The Civilized Reader

Edited by William and Amy Fahey, The Civilized Reader joyfully reviews classic, good books — books that will enrich the life of your family and the minds of your children.

In George Herbert’s seventeenth century poem “Humilitie,” the Virtues sit on a throne to receive gifts at court from the animals who serve their masters. Humility steps down to receive the gifts the beasts present to the members of the court. The angry Lion surrenders its paw to Meekness, the fearful Hare presents her ears [...]

The French filmmaker and writer Marcel Pagnol died in 1974 at the age of 79 in Paris, having lived through one of the most morally destabilizing periods in history. He watched as two world wars devastated his country; he witnessed the permanent loss of the rural way of life in France through industrialization; he saw [...]

The French poet and philosopher Charles Péguy died in September, 1914 with a bullet through his head. He had anticipated the war that took his life—some say he even welcomed it, though his poetry resists that claim. He ​was​ a polemicist to the core and at odds with his temporal milieu, which was a modernity [...]

As the city’s recreation director, Sheppard took an interest in the youth he encountered in his work, and also volunteered to counsel troubled boys at the reformatory, “receiving nothing for it but the satisfaction of knowing he was helping boys no one else cared about.” His idea of “help,” however, assumes the form of social [...]

Every reader loves a good ghost story. And that is why Daphne du Maurier’s Romantic-Gothic novel, Rebecca has thrilled readers since its publication in 1938. The tale begins with a slight flavor of Jane Eyre: a wandering Byronic hero who meets a meek heroine, gauche and plain. Unlike Mr. Rochester, Maxim de Winter has no [...]

It is the best of tales, it is the worst of tales, it is for the age of foolishness, it is for the age of wisdom, it is an epic of belief, it is an epic of incredulity, it shines with Light, it shadows with Darkness, it springs with hope, it winters with despair, it [...]

Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. Unless the Lord keep the city, he watcheth in vain that keepeth it. It is vain for you to rise before light, rise ye after you have sitten, you that eat the bread of sorrow. When he shall give sleep to his [...]

“Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.”  ∼Matthew 6:34 Evil is an ever-present reality of our lives, but it is one with which we have difficulty reconciling ourselves. Why does evil happen to good people, or for that matter, why does evil happen at all? The problem of evil in the world—closely related to [...]

A novel about a self-sacrificing woman whose life of heroic suffering for the sake of her marriage and children exemplifies moral courage, Ida Elisabeth traces the heroine’s life from the folly of an adolescent scandal in which she loses her virginity to the period of adult womanhood as a mother of three children. Several years [...]

2018 marks the centennial of the death of Joyce Kilmer in northern France, 1918 (b. 1886, New Brunswick, NJ). In his day, some deemed him “America’s leading Catholic poet and lecturer of his generation, often compared to British contemporaries G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc.” Today, I fear that most Americans have heard his name only [...]

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.   ∼ Groucho Marx The affair is not over yet. Though some affairs must end, others must go on. Yes, though civilization is uncivilized, though truth is relative, though ugly is beautiful, though God is [...]

Thanks to the adulterators of children’s literature, the natural anticipations when approaching forgotten classics have been skewed. Everyone expects that everything will be picturesque, nice, and most importantly, safe. For reality is far too dangerous, far too harsh a thing, and children must be protected from it at all costs. Real stories for real boys, [...]

A young lady I know won a Kindle in an academic contest. She is a voracious reader. In eighth grade, she enjoys Austen, Chesterton, Lewis, and Wodehouse, among many others. A trail of books seems to follow her everywhere she goes. Her parents, wary of potential negative effects of screens on growing minds, would have [...]

"The Knight’s Tale” introduces four knightly figures who epitomize the ideals of their moral code. The narrator, one of the pilgrims traveling on the pilgrimage to the shrine of Thomas a Becket, and introduced by Chaucer as “a worthy man,/ Who from the very moment he first began/ To ride, searching adventure, held chivalry/ In [...]

Of the many symptoms and manifestations of pride—disobedience, stubbornness, willfulness, boastfulness, vanity, presumption, arrogance—spiritual pride does not express itself in such visible, noticeable ways as these other attributes. In Chesterton’s short story “The Hammer of God” the Reverend Wilfred Bohun enjoys the reputation of a holy Anglican priest who lives an austere life of self-denial [...]

On January 1, 1818, Mary Shelly anonymously published the first edition of Frankenstein. Because her husband, the renowned Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, helped her edit the original manuscript and wrote a preface to the first edition, most critics, reviewers, and readers assumed he had written this Gothic tale that was, arguably, the first science [...]

The merry and the morbid have ever been cater-cousins. Man has for ages immemorial eaten, drunk, and made merry for the simple reason that tomorrow he dies. Let life be merry while it lasts, and especially, God willing, at Christmastime. And why not? Let nothing you dismay. Christmastime is a time when dark death was [...]

When St. Nick drives his miniature sleigh full of toys drawn by eight tiny reindeer to the snowy housetop, and drops to the sooty hearth below, the paterfamilias is bidden to attend. It is the father who hears “the prancing and pawing of each little hoof,” and springs from his bed to stand witness and [...]

Et voilà. The cold corpse lay in Compartment #2 of the Orient Express, stabbed twelve times, no murder weapon, no obvious motive, victim’s pistol ready under the pillow, door locked and chained from within, mysterious clues (or blinds) littered about, a broken watch, a ghostly intruder, a scarlet kimono, a perfect murder and a perfect [...]

Almost twenty-five hundred years ago, a Greek decided that his era was so unique and exciting that he was going to learn as much as he could about it by any means that he could. He would travel to where the great events of the age had occurred, learn about the cultures of all the [...]

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