Gutenberg Project

I expect a lot of people know about the Gutenberg Project but for those that don’t it’s a website and organisation that provides free books on the internet, works that are not copyrighted. The collection pre-dates the development of the world wide web and by now the catalogue is pretty substantial. I first downloaded from the site back in the 90s, but just one or two things which I didn’t anyway read start to finish because I didn’t particularly want to read a book on my computer. A couple of years ago I got a MacBook Pro and suddenly reading on that was a lot easier and now I read quite a lot that way. Mostly just in AscII text format but more and more in html because you can get illustrations that way. The thing’s that better about plain text is that you can leave a bookmark which I do using the word “bookmark” – I’ve yet to come across a text that contains that word so no duplicates. I’m sure I could work out a way to bookmark html but it’s no great sweat to find your place anyway.

Here are a few of the books I’ve read over the last however many months,

Geronimo’s Story Of His Life by Geronimo

This passage concerns an attack on a mule back train.

There were three drivers with this train. One was killed and two escaped. The train was loaded with mescal, which was contained in bottles held in wicker baskets. As soon as we made camp the Indians began to get drunk and fight each other. I, too, drank enough mescal to feel the effect of it, but I was not drunk. I ordered the fighting stopped, but the order was disobeyed. Soon almost a general fight was in progress. I tried to place a guard out around our camp, but all were drunk and refused to serve. I expected an attack from Mexican troops at any moment, and really it was a serious matter for me, for being in command I would be held responsible for any ill luck attending the expedition. Finally the camp became comparatively still, for the Indians were too drunk to walk or even to fight. While they were in this stupor I poured out all the mescal, then I put out all the fires and moved the pack mules to a considerable distance from camp. After this I returned to camp to try to do something for the wounded. I found that only two were dangerously wounded. From the leg of one of these I cut an arrow
head, and from the shoulder of another I withdrew a spear point. When all the wounds had been cared for, I myself kept guard till morning. The next day we loaded our wounded on the pack mules and started for Arizona.

My Diary In Serbia by Monica M Stanley

Miss Stanley worked as a nurse in Serbia during World War I. This excerpt is another cautionary tale of alcohol abuse.

To-day a man was seen buying Serbian whisky; he gave it to two of the patients and made them drunk. One of my orderlies did the same and was sent away last week. Owing to this one man the whole lot of Austrian orderlies were called into line, twenty-seven in all, and they were marched to the office tent, where Major Partridge talked to them all, boxed the man’s ears who bought the whisky and sent him to prison forten days.

There are three kinds of punishment for prisoners: first, boxing their ears; second, sending to prison for ten days on bread and water and solitary confinement; and third, to shoot them. It makes me quite ill to see the men have their ears boxed. The Serbians seem really good to their prisoners; I hope ours in Germany are being treated as well.

The Private Diary of John Dee

The main impression gained from the Elizabethan genius’ diary is how much trouble money was for him. Some of the most interesting passages relate some of his dreams. Here are three examples.

Sept. 10th, my dream of being naked, and my skyn all overwrowght with work like some kinde of tuft mockado, with crosses blew and red; and on my left arme, abowt the arme, in a wreath, this word I red– sine me nihil potestis facere:

…this night I had the vision and shew of many bokes in my dreame, and among the rest was one great volume thik in large quarto, new printed, on the first page whereof as a title in great letters was printed “Notus in Judæa Deus.”

Nov. 24th, Saterday night I dremed that I was deade, and afterward my bowels wer taken out I walked and talked with diverse, and among other with the Lord Thresorer who was com to my howse to burn my bokes when I was dead, and thought he loked sourely on me.

A Woman’s Journey Around The World by Ida Pfeiffer

Pfeiffer made a westward circumference of the planet starting in 1846 and taking nearly two and a half years. Considering the risks she ran as a single woman she had very few close-calls with death and dishonour. Even relatively civilised places could be very dangerous. Here she is on a steamer travelling in the Black Sea.

19th September.  During the night there was much storm and rain.  I begged permission to seat myself on the cabin steps, which I received; but, after a few minutes, an order came from the commandant to take me under cover.  I was much surprised and pleased at this politeness, but I was soon undeceived when I was led into the large sailors’ cabin.  The people smelt horribly of brandy, and some of them had evidently taken too much.  I hastened back on to the deck, where, in spite of the raging of the elements, I felt more comfortable than among these well-bred Christians.

21st September.  This was a terrible night!  One of the sailors, who was healthy and well the day before, and had taken his supper with a good appetite, was suddenly attacked with cholera.  The cries of the poor fellow disturbed me greatly, and I went upon deck, but the heavy rain and piercing cold were not less terrible.  I had nothing but my mantle, which was soon wet through; my teeth chattered; the frost made me shake throughout; so there was nothing to be done but to go below again—to stop my ears, and remain close to the dying man.  He was, in spite of all help, a corpse before the end of eight hours.  The dead body was landed in the morning, at Bschada; it was packed in a heap of sail-cloth, and kept secret from the travellers.  The cabin was thoroughly washed with vinegar, and scoured, and no one else was attacked.

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