Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Books to Read in the Wilderness

In addition to being a very physically active man, Theodore Roosevelt was a voracious reader and writer. I was amazed at the number of books he and his party lugged through the jungle. Below are a few of his journal entries from Through the Brazilian Wilderness. Please note that the parenthetical explanations are mine.

“A party such as ours always needs books… I strove to supply the deficiency with spare volumes of Gibbon (The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire – six volumes). At the end of our march we were usually far ahead of the mule train, and the rain was also usually falling. Accordingly we would sit about under trees, or under a shed or lean-to, if there was one, each solemnly reading a volume of Gibbon—and no better reading can be found. In my own case, as I had been having rather a steady course of Gibbon, I varied him now and then with a volume of Arsene Lupin (French crime fiction) lent me by Kermit.”

Later he wrote, “Some of us read books. Colonel Rondon, neat, trim, alert, and soldierly, studied a standard work on applied geographical astronomy. Father Zahm read a novel by Fogazzaro (Italian). Kermit read Camoens (Portuguese poet) and a couple of Brazilian novels, O Guarani and Innocencia. My own reading varied from Quentin Durward (by Sir Walter Scott) and Gibbon to the “Chanson de Roland” (French epic poem).”

Other books mentioned: Thomas a Kempis, Oxford Book of French Verse, La Fontaine, and Victor Hugo’s Guitare. If you read my review last week, you’ll know that Roosevelt’s expedition was no picnic. He must have been pretty determined to drag those books around. I love peaking into people’s libraries, don’t you?

1 comment:

the Ink Slinger said...

Teddy lugged 6 volumes of Gibbon around? Kind of adds new meaning to the word "determined". I feel awkward carrying more than one book around in the car! :)