things of the world" (April 22, 1966). Even the radical atheist, Richard Dawkins, has acknowledged him as "one of the funniest writers of the twentieth century." An example of his satire: "Anyone who has been to an English public school will always feel comparatively at home in prison" (Decline and Fall, III.4).
WHITE, E. B. (1899-1985
American writer and humorist, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1978; author of Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web, and editor of the writers' handbook: The Elements of Style. An example of his wit and humor: "Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time" (1944).
WILDE, OSCAR (1854-1900
Irish playwright, poet and literary critic, best known for his play, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), a social satire, and for his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), which is considered a modern classic. An example of his enduring wit is this line from his play, Lady Windermere's Fan: "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars" (1892).
WILL, GEORGE (1941- )
American journalist, author and political writer. Although known as a political conservative, he claims to be a religious agnostic and is something of an iconoclast, often challenging common assumptions. He was criticized for overtly supporting Reagan's candidacy, but praised for condemning corruption in Nixon's presidency. He served as editor for the conservative National Review 1972-78 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1977. He has written columns for Newsweek, since 1976, and for the Washington Post since 1979. He has also served as a news analyst and panelist for ABC and other television programs. An example of his thought: "A society that thinks the choice between ways of living is just a choice between equally eligible 'lifestyles' turns universities into academic cafeterias offering junk food for the mind."
WILSON, EDMUND (1895-1972)
American writer, journalist, literary and cultural critic. He was a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books, and has been considered by many as the preeminent American literary critic of the 20th century. He despised tradition and loved the work of the atheist G. B. Shaw. He dared to compare Lincoln to Lenin, the Marxist revolutionary, as another "dictator," and dismissed Tolkien's Lord of the Rings as "balderdash." In spite of his radicalism, he was a witty thinker with some penetrating insights and memorable quotations, including: "Marxism is the opium of the intellectuals," turning the tables on Marx, the founder of Communism, who had said: "Religion is the opium of the people."
YEATS, W. B. (1865-1939
Anglo-Irish poet and dramatist, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923. His worldview shifted radically during his career. One of his most enduring poems is "The Second Coming" (1921) which includes these haunting lines: "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world... The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."