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Modern English Readings: Fourth Edition

by Roger Sherman Loomis (Editor), Donald Lemen Clark (Editor)

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Modern English Readings

Edited by Roger Sherman Loomis and Donald Lemen Clark (Columbia University)

Farrar & Rinehart, Hardback, 1945.

8vo. xxi+968+l. Preface by the editors, April 1942 [v-vii].

First published, April 1942.
Eight printing, January 1945.

Table of Contents
(Arranged by forms)


Florence Nightingale, by Lytton Strachey
J. E. B. Stuart, by Gamaliel Bradford
Abraham Lincoln, The First Prairie Years by Carl Sandburg
Four Years in a Shed, by Eve Curie
Elizabeth Ardden - Glamour, Inc., by Margaret Case Harriman
My Brother Steve, by William Rose Benet
The Campers at Kitty Hawk, by John Dos Passos

Autobiographic Chapters
Life with Father, by Clarence Day
Early Impressions, by Henry Adams
University Days, by James Thurber
The Modern Gothic, by Vincent Sheean
Flyers Are Inarticulate, by Beirne Jay, Jr.


The Gentle Giantess, by Charles Lamb
On Going a Journey, by William Hazlitt
Sounds, by Henry David Thoreau
Crabbed Age and Youth, by Robert Louis Stevenson
Hunting the Deceitful Turkey, by Mark Twain
How Shall I Word It?, by Max Beerbohm
Mr. Dooley on the Education of the Young, by Finley Peter Dunne
Farewell, My Lovely!, by Lee Strout White
Codfish Chowder and Sun, Robert P. Tristram Coffin
From Spargo to Carver to Speaker, by Heywood Broun
A Garland of Ibids, by Frank Sullivan
Spring Comes to the Farm, by Betty Fible Martin


Of Reading Books, by John Livingston Lowes
The Pursuit of Values in Fiction, by Dorothy Brewster and Angus Burrlel
The Novels of Thomas Hardy, by Virginia Woolf
What Is a Poet?, by Mark Van Doren
Outline for a Defense of Poetry, by Earl Daniels

Writing Prose, by Somerset Maugham
On Jargon, by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch
The Cliche Expert, by Frank Sullivan
Stabilizing the Language through Popular Songs, by Sigmung Spaeth
Excerpts from ''A Dictionary of Modern English Usage,'' by H. W. Fowler
The Daily Theme Eye, by Walter Prichard Eaton

Eve Curie's Madame Curie, by Clifton Fadiman
Carl Sandburg's Abraham Lincoln - The Prairie Years, by Stuart Pratt Sherman
John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, by Christopher Isherwood
The film Abe Lincoln in Illinois, by John Mosher
The film The Grapes of Wrath, by John Mosher
The film Sergeant York, by Jesse Zunser


Simple Exposition
Riveters, by the Editors of Fortune
How to Mark a Book, by Mortimer J. Adler
Three Kinds of Hash, by William Rhode
What Is a Fish?, by Brian Curtis

Research Papers
The Yankee School, by George Lyman Kittredge
Propaganda Technics of German Fascism, Anonymous
Marco Polo, by Eileen Power

Discussion of Modern Problems
Gate Receipts and Glory, by Robert M. Hutchins
The American Student as I See Him, by Gilbert Highet
Education for Freedom, by Robert M. Hutchins
Four Kinds of Thinking, by James Harvey Robinson
The Tyranny of Words, by Stuart Chase
Propaganda, Slogans and the Distrusts of Words, by Dorothy Thompson
Free Speech in America, by Zechariah Chafee, Jr.
Liberty - For What?, by Alexander Meiklejohn
America, by Dorothy Thompson
The Great Betrayal, by James Wallace
The American Century, by Henry R. Luce
And What Shall We Do Then?, by A. A. Berle
A Peaceful World Order, by George Soule
Apology for Man, by Earnest Hooton
Small-Town Middle-Westerner, by Willis Fisher
Chinese Traits, by Lin Yutang
Evolution and Ethics, by Thomas Henry Huxley
What Religion Means to Me, by Pearl Buck
Infallibility, by John Henry Newman


The Tell-Tale Heart, by Edgar Allan Poe
A Lodging for the Night, by Robert Louis Stevenson
Night Club, by Katharine Brush
Paul's Case, by Willa Cather
The Devil and Daniel Webster, by Stephen Vincent Benet
The Garden Party, by Katherine Mansfield
I Can't Breathe, by Ring Lardner
But It's O! in My Heart, by Joan Vatsek
Forced Draft, by Marcus Goodrich
The Tree Swimmers and the Grocer from Yale, by William Saroyan

Short Short Stories
Salesmanship, by Mary Ellen Chase
Guidance, by Margaret Widdemer
Mrs. Packletide's Tiger, by Saki (H. H. Munro)
On the Stairs, by Arthur Morrison
The End of Something, Ernest Hemingway
Breakfast, by John Steinbeck


Riders to the Sea, by John Millington Synge
The Fall of the City, by Archibald MacLeish
Beyond the Horizon, by Eugene O'Neill
The Green Pastures, by Marc Connelly
You Can't Take It with You, by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman


The Sacrilege, by Thomas Hardy
The Ballad of East and West, by Rudyard Kipling
Farewell to Barn and Stack and Field (No. 8 Shropshire Lad), by A. E. Housman
Abraham Lincoln, by Stephen Vincent Benet
A Ballad Maker, by Padraic Colum
La Puvre Vatel, by Royal Murdoch
Jesse James, by William Rose Benet
Jim Bludso of the Prairie Belle, by John Hay
Skipper Ireson's Ride, by John Greenleaf Whittier

Narrative Poems
The Eve of St. Agnes, by John Keats
The Haystack in the Floods, by William Morris
The Raid on Harper's Ferry (from John Brown's Body), by Stephen Vincent Benet
The Blindman, by Hervey Allen
Saul Kane's Fight (from The Everlasting Mercy), by John Masefield

Meditative Lyrics
Lines, by William Wordsworth
When the Lamp Is Shattered, by Persy Bysshe Shelley
From In Memoriam, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Prospice, by Robert Browning
Dover Beach, by Matthew Arnold
Invictus, by William Ernest Henley
To Fight Aloud Is Very Brave, by Emily Dickinson
The Study in Aesthetics, by Ezra Pound
Fire on the Hills, by Robinson Jeffers
Impiety, by Helene Magaret
Morning Song (from Senlin), by Conrad Aiken
To a Locomotive in Winter, by Walt Whitman

Love Lyrics
Mary Morison, by Robert Burns
She Was a Phanton of Delight, by Williams Wordsworth
The Indian Serenade, by Persy Bysshe Shelley
Love's Philosophy, by Persy Bysshe Shelley
Sonnet, by John Keats
When We Two Parted, by Lord Byron
Stanzas for Music, by Lord Byron
Mid-Rapture, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
A Birthday, by Christina Rossetti
If Thou Must Love Me, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Sonnet for Svanhild, by Joseph Auslander
''Oh, Think Not I Am Faithful to a Vow,'' by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Prelude, by Richard Aldington
An Interlude, by Richard Aldington
Epilogue, by Richard Aldington

Nature Lyrics
To the Cuckoo, by William Wordsworth
London Show, by Robert Bridges
Autumn in Cornwall, by Algernon Charles Swinburne
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, by Robert Frost
Sea-Fever, by John Masefield
Strange Holiness, by Robert P. Tristram Coffin
After Dry Weather, by Marc Van Doren
Loveliest of Trees, by A. E. Housman
Poem for the Time of Change, by Archibald MacLeish

Dramatic Lyrics
Ulysses, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
My Last Duchess, by Robert Browning
The Death of the Hired Man, by Robert Frost
The Listeners, by Walter de la Mare
The Santa-Fe Trail, by Vachel Lindsay

Rugby Chapel, by Matthew Arnold
My Sister's Sleep, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
The Eagle That Is Forgotten, by Vachel Lindsay
Deidre, by James Stephens
To an Athelete Dying Young, by A. E. Housman

Ode to Duty, by William Wordsworth
Ode to the West Wind, by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Ode to a Grecian Urn, by John Keats
Pioneers! O Pioneers!, by Walt Whitman
Chicago, by Carl Sandburg
Ode to the Confederate Dead, by Allen Tate

Three Songs, by Robert Burns
Willie Brewed a Peck o' Maut
Sweet Afton
Auld Lang Syne
Break, Break, Break, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
The Splendor Falls, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Marching Along, by Robert Browning
When I Am Dead, My Dearest, by Christina Rossetti
The Night Has a Thousand Eyes, by F. W. Bourdillon
Gaudeamus Igitur, translated by J. A. Symonds

Lighter Lyrics
The Exchange, by Samuel Coleridge
The Time I've Lost in Wooing, by Thomas Moore
Rondeau, by Leigh Hunt
Love in a Cottage, by Nathaniel Parker Willis
A Letter of Advice, by Thomas Hood, Jr.
A Terrible Infant, by Frederick Locker-Lampson
Ballade Made in the Hot Weather, by William Ernest Henley
The Ballade of Prose and Rhyme, by Austin Dobson
Urceus Exit, by Austin Dobson
Their Mother Tongue, by Arthur Kidd
Ballad of Dead Ladies, translated by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
The Twentieth Century Gets Through, by E. B. White

The Latest Decalogue, by Arthur Hugh Clough
Miniver Cheevy, by Edwin Arlington Robinson
Lines to John Lapraik, by Robert Burns
Reform in Our Town, by Bert Leston Taylor
Publicity, by Lee Wilson Dodd

Poetry of Social Change
Song of the Shirt, by Thomas Hood
Consider These, For We Have Condemned Them, by C. Day Lewis
The Man with the Hoe, by Edwin Markham
From The River, by Pare Lorentz
Get There If You Can, by W. H. Auden
Song of the Answerer, by Helene Magaret
Efficiency Expert, by Florence Converse
I Am the People, the Mob, by Carl Sandburg
Speech to Those Who Say Comrade, by Archibald MacLeish
''Moving Through the Silent Crowd'', by Stephen Spender




I am not going to pretend that I have bought this formidable book for any other reason but Somerset Maugham's contribution to it. As it turned out, Writing Prose is the name that the editors had given to the extract from The Summing Up, chapters VIII to XIII roughly, in which Maugham describes with his usual lucidity, simplicity and euphony how he came to believe that the three most important qualities he himself should aim at in his prose are indeed lucidity, simplicity and euphony. It is one of the most arresting parts in the whole book, not least because of Maugham's refreshingly frank opinions of his own development as a writer or the merits of many of his colleagues like Hazlitt, Swift, Jeremy Taylor or Matthew Arnold, to name but a few. But I need not go into any detail about The Summing Up: those who admire Maugham have certainly read it already, and those who don't probably haven't and won't.

Nor am I going to pretend that I can give an opinion of any value about the contents of this Fourth edition of Modern English Readings. For me, as a confirmed Maugham buff, the fascination of the book lies in the fact that it offers an excellent opportunity to observe the contemptuous attitude of the academic circles to Somerset Maugham which was apparently very fashionable at the time. Even in the early 1940s, when he was more or less the most popular English writer alive, Maugham could not make the brilliant minds of the Columbia University think highly of him; perhaps his popularity was one of the main obstacles. It is indeed surprising to find something written by Maugham in a book compiled by professors of English literature and to be used by students of English language. It is even more surprising that Maugham, who claimed more than once that he had never been a propagandist, should have agreed an excerpt from his most personal book to be reprinted in a volume with purely didactic purpose. Be that as it may, it is fascinating to investigate the attitude of Messrs Loomis and Clark to Willie Maugham. At one place he is flatly called an ''expert'', presumably in matters of writing, but his biographic note is so remarkably destitute of titles that it is actually worth quoting:

Maugham, William Somerset (1874-)
Born in Paris. Educated at Heidelberg and trained for medicine in St. Thomas's Hospital, London. Author of novels, stories and plays.
Of Human Bondage, an autobiographical novel, published in 1915, is regarded as his greatest achievement.

''Author of novels, stories and plays'' but the title of only one novel is mentioned: none of his seven short story collections or the six volumes of The Collected Plays, let alone any travel writings or essays. Compare this with Rudyard Kipling or Lytton Strachey, either of whom enjoys three titles in his entry, and especially with Katherine Mansfield: four short story collections and one collection of poems are named in her biographical note. The inquisitive reader who also happens to be a perfect newcomer to the vast and confusing field of the world literature would presumably appreciate some recommendations in terms of titles, especially when well-known names are concerned. He won't be disappointed in the case of Steinbeck, Sandburg or Saroyan: each of them has five titles mentioned. Hemingway's got seven on his bill. Maugham has one. Apart from some lurking chauvinism, Messrs Loomis and Clark may well be accused of snubbing Maugham as well.

Even more illuminating about the editors' contempt for Maugham is the so called ''Student helps and theme suggestions''. In this impressive, twenty pages or so long, section each piece reprinted in the book is supplied with a bunch of indifferent questions which, I suppose, are a very good way to dull whatever intelligence, creativity or originality the mind of a student may have. It goes without saying that the questions about Maugham's contribution are of no great use, so I needn't dwell on them. What is to my mind truly remarkable is the following statement, the first sentence actually:

Mr. Maugham is the author of many successful stories and plays and of one notable novel, Of Human Bondage.

''One notable novel''? This was written in 1942, namely 27 years after the publication of Of Human Bondage. Leaving aside the fact the novel is much more than just ''notable'', in the intervening years Maugham had published no fewer than six other novels, Up at the Villa (1941) excluded, and considering that the Eight printing of the Fourth edition of Modern English Readings appeared in January 1945, the editors must have been aware of The Razor's Edge (1944) too. Apparently, they considered none of these to be ''notable''; perhaps they regarded them as longish short stories, certainly successful, but really not worth mentioning and having no chance to survive the test of time.

Apart from Writing Prose, I have read very little of Modern English Readings and liked even less. I was curious to read something by Charles Lamb, grandly called by the editors ''the most fascinating and friendly of English essayists''. Friendly he certainly is, but what is fascinating about him is still beyond me. There are points of interest here and there in the sections about reading and writing but on the whole the pieces included are embarrassingly inferior to Maugham's penetrating analysis. The comments of the editors in the beginning of each section, as well their preface and introductory address in the beginning of the book, are as vain and condescending as anything.

Coming back to Maugham, Hazlitt's essay is of particular interest. For one thing, Maugham immensely admired the celebrated essayist, especially his personal and powerful writing style. He must also have admired On Going a Journey in particular, for it is exactly this essay from which Maugham took the title of his travel book The Gentleman in the Parlour (1930). I must confess that it still remains a bit of a mystery for me what is so admirable about Hazlitt's style, but I see Maugham's point about the powerful personality that emerges from these pages.

In conclusion, I think we are rather fortunate that it was not for people like Messrs Loomis and Clark to decide what should be kept in print and should go into obscurity with the passing of time. If it were so, Of Human Bondage would have been all of Maugham in print today, at best. The editors of Modern English Readings would surely have been dismayed and appalled to find out that no fewer than 15 (out of 20 overall) novels by Maugham are currently very much in print, not to mention the four volumes of his Collected Short Stories and four books of travel writings and essays. I am sure Willie himself would have been vastly surprised by the large proportion of his output which is still in print 45 years after his death. He would have been delighted too. And so am I.
2 vote Waldstein | Nov 14, 2010 |
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