Learn Your Classics!

Botticelli’s Venus

Botticelli’s Venus

The English letters are twenty-six in number. There is nothing like beginning at the beginning; and we shall now therefore enumerate them, with the view also of rendering their insertion subsidiary to mythological instruction, in conformity with the plan on which some account of the Heathen Deities and ancient heroes is prefixed or subjoined to a Dictionary. We present the reader with a form of Alphabet composed in humble imitation of that famous one, which, while appreciable by the dullest taste, and level to the meanest capacity, is nevertheless that by which the greatest minds have been agreeably inducted into knowledge.


A was Apollo, the god of the carol,
B stood for Bacchus, astride on his barrel;
C for good Ceres, the goddess of grist,
D was Diana, that wouldn’t be kiss’d;
E was nymph Echo, that pined to a sound,
F was sweet Flora, with buttercups crown’d;
G was Jove’s pot-boy, young Ganymede hight,
H was fair Hebe, his barmaid so tight;
I, little Io, turn’d into a cow,
J, jealous Juno, that spiteful old sow;
K was Kitty, more lovely than goddess or muse;
L, Laocoon—I would’nt have been in his shoes!
M was blue-eyed Minerva, with stockings to match,
N was Nestor, with grey beard and silvery thatch;
O was lofty Olympus, King Jupiter’s shop,
P, Parnassus, Apollo hung out on its top;
Q stood for Quirites, the Romans, to wit;
R, for rantipole Roscius, that made such a hit;
S, for Sappho, so famous for felo-de-se,
T, for Thales the wise, F.R.S. and M.D.
U was crafty Ulysses, so artful a dodger,
V was hop-a-kick Vulcan, that limping old codger;
Wenus—Venus I mean—with a W begins,
(Vell, if I ham a Cockney, wot need of your grins?)
X was Xantippe, the scratch-cat and shrew,
Y, I don’t know what Y was, whack me if I do!
Z was Zeno the Stoic, Zenobia the clever,
And Zoilus the critic, Victoria for ever!—Percival Leigh (1813-1889), Paul Prendergast, or: The Comic Schoolmaster

Not Exactly a Chess Master

The Young Would-Be Chess Master at Age 9 or 10

The Young Would-Be Chess Master at Age 11

Ever since I first learned the moves at the age of eight, I loved chess; but I had to love it from afar. The fact of the matter is that I was never very good at it.

My high point was about thirty years ago when I was a correspondence chess Class B International player. In the day before e-mail, I played chess—move by move—using special postcards that I purchased from the U.S. Chess Federation. I had up to three days to formulate a response and send a card to my opponent. To avoid making mistakes, it took a lot of time, up to three or four hours per move once we had reached the middle game. Because of computers, I don’t think that correspondence chess exists any more in the snail mail world.

Now, when I have a lot of time on my hands (which is almost never), I like to go over the moves of famous historical chess games. There are some excellent compilations of these games available from Dover Publications at a reasonable price.

The photo above was taken in our kitchen at 3989 East 176th Street in the Lee-Harvard area of Cleveland. You may notice that there is a parakeet perched on my right shoulder, making me feel very much like a pirate. (It bothers me that I cannot remember, after all these years, the name of our parakeet.)

Notice the string tie.It must have been a school day, because we were required to wear ties to our classes at St. Henry School. For convenience, I usually opted for a string tie. You can also seen the bottom of the cord for our rotary wall-mounted telephone.

I could tell that I was eleven when the above picture was taken because that’s when I started to wear glasses. It made me look very intellectual, I thought.