Compiled by Dr. J. Rodgers, English Department, New York City College of Technology
I. Recommended Essays by Theme: Biology | Cities and New York City | Civil Rights Movement | Colonialism and Postcolonialism | Economics and Public Policy | Education | Fiction | Language and Culture | Memoir | Philosophy and Psychology | Sports | Technology | The Writing Process
Charles Darwin, "On the Origin of Species" http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?itemID=F373&viewtype=text&pageseq=1
Steven Jay Gould, "Darwinian Fundamentalism" http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1151
Steven Jay Gould, "Evolution as Fact and Theory" http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/gould_fact-and-theory.html
Furbank, P. N., "Perspective: Altruism, Selfishness, and Genes" http://www.threepennyreview.com/samples/furbank_su08.html
Greenblatt, Stephen Winter 2007 Symposium on Berlin http://www.threepennyreview.com/samples/greenblatt_w07.html
Whitehead, Colson "Lost In All These Gleaming Things" http://www.lexisnexis.com/us/lnacademic/results/docview/docview.do?risb=21_T6218551739&treeMax=true&sort=BOOLEAN&docNo=7&format=GNBFULL&startDocNo=1&treeWidth=0&nodeDisplayName=&cisb=22_T6218551741&reloadPage=false
Whitehead, Colson "I Write in Brooklyn. Get Over It" http://www.lexisnexis.com/us/lnacademic/results/docview/docview.do?risb=21_T6218551739&treeMax=true&sort=BOOLEAN&docNo=3&format=GNBFULL&startDocNo=1&treeWidth=0&nodeDisplayName=&cisb=22_T6218551741&reloadPage=false
King, Martin Luther, "Letter From Birmingham Jail" http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/frequentdocs/birmingham.pdf
Lemann, Nicholas, "The Long March: What the civil-rights movement looked like when it was still happening" http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2003/02/10/030210crat_atlarge
R. W. Emerson, "Nature" http://www.rwe.org/?option=com_content&task=view&id=107&Itemid=42
John Locke, http://www.earlymoderntexts.com/f_locke.html
Karl Marx, "The Communist Manifesto" http://www.anu.edu.au/polsci/marx/classics/manifesto.html
Plutarch’s Essays http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/p/plutarch/essays/complete.html
Jonathan Swift, "A Modest Proposal" http://www.uoregon.edu/~rbear/modest.html
Henry David Thoreau, "Civil Disobedience" http://thoreau.eserver.org/
Achebe, Chinua. “An Image of Africa” http://www.cis.vt.edu/modernworld/d/Achebe.html
Mary Graham, "The Information Wars" http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200209/graham
Karl Marx, "The Communist Manifesto" http://www.anu.edu.au/polsci/marx/classics/manifesto.html
Robert Reich, "Secession of the Successful" http://www-personal.umich.edu/~gmarkus/secession.html
Jonathan Baumbach, "The Story" http://brooklynrail.org/2006/05/lastwords/the-story
Susan Daitch, "Contents of a Censor's Outbox" http://www.brooklynrail.org/2006/05/fiction/contents-of-a-censors-outbox
Kim Edwards, "Thirty-Six Exposures" http://www.jstor.org/stable/4384928
Mary Gaitskill, "Description" http://www.threepennyreview.com/samples/gaitskill_w09.html
Daboberto Gilb, "About Tere Who Was in Palomas" http://www.jstor.org/stable/4384977
Marías, Javier, "Interpreters of Lives" http://www.threepennyreview.com/samples/marias_w09.html
Andre Aciman, "Reflections of an Uncertain Jew" http://www.jstor.org/stable/4384926
H.L. Mencken (1880–1956). "The Influence of Webster" The American Language. 1921.
George Bernard Shaw, Excerpt from Essay on Spelling and the English Language http://www.fortunecity.com/victorian/vangogh/555/Spell/shaw-pref2.html
Fan Shen, "The Classroom and the Wider Culture: Identity as a Key to Learning English Composition" http://wendang.baidu.com/view/3ea3108884868762caaed5df.html
Amy Tan, "Mother Tongue" http://www.jstor.org/stable/4383908
Noah Webster's "An Essay on the Necessity, Advantages, and Practicality of Reforming the Mode of Spelling and of Rendering the Orthography of Words Correspondent to Pronunciation" http://sites.google.com/site/citytechcollegewriting/essays-and-articles/noah-webster
Andre Aciman, "Reflections of an Uncertain Jew" http://www.jstor.org/stable/4384926
Dagoberto Gilb, "My Mother In a Dream" http://www.lexisnexis.com.citytech.ezproxy.cuny.edu:2048/us/lnacademic/results/docview/docview.do?risb=21_T6279932689&treeMax=true&sort=BOOLEAN&docNo=2&format=GNBFULL&startDocNo=1&treeWidth=0&nodeDisplayName=&cisb=22_T6279932697&reloadPage=false
Mary Gordon, "The Mortifying Child" http://www.jstor.org/stable/4384959
Greil Marcus Spring 2008 Memoir: Tied to History http://www.threepennyreview.com/samples/marcus_sp08.html
Michael Holroyd Winter 2005 Symposium on Memory http://www.threepennyreview.com/samples/holroyd_w05.html
Gary Shteyngart Spring 2004 Memoir: The Mother Tongue Between Two Slices of Rye http://www.threepennyreview.com/samples/shteyngart_sp04.html
Amy Tan, "Mother Tongue" http://www.jstor.org/stable/4383908
Hans Gumbrecht, In Praise of Athletic Beauty
Stewart Brand, "Is Technology Moving Too Fast?" http://longnow.org/essays/technology-moving-too-fast/
Lawrence Lessig, Free Culture http://www.free-culture.cc/freecontent/
II. Web-Based Resources by Author links to authors' names here? Baldwin | Darwin | Descartes | Emerson | Marx | Plutarch | Thoreau | Woolf | Wright
Baldwin, James. Mass Culture and the Creative Artist: Some Personal Notes Daedalus, Vol. 89, No. 2, Mass Culture and Mass Media (Spring, 1960), pp. 373-376 http://www.jstor.org/stable/20026579
James Baldwin, as Interviewed by Francois Bondy Author(s): James Baldwin and Francois Bondy Source: Transition, No. 12 (Jan. - Feb., 1964), pp. 12-19 Published by: Indiana University Press on behalf of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2934484
James Baldwin, A Transition Interview Author(s): John Hall and James Baldwin Source: Transition, No. 41 (1972), pp. 21-24 Published by: Indiana University Press on behalf of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2935113
The Negro Problem Author(s): James Baldwin and François Bondy Source: Transition, No. 75/76, The Anniversary Issue: Selections from Transition, 1961-1976 (1997), pp. 82-86 Published by: Indiana University Press on behalf of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2935392
Plutarch’s Essays http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/p/plutarch/essays/complete.html
Henry David Thoreau http://thoreau.eserver.org/
Woolf, Virginia http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/w/woolf/virginia/w91d/#chapter1
Richard Wright My Jim Crow Education: "Please Let This Nigger Boy Have a Book" Author(s): Richard Wright Source: The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, No. 30 (Winter, 2000-2001), p. 97 Published by: The JBHE Foundation Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2679110
Negro Companions of the Spanish Explorers Author(s): Richard R. Wright Source: Phylon (1940-1956), Vol. 2, No. 4 (4th Qtr., 1941), pp. 325-322 Published by: Clark Atlanta University Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/271236
III. Essay and Literature Collections on the Web
60 Essays (See below for complete list of authors and titles) http://grammar.about.com/od/60essays/a/essayscontents.htm
100 Classic Essays http://grammar.about.com/od/classicessays/CLASSIC_ESSAYS.htm
Language and Society http://www.pbs.org/speak/education/
Literature Collections on the Web
National Academies Press (publishes reports and books issued by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council)
Mortimer Adler ”How to Mark a Book” (1940) Part 5 #4
Francis Bacon "Of Studies” (1625) Part 5 #7
Judy Brady "Why I Want a Wife" (1971) Part 3 #12
Bruce Catton "Grant and Lee: A Study in Contrasts" (1956) Part 3 #2
Gilbert Keith Chesterton "A Piece of Chalk" (1905) Part 1 #8
Daniel Defoe "The Education of Women" (1719) Part 1 #3
Joan Didion "Why I Write" (1976) Part 2 #12
Annie Dillard "This Is the Life" (2003) Part 2 #10
Barbara Ehrenreich "In Defense of Talk Shows" (1995) Part 4 #5
Ralph Waldo Emerson "Self-Reliance" (1841) Part 1 #10
Caitlin Flanagan "Becoming Mary Poppins: P.L. Travers, Walt Disney, and the Making of a Myth" (2005) Part 1 #2
E. M. Forster "My Wood" (1936) Part 3 #9
Benjamin Franklin ”The Whistle” (1779) Part 5 #10
William Golding "Thinking As a Hobby” (1961) Part 5 #9
Oliver Goldsmith "On National Prejudices" (1763) Part 2 #7
Langston Hughes "Salvation" (1940) Part 3 #10
Zora Neale Hurston "How It Feels to Be Colored Me" (1928) Part 3 #4
H. H. Kane "A Hashish House in New York" (1883) Part 3 #3
Nikos Kazantzakis "Happiness" (1965) Part 4 #3
Alfred Kazin "The Kitchen" (1941) Part 4 #6
John F. Kennedy Inaugural Address (1961) Part 4 #1
Martin Luther King, Jr. "I Have a Dream" (1963) Part 2 #5 "Letter from Birmingham Jail" (1963) Part 1 #7
Stephen King ”The Writing Life” (2006) Part 5 #12
Barbara Kingsolver "Stone Soup" (1995) Part 4 #10
Abraham Lincoln ”The Gettysburg Address” (1863) Part 5 #3
Jack London "The Story of an Eyewitness: The San Francisco Earthquake" (1906) Part 4 #11
William Lutz "Life Under the Chief Doublespeak Officer" (1989) Part 3 #6
Steve Martin ”The Death of My Father” (2002) Part 5 #1
H. L. Mencken "The Hills of Zion" (1925) Part 2 #4
Barack Obama Inaugural Address (2009) Part 3 #1
George Orwell "Bookshop Memories" (1936) Part 2 #1 "A Hanging" (1931) Part 1 #6 ”The Moon Under Water” (1946) Part 5 #6 "Politics and the English Language" (1946) Part 4 #7 "Shooting an Elephant" (1936) Part 1 #11 "Why Are Beggars Despised?" (1933) Part 5 #11 "Why I Write" (1946) Part 1 12
Jo Goodwin Parker "What Is Poverty?" (1971) Part 3 #11
Anna Quindlen "Homeless" (1987) Part 4 #4
Paul Roberts ”How to Say Nothing in 500 Words” (1958) Part 5 #5
Bertrand Russell "In Praise of Idleness" (1932) Part 3 #3
Steven Shapin "Paradise Sold: What Are You Buying When You Buy Organic?" (2006) Part 2 #9
Jonathan Swift "A Modest Proposal" (1729) Part 3 #7
Margaret Talbot "The Candy Man" (2005) Part 2 #2
Deborah Tannen "My Mother, My Hair" (2006) Part 3 #8
Henry David Thoreau ”Walking” (1851) Part 5 #10
Frank Trippett "Watching Out for Loaded Words" (1982) Part 4 #12
Mark Twain "Advice to Youth" (1882) Part 1, #1 "A Fable" (1876) Part 2 #3 "On the Decay of the Art of Lying" (1882) Part 2 #6 "Two Ways of Seeing a River" (1883) Part 2 #11
Gore Vidal "Drugs: The Case for Legalizing Marijuana" (1970) Part 4 #2
E. B. White "Farewell, My Lovely" (1936) Part 1 #5 "Once More to the Lake" (1941) Part 2 #8 "The Ring of Time" (1956) Part 4 #9
Virginia Woolf "The Death of the Moth" (1942) Part 1 #3 "Portrait of a Londoner" (1931) Part 4 #8 "Professions for Women" (1942) Part 1 #9 ”Street-Haunting”: A London Adventure” (1930) Part 5 #8
Advice to Writers, by Robert Benchley In this review of two books on writing, Benchley uses an extended analogy to illustrate the distinctive method and style of each author.
Advice to Youth, by Mark Twain In "Advice to Youth," a talk he delivered to a group of young girls, Mark Twain turns the conventional moral lecture on its head.
The Almost Perfect State, by Don Marquis "The Almost Perfect State" illustrates the delicate balance of biting wit and lyrical reflection in Marquis's finest prose. As Christopher Morley wrote in his introduction to the essay in 1921, "[Marquis's] humor adorns a rich and mellow gravity. When strongly moved he sometimes utters an epigram that rings like steel leaving the scabbard."
An Apology for Idlers, by Robert Louis Stevenson After reading Stevenson's essay, you may find it worthwhile to compare "An Apology for Idlers" with two other essays in our collection: "In Praise of Idleness," by Bertrand Russell, and "Why Are Beggars Despised?" by George Orwell.
The Art of Controversy, by Ambrose Bierce In "The Art of Controversy," Ambrose Bierce examines the irrational appeals underlying most arguments. What's more important than winning an argument, Bierce says, is defeating an opponent and entertaining the audience.
The Art of Procuring Pleasant Dreams, by Benjamin Franklin American statesman and scientist Benjamin Franklin offers advice on "preserving health" and avoiding "unpleasing dreams."
The Art of Walking, by Christopher Morley In "The Art of Walking," originally published 1n 1918, Christopher Morley pays "reverence and honor" to the practice of reflective walking at a time when automobiles were rapidly making "the highways their own beyond dispute."
The Aspect of London, by Arthur Symons Arthur Symons' highly descriptive writing shows the influence of the impressionist painters he deeply admired. As critic Nicholas Freeman has observed, "Symons does not confine himself entirely to the visual, but he seems torn between an evocation of the scene and a reaction to it."
The Atlanta Compromise Address, by Booker T. Washington In September 1895, Booker T. Washington delivered the following speech before a predominantly white audience at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta. Although the address was generally well received, in time a number of black leaders criticized Washington for conveying what W.E.B. Du Bois described as "the old attitude of adjustment and submission."
Bathing in a Borrowed Suit, by Homer Croy In this narrative essay (originally published in 1922), Croy blends understatement and hyperbole to great comic effect.
The Battle of the Ants, by Henry David Thoreau This excerpt from chapter 12 of "Walden," developed with historical allusions and an understated analogy, conveys Thoreau's unsentimental view of nature.
Battle of the Babies, by Agnes Repplier Though her essays were described as "genteel," Agnes Repplier was capable of delivering some forceful arguments, as in her defense of the "brutal fairy stories" that some felt should be "banished ruthlessly from our shelves."
Blakesmoor in H-----shire, by Charles Lamb In "Blakesmoor in H-----shire," Lamb returns to the great country house where his grandmother had been a housekeeper and which he had visited as a child. Now abandoned, this "lonely temple" serves as an emblem of the transience of all human things.
Broken Memories by Edward Thomas Edward Thomas was born in the London borough of Lambeth, and in "Broken Memories" he describes how the pastoral suburb of his childhood has been "effaced" by the inexorable growth of the city.
A Brother of St. Francis, by Grace Rhys In the short essay "A Brother of St. Francis," from the collection "About Many Things" (1920), Grace Rhys draws some thoughtful comparisons between humans and pigs.
Business Letters by Robert Benchley In this comic essay, a brief model of business writing inspires Robert Benchley to compose a fanciful narrative.
Camping Out, by Ernest Hemingway Ernest Hemingway's famously economical style is already on display in this article from June 1920, an instructional piece (developed by process analysis) on setting up camp and cooking outdoors.
Caroline's Letters on Marriage and Separation, by Maria Edgeworth In the following excerpts from her first published work, "Letters for Literary Ladies" (1795), Edgeworth relies on the fictional character of Caroline to explore the relationships between women and men at the end of the 18th century.
Child's Talk, by Robert Lynd Leonard Woolf characterized Robert Lynd as "one of those impeccable journalists who every week for 30 or 40 years turn out an impeccable essay . . . like an impeccable sausage, about anything or everything or nothing." "Child's Talk," originally published in 1922, is one of those impeccable essays.
Christmas, by Washington Irving In this essay from "The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent," American author Washington Irving affectionately describes an English Christmas from the point of view of a stranger who enjoys neither a blazing hearth nor "the warm grasp of friendship."
Christmas Afternoon, by Robert Benchley Robert Benchley's account of the Gummidge family's "Christmas Afternoon"--written "in the manner" of Charles Dickens--is an especially witty example of parody.
The Coffee Houses of London, by Thomas Macaulay In this excerpt from his popular "History of England" (1848), Thomas Macauley offers evocative descriptions of the coffee houses in late-17th-century London.
Consideration of the Vanity and Shortness of Man's Life, by Jeremy Taylor These passages from the opening chapter of "The Rule and Exercises of Holy Dying" (1651) are representative of Jeremy Taylor's rich and impassioned prose.
Conversation, by Samuel Johnson Notice Samuel Johnson's reliance on classification in his discussion of a topic he had often practiced at a London tavern called the Turk's Head.
Corn-Pone Opinions, by Mark Twain In an essay not published until several years after his death, humorist Mark Twain examines the effects of social pressures on our thoughts and beliefs.
A Country Apothecary, by Mary Russell Mitford Born in the small town of Alresford in Hampshire, England, Mary Russell Mitford supported her family by writing novels, plays, poems, and--most memorably--essays focused on everyday village life.
Crooked Streets, by Hilaire Belloc A prolific essayist and poet, British author Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953) is also remembered for his travel books, religious writings, and nonsense verse for children. In "The Crooked Streets," he argues that the most vibrant parts of European cities are not the squares and boulevards but the many winding streets with curious names.
The Decay of Friendship, by Samuel Johnson Of the "innumerable causes" of decayed or destroyed friendships, Samuel Johnson examines five in particular.
The Declaration of Independence, by Thomas Jefferson Drafted by Thomas Jefferson and revised by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and others, the Declaration of Independence is a classic example of a deductive argument. The basic premises stated in the first two paragraphs are followed by evidence (presented in list fashion reinforced by anaphora) that leads inexorably to the logical conclusion in the final paragraph.
Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, by Elizabeth Cady Stanton Drafted by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions was signed by 100 women and men at the 1848 Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York. Following the model of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, this revolutionary document called for the repeal of laws that enforced unequal treatment of women.
Defence and Happiness of Married Life, by Joseph Addison In "Defence and Happiness of Married Life," Addison (a bachelor at the time) adopts the persona of Philogamus (literally, "a lover of marriage") to delineate the advantages and pleasures of being a married man.
A Definition of a Gentleman, by John Henry Newman From Discourse VIII of "The Idea of a University" comes "A Definition of a Gentleman," a superb example of character writing.
The Difference of Wits, by Ben Jonson In this selection from "Timber; or Discoveries Made Upon Men and Matter," Ben Jonson examines and classifies the "wits"--that is, the diverse talents and abilities of his contemporaries.
Do Insects Think? by Robert Benchley In this short comic essay, Robert Benchley uses a quirky example to refute the notion that insects do not think.
The Education of Women, by Daniel Defoe In 1719, Defoe published the novel "Robinson Crusoe" and this essay, in which he challenges "one of the most barbarous customs in the world . . . that we deny the advantages of learning to women."
The English House-Martin, by Gilbert White In the following letter-essay from "The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne" (1789), Gilbert White offers a precise and affectionate description of the Common House Martin.
The Essence of Humanism, by William James "The Essence of Humanism" is an extended definition leading to the conclusion that "ideas and concepts and scientific theories pass for true only so far as they harmoniously lead back to the world of sense."
An Experiment in Misery, by Stephen Crane Best known today for his novel "The Red Badge of Courage," Stephen Crane also endures as a significant figure in the development of modern literary journalism. His writings often blur the distinction between nonfiction writing and fiction. Though usually categorized as a short story, "Experiment in Misery" first appeared as an article in the "New York Press" (1894).
A Fable, by Mark Twain Consider what lesson about the nature of perception is contained in "A Fable," by American humorist Mark Twain.
False and True Humour, by Joseph Addison In this short essay, Joseph Addison relies on allegory to distinguish the truly humorous writer from the "imposter."
Getting Up on Cold Mornings, by Leigh Hunt In the first part of this essay, Hunt illustrates various ways in which "an ingenious lier in bed" might resist invitations to get up on a cold morning. In the rest of the essay, he offers strategies for persuading others to abandon the "enormous bliss" of a warm bed.
The Gettysburg Address, by Abraham Lincoln President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address has been described as a prose poem, a prayer, and "the world’s foremost statement of freedom and democracy and the sacrifices required to achieve and defend them."
Gifts, by Ralph Waldo Emerson In this short essay (an extended definition), Emerson encourages us to do some "high thinking" about the nature of both gift-giving and gift-receiving. As the critic David Herd has written, "Though it never actually loses sight of the act of giving which is his theme, Emerson's essay is really about the act of judgment."
Gin-Shops, by Charles Dickens "Gin-Shops," with its wealth of descriptive details and snippets of lively dialogue, offers one of the more memorable scenes in Charles Dickens's first book, "Sketches by Boz."
Give Her a Pattern, by D.H. Lawrence In "Give Her a Pattern," first published in 1929, D.H. Lawrence argues that modern man is "a fool" because of his failure to accept a woman as "a real human being."
A Glorious Resurrection, by Frederick Douglass In this narrative passage from Chapter 10 of his first autobiography, Frederick Douglass recounts "the turning-point" in his "career as a slave."
Going Out for a Walk, by Max Beerbohm Here, in the essay "Going Out for a Walk" (1918), the Incomparable Max Beerbohm challenges the notion that walking is a productive mental exercise--especially if one is accompanied by a talkative companion.
Goodbye to All That, by Robert Graves Graves's autobiography, "Goodbye to All That," with its detailed descriptions of trench warfare, endures as one of the great memoirs of World War I. In the following excerpt, he discovers the implications of an old woman's lament, "Triste la Guerre" ("Sad, the war").
A Hanging, by George Orwell From 1922 to 1927, George Orwell served in Burma as a member of the Indian Imperial Police. Out of that experience came this classic essay, "A Hanging."
Happiness, by Oliver Goldsmith… In this essay, Goldsmith introduces three individuals (a slave, a famous cardinal, and a "silly fellow") to illustrate his thoughts on the nature of happiness.
A Happy Home, by Thomas De Quincey "A Happy Home" is a selection from the last part of "The Pleasures of Opium" in Thomas De Quincey's masterpiece, "The Confessions of an English Opium Eater." The charmingly intimate atmosphere evoked by this descriptive piece stands in contrast to the nightmarish experiences that follow in "The Pain of Opium."
The Haunted Mind, by Nathaniel Hawthorne This second-person account of the spirits that occupy the "intermediate space" between sleeping and waking is one of the dark fables in Hawthorne's "Twice-Told Tales."
The Hills of Zion, by H. L. Mencken Mencken composed "The Hills of Zion" in July of 1925 while covering the notorious Scopes "Monkey Trial."
Hints Toward an Essay on Conversation, by Jonathan Swift In this essay, the great British satirist Jonathan Swift enumerates "the faults and errors" of those who lack the ability to participate in an agreeable conversation.
How It Feels to Be Colored Me, by Zora Neale Hurston "A genius of the South, novelist, folklorist, anthropologist"--those are the words that Alice Walker had inscribed on the tombstone of Zora Neale Hurston. In this essay, Hurston introduces herself.
How Shall I Word It? by Max Beerbohm As you read Beerbohm's parodies of the letters in a how-to book, decide whether you fit Joseph Epstein's description of the ideal Max Beerbohm reader.
How to Live to Be 200, by Stephen Leacock In the essay "How to Live to Be 200" (from the collection "Literary Lapses," 1910), Canadian author Stephen Leacock pokes at self-help books and health fads--which were almost as popular a century ago as they are now.
I Have a Dream, by Martin Luther King, Jr. In August 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the great march on Washington, where he delivered this memorable speech in front of 200,000 people gathered by the Lincoln Memorial and millions more who watched on television. In addition to being a central text of the Civil Rights Movement, the "I Have a Dream" speech is a model of effective communication.
The Inaugural Address of John F. Kennedy John Kennedy's inaugural address is one of the most memorable political speeches of the past century. The young president's reliance on biblical quotations, metaphors, parallelism, and antithesis all recall some of the most powerful speeches of Abraham Lincoln. The most famous line in Kennedy's address ("Ask not . . .") is a classic example of chiasmus.
The Inaugural Address of Barack Obama Because a gift for oratory had helped propel him to the White House, expectations were high when President Barack Obama delivered his inaugural address on January 20, 2009. And because the country was mired in a deep recession, hopes were even higher.
In Mammoth Cave, by John Burroughs In the following essay, first published in 1894, naturalist John Burroughs reports on a visit to Mammoth Cave in central Kentucky.
In Praise of Idleness, by Bertrand Russell In this 1932 essay "In Praise of Idleness," Bertrand Russell argues in favor of a four-hour working day. Consider whether his "arguments for laziness" deserve serious consideration today.
Intellectual Ambition, by George Santayana The nature of perception and thought, the subject of the short essay "Intellectual Ambition," is a topic that Santayana explored at length in his final great work, "The Realms of Being."
January in the Sussex Woods, by Richard Jefferies Combining close observation with personal reflection, Jefferies writes lyrically about the migratory impulses of birds and people.
The Land of Little Rain, by Mary Austin In the first chapter of "The Land of Little Rain," Mary Austin describes the "lotus charm" of "the loneliest land that ever came out of God's hands."
Laughter, by Joseph Addison In these reflections on the nature of laughter and ridicule, British author Joseph Addison relies on the organizational strategy of comparison. Though in his introduction Addison expresses a preference for "the looseness and freedom of an essay," consider whether you agree that his composition lacks any "order or method."
A Law of Acceleration, by Henry Adams In "A Law of Acceleration," the second-to-last chapter of "The Education of Henry Adams," Adams observed that whereas coal output served as the measure of progress in the 19th century, the dynamo would characterize the acceleration of progress in the 20th.
Letter to His Son, by Philip Stanhope… British statesman and diplomat Phillip Stanhope, better known as Lord Chesterfield, is remembered today for his letters to his son. Never intended for publication, the letters provide a guide to 18th-century notions of sophisticated social behavior and good manners.
A Liberal Education, by Thomas Henry Huxley "A Liberal Education" is an excerpt from a longer essay, "A Liberal Education; and Where to Find It," which Huxley originally delivered in 1868 at the South London Working Men's College. Consider how his opening analogy--comparing life to a chess game--prepares us for his discussion of the value and purpose of education.
The Libido for the Ugly, by H. L. Mencken H.L. Mencken's attack on American architecture in "The Libido for the Ugly" endures as a powerful exercise in hyperbole and invective.
London, by Henry James In this essay, American novelist Henry James recalls his first visit to the "dreadful, delightful" and "above all, overwhelming" city of London, where he later lived for more than 20 years.
Look at Your Fish! by Samuel H. Scudder In the following essay, originally published anonymously in 1874, entomologist Samuel Scudder recalls his first encounter with Professor Louis Agassiz, who subjected his research students to a rigorous exercise in close observation.
The Lower Depths, by H.L. Mencken In his review of "The Social Objectives of School English," H.L. Mencken employed his lively, combative style to skewer "the worst idiots" in "the slums of pedagogy": teachers of English.
The Making of Harlem, by James Weldon Johnson In 1925, at the height of the period known as the Harlem Renaissance, African-American poet James Weldon Johnson composed this historical narrative for the magazine "Survey Graphic."
Margaret Fuller and Mary Wollstonecraft, by George Eliot Widely recognized as one of England's greatest novelists, George Eliot (the pen name of Marian Evans) was also a notable poet and critic. In this review essay, Eliot compares two books published 50 years apart: Mary Wollstonecraft's "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" (1792) and Margaret Fuller's "Woman in the Nineteenth Century" (published originally as "The Great Lawsuit," 1843).
The Maypole and the Column, by Maurice Hewlett Early in the twentieth century, English novelist, poet, and essayist Maurice Hewlett was a popular writer of historical and romantic fiction. In "The Maypole and the Column," composed in 1922 as the preface to an essay anthology, he contrasts the traditional essay (metaphorically represented by the maypole) with the modern newspaper column.
A Meditation upon a Broomstick, by Jonathan Swift Swift's short essay relies on extended comparison to convey a bleak view of human behavior.
The Modern Essay, by Virginia Woolf Here, assuming the guise of the common reader, Virginia Woolf offers "a few . . . ideas and opinions" about the nature of the English essay.
A Modest Proposal, by Jonathan Swift Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" is generally considered to be the most famous satirical essay in the English language.
Mrs. Post Enlarges on Etiquette, by Dorothy Parker While serving as a staff writer for "The New Yorker" magazine, Parker wrote this review of Emily Post's popular advice book, "Etiquette." Notice how Parker uses brief examples and selected quotations from Post's book for humorous effect.
My Wood, by E.M. Forster E.M. Forster's essay "My Wood," first published in 1926, encourages us to think about the nature of materialism and the seductive power of our possessions: "If you own things, what's their effect on you?"
The Nature of Liberty, by H.L. Mencken Mencken uses an extended narrative example to support his thesis that the police have every right to "crack the skulls" of suspected criminals.
New Year's Eve, by Charles Lamb In the essay "New Year's Eve," which first appeared in the January 1821 issue of "The London Magazine," English author Charles Lamb reflects wistfully on the passage of time.
Niagara Falls, by Rupert Brooke Although best known for his poetry, Rupert Brooke was also a skilled essayist. He composed this highly descriptive piece of travel writing during a tour of the United States and Canada in 1913.
Night Walks, by Charles Dickens In the haunting essay "Night Walks," Charles Dickens relies on personification and a number of striking analogies to convey the experience of walking London's streets after midnight.
Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech by William Faulkner William Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1949 "for his powerful and artistically unique contribution to the modern American novel." In his acceptance speech, delivered at the Nobel Banquet at the City Hall in Stockholm on December 10, 1950, he counseled young writers "to help man endure by lifting his heart."
Of Anger, by Thomas Fuller Thomas Fuller's intelligence and engaging wit are clearly evident in his meditation "Of Anger."
Of Conversation: An Apology, by H.G. Wells In "Of Conversation," British author H.G. Wells argues that the urge to "gabble" is nothing more than "a sign of insecurity."
Of Eloquence, by Oliver Goldsmith In this essay on the art of rhetoric, Oliver Goldsmith challenges the conventional wisdom that effective oratory depends foremost on complex sentence structures and the sophisticated use of figurative language. Instead he advocates a "plain, open, loose style," particularly when addressing the "vulgar" on matters of faith and morality.
Of Greatness, by Abraham Cowley Critic Bonamy Dobree has characterized Abraham Cowley as England's "first really friendly essayist; he never pretends to be more enlightened or more exquisite in feeling than the average man." See if you agree as you read his essay "Of Greatness."
Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others, by W.E.B. Du Bois The follow essay is an excerpt from Chapter Three of Du Bois's revolutionary collection of essays, "The Souls of Black Folk," published in 1903. Here he criticizes "the old attitude of adjustment and submission" that had been articulated eight years earlier by Booker T. Washington in his "Atlanta Compromise Address."
Of the Passing of the First-Born, by W.E.B. Du Bois Du Bois's moving recollection of the birth and death of his son originally appeared in his revolutionary essay collection, "The Souls of Black Folk."
Of Studies, by Francis Bacon Francis Bacon, the first major English essayist, comments forcefully on the value of reading and learning.
On Conversation, by William Cowper In this slyly comic essay, originally published in 1756, Cowper describes "the faults in discourse and behavior" of several types of unappealing conversationalists.
On Corporate Bodies, by William Hazlitt In this essay, originally published in 1821, William Hazlitt takes a skeptical view of large corporations. Consider, in particular, his description of the damaging effects of corporate life on the individual.
On the Decay of the Art of Lying, by Mark Twain American humorist Mark Twain composed this essay "On the Art of Lying" for a meeting of the Historical and Antiquarian Club of Hartford, Connecticut.
On the Difference Between Wit and Humor, by Charles S. Brooks Here--in an essay developed with examples, analogies, and personification--Charles Brooks offers an extended comparison of wit and humor.
On Dreams, by Sir Thomas Browne Browne's essay "On Dreams" exhibits both his wealth of learning and rhetorically sophisticated prose style.
On the Feeling of Immortality in Youth, by William Hazlitt William Hazlitt composed his essay "On the Feeling of Immortality in Youth" three years before his death in 1830.
On Going a Journey, by William Hazlitt The version of William Hazlitt that emerges from his essays--witty, passionate, plain speaking--continues to attract devoted readers. As Robert Louis Stevenson observed in his essay "Walking Tours," Hazlitt's "On Going a Journey" is "so good that there should be a tax levied on all who have not read it."
On Going to Bed, by Christopher Morley "On Going to Bed" illustrates one of Morley's favorite rhetorical strategies: using figurative language, in particular metaphor and personification, to amplify his discussion of a common subject.
On Keeping a Secret, by William Cowper In the essay "On Keeping a Secret," published in 1756, Cowper relies on examples and classification to illustrate "the different methods by which Secrets are communicated."
On Knowing What Gives Us Pleasure, by Samuel Butler In the following essay, drawn from "The Note-Books of Samuel Butler," the British novelist encourages us to be honest about expressing our likes and dislikes--"to make sure of our ground and be quite certain that we really do like a thing before we say we do."
On Laziness, by Christopher Morley As you read Christopher Morley's short essay (originally published in 1920, shortly after the end of World War I), consider whether your definition of laziness is the same as the author's.
On National Prejudices, by Oliver Goldsmith In his essay "On National Prejudices," Goldsmith argues that it is possible to love one's own country "without hating the natives of other countries."
On a Pleasing Encounter With a Pickpocket, by Louise Imogen Guiney Though she never achieved fame, Louise Imogen Guiney is admired today for her independent voice and graceful style. Her essay "On a Pleasing Encounter With a Pickpocket," originally published in 1893, transforms a street crime in London into an exhilarating personal triumph.
On a Rainy Morning, by Charles S. Brooks In this essay from the collection "Chimney-Pot Papers" (1919), Charles S. Brooks relies on personification and description to convey the pleasures of a rainstorm in the city.
On Reading for Amusement, by Henry Fielding As noted in the dedication of his comic masterpiece, "Tom Jones" (1749), Henry Fielding's goal was "to recommend goodness and innocence" through comedy and satire--a theme he explored in the essay "On Reading for Amusement" (1752).
On Some Mental Effects of the Earthquake, by William James When the great earthquake struck San Francisco on the morning of April 18, 1906, philosopher William James was profoundly affected not only by the terrible devastation but also by the heroic human response to this natural disaster.
On the Street, by Emma Goldman In this narrative passage from her autobiography, "Living My Life" (1931), anarchist Emma Goldman recounts her desperate attempt to raise money by working as a prostitute on 14th Street in Manhattan. The money was needed to finance "Sasha" Berkman's plot to assassinate "America's most hated man," wealthy industrialist Henry Clay Frick.
On Studies, by Samuel Johnson In an essay that first appeared in 1753, Samuel Johnson explores some of the themes introduced by Francis Bacon in "Of Studies" (1625). Compare Bacon's terse aphoristic style with Johnson's more expansive prose.
On Virtue and Happiness, by John Stuart Mill In this excerpt from his long philosophical essay "Utilitarianism," John Stuart Mill relies on strategies of classification and division to defend the utilitarian doctrine that "happiness is the sole end of human action."
On War, by James Boswell In this argumentative essay, composed in 1777, James Boswell rejects the "heroic sentiments" of poets who glorify war.
On Women's Right to Vote, by Susan B. Anthony When Susan B. Anthony was arrested and fined $100 for casting an illegal vote in the 1872 presidential election, she refused to pay, defending her actions in the speech that follows. Note her reliance on parallelism and antithetical structures to convey her forceful message.
Outcasts in Salt Lake City, by James Weldon Johnson In this excerpt from his autobiography, African-American poet James Weldon Johnson recounts a visit to Salt Lake City in 1905 and his encounters with overt discrimination.
Outside Literature, by Joseph Conrad In this essay, originally published in 1922, novelist and master mariner Joseph Conrad considers the merits of a prose style significantly different from his own.
Patriotism, by Alexis de Tocqueville In this excerpt from "Democracy in America," Alexis de Tocqueville identifies two kinds of patriotism and points out the special characteristics of each.
The Patron and the Crocus, by Virginia Woolf Virginia Woolf considers the relationship between a writer and her readers: to what extent should a writer keep her audience in mind when she writes--and which audience should that be?
The Penalty of Death, by H.L. Mencken Consider how (and why) Mencken injects humor into his discussion of a grim subject.
The Ph.D. Octopus, by William James Originally published in 1903, "The Ph.D. Octopus" by Harvard philosopher William James offers a powerful critique of the "tyrannical Machine" of graduate education and the growing obsession with examinations, diplomas, and "decorative titles."
A Piece of Chalk, by G. K. Chesterton In this short essay, English author and critic G. K. Chesterton relies on two common items--brown paper and a piece of chalk--as starting points for some thought-provoking meditations.
The Pleasure of Quarrelling, by H.G. Wells In this witty essay, British author H.G. Wells combines strategies of classification and process analysis as he examines the four principles of quarreling effectively.
The Plumber, by Anthony Trollope Originally published in 1880, "The Plumber" is a late example of character-writing--a generalized but detailed description of the appearance and behavior of a class or type.
Quality, by John Galsworthy In the narrative essay "Quality," published in 1912, John Galsworthy depicts a German craftsman's efforts to survive in an era where success is determined "by adverdisement, nod by work."
A Ramble From Richmond to London, by Richard Steele Originally published in the "Spectator" in 1712, Richard Steele's account of 24 hours in the life of London conveys the city's diversity and restlessness.
Recollections, by Richard Steele In "Recollections," Richard Steele reflects on the pleasure of remembering the lives of friends and family members who have died.
Reveries Over Childhood and Youth, by W.B. Yeats As recounted in Chapter One of "Reveries Over Childhood and Youth," the Anglo-Irish poet and playwright William Butler Yeats spent his early years with his mother's family in Sligo. Though "fragmentary," the descriptions and anecdotes gathered here offer some vivid character sketches as well as a memorable impression of a child's view of the world.
The Rise of Pancho Villa, by John Reed In the following dispatch, which appeared in the "Metropolitan" magazine in fall 1913, John Reed offers a memorable profile of the revolutionary general Francisco ("Pancho") Villa.
Rural Hours, by Susan Fenimore Cooper In recent years, especially since the republication of "Rural Hours" in an unabridged edition, Susan Fenimore Cooper has come to be recognized as a significant figure in the tradition of American nature writing. Here she focuses on the "trifling incidents" observed at the end of a "charming day" in late June.
The Second Inaugural Address of Abraham Lincoln In his historic Second Inaugural Address--just 700 words delivered in seven minutes--Abraham Lincoln gave what some have called a sermon and others his last will and testament to America.
The Sedulous Ape, by Robert Louis Stevenson In this essay, which originally appeared under the heading "A College Magazine" (1887), British novelist Robert Louis Stevenson describes how he learned to write by "play[ing] the sedulous ape"--imitating the distinctive styles of numerous great writers.
Self-Reliance, by Ralph Waldo Emerson One of Emerson's central doctrines--"Trust thyself"--is the theme developed in his well-known essay on "Self-Reliance."
She Would Have Enjoyed It, by George Bernard Shaw In this letter to the renowned British actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell, dramatist George Bernard Shaw recounts his mother's funeral service and cremation with humor and affection.
Slang in America, by Walt Whitman Here, in an essay published in 1888, poet Walt Whitman offers many examples of slang expressions and "luxuriant" place names--all representative of "the wholesome fermentation or eructation of those processes eternally active in language."
The Story of a Garden, by Mabel Osgood Wright In "The Story of a Garden," Wright combines the whimsy of personification with the precise technical knowledge of an experienced gardener.
Story of an Eyewitness: The San Francisco Earthquake, by Jack London Novelist and journalist Jack London offers a first-person account of the fiery aftermath of the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco.
Street Haunting: A London Adventure, by Virginia Woolf In this essay by English novelist Virginia Woolf, the quest to buy a pencil serves as an occasion to contrast "street sauntering," with its sense of carefree wandering, with "street haunting," which hints at the more disturbing aspects of walking in the city.
Street Yarn, by Walt Whitman "Street Yarn," originally published in 1856, consists of a series of brief character sketches: physical descriptions of certain professional types (ministers, Wall Street brokers, prostitutes) and of individuals well known to Whitman and many of his readers.
The Superstition of School, by G.K. Chesterton Consider what compels Chesterton, in "The Superstition of School," to conclude that "without a gentle contempt for education, no gentleman's education is complete."
The Symbolism of Poetry, by W.B. Yeats Composed in 1900, Yeats's influential essay "The Symbolism of Poetry" offers an extended definition of symbolism and a meditation on the nature of poetry in general.
Talking About Our Troubles, by Mark Rutherford In this short essay, British novelist and journalist Mark Rutherford (the pen name of William Hale White) encourages us to deal with our misfortunes by practicing "the art of self-suppression."
The Temple of Learning, by Benjamin Franklin Should all young people be required to attend college or university? That's the question explored in this dream essay by Benjamin Franklin--composed when he was just 16 years old.
Thoughts on the Subject of Early Marriages, by Benjamin Franklin In this letter to a younger acquaintance, Benjamin Franklin refutes conventional wisdom and argues that couples who marry at a young age "stand the best chance of happiness."
Three Characters by John Earle A popular literary form in 17th-century England was the character--a brief sketch of a type or class of person. In 1628, John Earle, a tutor to Prince Charles, published a collection of these character sketches under the title "Microcosmographie." These three characters--a Young Man, a Tedious Man, and a Good Old Man--originally appeared in Earle's collection.
The Town Week by E.V. Lucas Although his essays are now commonly regarded as quaint and sentimental, "The Town Week" offers signs of the darker personality that lay behind E.V. Lucas's urbane persona.
The Turbid Ebb and Flow of Misery, by Margaret Sanger In this chapter from her autobiography, Margaret Sanger relates how her social conscience was awakened by the plight of poverty-stricken young women who endured--and often eventually died from--the "chronic condition" of pregnancy.
The Two Children in Black, by William Makepeace Thackeray In this narrative essay (or anecdote), which originally appeared (in longer form) in one of the "Roundabout Papers" (1860), the British novelist William Makepeace Thackeray alludes to his own painful separation from his mother.
Two Ways of Seeing a River, by Mark Twain In this short excerpt from his memoir about growing up alongside the Mississippi River, Mark Twain considers what may be lost as well as gained through knowledge and experience.
The Tyranny of Things, by Edward Sandford Martin In "The Tyranny of Things," originally published in 1893 (a time of severe economic depression in the United States), Edward Sandford Martin argues that by mistaking luxuries for necessities, we "swamp ourselves with . . . vain possessions that we cannot afford." Consider how Martin uses comparisons throughout the essay to illustrate and support his argument.
Under the Early Stars, by Alice Meynell In "Under the Early Stars," Alice Meynell evokes a child's view of the world with sympathy and understanding.
The Vanity of Authors, by Samuel Johnson Most authors are forgotten, Samuel Johnson says in this essay, "because they never deserved to be remembered." Consider the implications of Johnson's remark that libraries provide the most striking evidence of "the vanity of human hopes."
Virginibus Puerisque: On Marriage, by Robert Louis Stevenson In this essay, part two of "Virginibus Puerisque," Robert Louis Stevenson explores the differences between hope (which "lives on ignorance") and faith (which "is built upon a knowledge of our life"). With this thought in mind, he says, a man must recognize that a woman is "a creature of equal, if of unlike, frailties; whose weak human heart beats no more tunefully than yours."
Walking Tours, by Robert Louis Stevenson Stevenson says, "We are in such haste to be doing, to be writing, to be gathering gear, to make our voice audible a moment in the derisive silence of eternity, that we forget that one thing, of which these are but the parts--namely, to live."
The Watercress Girl, by Henry Mayhew Henry Mayhew wrote many successful novels but is best known today for his social survey, "London Labour and the London Poor." His aim was to "consider the whole of the metropolitan poor under three separate phases, according as they will work, they can't work, and they won't work." One of those who "will work" was the eight-year-old girl who describes her daily life in this moving profile.
A Wet Night in London, by Richard Jefferies Originally published in 1885, "A Wet Night in London" combines fragmented impressions of hopelessness with vivid descriptions of people and places.
What Is Patriotism and What Shall We Do With It? by Max Eastman Compare Max Eastman's extended definition with Alexis de Tocqueville's discussion of patriotism in "Democracy in America" (1835) and with the thoughts of Oliver Goldsmith in his essay "On National Prejudices" (1763).
What Is Wrong With Our System of Education? by George Bernard Shaw A severe critic of secondary education, Shaw argued that school should be purely voluntary and conducted only by charitable organizations.
What Life Means to Me, by Jack London In 1905, after gaining fame with his novel "The Call of the Wild," Jack London published this account of his efforts to "climb up out of the working-class" and and enjoy "all that gave decency and dignity to life." As you read this autobiographical essay, consider the causes of London's disillusionment and the significance of the title, "What Life Means to Me."
Which, by James Thurber In this essay, which first appeared in "The New Yorker" magazine in 1929, Thurber introduces several examples to demonstrate both his fascination and frustration with a familiar English pronoun.
The Whistle, by Benjamin Franklin American statesman and scientist Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) explains how an extravagant purchase in his childhood taught him a lesson for life.
Who Owns the Mountains? by Henry Van Dyke In "Who Owns the Mountains?" Henry Van Dyke explores the concepts of "spiritual poverty" and true ownership.
Why Are Beggars Despised? by George Orwell Drawn from Chapter 31 of Orwell's first book, "Down and Out in Paris and London," this short essay invites us to explore our own attitudes to the "ordinary human beings" known today as "the homeless."
Why Law Is Indispensable, by George Bernard Shaw In his essay "Why Law Is Indispensable" (published in this revised form in 1907), Shaw argues that laws, although necessary, are not "immutable principles of good and evil."
A Wind-Storm in the Forests, by John Muir "When we try to pick out anything by itself," John Muir once wrote, "we find it hitched to everything else in the universe." That spirit of communion is vividly conveyed in this first-hand account of an "exhilarating" storm in the Sierra mountains, which Muir observed from his perch at the top of a fir tree.
A Word for Autumn, by A.A. Milne In "A Word for Autumn," first published in 1919, the creator of Winnie the Pooh attends playfully to the "precious root" that represents "the general blessings of the autumn"--celery.
Words, by Agnes Repplier As you read the essay "Words" (originally published in 1896), consider what Agnes Repplier reveals about her own tastes in literary subject matter and style.
The Worst Sort of Husband, by Daniel Defoe Between 1704 and 1713, novelist and journalist Daniel Defoe produced the "Review," one of the first literary and political periodicals in England. In the issue of October 4, 1707, he offered this forthright response to the question, "What is the worst sort of husband a sober woman can marry?"
The Writing of Essays, by Charles S. Brooks In this essay, American author Charles Stephen Brooks identifies the key characteristics of a good essayist--an omnivorous reader, a tolerant thinker, and "a kind of poet . . . whose wings are clipped."
The Writing of Essays, by H.G. Wells In "The Writing of Essays," H.G. Wells offers a light-hearted view of the "art of the essayist": "so simple . . . that one must needs wonder why all men are not essayists."
You! by Robert Benchley In this parody of self-help books, originally published in 1922, humorist Robert Benchley illustrates the persuasive power of the second-person point of view.