W.B. Carnochan
VOLUME 6.1
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INTRODUCTION
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Gumbrecht
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Hohendahl
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Todd III
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Where Did Great Books Come From Anyway?

I. Introduction
If this were the eighteenth century, this paper might have been called "On the Original and Progress of Great Books" and might have aimed at a complete genealogy. If the Enlightenment's struggles—and our own—to get back to the start of things have taught us anything, however, it may be at last that getting back to the start is impossible. Therefore I have relied on a less magisterial title to save me from having to begin with Aulus Gellius, said to be the first to have distinguished the "classic" writer from the "proletarius"—the great writer from the scribbling rabble—or with Quintilian or Cicero, or with Dante, one of the few writers ever to claim explicit greatness for himself, or even with the eighteenth century, when what we think of as the literary canon came, at least on one interpretation, into being.1 Thus spared the demands of a complete genealogy, I will claim unequivocally that "great books" are a nineteenth-century invention, a product of the Victorian cultural climate. The Victorian age was intellectually and spiritually intoxicated by the greatness of great books, comforted by what F. D. Maurice (in the title lecture of a volume published in 1856) called "The Friendship of Books" and Alexander Ireland called the "solace and companionship of books" (in the subtitle of his Book-Lover's Enchiridion [1883]), obsessed with the dangerous proliferation of bad books, and awash in advice never to settle for or to indulge in the second-rate, much less to permit oneself to indulge in a surfeit of journalistic ephemera. Thoreau put it punningly, "Read not the Times. Read the Eternities."2 From this fascination with the virtue and power of books can be separated out agendas that taken together underlie our century's lingering, still often enraptured belief in "great" books, what they are and what they can do. These underlying agendas are: 1) the religious or spiritual; 2) the educational or utilitarian; and 3) the evaluative or judgmental. It is evident that there is a very high degree of mutuality between them. Yet they are not identical. As in our modes of liberal education generally, we like to hope we are getting everything of value all together. But in so doing, we risk ending up with nothing very precise at all. Here in our imprecise understanding of "great books" lies another reason why our debates about liberal education have had so blurred a focus.3

II. "Great Books," 1898
In this section, "Great Books" will carry the upper case, as they sometimes do now, and not only when we refer to courses called "Great Books" or "Great Works." In Bloom's Closing of the American Mind, "Great Books" are distinguished by their initial capitals, a mark of their nearly Biblical standing.
4 As Terry Eagleton says, if there was one thing above all that generated the passion for books and especially for "literature" in Victorian Britain, it was the recognition that religion's hold on society was gradually slipping away. "Literature" therefore became religion's surrogate.5 But the Anglican church has always been nimble in its adjustments, and what could be more agile than to claim "Great Books" as the church's very own? This is what happened in the hands of one largely forgotten Victorian (though he was "of vast popular influence" in his own day) who may be said to have brought the category of "Great Books," capitals and all, into being. This was Frederic William Farrar, Dean of Canterbury from 1895 until his death in 1903.6 Farrar was born in Bombay in 1831, the son of a Chaplain of the Church Missionary Society. At the University of London he studied under Maurice and at Cambridge he became a member, like Maurice before him, of the university's most elite intellectual fraternity, the Apostles. In his long

The best Hundred Books (London: Pall Mall Gazette, 1886) p.4
career, Farrar was a schoolmaster at both Marlborough and Harrow; the author of Tom Brown's Schooldays-type fiction (though even more idealizing than Tom Hughes's classic); the editor of a collection of Essays on a Liberal Education (1867), to which he contributed a piece vigorously advocating "the immediate and total abandonment of Greek and Latin verse-writing as a necessary or general element in liberal education"7 ; the author of a Life of Christ; the headmaster of Marlborough; the friend of Darwin; a disbeliever (like Maurice) in eternal punishment; chaplain in ordinary to the Queen; and, from the decanal eminence of Canterbury, the author in 1898 of a series entitled "Great Books" for the monthly periodical called The Sunday Magazine, essays that were collected in a separate volume with the same title in the same year. The series' introductory essay was also called "Great Books." Then the series continued with "special papers on such supreme writers as Dante, Shakespeare, Milton and Bunyan" and concluded in December with a final paper on The Imitation of Christ, which Farrar had edited in 1876. Farrar's "Great Books" are handmaidens, in an increasingly secular age, of the greatest of books: "The best books of man will throw more and more widely open...the Books of God." Dante, Milton, Bunyan, and Thomas à Kempis are indubitably God's scribes; and Shakespeare, in Farrar's account, no less so. In Shakespeare's plays, the "eternal verities of God's revelation are scarcely ever out of sight. Shakespeare's mind was saturated with the Bible." 8 It was in the redolent atmosphere of liberal Victorian piety, exemplified by The Sunday Magazine, that "Great Books" were born.

Yet liberal Victorian piety, we have come to see, inextricably blended the realm of the spirit with that of the world. What did The Sunday Magazine actually deliver to its readers besides the preacherly homilies of Dean Farrar? The December issue, in which Farrar wrote on The Imitation of Christ, included a "chat" with Wilson Carlile (1847-1942), founder of the Church Army; the second installment of a piece on "Angels in Art and Poetry"; and an ongoing series about "Heroism in Common Life," designed for "Sunday Evenings with the Children"—all impeccably uplifting. The Sunday Magazine also included a liberal dosage of advertisements, for example for women's corsets, as well as snippets of news and commentary, among them in December a report of Lord Kitchener's return from Egypt to popular applause because "the nation is conscious of having found a man whom it can trust"; and several short stories, one of them by Mrs. Isabel Smith which opens, somewhat memorably: "The Indian mail had just come in to Dovebrook...."9 In such an environment, a sad irony hovers over some of Farrar's opening lines in his homage to The Imitation of Christ: "If these papers have helped any, of my younger readers especially, to seek and to love that imperial society into which great books will admit them...they will have contributed, in their small measure, to uplift us above our selfishness, to enlarge, and to brighten, the narrow and dim horizon of our little lives."10 Imperial societies, however much intended as purely lofty, and enlarged horizons, however much intended as purely spiritual, cannot help but associate themselves in retrospect with the world of Kitchener, Khartoum, and the Indian mails. The Sunday Magazine was the quintessence of high Victorian piety, edification, and expansionist ideals; and of the many edifying Victorians, Dean Farrar was in 1898 perhaps the Magazine's best and most natural spokesman. "Great Books" and England's manifest destiny were closely intertwined.

III. The Positivist Library, 1851
If "Great Books," in capital letters and with a high Anglican and spiritual overlay, owe very much specifically to Farrar, "great books" in the lower case were a multiply determined creation, the product of (among whatever other congruence of influences) Comte's positivism and his Religion of Humanity on the one hand, and the Christian socialist idealism of Maurice and Kingsley that created the Working Men's College on the other. Books that are spiritually "Great," one might say, overlap with but are not necessarily the same as books that are greatly useful as instruments of a general education. And here, Comte's Positivist Library in the Nineteenth Century, first published in 1851, offers the best point of departure.

Comte and his Religion of Humanity had a considerable following in England, most notably his disciple Richard Congreve and Congreve's student at Oxford, Frederic Harrison, who went on to teach at the Working Men's College and in 1886 wrote a descriptive commentary on the positivist library, along with an update of Comte's list. This commentary he revised and republished in 1912. 1886, we will see, was a big year in the story of "great books," and I will for the most part rely on Harrison's explanatory tribute to the positivist library to argue this point. A list of some 150 "volumes" amounting to some 270 "distinct compositions by about 140 authors," Comte's Library, in Harrison's summary, reflects its compiler's conviction that

    intellect and moral character suffer grievously from ill-directed reading.... His aim was to present, within limits accessible to all educated men, a collection of works of permanent value for habitual use. In this, as throughout the whole of his teaching, may be seen his leading idea, that all intellectual training should have a synthetic character, and should serve to cultivate the whole nature.11

Comte divided his 270 works into categories of "Poetry and Fiction," up to and including Byron and Goethe; "Science," consisting mostly of texts in French; "History," including the British triumvirate of Gibbon, Robertson, and Hume; and "Philosophy and Religion," culminating in Comte himself. It is not strictly a list of "great books," and Harrison is at pains to defend if not to explain with any specificity certain conspicuous omissions. For example: "Comte, it is clear, placed the highest value on the philosophic work of Plato, Aquinas, Hobbes, Vico, Montesquieu, Leibnitz, Kant, and Adam Smith"—all of whom appear in another gospel text of the Religion of Humanity,

The best Hundred Books (London: Pall Mall Gazette, 1886) p.7
the Positivist Calendar—but he did not include them in the Library because "there are good reasons why their writings, however indispensable to human thought, should not be included in any educational list." What those reasons may be, we have to infer as best we can. At the other end of the "greatness" scale, Comte includes for their strictly pedagogical value "compilations"—scientific, historical, and geographical—that in Harrison's words "have no great merit, nor any permanent value." 12

And yet, for all the distance that might seem to lie between the positivist library and Farrar's "supreme" writers, Comte and Farrar share substantial common ground. It is not just that Comte includes four out of Farrar's supreme five, omitting only Bunyan. Beyond this simple overlap, it is that Comte in later life practiced what he called "hygiène cérébral," never looking at newspapers or other ephemera and thus identifying himself with the age's injunction to read not the Times but the Eternities. Instead he restricted himself to the works of two or three poets, especially Dante's and The Imitation of Christ.13 Furthermore, Dante and Thomas à Kempis occupy a special place at the very heart of the positivist library, as reflected in Comte's description of his own experience:

    The conclusive test of experience induces me to recommend above all the daily reading of the sublime, if incomplete, effort of à Kempis and the incomparable epic of Dante. More than seven years has passed since I have read each morning a chapter of the one, each evening a canto of the other, never ceasing to find beauties previously unseen, never ceasing to reap new fruits, intellectual or moral.

And not only is Dante incomparable, but reading him has the further "negative advantage" that it averts the reading of "useless or bad books"; or, as Farrar would put it almost fifty years later, reading great books precludes spending time that may otherwise be "deplorably wasted...in idly devouring scraps of disconnected and vapid intelligence."14 Having myself first learned about Comte through rote versions of positivism as deplorably positivistic and hostile to the imagination, I confess that this friend of à Kempis and Dante, this older spiritual cousin of Farrar, is not the Comte I thought I had been taught about. Between the Religion of Humanity and High Church Anglicanism, no deep gulf is fixed. "Great Books," that is to say, can be seen even at their most utilitarian as a spiritual hybrid. Comte himself said, "till such time as positivism, invoking humanity, works out the moral and political synthesis attempted by Catholicism in the name of God, the mystical condensation of the medieval religion will serve as our daily guide in the study and improvement of our nature."15

IV. The Best Books, 1886
By the late nineteenth century the habit of drawing up lists of books became a mania—or a parlor game affected, like other parlor games, with manic overtones, a development that had the consequence of ever more rigorously canonizing the canon. Before Comte, in 1844, one James Pycroft, an Oxford graduate and an ordained minister who early abandoned his ministry but who never gave up his lifelong addiction to cricket, had published A Course of English Reading, Adapted to Every Taste and Capacity: with Anecdotes of Men of Genius. Offering a general course of reading in subjects from history to natural philosophy, providing instruction in such matters as "how to keep a common-place book," and prefaced by Pycroft's description of a conversation with "Miss Jane C." that led to this compilation, A Course of English Reading went through several English and American editions and many printings in the span of thirty years.
16 After Comte the mania grew and grew, reaching its height in the hands of yet another eminent Victorian, like Farrar largely forgotten now but hugely influential in his day. This was Sir John Lubbock, later 1st Baron Avebury, who in 1886—the year of Harrison's commentary on the positivist library, a commentary that may have been occasioned by the deluge of publicity Lubbock received—refashioned the business of list-making into the business of listing what came to be thought of as the best hundred books or, alternatively and almost but not quite identically, the hundred best. 17 With this maneuver, the habit of canonical evaluation could only enforce a sense of precise hierarchical value that Farrar did not so explicitly need ("supreme" writers being in a spiritual class by themselves) and that Comte had explicitly rejected. The outcome was not made less inevitable by Lubbock's solicitation of the opinions of others, nor even by his own belated disclaimer, probably aware that he had created something of a monster, that "I drew up the list, not as that of the hundred best books, but, which is very different, of those which on the whole are perhaps best worth reading."18 To list any hundred "best," even when soliciting alternatives and later trying to undo the deed, is to reify "the hundred best." It is to delude oneself, no matter how agreeably, with the fancy that the concept of "the hundred best" actually means something exact, that we can tell what "best"—independent of the question "best for what?"—could possibly mean. It is to introduce the threat and promise of a doctrinaire scale of value. When the publisher Harmsworth put out a complete edition of Lubbock's hundred in 1896, it was with the assurance that his list "remains today unchallenged as the best possible list of the best hundred books."19

If Farrar represented high Victorian faith, Lubbock represented good works. The banker son of a banker father, he was a member of Parliament for thirty years, in which capacity he introduced the Bank Holidays Act of 1871, legislation that endowed him with a jocular sainthood, the summer bank holiday being called St. Lubbock's Day. He was an amateur but prolific scientist whose Ants, Wasps, and Bees (1882) was many times reprinted. Lubbock wrote books with titles like The Pleasures of Life (1887), which incorporated an amended version of his canonical list and was also much reprinted. "Few men," it is said, "ever sat on so many committees and commissions, or were President of so many societies," and his family is reported to have thought—and, one suspects, to have complained—that he had an annual meeting to attend every day.20 Yet he made time for domestic life. In two marriages, his first wife having died after twenty-four years of marriage, Lubbock fathered eleven children. But among these many strenuous duties it was as Principal of the Working Men's College, a post he held from 1883 to 1896, that he played a special role in the history of "great books." In January 1886, on the occasion of an awards ceremony at the College, he gave the notable address that featured his list, and there ensued a battle of the best books, much of it conducted in the pages of the Pall Mall Gazette. The battle yielded in turn a Pall Mall Gazette "Extra," a separate supplement with any number of contributions to the debate and no small value as a Victorian artefact. This supplement sold at least forty thousand copies.21

A version of Lubbock's list, incomplete but sorted into categories, appeared in the Pall Mall Gazette for January 11, 1886. Then his address, along with a more complete list, was published in the February issue of The Contemporary Review as "The Pleasure of Reading." Lubbock is insistently non-dogmatic ("Every one who looks at the list will wish to suggest other books"), deferential ("one object which I have had in view is to stimulate others more competent far than I am to give us the advantage of their opinions"), and dependent on consensus ("I have picked out the books most frequently mentioned with approval by those who have referred...to the pleasure of reading").22 Yet the rigidifying power of the exercise is intimated by how closely Lubbock's hundred coincides with any such list we might ourselves construct if the fashion were not in disrepute. Some of his histories are predictably outmoded, but of the titles in the complete version of his list (though it is not included in the classified version published by the Gazette), only Samuel Smiles's Self-Help is now apt to raise the eyebrow of disdain. Lubbock's hundred is far from looking hopelessly out of date, even allowing for whatever amendments the twentieth century and its reconfiguring of literary studies might dictate. Here, in various categories, are Homer and Virgil; Aeschylus and Sophocles; Shakespeare, Milton, and Dante; Bacon, Descartes, and Locke; Thackeray, Dickens, and George Eliot. This continuity of value over the last century may be thought reassuring, troublesome, or a mixture of both, all depending on one's point of view.

With its advertisement on the inside front cover for an illustrated compendium of The Hundred Greatest Men and its list of the thirty or so contributions to the best books debate, the Pall Mall Gazette's "Extra" spun off by Lubbock's list is as good a guide to the manners of its time as could be imagined. Having sent the titles of Lubbock's hundred to various notables ("the best judges") with a request for contributions, the Gazette collected the answers in its "Extra." Among those whose opinions it solicited and whose responses it published were the Prince of Wales; Gladstone; the American minister E. J. Phelps, who described himself as "only a casual wanderer in the field of letters"23; the headmasters of Eton and Harrow; Professors Max Müller and James Bryce; John Ruskin, William Morris, and Wilkie Collins; Archdeacon (as he then was) Farrar and Cardinal Newman, then well into his eighties; the art critic and historian Lady Dilke, one of the few women to be polled; and the essayist, editor, and prolific novelist James Payn, who has a claim to have provided the most outspokenly memorable response. Time allows notice only of the Prince of Wales (known to some as "Edward the Caresser," implying a predilection that will turn out to be of some minor relevance), John Ruskin, Cardinal Newman, and James Payn.24

Predictably, it was not the Prince of Wales himself who answered the Gazette but his private secretary Francis Knollys writing on Edward's behalf, January 15, 1886:

    My Dear Sir: I am desired by the Prince of Wales to thank you for your letter..., and to assure you that he appreciates very sincerely the compliment which you are so good as to pay him in requesting him to draw up a catalogue of books which might seem to him most conducive to a healthy mental state. The application is one which would require much time and thought to answer satisfactorily, and the Prince speaks, therefore, with diffidence when he expresses an opinion that the list suggested by Sir John Lubbock could hardly be improved upon. His Royal Highness would, however, venture to remark that the works of Dryden should not be omitted from such an important and comprehensive list.—I beg to remain, yours truly, FRANCIS KNOLLYS.25

The Prince of Wales? Dryden? Francis Knollys' friend and biographer (in the Dictionary of National Biography), Sir Frederick Edward Grey Ponsonby, describes Knollys as both "a past master at letter writing" and "an omnivorous reader."26 Would it be lèse majesté to wonder if Lubbock's list ever made it to His Royal Highness's august eye? Perhaps Edward's private secretary thought it prudent to attribute some literary learning to his master. But, if so, he made a curious and, as it turned out, somewhat imprudent choice of authors to claim as Edward's own. In 1895 Frederic Harrison gently chided Lubbock for having put Dryden on his final list: "As to Dryden, he was a fine man, but I fear that courtesy to H.R.H. swayed you." Harrison goes on to ponder the extent of the Prince's literary learning: "Query if H.R.H. ever read more of Dryden than 'glorious John's' glorious burst—In the good days, etc. etc., When man on many multiplied his kind,/ Ere one to one was cursedly confined."27 Since Harrison is remembering Dryden's witty opening to Absalom and Achitophel, the profligate H.R.H. and the more than equally profligate King Charles II become clandestine brothers in this brief, irreverent episode of great bookery.

John Ruskin was less circumspect than Francis Knollys. Presented with Lubbock's hundred, he took his pen and brutally marked up the list (as displayed in the Gazette's poor facsimile reproduction). Those books that Ruskin regards as "needless" he puts his pen through lightly. Those he regards as "rubbish and poison" he puts his pen through "blottesquely," thereby almost utterly obliterating the names of Mill, Darwin, Adam Smith, Descartes, Berkeley, and Locke.28 Ruskin's response makes an instructive introduction to the idiosyncrasies of his thought. Subsequently, he sent a second letter explaining why he had delisted some great names, for example, Gibbon: "Dissolution and putrescence are alike common and unclean in all things; any wretch or simpleton may observe for himself, and experience himself, the processes of ruin; but good men study and wise men describe, only the growth and standing of things, not their decay." What's more: "Gibbon's is the worst English that was ever written by an educated Englishman."29

I end with Newman, who politely declined (in the third person) to play the game, "feeling that he is not equal to the task," and with James Payn, no lover of formal education (Eton he found "repulsive" and his Cambridge education "not worth a tenth" of its cost), who replied: "When I look through the list of books you send me I cannot help saying to myself, 'Here are the most admirable and varied materials for the formation of a prig.' There is no more common mistake in these days than the education of people beyond their wits.—Yours truly, JAMES PAYN." Even in the heyday of "Great Books," "great books," and "best hundred books," there was at least one reader in the person of James Payn who was ready, for whatever reasons, to say, vigorously, nay.30

V. After 1900
In the twentieth century the story of "great books" is better known. Some of us grew up in the company of Charles Eliot's "Five-Foot Shelf," though now it everywhere gathers dust. George Edward Woodberry and John Erskine, both of Columbia and both ardent great booksters in the early years of the century, are occasionally remembered, and the ghosts of Hutchins and Mortimer Adler still haunt our debates. Yet we fail to notice how deep some currents run that are tributaries of Victorian great-bookery or, at least, of thought that helped generate what could be called the habit of great books.

Take only the case of Lubbock's hundred. That it had commercial possibilities is evident. Though we cannot be sure how many individuals or circulating libraries may have furnished their shelves with Lubbock's list, we can be sure there were some who did; and such a list offers any publisher (within the constraints of copyright) a convenient vehicle both of organization and of advertisement. A more thorough study of "great books" would take into account the custom and contents of publishers' series—Everyman's and Modern Library volumes and Modern Library Giants and Penguins and more. It would also take notice of "hundred-best" lists that decorated the literary landscape after Lubbock. Consider the case of C. Lewis Hind, art critic and belletrist, born in 1862, died in 1927—dates that roughly encompass the "hundred-best" fad—who in 1925 published a gathering that he called, cheerfully, 100 Second Best Poems. The jokey idea of compiling the hundred second best poems could have occurred only to someone brought up in the pious environment of hundred first bests, and Hind's anthology is, on the one hand, a send-up of the fashion. On the other hand, it is a far from wholly irreverent collection of poems, however dreadful most of them are to our taste, for which Hind has some genuine affection: "If I were forced to supply a definition of a Second Best Poem I would say it is one that a reader likes, not because he has been told to like it, but because he loves it. He keeps it by him: it helps him to live."31 Choosing the hundred second best poems is an exercise no less demanding in fact than choosing the hundred first best. Indeed, proponents of the exercise could argue (as Lubbock in effect tried to do) that it was not the choice but the choosing that really mattered. Hind himself seems to have found the exercise addictive as well as, one may guess, remunerative: in 1927, the year of his death, he published 100 Best Books and, propitiously, 100 Best Prayers. Even for someone who could recognize the oddity of "hundred-bests," their lure was hard to resist.

And of course we still do not resist it in many a case besides that of "great books." In the discussion that followed this paper, one participant brought up our best seller lists and "top forties"—data that claim to be empirical but are subject to vagaries of one kind or another (to put the matter as non-tendentiously as possible) and have a direct advertising function that Sir John Lubbock could barely have guessed at when he generated the passion for "the hundred best." Another participant in the conference, much involved with institutional committees, remarked that even if we have renounced "the canon" in certain of its forms, we have not at all renounced the habits of thought that inspired Lubbock's list when we find ourselves in other contexts: with what regularity do university administrators survey the landscape under their care and announce that, at their university, nothing less than departments in the "top ten" will do?

The story of "great books" is not just about books great and not-quite-so-great, the canonical and the non-canonical; it is about processes of mind, particularly the Western mind in its post-Enlightenment and classificatory mode, and about processes of commerce, too. Since we are never, at least not in the classroom, going to be able to do without acts of highly self-conscious choice, the likelihood that some books are always going to be conceived as greater than some others (not to mention productive of greater revenues) is almost a sure bet.

W. B. Carnochan

 

Notes

(1)  Frank Kermode, The Classic: Literary Images of Permanence and Change (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983) 15; and Douglas Patey, "The Eighteenth Century Invents the Canon," MLS 18 (Winter 1988): passim.

(2) Henry David Thoreau, "Life Without Principle," Throreau: The Major Essays, ed. and intro. Jeffrey L. Duncan (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1972) 298. Although the quotation has become common currency—and was already so in the late nineteenth century—it is not especially easy for an amateur Thoreauvian to track down. I am grateful both to Eric Heath and to David Porter and his fellow computer networkers for help in locating its source.

(3)  W.B. Carnochan, The Battleground of the Curriculum: Liberal Education and American Experience (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1993) passim.

(4)  Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987) 344.

(5)  Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory: An Introduction (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983) 22. "If one were asked to provide a single explanation for the growth of English studies in the later nineteenth century, one could do worse than reply: 'the failure of religion'."

(6)  On Farrar's career see Reginald Farrar, The Life of Frederic William Farrar (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1904) ix, whose portrait of his father is written "in a spirit of loving reverence." The characterization of Farrar as having "vast popular influence upon the religious feeling and culture of the middle classes for fully forty years" is that of his biographer, the Rev. Ronald Bayne in "Farrar, Frederic William," Dictionary of National Biography, Second Supplement.

(7)  F.W. Farrar, "On Greek and Latin Verse-Composition as a General Branch of Education," Essays on a Liberal Education, ed. F.W. Farrar (1867 London: Macmillan, 1868) 206.

(8)  F.W. Farrar, Great Books: Bunyan, Shakespeare, Dante, Milton, The Imitation, Etc. (London: Isbister, 1898) 20, 65.

(9)  "The Month," The Sunday Magazine (Dec. 1898): 860; Isabel Smith, "Quite Out of Order," The Sunday Magazine (Dec. 1898): 797.

(10) Farrar, Great Books 221-22.

(11)  Auguste Comte, "Positivist Library in the Nineteenth Century," Auguste Comte and Positivism, ed. Gertrud Lenzer (New York: Harper and Row, 1975) 477; Frederic Harrison, Among My Books: Centenaries, Reviews, Memoirs (London: Macmillan, 1912) 395.

(12)  Harrison, 398. For the Positivist Calendar, see Gertrud Lenzer ed., Auguste Comte and Positivism (New York: Harper and Row, 1975) 472-73.

(13)  See "Comte, Auguste," Encyclopaedia Brittanica, 11th ed. The need for a definitive intellectual biography of Comte is now half way to being met with the publication of Mary Pickering, Auguste Comte: An Intellectual Biography, vol. I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993). On Comte's adoption of "cerebral hygiene," see 485-86.

(14)  Comte 474; F.W. Farrar, Great Books 8.

(15)  Comte 474.

(16)  James Pycroft, A Course of English Reading, Adapted to Every Taste and Capacity: With Anecdotes of Men of Genius (1844 Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1845) 3, 59.

(17)  On the circumstances of Lubbock's list, see Horace G. Hutchinson, Life of Sir John Lubbock, Lord Avebury, 2 vols. (London: Macmillan, 1914) vol. 1, 219f. and vol. 2, 89-101.

(18)  The Best Hundred Books, by the Best Judges. Pall Mall Gazette "Extra," no. 24. London (1886) 23.

(19)  Quoted in Hutchinson vol. 2, 92.

(20)  J.F.C. Harrison, A History of the Working Men's College 1854-1954 (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1954) 114-15.

(21)  In the Pall Mall Gazette "Extra," no. 26, "The Pictures of 1886," dated May 3, 1886, an advertisement for The Best Hundred Books announced that it was now in its "forty-first thousand."

(22) Sir John Lubbock, "On the Pleasure of Reading," The Contemporary Review 49 (Jan.-June 1886): 246.

(23) The Best Hundred Books 6.

(24)  Still others consulted (though not a complete list) were Carlyle, Swinburne, the Librarian of the British Museum, and the best-selling author of Lady Audley's Secret, Mary Elizabeth Braddon.

(25)  The Best Hundred Books 5.

(26)  See "Knollys, Francis," Dictionary of National Biography, 1922-1930.

(27)  Quoted in Hutchinson vol. 2, 56.

(28)  The Best Hundred Books 7.

(29)  The Best Hundred Books 9.

(30)  The Best Hundred Books 14. Payn's views of Eton and Cambridge are reported by Leslie Stephen in James Payn, The Backwater of Life, or Essays of a Literary Veteran, intro. Leslie Stephen (London: Smith, Elder, 1899) xiii; xxi-xxii.

(31)  100 Second Best Poems. Chosen by C. Lewis Hind (London: A.M. Philpot, 1925) 27. Hind's observation "that many of my One Hundred Second Best Poems are from newspapers" (20) has some particular interest in light of the inherited Thoreauvian habit of setting the Times against the Eternities.

© 1998 Stanford Humanities Review unless otherwise noted.