The Fremantle Diary

I read The Fremantle Diary in college, I found a very old copy collecting dust deep in the recesses of the library at The Citadel. When I first read The Killer Angels I was amused by the quirky little British Lieutenant Colonel climbing a tree to get a better view of the action – that was of course Fremantle. The movie version of the book portrayed him much the same. I suppose the comical thing is later in life I myself ran into British “tourist” in the most bizarre places, places where people are killed, robbed, starved and kidnapped – but here these folks were going on about the wonderfully economical holiday they were on.

I truly believe it is impossible to go nearly anywhere without unexpectedly encountering a British tourist – well almost anywhere else in the world, most of the States seem not to interest them. They can be very audacious in their travels.

Lieutenant Colonel James L. Fremantle, formerly of her Majesty’s Cold Stream Guards, was no exception, except perhaps his travels had an official purpose as well as the ordinary and expected British curiosity.

I was personally struck by his description, as he sat along the bank of the Potomac River, of the Army of Northern Virginia marching north in 1863. It is not at all the description you may have received in history books. He described an army that was often barefoot, racially integrated, equally equipped or not equipped across the formation and in incredibly high spirits.

His account of armed soldiers of color marching along side white soldiers was the first I had ever heard or read of such. It was not until the mid-1990’s that I saw the full account of this fact in other primary source documents.

Fremantle is a fun and informative read and I am happy to await the arrival of this volume so I can enjoy it again.

Retirement might be the Time for the Classical Education you Missed

Life, adult life at least, seems to be centered so much on the now and the future that we seem to have little time to focus on the past and classics. Philosophically speaking, it is hard to imagine who or what we really are without recognizing that we all merely stand on the shoulders of giants. Unfortunately, our education system has essentially succumbed to this way of seeing the world – we teach some technicalities but little of the classics. We do not produce deep critical thinkers.

Most “educated” people, even those with advanced degrees, are painfully ignorant of items that people much less formally educated understood well in the past. If your classical education is lacking a bit, like most other educated professionals, perhaps the freedom that military retirement brings should present the opportunity to rectify that situation.

My wife and I watched Christopher Robin last night – the philosophy of Winnie the Pooh is pretty profound; “some times the best somethings come from doing nothing”. That is a fun and excellent movie by the by.

We spend our lives doing something, doing things. In retirement, perhaps doing “nothing” and expanding one’s classical education is the best something we can do. Susan Bauer has written a wonderful guide to help shape what doing nothing to accomplish something might look like. This is a wonderful guide.

I highly recommend it!

From Amazon: The enduring and engaging guide to educating yourself in the classical tradition.

Have you lost the art of reading for pleasure? Are there books you know you should read but haven’t because they seem too daunting? In The Well-Educated Mind, Susan Wise Bauer provides a welcome and encouraging antidote to the distractions of our age, electronic and otherwise.

Newly expanded and updated to include standout works from the twenty-first century as well as essential readings in science (from the earliest works of Hippocrates to the discovery of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs), The Well-Educated Mind offers brief, entertaining histories of six literary genres―fiction, autobiography, history, drama, poetry, and science―accompanied by detailed instructions on how to read each type. The annotated lists at the end of each chapter―ranging from Cervantes to Cormac McCarthy, Herodotus to Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Aristotle to Stephen Hawking―preview recommended reading and encourage readers to make vital connections between ancient traditions and contemporary writing.

The Well-Educated Mind reassures those readers who worry that they read too slowly or with below-average comprehension. If you can understand a daily newspaper, there’s no reason you can’t read and enjoy Shakespeare’s sonnets or Jane Eyre. But no one should attempt to read the “Great Books” without a guide and a plan. Bauer will show you how to allocate time to reading on a regular basis; how to master difficult arguments; how to make personal and literary judgments about what you read; how to appreciate the resonant links among texts within a genre―what does Anna Karenina owe to Madame Bovary?―and also between genres.

In her best-selling work on home education, The Well-Trained Mind, the author provided a road map of classical education for parents wishing to home-school their children; that book is now the premier resource for home-schoolers. In The Well-Educated Mind, Bauer takes the same elements and techniques and adapts them to the use of adult readers who want both enjoyment and self-improvement from the time they spend reading. Followed carefully, her advice will restore and expand the pleasure of the written word.