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Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Your body may live in the cellar; but it’s your own fault if your mind lives there

Three weeks ago in my first webinar on how to write and persuade, I said "good writing starts with good reading".

This 80 year old piece by Bruce Barton - left, one of the best-ever copywriters and advertising men- sent me by a friend makes the point well.

"THE other night my friend
Ferrero and I spent a few years with Julius Caesar in ancient Rome.

We went with him on his campaigns in Gaul. Those were wonderful battles — wonderful fighters.

From a hill-top we could watch the whole battle — thousands of men driving at each other with their swords, hurling their javelins at short range. No smoke, no trenches; just primitive, hand-to-hand conflict.

We came back to Rome. The city was in a turmoil. Our great chariots thundered through the streets in triumph; our captives, our spoils, our banners made a magnificent procession. The crowds cheered wildly.

Another evening my friend Green and I had a great time together in ancient Britain.

We went down to Runnymede with a group of English nobles. They were powerful men, each a petty king in his own section; but every one of them took his life in his hand on that expedition.

And there we gathered around King John, and forced him, against his will, to put his name to the Magna Carta, the Great Charter which is the foundation of English liberties — and our own.

I had a fine time with Napoleon a few nights before.

I met him when he landed in France, after the escape from Elba.

Up through the southern provinces he came, gathering a few troops there, winning over by the force of his eloquence the regiments sent to capture him.

We arrived in Paris. Hurriedly, but with supreme confidence that the Little Corporal could never fail; we got together a makeshift army and set out to strike the winning blow at Waterloo.

That battle — I shall never forget it.

Another day I went over to old Concord, and spent the whole afternoon with Emerson.

We talked about Representative Men. Well, well, you say, what foolishness is this? What do you mean by saying you lived with Caesar and Napoleon and Emerson — all centuries apart, all long since dead?

If you do not know what I mean, then I pity you.

Have you never come home tired from your office, and with a book transported your foolish little mind clear out of the present day?

Have you never learned the joy of surrendering yourself to the companionship of the great men of the past?

Have you never sat in the little London Club and heard Sam Johnson thunder his philosophy of life?

Have you never sailed up and down the American coast with Captain John Smith, dodging the Indians and opening up a new continent?

Are you one of the wretched, poverty stricken souls who have never learned to escape from yourself through the blessed magic of good books?

Have you contented yourself all your life with the companionship of good pinochle-players, when you might have been a familiar friend of Socrates and Milton and Napoleon and Cromwell and Washington and Columbus and Shakespeare and Lincoln and Rousseau?

If so, cut out this from a great man and paste it in your hat:

I would rather be a beggar and dwell in a garret, than a king who did not love books.

There are some marvellous experiences coming to you.

You can in the evenings to come jar yourself out of the petty rut where circumstance has placed you, and become a familiar of the immortals.

You may learn to face the world with a new confidence, a new poise, a new self respect, because you have made yourself a citizen of the ages.

Do some real reading.

Do it for the joy it will give you: Do it for the good it will do you.

“Show me a family of readers,” said Napoleon, “and I will show you the people who rule the world.”

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