Story type: Essay
An interesting discussion progresses in Chicago. Mr. Sam T. Clover has asked this startling question:
“If you were bound for a desert island, and could take with you only ten books, which ten books would you select?”
Whoever is refined and well read in Chicago seems to have answered Mr. Clover’s question. Mr. Clover introduces each guesser with a graceful speech; then the guesser solemnly names ten books.
The selections are, from the moral viewpoint, admirable. The Bible is omitted rarely, and the Rubaiyat never. It is amazing to see how many inhabitants of Cook County would be unhappy on a desert island without Col. Omar. —-
It may not be permissible for a Yellow Editor to break into a Cook County literary fiesta. We dislike to run the risk–but we shall run it.
First we remark that a man living on a desert island needs no books at all.
Reading books is an idle occupation unless you make your reading profitable to other human beings, and that you cannot do on a desert island.
The trouble with many readers is this: They read as though they WERE on a desert island. They sop up literature or facts as a sponge sops up water; then, like human sponges, do nothing with their wisdom. They read for themselves; they read to increase their egotism and self-approval, and for no other purpose. —-
But, after walking into an intellectual parlor above our station in life, it certainly does not become us to be finicky.
We’ll tell as quickly as possible what it is that surprises us:
NOT ONE COOK COUNTY THINKER MENTIONS A BOOK ON ASTRONOMY.
A man on a desert island has a little sand, some goats and a few miles of ocean around him–nothing else in sight.
But above him, and on the low plains of the horizon, the great universe is spread out. Vega flashes overhead, beckoning to this little solar system that is rolling on toward her.
The old, benevolent stars look through cold space at our little sun that was not even hatched in their yesterday.
The Milky Way, that Mississippi of the sky, rolls across the thousands of billions of miles of space.
The messenger-boy comets go on their long, elliptical errands. The colored planets and moons, the nebular masses and the cold, dead worlds lying in the silent morgue of eternity tell the wonderful story of cosmic grandeur.
We should think that a man on a desert island, living constantly in contemplation of God’s real work, would want to study that work.
The greatest book ON MEN that ever was written on this earth is but an analysis of the emotions of imperfect human minds. A good ASTRONOMY is a guide book of GOD’S kingdom.
Many Cook County litterateurs select Carlyle for a desert island companion. Have they not observed that Carlyle’s mind was fixed on contemplation of the universe?–“the eternal silences” were his friends. And when he seeks monkeyfied human soldiers, booted and spurred, he asks, “What thinks Bootes of them, as he leads his hunting dogs across the zenith in a leash of sidereal fire?”
O, Cook County thinkers, inhabitants of a small corner of this small ant-hill, drop your alcohol-loving tentmaker–Omar–forget your half-hearted fondness for Milton. Buy “Ball’s Story of the Heavens,” or even some simpler astronomy; spend four dollars and four weeks finding out how grand is our real home, the boundless, beautiful universe.
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