Titans of Literature: From Homer to the Present

Titans of Literature: From Homer to the Present

Titans of Literature: From Homer to the Present

Titans of Literature: From Homer to the Present

Excerpt

AFTER I had written this book and after C. Hartley Grattan and I had finished reading the proofs, Mr. Grattan put into my hands a bibelot by Raymond Pearl, professor of biology in the Medical School of Johns Hopkins University, and asked if I had read it. I had not. It is the despair of book-lovers that they cannot have read all the good books and it is their delight constantly to discover new ones.

Professor Pearl's little work is called To Begin With and its subtitle is Being Prophylaxis against Pedantry. That subtitle enchanted me, for the subtitle to this book might be, I think, an "antidote to pedantry." Professor Pearl gives a list of books which he believes all who emerge from college into the practice of medicine should be acquainted with. His list of titles, with brief comments on each, runs from Lucretius and Galen, through Balzac and Anatole France down to Alfred North Whitehead Introduction to Mathematics, Paul de Kruif Microbe Hunters, H. L. Mencken On Women and James Branch Cabell Straws and Prayer-Books. The intention is to make the medical student, who reads these books, humane, tolerant, wise in worldly matters and not pedantic or bigoted. Like the late Frank Moore Colby, the encyclopedist and fine essayist, Professor Pearl is a scholar and a specialist who realizes that one of the vices of scholarship and specialization is pedantry. He calls it an "insidious and corrupting vice."

I agree with him, with results which will be seen in the body of this book. I have dispensed with footnotes, insofar as possible. I believe that extensive bibliographies are interesting only to specialists and that they are usually unread because the specialist makes his . . .

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