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Essay Sampler: Models of Good Writing (Part 5)

Essays by Benjamin Franklin, James Weldon Johnson, and Stephen King

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Our fifth and final essay collection includes classic pieces by Francis Bacon, Benjamin Franklin, George Orwell, and Virginia Woolf alongside works by such contemporary writers as Steve Martin and Stephen King.

  1. ”The Death of My Father,” by Steve Martin (2002)
    “I sometimes think of our relationship graphically, as a bell curve. In my infancy, we were perfectly close. Then the gap widened to accommodate our differences and indifference. In the final days of his life, we again became perfectly close.”

  2. ”The Gettysburg Address,” by Abraham Lincoln (1863)
    “The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here.”
    Reading Quiz: "Gettysburg Address"
    See also:: “The Gettysburg PowerPoint Presentation,” by Peter Norvig

  3. ”How to Mark a Book,” by Mortimer Adler (1940)
    “Why is marking up a book indispensable to reading? First, it keeps you awake. (And I don't mean merely conscious; I mean awake.) In the second place; reading, if it is active, is thinking, and thinking tends to express itself in words, spoken or written. The marked book is usually the thought-through book. Finally, writing helps you remember the thoughts you had, or the thoughts the author expressed.”

  4. ”How to Say Nothing in 500 Words,” by Paul Roberts (1958)
    “Can you be expected to make a dull subject interesting? As a matter of fact, this is precisely what you are expected to do. This is the writer's essential task. All subjects, except sex, are dull until somebody makes them interesting. The writer's job is to find the argument, the approach, the angle, the wording that will take the reader with him.”

  5. ”Outcasts in Salt Lake City," by James Weldon Johnson (1933)
    “We smoked and talked over the situation we were in, the situation of being outcasts and pariahs in a city of our own and native land. Our talk went beyond our individual situation and took in the common lot of Negroes in well-nigh every part of the country, a lot which lays on high and low the constant struggle to renerve their hearts and wills against the unremitting pressure of unfairness, injustice, wrong, cruelty, contempt, and hate.”

  6. ”Of Studies,” by Francis Bacon (1625)
    “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.”

  7. "Street Haunting: A London Adventure," by Virginia Woolf (1930)
    “That is true: to escape is the greatest of pleasures; street haunting in winter the greatest of adventures. Still as we approach our own doorstep again, it is comforting to feel the old possessions, the old prejudices, fold us round; and the self, which has been blown about at so many street corners, which has battered like a moth at the flame of so many inaccessible lanterns, sheltered and enclosed.”

  8. ”Look at Your Fish!" by Samuel H. Scudder (1874)
    “'You have not looked very carefully; why,' he continued, more earnestly, 'you haven't even see one of the most conspicuous features of the animal, which is as plainly before your eyes as the fish itself; look again, look again!' and he left me to my misery.”

  9. ”Walking,” by Henry David Thoreau (1851)
    “I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits unless I spend four hours a day at least--and it is commonly more than that--sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields absolutely free from all worldly engagements. You may safely say a penny for your thoughts, or a thousand pounds. When sometimes I am reminded that the mechanics and shop-keepers stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but all the afternoon too, sitting with crossed legs, so many of them--as if the legs were made to sit upon, and not to stand or walk upon--I think that they deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago.”

  10. ”The Whistle,” by Benjamin Franklin (1779)
    "I conceive that great part of the miseries of mankind are brought upon them by the false estimates they have made of the value of things, and by their giving too much for their whistles."

  11. "Why Are Beggars Despised?" by George Orwell (1933)
    "People seem to feel that there is some essential difference between beggars and ordinary "working" men. They are a race apart--outcasts, like criminals and prostitutes. Working men "work," beggars do not 'work'; they are parasites, worthless in their very nature."

  12. ”The Writing Life,” by Stephen King (2006)
    "There's a mystery about creative writing, but it's a boring mystery unless you're interested in this one small animal, sometimes quite vicious, that makes its home in the bushes. It's a scruffy little thing with fleas and often smells of whatever nasty mess it's been rolling in."

ESSAY SAMPLERS: Models of Good Writing
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

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  6. Essay Sampler - Models of Good Writing (Part 5) - 12 Essays for Freshman Composition - Works by Ben Franklin, James Weldon Johnson, and Stephen King

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