Literature

About this Collection

Serious discussions of liberty are not limited to academic works. Poets, playwrights, and novelists have had much to contribute as well.

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Not Categorized

Areopagitica (1644) (Jebb ed.)

John Milton (author)

This is Milton’s famous defense of freedom of speech and the press, in an edition based upon Sir Richard Jebb’s lectures at Cambridge in 1872, with extensive notes and commentaries. Mlton’s work was a protest against Parliament’s…

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Part 1 (The Oxford Shakespeare)

William Shakespeare (author)

The 1916 Oxford University Press edition of all of Shakespeare’s plays and poems. It was published on the 300th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 1616. Because of the large size of this file the book has been split into 2 parts.…

December 2022: Classical Tragedy and the World of Ideas

Please join us in December 2022 for a Virtual Reading Group with Aeon Skoble.

Pre-registration is required, and we ask you to register only if you can be present for ALL sessions. Most readings are available online; one book must be…

LIBERTY MATTERS

The Water Truce

By: Anika Prather

LIBERTY MATTERS

LIBERTY MATTERS

LIBERTY MATTERS

LIBERTY MATTERS

LIBERTY MATTERS

LIBERTY MATTERS

THE READING ROOM

Homer’s Iliad and the Causes of the Trojan War: Kidnapping Helen

By: Alexander Schmid

In the first part of Causes of the Trojan War, we discussed the Apple of Eris incident and who was truly at fault. Was it Eris, the goddess of Discord's, fault for throwing the apple marked kallisti in the first place?

THE READING ROOM

Loci Amoeni: Pleasant Places and the Golden Ages in Ancient Poetry: Part Two

By: Alexander Schmid

In the second part of the study of loci amoeni, the pleasant places of the ancient world, we will continue to examine Homer’s Odyssey, now focusing on the location of one of its semi-divine antagonists. We will then conclude our…

THE READING ROOM

Marlowe’s Machiavels and Malta’s Broken Markets

By: Lucie Alden

It is hard to think of a theorist more straw manned and vilified than Niccolò Machiavelli, though Adam Smith and Karl Marx might give him a run for his money. Machiavelli’s writings, published in 1532 Italy, quickly became the stuff…
An Old Babylonian Version of the Gilgamesh Epic

Gilgamesh (author)

The book contains two fragments of a Babylonian version of the Gilgamesh epic, the Pennsylvanian tablet” and the “Yale table”, with translation, commentary and images of the tablets.

THE READING ROOM

OLL’s September Birthday: Samuel Johnson (September 18, 1709 – December 13, 1784)

By: Peter Carl Mentzel

September’s OLL Birthday essay is in honor of Samuel Johnson, essayist, lexicographer, poet, moralist, and critic who has been called “the most distinguished man of letters in English history” and “The Great Cham of Literature.”

One Fell Swoop: Reading All of Shakespeare’s Plays

Our new series of Shakespeare Virtual Reading Groups will explore all of Shakespeare's plays over the course of about 3 years. We'll look at one play a month, with Liberty Fund's Sarah Skwire leading one 90 minute discussion for each…

THE READING ROOM

Passion and Virtue in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Martians

By: Nathaniel Birzer

Of the most famous and influential of the early pulp writers, Edgar Rice Burroughs is now, sadly, probably the least known, despite his vast influence on major science-fiction pop culture figures such as George Lucas and Ray…

LIBERTY MATTERS

Why Read the Ancients Today? (November/December 2022)

Roosevelt Montás (contributor)

Why have ancient texts fallen out of favor today? Once read widely- both in homes and schools- texts by "dead white men" are looked upon today with disfavor. Yet some scholars- and readers- insist upon their enduring...

LIBERTY MATTERS

Why Read the Ancients Today? (November/December 2022)

By: Roosevelt Montás, Anika Prather, Aeon J. Skoble, and Jennifer A. Frey

Why have ancient texts fallen out of favor today? Once read widely- both in homes and schools- texts by "dead white men" are looked upon today with disfavor. Yet some scholars- and readers- insist upon their enduring significance,…
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Quotes

Literature & Music

Aeschylus has Prometheus denounce the lord of heaven for unjustly punishing him for giving mankind the gift of fire (5thC BC)

Aeschylus

Presidents, Kings, Tyrants, & Despots

After the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, John Milton was concerned with both how the triumphalist monarchists would treat the English people and how the disheartened English people would face their descendants (1660)

John Milton

Economics

Alexander Pope on how private “self love” can lead to the public good (1732)

Alexander Pope

Presidents, Kings, Tyrants, & Despots

Cato denounces generals like Julius Caesar who use success on the battlefield as a stepping stone to political power (1710)

Joseph Addison

Literature & Music

Confucius edited this collection of poems which contains a poem about “Yellow Birds” who ravenously eat the crops of the local people, thus alienating them completely (520 BC)

Confucius

Odds & Ends

Emerson on selecting the right gift to give at Christmas and New Year (1844)

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Colonies, Slavery & Abolition

Emerson on the right of self-ownership of slaves to themselves and to their labor (1863)

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Food & Drink

Erasmus argues that Philosophizing is all very well but there is also a need for there to be a Philosopher of the Kitchen (1518)

Desiderius Erasmus

Free Trade

Harriet Martineau condemns tariffs as a “vicious aristocratic principle” designed to harm the ordinary working man and woman (1861)

Harriet Martineau

Literature & Music

In Measure for Measure, Shakespeare has Isabella denounce the Duke’s deputy for being corrupted by power, “it is excellent To have a giant’s strength, but it is tyrannous To use it like a giant” (1623)

William Shakespeare

Literature & Music

In Joseph Addison’s play Cato, Cato is asked what it would take for him to be Caesar’s “friend” - his answer is that Caesar would have to first “disband his legions” and then “restore the commonwealth to liberty” (1713)

Joseph Addison

Literature & Music

In Percy Shelley’s poem Liberty, liberty is compared to a force of nature sweeping the globe, where “tyrants and slaves are like shadows of night” which will disappear in “the van of the morning light” (1824)

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Literature & Music

In Shakespeare’s Henry V the king is too easily persuaded by his advisors that the English economy will continue to function smoothly, like obedient little honey-bees in their hive, while he is away with his armies conquering France (1598)

William Shakespeare

Literature & Music

In Shakespeare’s Henry V the soldier Williams confronts the king by saying that “few die well that die in a battle” and that “a heavy reckoning” awaits the king that led them to it (1598)

William Shakespeare

Literature & Music

In Shakespeare’s The Tempest Caliban complains about the way the European lord Prospero taught him language and science then enslaved him and dispossessed him of the island on which he was born (1611)

William Shakespeare

Freedom of Speech

John Milton defends the right of freedom of the press and likens government censors to an “oligarchy” and a free press to a “flowery crop of knowledge” (1644)

John Milton

Literature & Music

John Milton in Paradise Regained has Christ deplore the “false glory” which comes from military conquest and the despoiling of nations in battle (1671)

John Milton

Presidents, Kings, Tyrants, & Despots

John Milton laments the case of a people who won their liberty “in the field” but who then foolishly “ran their necks again into the yoke” of tyranny (1660)

John Milton

Literature & Music

John Milton on Satan’s Reign in Hell

John Milton

Freedom of Speech

John Milton on the tyranny of government licensed printing (1644)

John Milton

Literature & Music

John Milton on War and Peace

John Milton

Freedom of Speech

John Milton opposed censorship for many reasons but one thought sticks in the mind, that “he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself” (1644)

John Milton

Literature & Music

John Milton’s Advice to Kings

John Milton

War & Peace

John Trenchard identifies who will benefit from any new war “got up” in Italy: princes, courtiers, jobbers, and pensioners, but definitely not the ordinary taxpayer (1722)

John Trenchard

Parties & Elections

John Trenchard on the real nature of political parties (1721)

John Trenchard

Economics

Lord Macaulay writes a devastating review of Southey’s Colloquies in which the Poet Laureate’s ignorance of the real condition of the working class in England is exposed (1830)

Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay

War & Peace

Lysistrata’s clever plan to end the war between Athens and Sparta (411 BC)

Aristophanes

Sport and Liberty

Macaulay and Bunyan on the evils of swearing and playing hockey on Sunday (1830)

Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay

The State

Macaulay argues that “the main end” of government is the protection of persons and property (1839)

Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay

Presidents, Kings, Tyrants, & Despots

Macaulay argues that politicians are less interested in the economic value of public works to the citizens than they are in their own reputation, embezzlement and"jobs for the boys" (1830)

Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay

Rhetoric of Liberty

Macaulay wittily denounces a tyrannical priest as being an intermediate grub between sycophant and oppressor (1837)

Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay

The State

Michel Montaigne on the danger of becoming accustomed to state power (1580)

Michel de Montaigne

Presidents, Kings, Tyrants, & Despots

Milton argues that a Monarchy wants the people to be prosperous only so it can better fleece them (1660)

John Milton

Literature & Music

Milton on Eve’s discovery of the benefits of the division of labor in the Garden of Eden (1667)

John Milton

Presidents, Kings, Tyrants, & Despots

Milton on the ease with which tyrants find their academic defenders (1651)

John Milton

War & Peace

Milton warns Parliament’s general Fairfax that justice must break free from violence if “endless war” is to be avoided (1648)

John Milton

Presidents, Kings, Tyrants, & Despots

Montaigne argues that is right and proper for a people to speak ill of a “faulty prince” after his death (1580)

Michel de Montaigne

Law

Montesquieu and law as a fishing net (1720)

Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu

Presidents, Kings, Tyrants, & Despots

Montesquieu states that the Roman Empire fell because the costs of its military expansion introduced corruption and the loyalty of its soldiers was transferred from the City to its generals (1734)

Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu

Economics

Montesquieu thought that commerce improves manners and cures “the most destructive prejudices” (1748)

Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu

Politics & Liberty

Montesquieu was fascinated by the liberty which was enjoyed in England, which he attributed to security of person and the rule of law (1748)

Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu

Literature & Music

On Achilles' new shield Vulcan depicts the two different types of cities which humans can build on earth; one based on peace and the rule of law; the other based on war, killing, and pillage (900 BC)

Homer

Literature & Music

Percy Bysshe Shelley on the new Constitution of Naples which he hoped would be “as a mirror to make … blind slaves see” (1820)

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Property Rights

Percy Shelley on the two types of property [1820]

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Literature & Music

Shakespeare has King Henry IV reflect on the reasons for invading the Holy Land, namely to distract people from domestic civil war and to “march all one way” under his banner (1597)

William Shakespeare

Literature & Music

Shakespeare in Pericles on how the rich and powerful are like whales who eat up the harding working “little fish” (1608)

William Shakespeare

Literature & Music

Shakespeare on sweet love remembered (1609)

William Shakespeare

Presidents, Kings, Tyrants, & Despots

Shakespeare on the ruler who has “the power to hurt and will do none” (1609)

William Shakespeare

Taxation

Sven Forkbeard and new Yuletide Taxes (11thC)

Snorre Sturlason

War & Peace

The 2nd Day of Christmas: Petrarch on the mercenary wars in Italy and the need for peace on earth (1344)

Francesco Petrarch

War & Peace

The 4th Day of Christmas: Dante Alighieri on human perfectibility and peace on earth (1559)

Dante Alighieri

War & Peace

The City of War and the City of Peace on Achilles' new shield (900 BC)

Homer

War & Peace

The Duke of Burgundy asks the Kings of France and England why “gentle peace” should not be allowed to return France to its former prosperity (1599)

William Shakespeare

Presidents, Kings, Tyrants, & Despots

Thomas Gordon asks whether tyranny is worse than anarchy (1728)

Thomas Gordon

Presidents, Kings, Tyrants, & Despots

Thomas Gordon believes that bigoted Princes are subject to the “blind control” of other “Directors and Masters” who work behind the scenes (1737)

Thomas Gordon

War & Peace

Thomas Gordon gives a long list of ridiculous and frivolous reasons why kings and tyrants have started wars which have led only to the enslavement and destruction of their own people (1737)

Thomas Gordon

Literature & Music

Voltaire in Candide says that “tending one’s own garden” is not only a private activity but also productive (1759)

Voltaire

Philosophy

Voltaire lampooned the excessively optimistic Leibnitzian philosophers in his philosophic tale Candide by exposing his characters to one disaster after another, like a tsunami in Lisbon, to show that this was not “the best of all possible worlds”

Voltaire

Economics

Voltaire on the Benefits which Trade and Economic Abundance bring to People living in the Present Age (1736)

Voltaire

Literature & Music

William Shakespeare farewells his lover in a Sonnet using many mercantile and legal metaphors (1609)

William Shakespeare

Literature & Music

With the return of spring the memories of Petrarch’s beloved Laura awaken a new pang in him (late 14thC)

Francesco Petrarch

Notes About This Collection

See also the extracts, chapters, and introductions in the Literature section of the Ideas page.