5.50.4: Lesson 50 — American Literature

Welcome to Year 5 of your American English studies with Maestro Sersea.  Throughout this year, we will cover a variety of American literary genres. You are encouraged to listen, read along, and discuss each American text you are assigned each week. 

We are now reading several

Four Minute Essays

Dr. Frank Crane

Volume X

Wm. H. Wise & Co., Inc.
New York Chicago

Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen
By Dr. Frank Crane

Directions: Please read, then share your insights and what you learned in the comments section below.


The path to perfection, it has been said, leads through a series of disgusts.

The sinner is converted not when he reforms, but when he experiences revulsion.

Dr. Chalmers defined the renovating force as the “expulsive power of a new affection.”

Any form of pleasure carries with it a sickening element after it passes a certain point.

The drunkard is not really cured until the smell of liquor repels him.

The smoker has not broken off his bad habit for good until tobacco nauseates him.

You are never free from a thing as long as you like it.

The woman who claims to have reformed, 27but who still likes to play with fire, lies; lies to herself probably as much as to you.

Disgust is the shadow cast by love. Where there is no shadow there is no substance.

The worth of a wife’s affection is exactly measured by her horror of disloyalty.

We climb by love; the rungs of the ladder are disgusts.

All adepts in soul matters have recognized the purifying and strengthening quality of renunciation. It is the gist of Buddhism. It is the meat of Christianity. It is the core of all important philosophies.

The wise of this world are they that avoid satiety.

The motto of Socrates was, “Never too much.”

The epicures of pleasure are those who are experts in the art of quitting.

The joys of wine are for those who know 28how to take a little. Those who drink all they want are wretched.

The “Dial” gives an extract from Bronson Alcott’s “Fruitlands,” which sheds light upon the serious problem of enjoying one’s self.

“On a revision of our proceedings it would seem that if we were in the right course in our particular instance, the greater part of a man’s duty consists in leaving alone much that he is in the habit of doing. It is a fasting from the present activity, rather than an increased indulgence in it, which, with patient watchfulness, tends to newness of life. ‘Shall I sip tea or coffee?’ the inquiry may be. No; abstain from all ardent, as from alcoholic, drinks. ‘Shall I consume pork, beef, or mutton?’ Not if you value health and life. ‘Shall I stimulate with milk?’ No. ‘Shall I warm my bathing-water?’ Not if cheerfulness is 29valuable. ‘Shall I clothe in many garments?’ Not if purity is aimed at. ‘Shall I prolong my hours, consuming animal oil and losing bright daylight in the morning?’ Not if a clear mind is an object. ‘Shall I teach my children the dogmas inflicted on myself, under the pretense that I am transmitting truth?’ Nay, if you love, intrude not these between them and the spirit of all truth.”

Whether or not we accept the rigor of these conclusions, certain it is that the only way to mount to perfection is by stepping upon our dead selves; the only way to a pleasure that is full of contentment is to have plenty of lively disgusts for pleasures of a lower order.

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