Last week, I told you about The Road to Character by David Brooks. Well, I couldn't resist adding an additional post about more people profiled in that book, and what they left us. For last week's post, click here.
Mary Ann Evans, who wrote under the name George Eliot, had a tendency to misplace her affections until she ran into George Lewis. He encouraged and supported her, even though they were ostracized from society because Lewis was still technically married. Evans' gift was perception, and she wrote a masterpiece, Middlemarch, praised by Virginia Woolf as one of the few books in English written for grownups.
Augustine of Hippo loved his mother. He was also a brilliant thinker and debater, but had a deep spiritual restlessness. Monica, his mother, was unlettered but a fervent Christian, constantly trying to get her son to join her faith. While the peak of Augustine's spiritual crisis did not occur in her presence, she was over the moon when she learned that Augustine had joined the fold. Augustine writes of all this in his Confessions.
Brooks also profiles two essayists: Samuel Johnson and Michel de Montaigne. Johnson saw his whole life as a self-improvement campaign, and went at it hammer and tongs. Montaigne also tried to improve himself, but went at it more gently and with more humor. This leads to the observation by one of Brooks' students that Johnson is like a rapper from the East Coast, while Montaigne is more like one from the West Coast. Montaigne's main work is simply called Complete Essays. Samuel Johnson wrote constantly (it was, after all, how he made his meager living), and for his essays, it would be hard to go wrong with either Essays From the Rambler, Adventurer, and Idler or The Six Chief Lives From Johnson's Lives of the Poets. I would be remiss if I did not mention Samuel Johnson's Dictionary, perhaps the ultimate collection of short essays.
Here's part two of your reading list. Are there books you would add? What wisdom, if any, did they impart to you? Let us know in the comments.