Fr. Ronald Knox on Sheepdogs and the Clergy

A sheep dog enjoying his job.

The shepherd doesn’t run after the sheep when they get straying; he shouts to his dog, and the dog runs after them, barking at them in a very rude way. When you see a sheep dog doing that, it ought to remind you of my sermons; you should think of the clergy yapping at you and saying, “You ought to do this,” and “You mustn’t do that”; they do it because they are acting under the Shepherd’s orders. I don’t say the clergy don’t sometimes enjoy it; but then, I dare say the sheep dog enjoys it.— F … [Read more...]

Harry Dresden on Elevators

My office is in a building in midtown Chicago. It’s an older building, and not in the best of shape, especially since there was that problem with the elevator last year. I don’t care what anyone says, that wasn’t my fault. When a giant scorpion the size of an Irish wolfhound is tearing its way through the roof of your elevator car, you get real willing to take desperate measures.— Jim Butcher, Grave Peril … [Read more...]

Paarfi of Roundwood: On Brevity


Paarfi of Roundwood is the supposed author of Steven Brust's "Khaavren" romances, which begin with that most excellent tale The Phoenix Guards. Paarfi, a Hawklord of the Dragaeran Empire, is a scholar and historian who has learned (evidently through first-hand experience) that the rewards of scholarship are great but unsustaining, while the rewards of writing popular trash for the consumption and amusement of the masses put dinner on the table. The Phoenix Guards is one such amusement, a tale … [Read more...]

Jack Aubrey on Valued Servants

Every captain in the Royal Navy had his personal steward, a manservant responsible for attending to his clothing and anything else he needed. Jack's steward is an old seadog named Preserved Killick, a man of rude habits, a grumpy disposition, and a tendency to raid the Captain's stores for dainties, but also a man of great and undoubted loyalty. This passages follows after a particularly positive evidence of Killick's devotion to his Captain's needs:Killick was in many ways a wretched … [Read more...]

Jack Aubrey on Midshipmen

man of war

In the Royal Navy in Jack Aubrey's day, there was no naval academy. Boys from naval families went to sea at a young age as "midshipmen", also known as "young gentlemen". They were treated as officers—of a sort—so as to learn both seamanship and the art of command, and might with luck and skill ultimately "pass for lieutenant" and become real officers. But as they came to sea before showing any affinity for it, and because they were often quite young, the midshipman's birth on a man-of-war was … [Read more...]

Stephen Maturin on Losing at Chess

Chess men

Captain Jack Aubrey is on a mission in the Baltic, and accompanying him is a young Swedish officer named Jagiello. One evening after dinner, Stephen Maturin and Jagiello have occasion to play chess.‘What is that noise, like bears on the roof?’ asked Jagiello, breaking off.‘It is the launching of a boat. And from the howling of the mariners I collect that it will be some time before we see our dessert. What say you to a game of chess while we are waiting? It may be no conclusive test … [Read more...]

Jack Aubrey on Proper Table Manners at Sea

Captain Jack Aubrey of His Majesty's Navy has invited several officers and guests to dinner; but due to circumstances beyond his control he has no private stores, and they must eat what the crew eats.‘Perhaps you would be so kind as to cut up Mr Jagiello’s beef for him,’ said Jack to Mr Hyde, nodding at his guest’s bandaged hand.‘By all means, sir,’ cried the lieutenant, and he set to his laborious task. The beef had been to the West Indies and back, and now, in its raw state, it could … [Read more...]

Stephen Maturin on Grumbling

I chose this quote from Patrick O'Brian's Desolation Island because it seems to me to particularly capture a lot of what I read on-line. HMS Leopard is in the Great Southern Ocean, trying to avoid a whacking great Dutch warship, and Stephen Maturin is pondering two of her officers:He had the impression that both Grant and Fisher were in a state of powerful fear. There were no evident, direct signs of it, but both complained very often: a stream of blame and disapproval of the modern state … [Read more...]

Patrick O’Brian on Unsuccessful Interior Design

Lord Clonfert had the cabin of his sloop-of-war decorated in the Eastern style; now he has been promoted to a post-ship, and has brought his belongings with him:When he led Stephen to his cabin he showed its furnishings with a somewhat tiresome exultation, though insisting that this arrangement was merely temporary: ‘not quite the thing for a post-captain – passable in a sloop, but a trifle shabby in a frigate.’ The cabin, like most of those in rated ships, was a strikingly beautiful room: in … [Read more...]